How to create an effective employee onboarding process

Download the employee onboarding checklist

This ultimate onboarding checklist will help you keep your onboarding process on track and organised.

Employee onboarding is an important part of the recruitment process.

It’s an opportunity for companies to set their new hires up for success, and a good onboarding process can really set the tone for new employees’ time with the organisation.

What is employee onboarding and why does it matter?

The employee onboarding process is a formalised introduction for new employees to get to know their new employer.

It involves all the tasks, procedures and information new hires need to become productive members of their new team.

Employee turnover is expensive, costing up to 150% of the employee’s hire cost. And when considering the non-financial aspects of a poor hiring decision – like the impact it can have on team morale, the trust placed in management, and the decreased productivity that comes with having one less person on the team – and it’s easy to see that the investment in an effective employee onboarding process can pay dividends.

How to create an effective employee onboarding process

Before you begin developing your onboarding procedure, begin with clear goals and metrics for success.

For example, are you looking to improve employee job satisfaction?

Then it’s a good idea to develop a way to measure this over time in order to judge whether your onboarding experience does indeed have an impact.

Start by asking yourself: what does the perfect first day look like for new hires in your company?

Prepare for your new team member

It probably doesn’t begin with spending hours waiting for IT to set up their tech.

That’s why the best onboarding experiences begin before the new hire’s first day in the office.

  • Once they’ve signed the dotted line, contact IT in order to organise their workspace: any tech they’ll require, their email, and access and employee ID cards.
  • You’ll also need to gather all the documentation they’ll be required to sign – HR is your first port of call for this. If possible, allow your new hire to sign electronically so you can send it to them before they even arrive for their first day.
  • It’s also a good idea to create a plan and a timeline of expected, measurable milestones. First day, first week, first month, first 90 days, first six months, and first year are all big workplace anniversaries to track employees’ development.
  • Don’t forget to inform your team of your hiring decision. A quick email outlining their new colleague’s name, their role, their start date, and how they will fit into the team is all you need to include.
  • It may also be helpful to ask your team of any information they think their new teammate will need for their first day, as well as any hand-over documentation they’ll need to prepare.

Pre-boarding administration

A week prior to their arrival, we recommend sending new hires a warm welcome email with the following:

  1. New employee documents/forms (if possible, with electronic signatures)
  2. Start date, time, and location; dress code, transportation and access information
  3. Company handbooks and any relevant reference documents specific to their role
  4. A suggested outline of their first day
  5. Access to the company intranet or portal
  6. A list of any documents/equipment they’ll need to bring

It may also be helpful to include information on any team members they’ll be working closely with. A quick e-introduction before they arrive will not only provide them with friendly faces (and avoid those awkward first day introductions), but can provide new hires with another source of information other than their direct manager.

Don’t forget that if you’re designing a standardised process to document and get feedback as you do in order to refine the process.

Day one:

Your company business hours might begin at 9, but your new team member’s doesn’t need to if it means you – or someone they’ve been introduced to – will be able to greet them when they arrive. This is crucial; first impressions are long-lasting, and you want them to start the day on a positive note with a friendly face.

From there, begin the day with a face-to-face introduction to their new immediate team. Does your organisation have a welcome gift? Now is the time to present it to them. Organise an office tour at some point so their day isn’t spent sitting down.

Once they’ve met their colleagues, go through any formalities your company has. HR may have welcome workshops where they run through company-wide expectations, policies, and goals, but you may also want to cover a few things yourself: organisational charts, their job description, a timeline of milestones, and an outline of their responsibilities, for example.

Remember to schedule breaks throughout the day in order to prevent information overload. Take them to coffee to get to know them, and schedule lunch with their team so there’s less pressure on everyone in the formal office environment.

One important conversation you’ll need to have should be about any gaps in knowledge or experience that you can then begin working on throughout the first few weeks.

At some point in the day, begin the process of introducing them to the people they’ll be working with: consider executives and the C-suite, customers/clients, suppliers/vendors, and any freelancers.

Finally, provide them with an orientation checklist. This is important in two ways: it allows them to take some responsibility for their own planning and take some things at their own pace, and it also gives them a sense of progression.

The first week

The first week should be dedicated to filling any of those knowledge or experience gaps discussed with the new hire on their first day. Software training is quite common, for example.

New recruits may find that they are keen to begin working – to hit the ground running, as the saying goes – so managers should also assign a first project in a one-to-one meeting. This discussion can also involve further clarification of their role and responsibilities, and it may even be appropriate to discuss what isn’t their job.

One final, important touch is to ensure senior leadership are supportive of the new employee. This may be more or less appropriate depending on the size of your company; smaller businesses may, for example, may involve senior or executive leadership much more than larger ones.

Some organisations have a formalised buddy or mentor process. Again, this may or may not be appropriate, however, the intention is that new employees have someone with whom they can converse, ask questions, and receive leadership advice from that isn’t their direct report.

Should a program of this kind not be available to your new recruit, introducing them to someone (or more than one person) that can fulfil this function can go a long way in helping them integrate into their new workplace.

The first month

By this point, new recruits should have begun to build their own relationships with relevant people.

They should also know the company fairly well by now, as well as their role within in. If they haven’t completed the training to bridge those knowledge gaps, they should have at least begun.

This is why it’s important to continue checking in with them; have they made strides towards improvement? Are they starting to feel more at home?

Keep in mind that this should be a two-way conversation, especially if you’re in the process of creating your own onboarding experience.

It’s also a good chance for managers to ask for feedback regarding their management style (and how their new hire is responding to it).

Ask open ended questions, such as:

  • How is the onboarding process going for you?
  • What did you like? What didn’t you like?
  • What do you need from your manager?
  • How do you learn?

This information can be used to better tailor your leadership style to them, as well as improve your onboarding process for future hires.

Month three

By now, your new hire shouldn’t be that new anymore. They should have acclimated well to company culture.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue checking in with them. Provide feedback, and ask for feedback in return.

If your company has a culture or tradition of organising internal social events – and inviting family and/or significant others – be sure to invite them to, and make an effort to make them feel welcomed.

Six months

At this point, your new hire should be working independently, and have met the goals that were set out that first day.

Now that you’re both on the other side, take one final opportunity to ask for feedback regarding their onboarding process.

Two good questions to ask at the six month milestone include:

  • How did you enjoy onboarding, and what would you have done differently?

Now that they’re six months in the role, is there any information that they would have benefited from in their early days on the job that they didn’t receive? If so, what?

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This keeps a good sense of long-term thinking and individual progression.

Though you can no longer really refer to them as your ‘new hire,’ from the six month mark within their new role, it’s important to continue checking in with them in order to support their professional development and overall career goals.