A new hire and a successful onboarding program can make a huge difference in your employee experience in the long run. The best onboarding practices help new employees gain the knowledge, training, and support they need while also providing an engaging path that encourages them to stay long-term.
In the same way that the first day of school brings some jitters, a start date at a new company, with a new team, and a new role can bring the same uncertainty and the same need for direction.
What’s the new schedule like? How can a new teammate impact a team’s flow? How do we help them foster connection with our team dedicated to remote work?
A successful onboarding thinks through these needs and develops a structured process that includes training, check-ins, and employee engagement.
According to SHRM, structured and effective onboarding led one team to see 58 percent of employees remaining in that firm for an average of three years.
Now onboarding new employees takes time. According to many human resource teams, the process takes about 3-6 months before that new teammate can effectively own their new role and place in the team.
But that just means that your organization has an opportunity to create a thorough plan for the first day, first week, and first months that doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
We’ve all been there. A new role is never easy, but with the onboarding best practices outlined in this article, your team will be able to create an impactful program that engages new hires and helps retain them, too!
Why are employee onboarding best practices so important?
New hire onboarding gives new employees an idea of what to expect, from the flow of their day-to-day to the rapport with coworkers and management. The onboarding process is also an important opportunity for you to invest in the company culture you want to create.
How new employees are introduced to the way your organization does things can positively impact their relationship with your organization, increasing employee engagement and retention in the long run.
For instance, if a new teammate has plenty of support, understands where to go for questions, and feels confident and comfortable to do their best during those first few weeks, they’re more likely to feel positive and purposeful at work. They’re also more likely to stay longer and be another brand advocate for your organization.
Meanwhile, a new teammate who feels uncertain about where to go for their questions, feels burdened by having to meet a certain quota without room to learn, and lacks management and coworker support, might feel like they’re not able to bring their own ideas or selves to the role or task. They are more likely to leave and find a role and company that fits their needs.
In fact, along with low pay or lack of growth opportunities, 57 percent of employees cite a lack of respect as to why they choose to leave an organization.
And an effective onboarding process can help your new hire feel valued right off the bat and help them embody your organization’s values and culture. But remember, a successful onboarding experience takes time and goes beyond the first day or even the first week.
So wherever you are in building or recruiting for your team, see how you can make a positive first impression for your company with these onboarding best practices below!
1. Embrace pre-onboarding
The pre-onboarding consists of the time from when a new employee accepts their job offer and their start date. Many organizations might think the onboarding experience begins on Day One, but the pre-onboarding period is your opportunity to show your new hire how your organization values its employees.
Think of preboarding as part of the employee onboarding experience. Capitalize on a new hire’s excitement over their new role and help them feel warmly welcomed by:
- Providing a new employee welcome kit with swag, coffee mugs, and tech
- Sending a welcome email from the hiring manager or direct manager
- Give them an idea of what to expect on their first day
- Send a check-in email a few days before to see if they have any questions
We’ve all been in that period before a new role starts where we’re excited but maybe a little nervous. Take this as an opportunity to create a positive, welcoming first impression.
It shows you can’t wait for that employee’s first day too!
Getting ready to welcome new hires? Our Manager's Handbook is here to help you get planning!
2. Go beyond the first day paperwork
We’ve all had those intro days where all we do is fill out new hire paperwork and payroll forms with human resources, and while important, that can feel monotonous and unsatisfying.
Your new hire’s first day can include all the needed paperwork and introductions but think of ways you can create a more well-rounded experience. One that doesn’t feel overwhelming with intro information like company policies or too mundane (only paperwork).
Try breaking up their day!
Many HR professionals utilize onboarding software to streamline the sharing of paperwork and needed information. That way they’re able to focus on creating a more meaningful, engaging first day. A few ideas to break up parts of the day:
- Assigning new hires Onboarding Buddies or Cohorts to connect with in between instructional sessions
- Give employees a few smaller tasks to work on during their day so they can take ownership
- Hosting a meet and greet, coffee chat, or team lunch for everyone to meet your new hire
- Create onboarding activities for employees to open up and learn about each other
Organizations like Connexus use Cooleaf so teammates can get to know one another through online challenges. Through Cooleaf’s employee engagement platform, Connexus employees answered get-to-know-you questions, even suggesting their own in a fun, virtual game.
3. Use an onboarding checklist
Tools like an onboarding checklist can help your new hires feel empowered and in charge of their employee onboarding process. With a checklist, new hires can track their progress and see what to work on independently.
As an example, a remote team used Trello to create an employee’s first-day and first-week checklist. This included everything from filling out forms and IDs, but it also included small tasks for them to play around with the remote team’s tech stack, a list of Slack channels for them to join and introduce themselves, and even an online activity scavenger hunt on Cooleaf.
You can take this example and make it your own:
- Incorporate a Welcome Buddy who helps new hires progress through their checklist
- Offer a gift card to a coffee shop for your new team member to take a work friend that week
- Create a scavenger hunt through the employee handbook
By creating an onboarding checklist where new team members could skip around and pick what to do or focus on next, employees were empowered to use their own style, taking ownership of the process.
4. Get team members and managers involved!
Help new teammates find opportunities to connect with current team members, managers, and executive leaders. A few ways to incorporate your team:
- Breakdown the onboarding process and assign a team member to introduce that stage to the new hire
- Assign an Onboarding Buddy or cohort of new hires
- Assign a mentor (not their direct manager) who they can check-in with regularly
Getting more people involved in your new team members’ onboarding process is a great way to create a more welcoming work environment and to give opportunities for your team to lead and take ownership too.
Remember, a new job can feel intimidating, and intentionally building in opportunities for new people to connect with employees helps everyone.
5. Celebrate your employees' milestones
From your new employees’s first year or first month, you should recognize these special moments to call out their work and honor the impact they have on the team.
Employees who receive routine recognition feel eight times more engaged. More importantly, when an employee feels valued and appreciated for their hard work, they’re more likely to stay and feel motivated. They’re also more likely to recommend others for open roles at your organization.
Celebrating your employees for their work is also a great way to share your company values. When you see a new hire doing something that embodies a core value, give that action a shoutout on your employee recognition platform, like Cooleaf. You can also post it in Slack or announce it at the next meeting.
This shows your new hire and the team at large that you’re invested in their success, really stand by your core values, and are happy to spotlight their work and efforts too!
6. Regularly survey new employees for feedback
As fun and engaging as you make your onboarding program, it’s important to analyze its impact.
Regular sentiment surveys will help you measure the employee experience and ensure that your new hires are getting the information and support they need from their first 30, 60, and even 90 days.
Tracking sentiment is essential for both in-person and remote employees, especially when onboarding virtually or in-person. It gives your teammates a chance to share their thoughts anonymously so they can be more open and honest. It also shows that your organization is there to listen for ways to improve.
A new employee brings a fresh perspective on your processes too! Taking a sentiment survey invites a new take on what your team could be doing better from their experience. Just be sure to share with your team how you plan to roll out any changes or their ideas.
7. Monitor employee retention rates
Your employee retention rate can help you monitor the health of your organization.
An employee retention rate shows the amount of employees who stay at your organization for a certain period of time. As an example, HSBC and Neutrogena have reported an average of 10.2 years for employee retention. Neutrogena especially focuses on its work culture and work/life balance.
You can also look at your churn rate to get a full view of an employee’s lifecycle at your organization. Both metrics can help you diagnose an issue or point at areas of opportunity.
For example, higher employee retention indicates your employee experience has a lot of positives resonating with your people. This can show high employee satisfaction and even a strong work culture, similar to Neutrogena. Your people might feel more valued and appreciated. And you’ll continue to work to strengthen that culture.
Higher churn, or turnover, might show you need to provide more support or opportunities for employees to grow. To increase your employee retention rate, your team might roll out new programs, introduce new core values, or try different procedures. You should also look at your hiring process, which is a great space to begin improving your employee engagement.
Does your onboarding program use these best practices?
How will you implement onboarding best practices with your existing program? Or are there opportunities to re-think through parts of it?
Every onboarding experience can be different in terms of execution and processes, but as long as your people feel supported, knowledgeable, and confident, then your onboarding experience is already on the right path to developing an engaging, effective team.