Let’s talk onboarding. Before we get into the who and why we have to define what the process really is and what it means for your team.
Simply put, an onboarding program is a set of strategic activities that introduce new employees to an organization.
Of course, it’s also so much more. Onboarding can take different forms depending on the size of the business. At smaller companies, the CEO might be an active player. At larger companies, specific departments might help different employees. Because these efforts can vary, you need to know who is responsible when.
Onboarding is the first step toward successful employment. A recent study by Brandon Hall group shows that a streamlined, structured and collaborative experience increases the chances of retaining the talent by 82 percent. If you don’t have a structured approach, you’re less likely to help your employee get accustomed to your company culture, increasing the likelihood of turnover.
Does your onboarding system lack a clear delineation of responsible parties? That’s to say, does your company expect 100 percent of onboarding to be handled by HR alone?
If that’s the case, you and your new hires are prone to overwhelm. But before we get into why shared responsibilities make for a smoother transition, let’s see what an onboarding process should look like.
Most HR experts say onboarding should last at least 12 months. So, before you start planning out your onboarding process, make up a strategic plan to answer the following questions.
- When does the onboarding start?
- How long will the onboarding last?
- What activities need to be done before the first day?
- What should the first day look like?
- What do the candidates need to know (policies, benefits, culture, rules, job, etc.)?
- What are the roles of the manager, directors and colleagues?
- What are the KPIs and goals?
- What are the future opportunities?
And finally, how are you collecting feedback?
Onboarding should span from the day of hire through one year. If the employee has time to feel comfortable, confident and clear in their role, they're much more likely to stay.
Why should everyone be involved in onboarding?
HR is the first (and probably only) team to pop into our heads when we think of onboarding.
Consider HR as the managers of the onboarding process. They make things happen, but they’re not the only party involved. Really, your program requires buy-in from every department across the organization.
This is because onboarding is more than a set of tasks. Each phase should move the employee closer to full integration. You’re creating a welcoming atmosphere that folds your new hire into the company fabric and prepares them to take on their individual responsibilities.
When recruiting and retaining top talent, you need to build a strong foundation. It’s crucial to help new employees get up to speed. Taking the time to provide a customized framework could separate your company from the competition.
Still, it’s a commitment that not many companies prioritize. They think there are other, more pressing priorities or budget items. HR’s often left to pick up the slack, and unnecessary pressure falls on the hires themselves.
Onboarding need not be a honeymoon phase. You hired your employees to work hard, and they’re happy to. But they can only do their jobs effectively if you train and scale them to fit with the company’s growth plans.
Classify your onboarding into two separate phases.
- Conducting the standard efforts that bring an employee into a company.
- Providing sufficient support so that they can become experts in their role.
This approach ensures that no matter how fast your company grows, there will always be resources to ensure your employees (whether in-house or remote) employees have what they need.
Now without further adieu, let’s discuss who’s who in the onboarding process.
Who's involved in onboarding?
While the whole company should, in some aspect, support onboarding, here are the five parties that must own some part of the shared responsibility. We're going to talk about how each of these team members support the two separate phases of onboarding mentioned above.
Human Resources (HR)
As we mentioned earlier, HR is the mastermind behind all things onboarding. The HR team is responsible for strategizing, planning, recruiting and ensuring that the transition is successful.
Below are the tasks typically handled by HR.
How HR brings new employees into the company
HR is the first touchpoint for any new hire. They have a huge responsibility to make sure that new hire feels comfortable and knows what to expect. In phase one, this means:
- Preboarding, recruitment & orientation: Everything before day one sits with HR. This includes sending a welcome email, distributing documentation and any other preboarding effort.
- Holding an introduction: HR will likely be the one to introduce an employee to their team and the company as a whole. This might be on an All Hands call or through scheduled 1:1s.
- Finishing up paperwork: Onboarding documentation is no joke, and HR teams are the keeper of the keys. Your HR rep will make sure that your new hire signs and submits all of their onboarding paperwork. This might feel like a rigorous process — but it doesn't have to be. Take advantage of onboarding tools like BambooHR and Scribe to streamline your work and share documentation easily.
How HR provides ongoing new hire support
- Engaging them with company culture: For an employee to buy in, they need to feel part of the team. You only have one chance at a first impression, and this introduction is pivotal for engagement, motivation, productivity and overall retention rates. If you have a virtual team, here are some unique ways that you can help new hires feel part of the family.
- Skill training: Employees often have a lot to learn when joining an organization. Teaching can be tricky with a hybrid or remote workforce. HR is in charge of working with managers to see what knowledge, skills and tools employees need for success. These can be role-specific or company-wide.
- Knowledge sharing: HR is responsible for presenting the company’s employee handbook or and other educational resources. We recommend building a central knowledge base with information on policies, rules, benefits, compensation, payroll, work environment etc. You can use tools Like Notion or Scribe Pages to build and update your knowledge base.
Direct managers play a vital role in new hire success. In fact, a study by BambooHR shows that 33 percent of new employees feel that their manager has the most influence on their onboarding’s effectiveness.
How managers bring new employees into the company
- Interviews and approval: Typically a manager interviews and signs off on the new employee so that HR can kickstart the documentation process. We recommend also sending your own short welcome email to add a personal touch to a structured process.
- Job-specific orientation: The manager is in charge of outlining job duties, and helps structure the schedule for the first few weeks. We recommend building out a welcome doc to walk them through week one. Here's an example using Scribe and Scribe Pages. We auto-generated several step-by-step guides, then put them together with videos and important documentation to create the ultimate onboarding guide!
Scribe is a step-by-step guide generator that documents your processes for you — making it easier than ever to create job-specific documentation. Combine your Scribes with important onboarding information to create unique and helpful orientation docs (like the one above!)
How managers provide ongoing new hire support
- 30/60/90 day: Where HR ends, management begins. It’s often up to a supervisor or director to determine what the job entails and develop educational materials. Create a 30/60/90 day plan to set KPIs, explain expectations and track your new hire's progress.
- Team intros and collaboration: A manager will introduce a new hire to their team and assign an onboarding buddy. As the employee gets into the flow of things, their manager will eventually evaluate their progress and set up training as needed.
- Check-ins and recommendations: Managers and new-hires should meet regularly to monitor how things are going. If a new hire is struggling, it's up to the manager to identify solutions and recommend additional training or resources.
Think of an onboarding buddy as an automatic best friend. They're a team member typically in a similar role or station as the new employee. While this role is less structured than others, it's no less important. In fact, onboarding buddies can make or break the onboarding experience.
How onboarding buddies bring new employees into the company
- Initial intros: The onboarding buddy is the first person to meet our new hire after HR and management. They should schedule a quick check-in as early as day one.
- Job support: Before the new hires first day, HR and management should prepare the onboarding buddy to support the new hire throughout the first few weeks. This could mean securing spots on their calendar to regularly meet, hosting work shadowing sessions or simply being available to answer questions.
How onboarding buddies provide ongoing new hire support
- Ongoing availability: Most new hires are hesitant to ask questions during their first week. An onboarding buddy should reach out proactively to ensure everything is going well.
- Bridging the gap: Collaboration is a must-have for any team. The onboarding buddy should help connect the new hire with their colleagues, both socially and to answer any specific questions. This is an awesome way to break the ice and help build relationships between old and new team members.
Remember, the more comfortable your employee feels, the more likely they are to ask questions, collaborate and put forth their best effort each day. Your onboarding buddy can help them get their sea legs.
IT plays a brief but crucial role in onboarding, especially for remote workers. In this day and age, we lean on IT more than ever to help ramp up our employees.
How IT brings new employees into the company
- Tool access: An IT rep hands off the hardware and software, meeting requirements as necessary. They're the ones who get new hires logged on and working.
- IT training: Tools are only useful if you can use them. IT training is vital for getting employees comfortable with your technology. Create Scribes (step-by-step guides) to show employees how to get started with project management systems, company portals and more.
How IT provides ongoing new hire support
- Technical difficulties: Who ya gonna call? That's right: your handy IT team. Whether it's an access issue or the dreaded 404 page, IT should be on-hand to support technical issues.
- Ongoing education: As the new hire familiarizes themselves in their role, they can go from a novice to an expert in your tools. IT can create comprehensive documentation to help new hires develop their skillsets and master your software. Whether they're just answering quick questions or filling up a resource library, tools like Scribe can help IT get training docs out quickly and easily. Here's Scribe that helps a new hire navigate Salesforce.
The CEO or CXO’s involvement depends on the job position and company size. But no matter how involved they are in the day-to-day, they're in charge of approving the systems in play, and have final say-so on who to hire.
How the CEO brings new employees into the company
- Final hiring approval: Depending on the size of the company, new hires may or may not meet the CEO during interviews. However, even if they can't meet face-to-face, the CEO is highly invested in every hire. They will likely review a resume and call for feedback from HR and the manager to make sure a potential hire is the right fit.
- Mission and vision: Once a new hire has started, there's no better way to showcase the company's priorities than to have them come from a CEO. Most will schedule an introduction meeting in the first few weeks to get to know the new hire and showcase the company values.
How the CEO provides ongoing new hire support
- Systems and structure: The CEO is in charge of everything that makes the company run successfully. A direct manager is only as successful as their resources and support let them be. It's the CEO's job to make sure they have everything they need to lead effectively!
- Company buy-in: Regardless of whether the CEO works with your new hire on the daily, they still make a huge impact in how the employee sees and feels about the company. All CEOs should take the time to get to know new hires one-on-one. And by being a team player and showing how deeply they care about the company and brand, they're helping that hire feel invested too!
How everyone else supports onboarding
Like we said before, onboarding is a team sport. New hires are often uncomfortable and overwhelmed. Every person they come across should be able to support, enable and answer questions.
Peer-to-peer learning is often overlooked, but it's one of the most important ways that new hires learn. Build a culture of learning by encouraging everyone to support each other's growth — always.
Here are some ways to start building a culture of informal learning.
- Leave room for questions at every meeting.
- Have an open door (or Slack channel!) policy.
- Lead by example — ask questions yourself.
- Bake peer-to-peer learning into your mission, vision and values.
- Encourage employees to lead educational workshops for others (no matter their title or station)!
- Play team-building games that rely on unique skillsets
Note that informal learning isn't the same as formal learning. You don't need structured training sessions to make a difference and uplift your team.
Make onboarding everyone's priority (without losing time)
Really, a robust onboarding program relies on every single person in your company. But the reality is: not everyone has the time. Even your HR team and direct managers are dealing with one thousand priorities, every day.
But onboarding isn't just something you can set aside. As your new employee works their way through the funnel, everyone they meet should be able to help them. Whether it’s formal training, checking in or simply showing them where the bathroom is — each touchpoint is an opportunity for a positive experience.
And that's why it's so important to set yourself up for success. Design a process that helps you seamlessly integrate new hires by taking advantage of tools like Scribe. The step-by-step guide generator enables any team member to:
- Creating onboarding materials in seconds.
- Instantly share hard-earned tips and tricks.
- Answer quick questions.
- Fill gaps in training programs.
... and most importantly: empower teammates while getting time back to focus on work (or maybe schedule a "welcome aboard" happy hour!)
Good onboarding starts with building a culture of learning and support. Make sure that everyone (and we mean everyone) involved with onboarding understands that helping each other is the ultimate priority.
The sooner they do, the sooner your new employee will feel like part of the team.