Preparing new employees to be productive, successful, and happy in their jobs from day one can have a huge impact on employee engagement and, in turn, retention. Employee onboarding can offer you the chance to scale your business effectively.

And according to recent research, employee retention is one – if not – the biggest HR challenge that most businesses face right now. A whopping 87% of employers believe that enhancing retention is one of the “critical priorities” for them. The catch here is “critical.”

One of the best ways to retain employees is right at the start of their employment with you before they even begin to get going with you (ironically!) through their onboarding.

You see, the employee experience starts with the onboarding process. And first impressions count. So, your onboarding has a disproportionate impact.

Why Is Employee Onboarding Important?

Research shows that those employees who are onboarded well feel more committed, more connected to co-workers and more integrated into their company’s culture. As a result, they have more role clarity, contribute quicker and perform better. And because they feel more invested in their work, they are more engaged and loyal.

This isn’t the norm, as over one-third of newly hired employees quit within their first year, creating all the extra expense of re-hiring and of service continuity problems whilst new hires get up to speed.

But with the right approach to your employee onboarding process, you can help your new hires feel prepared and confident when they begin working so they stick around longer and become part of your company’s success story.

What is employee onboarding?

The employee onboarding process is a way of integrating a new employee with a company and its culture, as well as getting the new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team.

Onboarding is different from orientation. While orientation might be necessary—paperwork and other routine tasks such as computer passwords must be completed—onboarding is a comprehensive process involving management and other employees that can last a substantial period of time – usually to the point at which an individual passes their probationary period and/or is at an acceptable level of performance over an acceptable period of time.

Unfortunately, onboarding new employees is an integral part of the hiring process that too often goes by the wayside in many companies. Often employees can be left to their own devices to figure things out for themselves. And if they’re lucky, they are told – if they have any questions – who to ask.

Why is employee onboarding key to retention?

The biggest challenge companies face today is employee retention. And onboarding is where it starts. Employee onboarding is not just about hiring—it’s also about doing all the right things to give them the best possible chance of success and retaining these new hires.

When you think it’s estimated that someone leaving your employment costs as much as a third of their annual salary in re-hire costs and opportunity lost as a role is unfilled and or a replacement is brought up to scratch.

Creating a great onboarding process can not only improve performance but save you money by keeping employees engaged with the company longer.

Why Is Employee Retention Important?

Your employees are your biggest asset and only you can retain them. By neglecting your employee’s needs, their morale and productivity will decline, and so will their loyalty and effectiveness. You have to remember also that when employees leave, they tend to leave in waves.

Because the issue(s) causing someone to want to look for another job is probably being experienced by others on your team as well. So that’s just multiplied the cost of the problem for you.

Here are our 5 tips for not falling into this trap – by creating an engaging employee onboarding process:

Define processes before they happen.

Before implementing your onboarding program, define it.

To do that, ask yourself some key questions:

  • When will onboarding start?
  • How long will it last?
  • What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day?
  • What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?
  • What do new employees need to know about the vision and strategy of the business and/or their department?
  • What do they need to know about their role and how quickly?
  • What training will they need?
  • What role will others play in the process? Direct managers? Directors? Co-workers? Mentors?
  • What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees?
  • How will you gather feedback on their performance and measure their success?
  • Will you ask the employee for feedback on the onboarding and recruitment process?

Once these questions have been answered, you can devise a plan of action to help new employees to get all the information they need while getting fully acquainted with the people and culture within the business.

Knowing what’s expected of new employees from day one and how they’re going to achieve it, will allow them to stay focused on success instead of guessing about how things will work out in their new job.

Start engaging them – even before day 1 

As soon as a new employee accepts a job offer, you can start the process of onboarding and engaging them. A friendly note from their manager, first-day information, welcome messages and photos from new teammates, a glossary of company acronyms, details about their new department and job responsibilities – and some of that orientation paperwork like a copy of your employee handbook.

Set up the new hires’ desk, phone, computer and password logins before they arrive, The worst thing for a new employee is being wooed through the recruiting process and then arriving on the job and nobody is even expecting them or their desk isn’t set up.

Think about learning and development. The more you create a structure for learning and growth early on, you help ensure employees are more engaged with their work. You can do so by assigning daily tasks that train them on systems they need to be proficient.

Also, think about helping your new employee get to know others through group projects and interactions. Why not calendar some catch up’s with key team members or a Senior Management Team member to give them structure in getting to know the right people.

Once people learn and grow together, they become closer co-workers who feel valued because everyone’s contributions matter from day one. As a result, newcomers feel less overwhelmed from having to learn everything from scratch all at once.

In addition, sharing information amongst team members builds familiarity with other colleagues which increases overall morale.

Immerse them in your Company Culture

Making company culture part of onboarding helps cultivate a sense of belonging within the business right away. Having a consistent standard creates a sense of stability which is vital during an important transition period where someone is learning about a new workplace environment and responsibilities that come along with it.

If your employees don’t feel like they fit in, they’re less likely to be engaged and want to stick around. The easiest way to encourage employee retention is by making sure each person feels like a vital part of the team, that their job has a purpose and that they fit into the company culture.

So, how can you do that? It’s not about pointing at the company values on the wall and saying that’s us, that’s for sure.

You have to demonstrate your culture in your actions – and as part of your onboarding process.  If you say that you care – show you care with directors taking time out of their busy diaries to spend quality time with new hires.  If you say that you’re open and honest, demonstrate that with the information you provide to your new employees.

Remember, the biggest reason employees leave a business – and do so early on – is that what they experience doesn’t live up to what they were sold at the interview. Quite simply, you lose their trust.

Communication Is Key

Communication is absolutely critical in onboarding because it’s about helping them succeed.

First and foremost, it’s important to have regular check-in’s to make sure that that the new employee is comfortable, happy and engaged. This is a two-way process to gather valuable information on how they are settling in, what’s been helpful in the onboarding process and what might be confusing them, as well as sharing valuable information.

More formally, it’s important that new hires are aware of what is expected of them and the progress they are making during their onboarding. Clear achievable objectives need to be set, from the beginning, about what constitutes success for their initial probationary period, be it 3 or 6 months.

Reviewing and giving thoughtful feedback on your new hire’s contribution and progress against those objectives is vital. As is receiving feedback from them on the support and training they need. If you aren’t communicating what new hires are supposed to be doing and arming them with the tools to do it properly, you’re setting them up to fail.

Few businesses give any thought to a formal process to a new hire’s probationary time. Communicate clearly the process, time scales and check-in points, and also be clear who will ultimately be responsible for making the decision and who will guide them along the way.

Make sure you also don’t inundate your new hires with too much information. While it’s important to get your new hire ramped up and productive quickly, you also need to make sure you provide on-the-job training in a manageable flow.

Having someone to go to with questions or issues is also an important part of the communications jigsaw. Hopefully, new hires have a mentor. Mentors don’t need to be someone’s manager – and probably shouldn’t be – it gives employees the opportunity to seek independent help or assistance. Mentoring programs can be as simple as assigning a new employee a go-to person for any questions that arise or having an individual mentor specifically picked to align with their career development plans.

However you do it, one thing always holds true. When new employees receive thorough communication from their employers from start to finish, they’re more likely to value their experience at a company and stay with them long-term.

Introducing Relationships

A new job for someone should be the start of wonderful new relationships for them with their new colleagues.

You’re hopefully now starting to recognise that onboarding is not just about meeting a few people – as well as telling them where to find the toilets and letting them know how to schedule some time off.

So, another factor in determining the effectiveness of your onboarding process is deciding who will participate.

For many of the topics related to the overall company and administrative elements, the participants may be the same for all new hires. Subject matter that is more specific to the department or job the new person is taking on will mean that different employees will need to be involved.

As you go about creating the list of topics to be covered during onboarding and identifying who will be responsible for each, make sure that everyone takes advantage of opportunities to learn about one another. Encourage all who will be working with the new employee to share information on each other roles, their objectives and their inter-dependencies – and hobbies and interests outside of work; it’s a sure-fire way to build teamwork, camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

It is critical that the business owner be involved in the onboarding process. This should start with them welcoming all new employees to the business if possible on their first day and personally conducting the conversations about the company’s vision, purpose and culture – around what the business is seeking to achieve and how they go about it.

New hires need to hear this information from the source, which is the leader of the business. It’s important the owner doesn’t then go missing! The owner should also make it a point to follow up with the employee periodically, especially during the first couple of months, to ask how they’re doing, if they have questions, and if there are things about the job, the work, or the company that are different from what they expected.

Training & development doesn’t stop after onboarding

Hopefully, your new hire was given clear objectives to achieve for their probationary period and with your help and support through an awesome onboarding process, they passed with flying colours.

So, what next? Let them get on with it? Well, no It’s important you treat your employees like the most important investment your business can make. This means training and development shouldn’t stop after onboarding.

Just because your new hire has shown you, through passing their probation, that they know how to do the job, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to provide them with the latest and greatest tools. Mentoring doesn’t have to stop after onboarding either, an ongoing mentor can be useful to discuss career development opportunities with, and to be a great sounding board for ideas and issues.

When you provide your employees with ongoing training and development, it increases their engagement and helps them become more rounded individuals. At the same time, training provides each employee with an additional set of skills that they can contribute to the company. Simply put, the more satisfied your employees are, the better your rewards. Not only will they perform better, they’ll want to stay with you longer!

Streamlining the onboarding process

With an effective onboarding process, there can be lots to do and lots to remember. That’s where technology can help. There’s HR software out there that can turn tedious manual processes into automated workflows, such as BreatheHR, Bamboo, Personio or Zavvy.

You can use these to build the set of onboarding tasks that make up your process, align people with the relevant tasks, ensure that tasks are complete and connect new hires to the information and tools they need.

They simplify potentially time-consuming processes and form part of enabling a great onboarding process for an increasingly tech-savvy workforce, especially with a remote team to better connect them with your resources, tools, information and systems.

The Employee Onboarding Experience: A Summary

Start Preparing Early

Getting an early start for someone’s onboarding doesn’t begin when they show up for work. It starts long before—as in before you hire them in most cases.

Communicate Often 

It’s your job to keep them engaged throughout their entire onboarding period. Take advantage of every opportunity to get people involved early and often.

Pay Attention And Be Present

Stay focused on onboarding issues throughout everything you do—particularly if something doesn’t seem right along the way. Listen to feedback from employees and adjust the help and support you provide accordingly.

Build Relationships

Focusing on really getting to know them, rather than just the job-specific attitudes, knowledge and skills, take an interest in them as a person to put the goal of building positive working relationships at the heart of your onboarding process.

Align To Maximise Success

Remember to stick to the process – to give a consistently high-quality experience, but be prepared to flex the help and support you offer within that. You want your new hire to be a success. Listen, adjust, as needed.

Document Everything

You can streamline your onboarding process by keeping documents of the exact process your team can follow – and give a consistent message. Use an automated HR system to super-charge efficiency.

Need A Hand With Your Onboarding Process?

If you are looking for a way to structure or streamline your onboarding process, then it may be time to talk to a HR consultant. We’ve worked with many business owners who are looking to create a much better employee experience but aren’t sure how or where to start.

Our HR consultants are on hand to help you design an onboarding process (and work with new hires) to set your new employees up for success.


Ready to talk? Get in touch.

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