What is onboarding and how to get it right

Your new hire is starting soon — that’s exciting! Your team put a lot of effort into hiring the best candidate, so you need to ensure they’ll stay in your company and thrive for a long time. The first step to achieve this is an effective onboarding process to help them feel comfortable in their new workplace and get productive fast.

What is employee onboarding?

Onboarding new hires is the process companies go through to welcome and integrate them into the workplace. This very definition suggests that the employee onboarding process extends far beyond the first day of a new hire – it continues until they’ve fully adjusted to their role and team.

And this is the main difference between onboarding and orientation. The employee onboarding definition refers to any action that helps new hires understand how things work in their new work environment, get acquainted with the company culture, and feel welcomed and valued in their team.

Orientation, on the other hand, is the first step of onboarding. It’s when new hires learn the basics of their environment: for example, they might familiarize themselves with the office building and company policies, understand their new job duties and get introduced to their colleagues.

Why is onboarding important?

Think back to your first day in any job – chances are you were excited but nervous. If you don’t receive enough attention and instruction, that may not bode well for your mood or your motivation to get up to speed in your new capacity.

This may be one of the reasons that more than 25% of new hires quit their jobs after their first three months. And this is a huge loss for a company that must repeat a costly hiring process to find a replacement so soon – not counting the resources spent to train or compensate that new employee during their time with your company.

So onboarding new employees effectively can improve your company’s employee retention.

Another benefit of a good onboarding policy is that new hires reach full productivity faster. If they don’t receive adequate help from HR or their manager, and they’re just trying to make sense of everything on their own, your company loses potential revenue this employee would otherwise bring. If new hires go through a well-developed onboarding process, they’ll be quicker to settle in their role and start producing value for their team.

And an effective process is even more imperative when you’re onboarding remote employees (who have extra difficulties in connecting with their colleagues due to distance) or interns and graduates (who are new to your company and also to the world of employment).

Onboarding process steps

When designing the onboarding process, there are many things you can do to help new hires, like sending them a welcome package with company swag, arranging a team lunch or dinner with colleagues, or preparing a presentation. Whatever you include in your own process, there are several onboarding best practices that you could follow:

1. Communicate with new hires regularly

If your new hire’s start date is more than two weeks away, make sure to keep communicating with them and show that you’re looking forward to have them on board. You can prepare a welcome package with company swag or send them your employee handbook in advance. You could also ask the new hire’s prospective manager to send an email welcoming their new team member.

2. Plan the new hire’s first week

When the new employee first arrives for work, they will be uncertain about what their day will be like. It’s up to you to show them that you’re fully prepared to welcome them properly. So, prepare a plan for their first few days on the job and check all the important boxes (like setting up their workstation or informing the front desk employees about the new hire’s arrival).

3. Welcome them with open arms

Be enthusiastic, friendly, and positive. Give the new hire a company walkthrough and introduce them to their colleagues at nearby desks first. Schedule a team lunch for them to get acquainted with others in their team and make sure their manager meets with them regularly throughout this crucial first week. It’d be useful to provide the new employee with a checklist or schedule with all the onboarding activities you have planned.

4. Keep it up

The onboarding process doesn’t end after the first week is over. You need to ensure your new hire has enough basic yet meaningful work to do almost from the beginning. Their manager should have a plan to assign that work and also support their smooth integration into the team. Check in with both the new hire and their manager after two weeks and at the end of the new hire’s first month and give them any support they might need.

A well-thought-out onboarding program – taking into account these four steps – could make all the difference in successful employee retention and engagement. It’s imperative both to employee retention and engagement that new hires know your company values them right from the start.

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Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta Bika is a senior writer at Workable and holds an MSc in HR. She writes about all things HR and recruiting, with a particular interest in bias, data, technology and the future of work. She hates meaningless jargon and dreams about space travel. She tweets @Nikoletta_Bika.

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