First impressions are everything — and the workplace is no exception.
An effective onboarding process is a critical part of the new-hire experience; it effectively sets the stage for what’s to come and the relationship you’ll have with a new employee. From increased employee engagement and productivity to reduced turnover rates and work-related errors, there are many inherent benefits to building out a strong employee onboarding process at your organization.
With that said, despite the obvious importance of offering a strategic, effective onboarding experience for new hires, employers still have some work to do. With turnover rates at an all-time high and approximately 40 percent of employees leaving within 12 months of being hired, it’s clear that something needs to change from day one to keep employees from jumping ship.
It all starts with the onboarding process. Research shows that at least one-third (36 percent) of organizations do not currently have a structured onboarding process in place. What’s more, 76 percent of human resources (HR) leaders reported that onboarding practices are highly underutilized at their companies.
This leaves us asking a few questions: Why is there such a disconnect? If effective employee onboarding is so valuable, then why aren’t employers getting on board? And, more importantly, what exactly do employers need to change in order to get there?
“The biggest reason why people fail or underperform has to do with the culture and politics of the organization, so I focus a lot on basically three things: how we are going to help this person adapt to the new culture; how are we going to connect them to the right people and help them form the right relationships; and how are we going to be sure that we really align expectations in every direction so that they’re set up for success.”
— Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days
Improving the employee onboarding process
When you dedicate time and resources to building out a strategic, high-quality employee onboarding process, you gain a lot more than you give. The return is clear: happy, engaged, productive employees who know exactly what’s expected of them in their new roles.
By focusing on making a few key improvements to your current onboarding process, you can help new team members make a seamless transition and assimilate into the company culture with ease.
One of the best ways to improve your employee onboarding process is to take a proactive approach with both planning and communicating. Don’t wait until the employee’s first day to begin engaging with them. Instead, begin the process in advance of the start date by communicating over email. This will help make day one on the job much less overwhelming, as employees will have a better sense of what they can expect.
For instance, you can send new-hire paperwork and helpful details – such as what to wear, what to bring, and a new-employee onboarding checklist — all in a welcome email before the employee’s start date. By sharing these details in advance, you can help your new team members feel more prepared and offer them a smooth, stress-free start with your company.
2. Offer a proper orientation
Many companies treat onboarding and orientation like they are one and the same, but that’s simply not the case. Orientation should be specifically dedicated to ensuring employees are well-oriented before they begin the onboarding process. For example, orientation should include:
A tour of the facility, including bathrooms, parking, kitchen areas, conference rooms, and break rooms;
An introduction to company technology, including a computer, an email address, apps, and a phone;
A brief overview of the company’s mission and goals;
A review of company culture, etiquette, and expectations.
Keep in mind that the orientation stage — including administrative tasks such as filling out new-hire paperwork — should account for only a small portion of the overall onboarding process and not the entirety of it. And don't forget to include your (new) remote employees! Use screen sharing software to give virtual office tours and more.
Modern technology can help ease the paperwork process, both for yourself and for new hires at your company. It automates tasks that would otherwise be manual and offers an efficient, streamlined experience for everyone.
In addition to simplifying new-hire paperwork, modern technology also allows for a much more interactive onboarding process for new hires. Engaging training content – such as images, quizzes, videos, and webinars – is often easier for employees to comprehend and absorb.
For example, you can offer digital, gamified training videos that provide employees with an interactive, guided learning experience.
You can also utilize employee onboarding software to provide a dynamic company directory that goes beyond the traditional, static org charts of the past.
Today’s digital onboarding solutions allow new hires to create personal employee profiles, complete with an abundance of information.
For example, employee profiles can include details such as names, titles, photos, skill-sets, departments, contact information, locations, areas of expertise, previous employment, educational backgrounds, and even hobbies and fun facts. This interactive experience allows new hires to connect with coworkers, learn who’s who in the organization, and put faces to names.
It also provides the opportunity to review the overall structure of the organization via the live org chart. All of this empowers employees to find answers to their own questions, rather than wasting time hunting for the right person in the organization who can help them — not to mention, finding a way to reach that person.
4. Personalize the training process
Each and every employee is different. That’s why it makes sense to personalize the onboarding process to play to each new hire’s strengths, challenges, and preferences. To start, every new team member should receive onboarding materials that are specifically relevant to their particular role and location.
To truly personalize the experience, you should also utilize surveys to learn more about what the new hire needs help with, as well as to gain insight into their time management, task management, training, and communication preferences.
By tailoring the onboarding experience to best meet each employee’s unique needs and preferences, you can improve job satisfaction and productivity among new hires at your company.
5. Make it a social experience
One of the most important things you can do to transform your onboarding process is to make it a social experience. New hires often cite getting to know the people they work with as one of the greatest challenges they face during the onboarding process.
However, by finding ways to encourage new hires to socialize with the team, you can ease the getting-to-know-you stage and help them feel like they fit into the corporate culture. On day one, plan a lunch for your new hire to get to know the manager they’ll report to and other members of the team.
During the first week, introduce the new hire at a team meeting. You should also make it a point to organize regular team-building events during and after work, as this will help new hires make friends, assimilate, and feel like part of the team. (After all, research has repeatedly shown a clear link between having best friends at work and the amount of effort employees put in on the job.)
Whether your new hires are in-house or remote, today’s employee onboarding solutions allow a social experience. The employee intranet, instant messaging tools, and personalized employee profiles all encourage team building and collaboration among members of your team.
6. Solicit and learn from feedback
Another great way to improve employee onboarding experience is to solicit feedback and then optimize the company’s process based on your findings. By being open to the input of new employees, you can gain valuable insights that will help make improvements to your onboarding process down the road.
You can do this by sending out anonymous surveys to new hires, asking them for feedback about the experience they had during onboarding.
What were the strengths of the onboarding process? What areas were lacking the most? By asking questions such as these, you can gain helpful, real-life insight into your company’s onboarding process and ensure that all new hires feel heard and involved.
Transforming the new-hire experience
Modern preferences (and the tools available to address them) are reshaping the employee onboarding process as we know it. The old-school way of onboarding employees doesn’t cut it anymore.
To transform the new-employee experience at your organization, you can identify areas for improvement in your onboarding process and optimize them based on your findings.
By following these six tips, you can transform an outdated employee onboarding process into an interactive, personalized experience for new hires. In doing so, you can ensure that your new employees are much more productive and engaged in the workplace and offer a positive first impression that will pay off for everyone in the end.
Cameron Nouri is the Director of Growth at Pingboard. He considers himself an entrepreneur at heart. Cameron loves trying new things and taking educated risks on new ventures, both professionally and in his personal life. He brings that passion to work everyday where he enjoys helping others discover the power that Pingboard can unlock.