How to Create an Effective Onboarding Program

Rahul Roy
December 9, 2021
min read
September 19, 2023
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Effective onboarding takes more than going through the motions, and it can have a serious impact on employee productivity. Here's how to effectively onboard new hires and complete new-hire training.
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Awesome — you’re bringing a new employee onboard.

Now what?

You set up their email address and logins. You pile together the paperwork they’ll need to wade through. You dust off that old slide deck about your company’s mission, vision and values.

Once you make it through those administration-heavy first few days and check the boxes on your standard onboarding process, that employee should be ready to hit the ground running, right?

Not quite. Effective employee onboarding takes more than going through the motions and, unfortunately, research from Gallup found that only 12 percent of employees think their company does a great job of onboarding new employees.

That lackluster experience not only leaves a sour taste in the mouth of your newest team members, but it can also mean bad news for your retention, especially when 20 percent of turnover reportedly happens within the first 45 days of employment.

You aren’t powerless as you watch your supposedly enthusiastic new employees walk out the door for greener pastures. Taking the time to hash out an effective onboarding process — one that goes beyond formal hr policies and procedures and stuffy employee training—can set the right tone and help your new hires feel like an integrated part of your organization.

5 tips to make the most of employee onboarding

It’s easy to think about onboarding as nothing more than processes and paperwork (and 58 percent of organizations say that’s what their own onboarding programs are focused on). But, when you think about it, effective onboarding is actually about something different: people.

Your onboarding process exists to set your new team members up for success — to give them the information, resources and confidence they need to thrive in their roles.

But how do you do that? Here are five tips to create an employee onboarding process that’s way more than standard checklists and employee manuals.

1. Be prepared with on-the-job resources

Because companies are so focused on procedures and paperwork for new hires, they tend to use one blanket onboarding process for everybody. New sales representatives move through the same general training that new software developers do.

Sure, that works for the company-wide stuff that everybody needs to know. But, it completely fails to cover the specifics—like team norms and on-the-job responsibilities—that are arguably even more important than that detailed lesson about your company’s history.

Of people who have left a job within the first 90 days, 43 percent of them admit it’s because their actual day-to-day role wasn’t what they expected. This hammers home the importance of going beyond boilerplate rules in favor of dedicating a chunk of your onboarding process to that employee’s specific team and role. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Share a clear rundown of their tasks and expectations (65 percent of employees say they prefer more clearly defined responsibilities)
  • Provide step-by-step documentation or SOPs for some of their common tasks and processes that they can refer back to as they learn (Scribe makes this easy, by the way!)
  • Offer job shadow opportunities so they can get hands-on training

These more targeted onboarding steps ensure that your new hires feel equipped to hit the ground running in their roles — way more so than being able to recite your mission statement from memory.

2. Provide visibility beyond your department

There’s a lot that new hires need to get up to speed with on their specific teams. They need to familiarize themselves with common operational processes and understand who does what — not to mention learn everybody’s name.

While that more focused training is undoubtedly important, you also don’t want them to miss the forest for the trees. They need visibility into how their work fits into the bigger picture. This helps them see the impact that their role has, as well as reinforces a sense of purpose in their position.

They won’t need as much training or exposure to other departments as they will for their immediate job and circle, but they should still have the opportunity to:

  • Meet and interact with other departments, particularly ones they’ll need to work with cross-functionally.
  • Get an overview of what each department does, as well as who is responsible for what.
  • Be debriefed on what existing cross-functional projects are in the works that they’ll be stepping in on, as well as who’s involved.

In addition to a much-needed view of the entire puzzle, giving new employees exposure beyond their immediate team knocks down silos and helps them feel integrated into the workplace as a whole.

3. Stay committed for the long haul

The term “onboarding” has a sense of immediacy to it. But, in reality, it’s not about an employee’s first day — or even their first week. Effective onboarding needs to extend far beyond that, with experts suggesting anywhere from 90 days to an entire year for the onboarding period.

The point is that you need to consider an employee as “onboarding” well beyond the first couple of weeks, especially since it can take quite a while for them to get familiar with other departments and the cultural norms and expectations of your company.

You can help employees feel supported well into their tenure by:

  • Scheduling regular check-ins and feedback sessions throughout their first year to get a grasp on how they’re adjusting.
  • Providing continuous resources and training to avoid making them drink from a firehose only in the first week.
  • Ensuring that your buddy system extends for at least the first 90 days.

This shows new hires that you’re committed to their success, even long after they’ve taken down the “welcome!” balloons and filed their benefits paperwork.

4. Prioritize frequent learning

Dedicating enough attention to onboarding is crucial, but it also shines a spotlight on your newer hires — they walk into every room feeling like the “new” person (which can be both exhausting and overwhelming).

But, by offering frequent learning opportunities for everyone, they can all step into that “onboarding” seat together and learn something new at the same time. When 94 percent of employees say they’d stay at a company longer if it helped them learn, it’s a boost for your whole organization.

Plus, when things change frequently within a company, this shows all of your employees (not just the new ones!) that you’re invested in making sure they have what they need to succeed — whether that’s learning the ins and outs of a new piece of software or walking through a process that was recently revamped.

This opportunity to tackle a new challenge together fosters a sense of unity on a team, rather than new employees always feeling like they’re tagging along and desperately trying to get up to speed.

5. Reduce the burden on your tenured employees

When it comes to onboarding, a lot of focus understandably gets placed on the new employee. But here’s the truth: onboarding can lead to a lot of extra work for your existing team members

They often have to invest time in new-hire welcome sessions and orientations. They’re tasked with providing training about the tasks they’re experts in. They need to answer off-hand questions about Zoom etiquette or where to find the company org chart or the coffee filters.

More often than not, your current employees are more than willing to chip in. And, even further, that strategy can be effective, with 45 percent of companies who use an ambassador or buddy program admitting that the program was either moderately or extremely effective for speeding up the proficiency of new team members.

But, to set up an onboarding process that’s a breeze for your new employees without being a burden for your existing ones, you need to give them the tools and resources they need to help out — without eating into all of their time and energy.

One quick and easy way to do that? Scribe. Scribe automates process documentation so that your employees can create processes for simple edge case tasks—like accessing Zoom or using your project management platform. Scribe creates the process, and then your employees will have a link they can easily share when they repeatedly get asked a similar question by every new hire.

The result is smoother onboarding, greater consistency and way less hassle for your current team.

Onboarding should inspire enthusiasm, not dread

Of course, there will always be logistical and administrative tasks that need to be taken care of during employee onboarding— everything from tech logins to tax forms.

But, if you focus too much on the paperwork and the procedures, you lose focus on the piece of onboarding that matters most: the people. More specifically, your brand new employee.

The onboarding period is a time when you not only equip them with all of the information they need to thrive but also get them excited about contributing to the success of their team and your organization as a whole.

Think that’s something that you can accomplish with a few PowerPoint presentations in the span of one week? It’s time to think again.

The right process documentation can take your employee onboarding to the next level. Get started with Scribe today.

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