As an employer, your strategy with onboarding matters more than ever. You’ve experienced first days at new companies and might feel like onboarding is important based on your own experiences. But there are more reasons than that to create an excellent onboarding process for your employees.
One massive reason why you should care about creating a great onboarding process is it increases your employee retention by 82%. Why does retention matter? Well, keeping your employees at your company saves your company money. Training new employees can cost you $1,075 an employee, and if you’re constantly having to train new employees, that’s money wasted.
Employee onboarding matters , and so many employers are failing at it. That leaves a great opportunity for companies to create excellent onboarding programs that get new hires up to speed, set them up for success and help them want to stay at your company. Ready to create your own stellar onboarding program? We have the keys to success outlined in this article to help you get started with great onboarding.
What Is Onboarding?
To start, what exactly is onboarding? In its simplest form, onboarding is the process of introducing a new employee to the company. A better way of thinking of onboarding is that it’s an ongoing process of truly integrating a new hire into your work environment and helping them have the support they need, tools they need, and knowledge they need to succeed and to keep your company moving forward.
It’s important to remember that onboarding is a process or an umbrella term, not just an orientation or a new hire email. And, the process may look different for management onboarding. The individual components of onboarding are typically called onboarding activities and can include anything like:
- Salary negotiation
- New hire paperwork
- Benefits education
- Facility tours
- Team introductions
Onboarding is all of the activities combined. A great onboarding process is one with excellent activities all working together to support employees and help them fully integrate into your organization.
Onboarding Activities that Set Employees Up for Success
So, to create a great onboarding experience, you need the activities that can help set your employees up for success. It can be helpful to break down your onboarding process into a few stages that can help you ensure your onboarding process goes longer than just one day. These activities we’ve laid out below are designed to help you get new employees up to speed quickly and really work toward integration.
Preboarding activities are things you can take care of before an employee even steps foot in the office—or signs on to a remote workplace. Preboarding is also a great opportunity to help lay out the answers to key questions and get tons of nitty gritty details taken care of. Here are some of the best activities to nail preboarding and get your employees ready to come work for you:
- Job offer. The very first step of onboarding is the job offer itself. Sending out a clear job offer with solid expectations embedded in it is the first step to onboarding an employee. An employee who knows what they need to do will be far better prepared to do the job you’re looking to fill.
- Salary negotiation. The opportunity to negotiate a salary is important to a future employee. Negotiating their salary could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars more over the entire course of their career. It’s also one of the most important conversations they’ll have with you, their employer, right off the bat. Nearly 90% of employers are open to negotiating a salary, so you need to be willing to in order to meet demand. Providing a chance for employees to negotiate their salary can help you show that you’re a company that’s willing to work with employees, help them succeed and provide opportunities for them to discuss their thoughts.
- New hire paperwork. The most important onboarding documents to take care of are sometimes the simplest. Your company needs information from the new hire, such as an I9 and a W4 form, in order to enter them into the system and pay them. Take care of new hire paperwork early on so your employees are set up as an official hire long before the day they first sign in or step into their office.
- Benefits paperwork. Another key bit of paperwork to take care of early on is benefits paperwork. Provide your employees with information on their benefits and then get them signed up and enrolled before they start. Employee benefits help your workforce stay healthy, and helping your employees get started with those will help set them up for success.
- Activating accounts. Nothing’s worse than showing up on the first day of a new job only to find out you need to sign into the cloud only to not have an employee email to do so. Setting up new hire accounts and credentials before they come in helps the first week of the job go smoothly. Don’t forget that you should have employees do any activation work on their end as well before they come in.
- Sending key company policies. What do you wear to the first day? What equipment is provided? Who do I report to? New hires have questions and you have an early opportunity to answer those and help them start out feeling supported. Whatever it may look like, provide employees with key company policies that they’ll need to know to get started in your work environment.
- New employee welcome gifts. Welcome kits are a great way to show a new hire you’re excited they are joining the team. It could be anything from a welcome message to company swag. Whatever your welcome kit includes, make sure it reflects the values important to you as a company.
When you hear “orientation,” you probably think of a whole bunch of new hires getting a talk from management or HR at an official event. Orientation can look like that, but it’s also extremely flexible. They can be official events or spread over several days. Orientations should be designed to meet your organization’s needs. But what are key activities to consider for this phase of your onboarding process? Here are some of the best:
- Facility tours. Everyone wants to know where everything in the facility is, right? A tour can really help new hires get a grasp on where they’re working and what resources they have. New hires may feel more comfortable with their work environment and the company once they know what the physical space is like and their resources—like where the gym is, who they’ll be working by and where the HR department is.
- Executive introductions. The executive team plays an important role in employee purpose—something that’s been found to be pivotal in retention as well. Giving your management and leadership team a chance to meet employees is important, and showing that executive leadership is interested in meeting new hires is good for them to better understand the company as well.
- Team introductions. New hires absolutely need to know who they’ll be working with directly. Letting new hires figure out introducing themselves to the team and vice versa can work sometimes, but it’s better to make sure that it’s happening by facilitating it. Teams work better when they know each other, and teams that work better together perform better. So get that teamwork off the ground early by creating an opportunity for teams to get to know new hires.
- Introduce brand values and mission. Your brand’s values and missions are an important part of your company, and new hires need to get up to speed with what the overall goals are, so they can help move the mission forward. That’s why it matters to introduce brand values and your mission early to employees—and during the orientation phase is ideal. That way employees can start their first day with the mission in mind.
- Policy training. Policies are an important part of a company, and training employees on policies upfront is key to making sure everyone is on the same page. In some way, every company should make sure their employees know all about every policy.
- Culture training. Company culture is an important part of a workplace. Good company culture can improve retention, performance, and even help your company outdo competitors. But new hires won’t automatically know what your company culture is like and how to fit into it. That’s why culture training is key. Give your employees a boost into integrating by helping them understand company culture right from the start.
Mentoring and Buddy Systems
Onboarding shouldn’t just be a one-day event. Integrating someone into a new workplace is a process, and one great way to make sure there’s continual effort being made to integrate is to use a mentoring or buddy system program. Typically, mentoring is focused on helping employees do their jobs and improve their hard skills and soft skills. A mentoring program can be a way for your employees to continue developing their social, emotional and hard skills in the workplace—under the guidance of an expert employee.
A buddy system pairs a new hire with another employee to help them integrate into the work environment. Harvard Business Review conducted a study of onboarding buddies and found three key benefits: improved business context, improved productivity and improved employee satisfaction. Specifically, employee satisfaction jumped 23% with onboarding buddies. Creating a buddy system for new hires’ first weeks to months of employment can then help them love where they work, be more productive, and therefore, want to stay.
In some circumstances, your company may have an employee leave for an extended period of time. Whether it’s for parental leave, medical leave, secondment or other situations, this employee has likely missed developments and may be a bit out of the loop when returning to work. Forgetting about these employees could potentially lead to dissatisfaction and lost time as teams have to reorient. Investing in reboarding helps increase the time-to-productivity for returning employees. That’s why creating a reboarding process is important.
Reboarding is when your company reorients and supports employees returning from leave or even transferring departments. Some key reboarding activities include:
- Explaining current projects and goals
- Updates on what has changed during the absence
- Team introductions (for internal transfers)
Choose an Engaging Method of Delivery
Onboarding doesn’t have to be done in the same form. Every company gets to choose methods of delivery, so you have a lot of choices for how you want to format your own onboarding process. Plus, you can mix and match different delivery methods for different onboarding activities. Here are four methods of delivery to consider.
The classic way to deliver onboarding activities is via in-person onboarding. In-person onboarding requires a current employee—typically an HR representative—to instruct and guide employees through the onboarding process. In-person onboarding has the advantage of being personalized and flexible for questions and particular needs. But it does require employees to come to a physical location (which could be difficult if new hires are relocating) and an employee or employees to do the onboarding activities.
The world since the beginning of the pandemic has shifted dramatically in many ways, and one way is that video conferencing and meetings are now commonplace and acceptable for most kinds of activities—including onboarding. Zoom, Skype and other platforms can be an easy way for new hires to get information from HR employees.
Video conferencing does allow for some flexibility and adjustments, but it doesn’t provide the same level of interpersonal interaction as in-person, which might not matter for some onboarding activities. Video conferencing can reach new hires from all over, but it does require technology to all go your way for the duration of the activity.
Sometimes it’s not necessary to even have an interactive version of an onboarding activity, and a pre-recorded video could do the job. Recorded videos are a way to still have a human being delivering the message, and it’s easy to deliver to new hires wherever they currently are. A recorded video is also a record that new hires could return to if they ever had a question that they know is answered in a part of onboarding. But a recorded video isn’t interactive and isn’t personalized at all. There also isn’t an easy way for new hires to ask questions. These downsides matter for some activities but not for others.
Finally, some onboarding activities don’t even necessarily need to be led by a human being and could be explained in a document. A document provides a record that employees can reference and it’s simple to create, send out and get training from. But it does lack the personal touch that some activities could benefit from.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember for choosing methods of delivery is that the onboarding process needs to be accessible. Make sure whatever format or formats you choose that it’s inclusive for all of your new hires.
Evaluate Onboarding Success
Creating a successful onboarding process isn’t going to happen overnight, and it might not even happen on the first try. To know if your onboarding process is working, you need to know what’s going on and being affected, so you can keep fine tuning your process until it meets new hire needs and keeps your company productive and moving forward. So how do you evaluate the success of your onboarding process? These are some of the most important metrics you should consider as ways to keep track of onboarding success:
- Time-to-productivity. When you hire someone, you want them to be working and productive as soon as possible. But you also want them to be creating great work too. It’s a fine line to balance. Measuring the time-to-productivity lets you determine how much time it takes from the start of onboarding to working productively. The lower it is, the more successful your onboarding process typically is—to a point, of course; it still takes time to adjust. Successful onboarding can improve productivity as much as 70%.
- Retention rates. Retention matters. It keeps your costs down and keeps your business on track, remember? So to determine if your onboarding process is working, you can measure your retention rates. If your employees are staying, your process may be working.
- Employee satisfaction and engagement. Satisfaction can be difficult to measure, but it can be deeply revealing into your company processes. Typically, the simplest way to measure engagement and satisfaction is via surveys. If your employees are satisfied with the onboarding process, it’s a pretty good indicator that your onboarding process is working.
- Results. At the end of the day, what matters for your business is if your company is seeing results. If you’re seeing improvements in results after creating your onboarding process, you could have a great program in place.
The Bottom Line of Onboarding
Onboarding is an important part of your company. After all, you want great employees to come work for you, and you want them to stay—and be happy working for you. What we’ve outlined here is a great way to start creating your great onboarding process.
As you continue to build out your onboarding process, you may begin to find areas you want to improve and focus on—like some of your wellness programs and benefits. To get started improving these areas, talk to a wellbeing specialist today!
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.