You need more than a welcome kit to create a positive employee experience when onboarding new hires.
You’re making a first, second and third (and fourth and fifth) impression. Each step should work toward integrating the new employees into the fabric of your company culture and developing a productive member for your team.
It all comes down to having a streamlined, consistent and clear onboarding strategy.
We know this sounds daunting, but it’s no lost cause! In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to create successful onboarding processes that fulfill new hire needs and reduce headaches for human resources.
What is onboarding?
Employee onboarding processes involve:
- Employee orientation.
- Training and development.
- Team introductions.
- Provision of resources/tools.
- Clarifying job duties.
- Setting procedures for performance feedback.
It integrates new employees into the organization, familiarizes them with company culture, policies, and expectations and sets them up for success.
Employee onboarding introduces new hires to their role, objectives and other important company information. It starts right after a candidate accepts the offer and lasts up to 90-120 days.
📌 Related Resource: 40+ Employee Onboarding Templates
The benefits of onboarding new employees
Now that we’ve covered what employee onboarding means, let’s look at a few key reasons why an onboarding strategy is crucial for all organizations.
An effective employee onboarding program clearly communicates employer expectations, general context and purpose. You can also promote employee autonomy and maximize engagement from day one.
A straightforward onboarding process also means managers can focus on their core responsibilities while still thoroughly supporting their new employees and transferring necessary knowledge.
No wonder companies with a robust onboarding process see productivity increase by over 70 percent.
Improved employee morale
Make sure new employees feel welcome! Healthy employee morale relies on feeling part of the team.
A well-defined onboarding process prepares internal colleagues in advance, gives new employees a chance to experience the work environment and lets everyone get to know one another.
Don’t lose top talent! The job market is highly saturated. Companies with solid onboarding programs are up to 80 percent more likely to improve new hire retention and minimize employee turnover.
HR professionals and team leads should collaborate to determine new hires' biggest challenges and prepare the right materials to deliver a frictionless experience.
How to create an effective onboarding program
Ideally, the employee onboarding process consists of five phases:
- Role-specific training
- 90-day review
Phase 1: Pre-onboarding
Before a candidate’s first day at work, the hiring manager makes the necessary preparation to:
- Share and finalize the paperwork.
- Support relocation (if needed).
- Send over company materials.
- Outline a first-day plan and event.
- Inform new employees’ teams.
Announcing a new hire is probably the most critical aspect of the pre-onboarding phase. Colleagues might not know how the new role relates to theirs. It’s your task to explain the hire’s position and how they’ll contribute to their team and the organization as a whole.
Consider answering the following questions in your new hire introductions:
- What are this candidate’s priorities?
- Who is the hire reporting to?
- How could they contribute to existing projects?
- When is it appropriate to assign tasks to a person filling the role?
Now, let’s take into consideration online onboarding in the remote and hybrid working model. One vital step not included in the phases above is ensuring your employee receives all devices needed for a successful day one.
Brittany Leaper, People and Culture Manager at 7shifts, a restaurant scheduling software with over 200 employees distributed all over the world, shared:
“Our goal is to effectively welcome and onboard new team members whether they choose to work remotely, hybrid or in-office. All new hires receive a branded box with all of the equipment they need for their job (e.g., laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, notebook, pens) as well as special surprises including a 7shifts branded t-shirt, hoodie, socks, reusable straw, mask, hand sanitizer and stickers.”
Phase 2: Orientation
The first day has come! Now, what do you do next?
Your main task is to help your new hire acclimate to their new workspace. Orientation is a chance to build a connection and put your employee at ease.
Day one is rather busy. You and the hiring team will likely be:
- Greeting new employees.
- Giving an office tour and settling them into their workplace (if in-person).
- Introducing them to co-workers and looping everyone in.
- Assigning an onboarding buddy – a team member who’ll be mentoring the new hire.
- Giving access to necessary tools and elements, including login information.
- Sharing company resources, such as policies and employee responsibilities.
- Staying accessible throughout the day to promptly address any requests.
Orientation doesn’t end on the first day. It can take anywhere between a week and a month for new candidates to adapt to your company's culture and settle into their positions.
Here’s where an exhaustive company resource guide or wiki comes in. Company culture, mission, values, organizational structure, role-specific step-by-step guides – every piece of information a new hire needs during their first days and months in your company should be documented in a comprehensive knowledge base. These tools strengthen your hire’s comfort level and encourage proactivity during onboarding.
💡 Scribe Tip: Build onboarding guides in seconds with Scribe — an AI-powered tool that writes your process docs for you!
Phase 3: Role-specific training
Employee integration takes time, experience and some healthy trial and error. That’s why role-specific training can start before your hire completes their orientation.
What does role-specific training involve?
Say you’ve hired a content marketer. As that person’s manager, you want to guide them through specific job expectations while familiarizing them with team goals.
This introduction message might include walking through the peculiarities of the niche, introducing buyer personas, explaining the company’s approach to content marketing and letting them know what you expect from a recently hired specialist.
You can also train them for product knowledge by including related how-tos in your knowledge base or by running workshops by experts. The latter is a great option when you onboard multiple employees at once.
Phase 4: Transitioning
As employees complete training, they move closer and closer to total productivity. This is considered the transition phase. At this point, a new hire works toward becoming a full-fledged employee and begins reaching the goals set by their supervisor.
Set up a 30-60-90 day progress plan with milestones to reach. This transition is an opportunity to familiarize themselves with their tasks and take initiative.
Phase 5: 90-day review
At this point, you and the employee should have a general understanding of:
- How successful was the onboarding process was.
- If there are areas where they need more support.
- Whether or not they are fit for the role.
After 90 days, HR and the direct manager could collaborate on a performance review. The check-in should help you assess the employee’s efforts and progress thus far and, most importantly, provide constructive feedback.
You can also collect feedback from colleagues. How does this new hire collaborate? Is there room for improvement? This information might help you define what to discuss during the meeting.
Onboarding best practices
Now that you know what not to do during onboarding, let’s run through a few best practices.
1. Start onboarding your new hire before their first day
Never forget about the pre-onboarding phase. This step will make or break your new hire’s first day. Here are some actions you’ll want to take before they walk through that door.
- Send a welcome email. When an applicant accepts a job offer, reach out and give them all the details they need to prepare for their first day. When is the start date? Who will be involved in onboarding? Who is their primary point of contact? A recipient should have these answers after reading your welcome email.
- Build team connections. If you can encourage the team to connect with a new employee on LinkedIn, do it. You’ll help the employee recognize some faces, spur excitement and makes that first day just a little less stressful.
- Send a brief instruction. A few days before the start date, send an email with a walkthrough of their first day.
Betsy Francoeur has recently taken the position of content manager at AkitaBox. She says a positive pre-onboarding experience has had a significant impact on her first days with the company:
“Plenty of communication before my first day. My position is 100 percent remote, so it's not like I could just show up on my first day and everything would be ready for me. I received plenty of communication from the HR department and the IT department leading up to my first day so that I would be ready to go. I picked up my IT equipment a few days before I started and it was all ready to plug and play. I knew what my calendar would look like over the first few days so I wouldn't be surprised by meetings. I felt very prepared going into my first day.”
2. Create a new hire checklist
A new hire checklist is a directory of tasks for an employee's first 10/30/60/90 days. The doc also includes links to necessary information (e.g., where they can find an employee handbook or knowledge base), team member contacts and other fundamentals.
Instead of following your new hires at every step, give them the checklist during orientation. It should become their go-to resource for navigating their first weeks at your company.
3. Develop an internal knowledge base
An internal knowledge base can include how-to guides, video tutorials, FAQs, handbooks – literally any type of content that helps your employees find solutions to work-related problems without asking for help.
Various software like Scribe’s auto-generated step-by-step guides can be a perfect addition to your company’s knowledge base. Scribe can generate role-specific tutorials, guidelines from the IT department and daily workflows instantly with no need to draft them up.
4. Explain growth opportunities
Research shows that companies that provide a potential growth trajectory to new hires during onboarding see 19 percent higher retention and productivity at work. When a new employee has integrated into the team and gone through their job-specific training, schedule a meeting to discuss their KPIs and career progression plan.
5. Help them make friends
At least 29 percent of startups are hiring for remote roles these days. Likely, your new hire won’t be able to casually have coffee with coworkers or go for a drink on Friday nights.
If that’s the case for your organization, you’ll need to find a way to encourage new employees to build relationships with colleagues outside of work.
Try to plan a new hire’s day-to-day activities in a way that helps them get to know their team. For instance, you could schedule check-ins with their immediate colleagues or host a virtual lunch hour. Note that spending more time with their peers in those first few days is likely more empowering than lunchtime with a CEO.
6. Assign an onboarding buddy
In recent years, the buddy program has become an increasingly popular initiative. An onboarding buddy is a colleague assigned to help a new hire navigate day-to-day tasks. Connecting with a peer allows your employee to feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing concerns.
AkitaBox’s Betsy Francoeur says:
“Every new hire at my company is paired with an onboarding buddy. Your buddy is someone who checks in on you and can answer questions. They're someone from outside your immediate team so that you can start to make friends in other departments. My onboarding buddy and I have become good friends. It's nice to have someone to go to who isn't HR or your boss when you have questions or want a second opinion.”
7. Schedule one-on-ones
After 30 days, invite your new hire to a one-on-one meeting. Include the following questions in the meeting agenda:
- How has your first month been?
- Is there anything I could help you with?
- Have you had problems accessing the necessary information?
- Have you already visited team-building events? How was the experience?
- Have you had a chance to collaborate with the team?
- Does the role meet your expectations?
- Do you feel comfortable with the amount of work?
During this session, you can identify gaps in your onboarding program or even capture workplace concerns.
8. Revisit your onboarding process regularly
Does the process you’ve built work? You won’t get the answer immediately.
“Our new hires are sent a series of short ‘pulse’ survey questions that require them to rate their onboarding experience and allow room to include any feedback they may have. We use it to improve onboarding by department or as a whole,” says Brittany Leaper of 7shifts.
The best way to measure the effectiveness of your employee onboarding program is to ask your new hires. After their first month, send an employee onboarding survey to gather feedback on their experiences. Here are some sample questions you might want to include:
- Did the job meet your expectations?
- Do you fully understand your responsibilities?
- Do you lack any tools to perform your job successfully?
- Do you have all the information needed to handle everyday tasks?
- Do you know who you can turn to if you have any problems at work?
- Do you get along with your team members?
- Are you empowered to share your views at the workplace?
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since you began working at the company?
- Is there anything we could have changed to improve your onboarding experience?
A simple onboarding survey not only helps improve the process for future hires. It also offers insight into what else you could do for existing employees.
Onboarding mistakes to avoid
Only 12 percent of employees strongly agree that their company provides an excellent onboarding experience. We know this isn’t from lack of trying, but several factors go into managing a successful program. Sometimes things simply slip through the cracks.
Let’s gear up for mistake-prevention mode. What can go wrong during an employee onboarding process?
You can’t ask your new hire to read through the entire knowledge base in the first few days. It takes more time to sort and identify which resources matter, but the effort is worth knowing they won’t feel bombarded by unstructured information. The candidate is also more likely to actually retain what you’ve told them and put it to good use.
What is a sales representative’s role? It might seem intuitive. However, sales reps at a small company often handle tasks and things not included in their job description, such as business development, copywriting, managing strategic partnerships, etc.
If you hire a person who simply wants to sell and expect them to be proactive in activities you never outlined, you’re setting everyone involved up for disappointment.
Lack of feedback
When someone starts a new job, they’re looking to do it right. Constructive feedback will improve performance and open healthy lines of communication. Further, positive feedback for a job well done will boost morale and keep them invested.
Be proactive in your feedback. Don’t wait for an employee to ask for a one-on-one meeting. By then, it might already be too late.
Not engaging other employees in the process
As we’ve mentioned, employee onboarding is ongoing, usually over the course of a few months. The employee will hit several touchpoints every single day. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Preparing your team to welcome new colleagues offers a well of support and a chance to make connections.
Not explaining growth opportunities
What does your new hire’s career path look like? How do they reach desired outcomes? It’s up to you to let them know that you value their development. Start with a clear outline of the growth opportunities and what they need to do to get there.
"At 15Five, once someone joins the company, their job description includes actionable details around what's expected during their first 30, 60, 90 and 365 days. Another simple technique is describing a typical week or month in the role. Job descriptions should always include the outcomes that someone is responsible for, why the outcomes are important to your company and your company's values."
Goal setting is vital, but only if you’re setting your employee up for success. Inflexible expectations, coupled with poor infrastructure, can only lead to burnout. And if they don’t reach that goal, morale will plummet.
This isn’t to say you should expect poor results or diminish ambition – just remember to give your employee some grace. It’s your job to communicate and educate. If you keep running into issues, it’s best to talk to niche experts and do some benchmarking.
How to measure the success of onboarding
You’ve done everything to prepare a solid employee onboarding strategy and welcome new joinees to your organization. But how do you measure if your onboarding processes are working well?
Here are some metrics to measure the effectiveness of your employee onboarding efforts by surveying new hires at regular intervals:
- Time to productivity: Measure the time it takes new employees to gain complete productivity in their positions. Calculate TTP for each role and set benchmarks to monitor your onboarding ROI.
- New employee turnover: Calculate how many new employees leave your company—voluntarily or involuntarily. It measures the level of comfort new hires feel in their initial days.
- Employee satisfaction score: Monitor the level of satisfaction among new employees and how they feel about your company. It conveys how engaged employees feel during and after their onboarding.
- Training completion rate: Track every employee’s training progress and calculate the average completion rate to assess the impact of your training webinars and package.
- Employee retention rate: Calculate the number of new employees you retained after the completion of the onboarding program. It analyzes the value candidates see in your company to stick by post-onboarding.
Onboarding tools & software
These employee onboarding software can make life easier for you and your new hires:
- Scribe: Auto-generate onboarding guides that you can create and share with your team and new hires in seconds.
- Airtable: Maintain employee databases, plan your onboarding activities, set milestones and create internal tools for making the process seamless.
- Eddy: Create a delightful employee experience and take care of first-day messages, payroll and and new-hire profiles with a self-serve onboarding setup.
- Gusto: Design customized onboarding checklists for each role and take care of all the paperwork along with payroll and benefits.
- 360Learning: Create courses with webinars and pre-recorded videos to train new workers and establish a strong foundation.
Choose the right onboarding tools to streamline your efforts and give new hires an effortless experience from the start.
1. What are the 4 phases of onboarding?
Here are the four phases of onboarding:
- Employee training
- Ongoing transition
2. What are the 5 C's of employee onboarding?
The five C’s of employee onboarding are clarification, compliance, connections, culture and checkback. You have to clarify your expectations and convey parameters for compliance. Establish strong connections with new hires and highlight your organizational culture. Lastly, survey new members to seek feedback.
3. What is the HR role in employee onboarding?
The role of HR professionals in employee onboarding includes pre-boarding—where they get all the paperwork done—and the initial onboarding to get new hires up to speed with their teams, your work environment and other aspects.
Ready, set, onboard!
Effective employee onboarding is a crucial process that goes beyond just paperwork and orientation. It's about making a lasting impression and integrating new employees into the company culture and team.
A streamlined and consistent onboarding strategy fulfills new hire needs (and reduces HR headaches). By providing clear communication, access to resources, and role-specific training, you can increase new hire productivity, improve morale and boost your retention rates.
Remember, onboarding should be an ongoing process, with regular check-ins and opportunities for feedback to ensure new hires feel supported and valued.
By following best practices and using onboarding tools like Scribe, you can create a positive and impactful onboarding experience that sets employees up for long-term success!