7 tips for a successful employee onboarding

In today's world of work, a good onboarding experience is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have. Employees expect more than a branded t-shirt and lunch on their first day. Yet many companies still struggle to develop programs and activities that enable employees to succeed in their roles. And as the shift to remote work continues, new challenges are arising. Until recently, the onboarding process typically included a tour around the office, face-to-face meetings and shadowing from the same desk. But now, companies that have used a traditional onboarding strategy are compelled to rethink these processes and adapt a digital approach.

Why onboarding is important

Your employee onboarding can have a great impact on the engagement and retention levels. A recent study by Gallup shows that employees who strongly agree that their onboarding process was exceptional are 3.3 times more likely to also strongly agree that their job is as good, or better, than expected. 

In contrast, the same study shows that only 12% of employees surveyed think their company does a great job onboarding new employees. This leaves a lot of room for improvement. Poor onboarding experiences can lead to lower confidence, less engagement and an increased risk of leaving. Losing new talents early can quickly become costly for the company.

Effective onboarding can also shorten the time to contribution and enable employees to become self-sufficient in a shorter period of time. Improving your onboarding processes will not only prevent you from losing new talents early, but it’s also a great way to get a faster return on your hiring investment. 

Certainly, onboarding is important for many reasons but it doesn't have to be difficult. With the right tool, you can automate the process, measure progress, collaborate efficiently, and provide a great experience at the same time!

Here are 7 tips that can help you improve:

⚫️ 1. Start onboarding before the first day

Many companies begin the process even before the new employee has started. Preboarding is the process and activities that take place after the new employee signs the contract and before their first day. Preboarding often includes welcome greetings, information about the company, ordering equipment, setting up accounts, and other hands-on preparations. It may seem simple and redundant but will prepare the new employee mentally, socially and practically. Having a tool that helps you automate activities during preboarding makes it a lot easier for HR and the manager while still giving a pleasant experience.

Once a new colleague has started, the onboarding involves different tasks and activities depending on the employee's role. Many organizations underestimate how long it takes for employees to become efficient in a new environment. The average onboarding program lasts for around 90 days, but according to Gallup, onboarding should in some cases stretch up to a year:

"Onboarding should be a journey that employees take with their manager and team for around a year to build a strong foundation for long-term success at the organization."

Make a plan for the first weeks or even months with assignments, milestones and follow-ups. Distribute activities evenly to prevent the employee from feeling overwhelmed during their first weeks. If the new employee is going to working remotely, remember to replace key steps that normally take place in the office with digital alternatives. With AlexisHR, you can create customized templates for different roles and make sure everyone gets what they need to succeed.

⚫️ 2. Get tools and equipment ready before their first day

Getting the new employee's computer or other essential equipment ready before their first day on the job may not seem like a deal breaker. But to avoid a bumpy start, make sure to have everything prepared in advance. Set up workflows, delegate tasks to IT and add due dates to stay on track.

⚫️ 3. Involve the closest manager and team

The closest manager plays an important role when onboarding a new colleague to their team. It's their responsibility to make sure the employee knows what's expected of them and how to learn the ropes. The manager needs to be actively involved throughout the process and allocate time for important activities.
Likewise, the team plays an important role in helping their colleague get started. The new employee needs to get acquainted with the team both professionally and socially. Try to combine knowledge sharing with social activities. Help co-workers understand the value of their contribution by making it clear what's expected of them and why.

⚫️ 4. Schedule intro sessions with other departments

Encourage other teams to hold brief introductory meetings with new joiners. These sessions can be held regularly with several employees at once. Help your existing co-workers to plan their meetings with guidelines or a set agenda. Getting to know other teams early can nurture organizational belonging and prevent new hires from feeling disconnected from departments they don't collaborate with daily.

Meeting with the CEO or another executive to go over the company's history, vision, mission and goals can also help new hires feel more connected to and aligned with the company.

⚫️ 5. Set clear goals, clarify expectations and follow up

Nothing is more conducive to learning than jumping right in. Help the new employee get started by clarifying which projects or tasks they should focus on first. Set reasonable expectations and remember to provide assistance as needed. Follow-up and celebrate progress repeatedly.

Have regular one-on-one meetings to check in with the employee about their experiences, progress, and well-being. Be open to feedback, take notes, and develop action plans together. With a continuous dialogue, the employee is more likely to feel supported and comfortable sharing potential blockers or ideas.

⚫️ 6. Gather feedback to improve you onboarding program

Even if your onboarding program seems bulletproof, things can fall short. There's always room for improvement. Set up reviews to collect feedback from new colleagues and make sure you're continuously improving.

⚫️ 7. Implement a buddy program

Having a designated buddy can help the new hire to get a better understanding of the culture and provide context that’s not available in the employee handbook. A buddy program gives the employee a point of contact internally and someone they can turn to for questions they might not want to discuss with their closest manager. In many organizations, buddies have a positive impact on the social belonging and can help the new employee feel comfortable at work.

Onboarding processes usually look different in different organizations. Remember that one size does not fit all. Decide what’s most important for you and prioritize that. Start small and adjust along the way. 

Would you like to learn more about AlexisHR and how our features can help you improve your onboarding processes?

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