Whether or not you’ve ever gone through a formal onboarding process, you’re probably familiar with all the questions that come with a new job. Day one brings equal parts excitement and uncertainty. You walk into the workplace full of questions like: Where do I go? What should I work on first? How do I get paid? What’s that person’s name and what do they do?
An effective onboarding program answers all the questions floating around the new hire’s mind, as well as the numerous ones they haven’t considered. The process helps them get assimilated to your workplace, policies, operational procedures, and culture. There is also a personalized, role-specific component where they learn how their position fits in with the department and broader organization. An onboarding experience provides the new hire with every little tidbit of information they need to know.
But it’s not limited to an orientation presentation and new hire paperwork. Onboarding is also a great way to provide a warm welcome to your newest team member. You put their mind at ease and help them overcome the social anxiety of being the new person in the workplace. The goal is for them to come back on day two, and each successive day, with less uncertainty and more excitement.
To recap, here are the high-level goals of new hire onboarding:
As you’ll learn, there is a lot that goes into accomplishing these four goals. This blog post will teach you everything you need to know to implement a successful onboarding program. You’ll come away understanding why it’s a must for growing organizations and everything the process should include.
It’s easy to see why your new hires appreciate you answering their questions and making them feel welcome. But what benefits does onboarding bring to you, the employer?
Above all else, onboarding is the right thing to do. Instead of leaving the new hire on their own to figure everything out, you’re there to support them, put their mind at ease, and show you’re happy they joined your team. Quite simply, onboarding is a win-win for both your organization and its newest addition.
We typically think of onboarding as an activity that starts on the employee’s first day. Instead of getting to work, they spend most of week one in employee orientation and completing new hire paperwork.
However, let’s revisit the “reduces new hire turnover” point in the previous section. In today’s competitive hiring market, there is a high risk of new hires resigning in the period between accepting an offer and their first day. So much can happen during that time you’re completely unaware of. The new hire can second-guess their decision and decide to stick with their current job and the familiarity it offers. They can also use your offer to demand a raise from their current employer or higher compensation from another company they’re interviewing with.
A little communication from your end during the quiet stretch goes a long way in reaffirming the new hire’s commitment to your organization—and lessens the load of onboarding activities when they finally come into the workplace. This process is known as preboarding and consists of completing some easy onboarding tasks prior to the employee’s start date.
For example, you can email them a PDF of the employee handbook and their benefits enrollment paperwork. But even more than that, you can reassure them you’re excited they’re joining the team and eagerly awaiting their arrival. This can be as simple as checking in a few days prior to their start, letting them know you have their workspace set up and asking if they have any questions. We’ll cover preboarding steps in-depth in a later section. In the meantime, check out our other resources on the topic:
Now that you know when onboarding should start, let’s talk about when it should conclude. Some people say it ends when the employee exits the organization because they’re always learning and growing. Others have a more practical viewpoint, believing onboard is finished once all new hire activities are completed and the employee has settled into a daily routine.
The ideal duration of onboarding is up to you and your organizational leadership team. However, we generally recommend circling back with a new hire after they’ve been on the job for a few months. By that point, they’ll have a solid grasp of what their role entails and you’ll be able to accurately gauge their performance. They can sit down with their manager and have a candid conversation about their experience to that point.
If your organization has a probationary period for new hires, coinciding it to end with onboarding makes perfect sense.
So far, we’ve covered why onboarding matters and when it should start and end. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty and go through the action items your onboarding program should include, when they need to be complete, and who in your organization is responsible for each one.
The first stage consists of only preboarding activities, as the new hire hasn’t officially joined your staff yet. It ends the recruiting process for the position and kicks off the employee-employer relationship.
All hiring activities have now concluded and you can move forward with other preboarding tasks. At this point, there is still time before the employee’s start date but you’re staying in touch and crossing off easy-to-complete onboarding action items.
Note on this stage: Completing new hire paperwork before the employee’s first day makes the onboarding process more efficient. It reduces the amount of busywork they’ll have when they arrive in the office and gives HR time to add them to employee systems before they’re officially on staff.
However, this paperwork can be complicated and needs to be completed correctly. Reassure the new hire that they shouldn’t hesitate to reach out with questions. Additionally, some people might feel uncomfortable sending sensitive information like their Social Security number over the internet. If the new hire raises those concerns, be open to them physically delivering their paperwork on day one.
The employee’s first day is rapidly approaching and the final preboarding activities will now be completed. Most of the points in this step involve preparing for the new hire’s arrival in the workplace and touching base to let them know everyone is excited for the big day.
It’s finally here, the employee’s first official day with your organization. As you can see, there are a lot of onboarding steps to cover in a single workday. Thanks to preboarding, you’re already deep into the onboarding process, decreasing the likelihood action items spill over into day two or three.
At this point, most of the one-off onboarding tasks have been squared away. The employee is on payroll, familiar with how the organization operates, and has rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Now you’re making sure they feel good about everything and have started off on the right foot.
Onboarding is nearly finished at this point. The employee should be settled into a daily routine and over any new job butterflies. The goal now is to make sure they’re delivering the outcomes you expected when you hired them.
This final stage of the onboarding process is recommended but not required. After a few months, the honeymoon phase is over and the new hire has a realistic sense for the job, making one final check-in meeting ideal.
Note on the stage: If your company imposes a probationary period for new hires, consider aligning it to end with the final onboarding stage.
While this list might seem excessive at first glance, most of these action items apply to any organization bringing on a new employee. By systematically completing all these activities in a reasonable time frame, new employees won’t have any lingering questions as they settle into their job.
Hopefully, you found this list helpful! If you need an easily accessible version, download it as a PDF!
Additional onboarding resources:
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