Replacing an employee always costs money. Paradoxically, it’s actually cheaper to offer them a pay raise to encourage them to stay rather than to let them go – provided that they have relevant skills and are trusted by the organization. However, you shouldn’t wait until the last minute when the employee has made their decision to leave to initiate retention activities. You should take action in the very beginning, starting with your new employee onboarding process.
What is employee onboarding?
Here’s the simplest onboarding definition: Onboarding is the act or process of familiarizing and integrating a new employee into the organization, its products, services, and culture – as well as supplying a new hire with the tools and information necessary to become a productive member of the team.
It sounds simple enough, but in practice, many organizations struggle with this process and leave a lot to be desired, resulting in low employee retention rates.
Here are the 5 best onboarding practices that will increase your employees’ productivity and improve retention.
Onboarding step 1: reach out to the newly hired before they start
Even though they’ve accepted your job offer and are now just waiting to start working, keep communication with them open until their first day.
- Email them a brief introduction to explain the orientation day and the onboarding process so that they have an idea of what to expect. Also, send them a schedule for their first couple of days that includes who they will meet and what will they do on specific days.
- Include information about the dress-code, and ask them for a short description for their introductory email. Allow them to introduce themselves to the company with their own words and in a way that they feel comfortable.
- If possible, also send them the paperwork that they will be required to sign (employment agreement, NDA, employee handbook, tax forms, etc.) so they can read through it in their spare time. Also, send them the information on benefits (holidays, health insurance, life insurance, retirement benefits, training reimbursement, gym memberships, workplace perks, etc.) so that they have time to decide on, for example, which of the available insurance plans they would like to join.
In short, give them a chance to prepare themselves to begin working for you and an assurance that you’re really waiting for them.
Onboarding step 2: make their first day special
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so make sure that their first day is a day to remember.
- Have someone ready to welcome your new hire when they get to the office, whether it is your administration staff or someone from the new hire’s team.
- Put a balloon on their desk so other employees can find and welcome them.
- Leave a bottle of wine and a handwritten welcome note from the CEO.
- Don’t let the day be dominated by filling out tons of paperwork.
- Hand them a welcome package that includes both company gadgets and the information that they will need to get started (ID badge, company t-shirt, mug, notepad, email, and instant messenger access, required software, etc.). Also, have their desk ready (that includes laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, desk cabinet, desk lamp, etc.).
- Then give them a tour of the office. Show them the kitchen with appliances (especially the coffee machine!) and give them a short introduction to their colleagues by arranging a lunch or coffee icebreaker with some of the team.
- Also, send an email to the entire team to introduce the new hire to everyone.
- If possible, go beyond that and schedule a breakfast or lunch with the CEO.
Then, do the typical new hire orientation. Introduce them to your company mission, vision, and values as you normally do with new employees. Make them see the bigger picture and help them understand their role in the company before they get started with their work.
Onboarding step 3: establish the expectations towards them
Schedule introductory meetings with key colleagues for the new employee’s first two weeks. Make an effort to set and communicate clear, role-related expectations for new hires from the beginning – and remember to align them with the roles and responsibilities of the existing team to avoid tensions. However, you should go beyond what is expected. If you want them to be committed, make them aware of why and in what ways their work is important to the team and company at large.
Introduce them thoroughly to their department and show them business objectives by having them participate in meetings so that they can gradually learn the specifics of their job – just make sure you don’t give them too much to learn at once.
Then, check-in regularly if they are comfortable and engaged. Set clear goals and performance objectives for your new hire’s first 3 months, 6 months, and the end of the year. Tell them how their success will be measured, and don’t be afraid to review their work right from the beginning and give them feedback even on their early contributions – this will let them know that you take them seriously.
Also, encourage them early on to be proactive and to speak up, as well as to ask questions whenever they’re not clear about what’s expected of them.
Onboarding step 4: find new employees a buddy and keep them busy
Get the team involved. Show them you’re inclusive and open – it will make the onboarding process much smoother.
- Arrange a short ice-breaker with the team that they’re a part of.
- Find them a buddy or a mentor who works in the same department as them so that the new hire can ask questions and share comments or concerns.
- Introduce them properly to the tools and systems used by your company.
- Also, create task lists (even if it is as simple as setting up their email account) and schedules for them to keep them reasonably busy and engaged early on.
Try not to leave your employees wondering what to do next as this will lead to them thinking about if you know what you’re doing.
Onboarding step 5: ask newly hired for feedback
Probably the new hire will not dare to criticize your company in the beginning, but you should still encourage them to share honest feedback. Remember that they have a fresh perspective. They can see problems with the job, the organization, or even the recruitment and onboarding process itself – problems that you may not even know that you have. Once they share their feedback, make sure that you turn that feedback into actionable ideas and implement them.
Here are some sample onboarding survey questions to get you started:
- Were the questions asked during your interview relevant?
- Were you able to discuss your relevant skills, experience, and career goals with the recruiters?
- Was the job description itself accurate?
- On your first day, did you feel welcomed?
- Did you receive the necessary information on the company’s mission, vision, and values at the orientation?
- Were role-related expectations set and communicated clearly in the beginning?
- Were you given enough training to do your job properly?
- Were you given a buddy or a mentor? How is he/she doing in this role?
- Are your co-workers welcoming and supportive?
- Were the goals and performance objectives set for you?
- Is the workload required of you achievable?
- Do you understand how your work will be measured or evaluated?
- Do you have all of the tools needed to do your job well?
- Were you introduced to the tools and systems used by your company?
- Do you understand how your role contributes to the organization’s goals?
New employee onboarding process checklist
OK, let’s sum up what we’ve learned about the 5 onboarding best practices. Here’s a checklist:
- Send an introductory email to the employee including topics such as:
- Orientation day
- The onboarding process
- Info on the dress-code
- A short description to share with the team
- Send them the paperwork and the information on benefits.
- Have someone ready to welcome them.
- Have their desk ready – remember the personal touch!
- Hand them a welcome package.
- Give them a tour of the office, as well as a short introduction to their colleagues.
- Send an email to the team introducing the new hire.
- Schedule a breakfast or lunch with the CEO.
- Do the ‘formal’ orientation.
- Schedule introductory meetings with key colleagues.
- Set and communicate clear role-related expectations.
- Introduce them thoroughly to their department and business objectives.
- Check-in regularly if they are comfortable and engaged.
- Set clear goals and performance objectives for their first 3, 6, and 12 months.
- Tell them how their success will be measured.
- Give them feedback – even on their early contributions.
- Arrange a short ice-breaker with their team.
- Find them a buddy or a mentor.
- Introduce them to the tools and systems.
- Create task lists, starting with simple ones, to keep them busy and engaged.
- Ask for honest feedback on a regular basis.
- Use survey questions that deal with recruitment, onboarding, and the job itself.
- Turn their feedback into actionable ideas and implement them.
New hire mistakes to avoid at all costs
If you’ve made it this far, you have a pretty good understanding of what an ideal onboarding process should look like. However, to make sure that you take onboarding seriously, here’s a list of common mistakes to avoid when introducing your new hire to the company:
- Don’t ignore them before and on their first day. No matter how busy you are, make your new employees feel expected, and then take the time to properly welcome them. Make sure their first day is filled with productive actions and interactions as described in the first step above. Don’t make them feel as if you aren’t sure what to do with them.
- Don’t be too formal. Try to connect with them on a personal level from day one, and don’t keep your distance. After all, you’ve hired them to spend 8 hours a day with you, and it doesn’t have to be dull – fun is good!
- Don’t bury them in paperwork. As we all know, paperwork is required by law, but don’t make it the main point of their agenda on the first day. If possible, have them do it in cycles and use the time in between for meaningful interactions, as explained in step two above.
- Make no assumptions about them and don’t take any knowledge for granted. Your routine is not their routine yet. Your acronyms and buzzwords don’t have to be theirs. Give them time and space to learn and get acquainted with things.
- Don’t wait for them to read your mind or guess your expectations. Be clear about what you want from them, how you prefer it, and how you will measure their effectiveness.
- Don’t underestimate their experience and insight. Remember that they have a fresh perspective, which means they can identify problems with the job, the organization, or even the onboarding process itself that you may not have been aware of. Also, ask them for feedback. Although you may be surprised by their input, it will make them feel valued.
New employee onboarding mistakes: checklist
- Don’t ignore them before and on their first day.
- Don’t be too formal.
- Don’t bury them in paperwork.
- Make no assumptions about them.
- Don’t take any knowledge for granted.
- Don’t expect them to read your mind.
- Don’t underestimate their experience and insight.
Good luck with recruitment and effective onboarding processes!