10 Best Practices For Onboarding New Employees

By Sean Gordon

Your company is growing, and you’ve hired a stellar new team of employees that are chomping at the bits to get started and contribute to your company. Great! But are you ready for them?

If you’re not putting as much thought into new employee onboarding as you do in your employee hiring, it’s worth noting that 98% of executives say onboarding programs are a key factor in retention efforts, meaning if done well, it pays off with a motivated and loyal team — but if not, you may be unknowingly sending your employees packing.

Onboarding your employees is more than just training them well (although that’s a large part of it). It’s making them feel welcome, important and valued. So, what are the best practices for onboarding your new team members?

Use this new employee onboarding checklist to help make your employees feel at home from the start:

Put more effort into Day One.

Have you ever had a bad first day of work? If so, I bet you still remember it vividly — and not fondly. Our brains tend to hold onto bad memories much more easily than good ones, so if you leave your new employee with a bad first impression, you may end up paying for it.

Intimidating isn’t a strong enough word; it’s nothing short of petrifying to walk into a new building for the first time not knowing a single person, procedure or inside joke. Nobody likes feeling like the “new kid,” so your goal should be to make the process at the very beginning as welcoming, upbeat and understanding as possible.

 New employee onboarding best practices 101: Consider a well-thought-out “welcome to the team” gift (nobody will be upset by chocolate, a goody labeled with your company’s brand and a personalized note), a free lunch with current employees and a “first day buddy” that is there to answer any and all questions they may have throughout the day (or week).

Further, consider what you can send the employee before they even walk in the door so that they can feel a bit more prepared.. Go ahead and email them things like employee manuals so they can feel more confident (and tremble a little less) on Day One.

Then, think in terms of the first 90 days.

When it comes to employee happiness and training, only looking at the first weeks is far from enough. The 90-day trial period holds a huge amount of weight. Recruitment agency Robert Half found that over a quarter of all new hires are willing to quit their new jobs if their first 90 days are unsatisfactory — meaning the 3 months of time, effort and money you just put into them was completely wasted. You must try to avoid this at all costs gauging satisfaction in the first few weeks AND first 90-day phase.

How can you do this?

Set up a structured 90-day plan that includes periodic check-ins, plenty of chances for both sides to provide feedback and small face-to-face meetings where they can simply ask questions and feel heard. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but your higher retention rates will thank you for it. You can even delegate the same “buddy” mentioned above as a 90-day mentor.

Avoid drowning them in an ocean of scary paperwork.

A necessary evil of new employee onboarding is, yes, having them fill out what feels like one million forms. While it must happen, consider doing it in a way that doesn’t immediately make them start shaking with apprehension and dread. Use a digital software that lets you put all the forms online, and give a deadline for completion. This way, your employees can fill them out at home if they desire, giving them more time to focus on learning their new role while at work. And no more running around and trying to keep up with who’s filled out which forms. You’ll be able to easily see which forms have been completed in the software!

Help them with the basics.

No matter the company or position, being new to a team brings with it many unanswered questions. Have you provided your new members with all the practical and logistical information needed to acclimate to a new team, building, location, technology system and so on?

Although it’s probably listed in the employee handbook, it may be helpful to review the company policies in-person with new employees so that they have a chance to ask questions and receive immediate answers. The next must-do is giving a full introduction to the team they’ll be working with (as well as any key players they may need to interact with, such as the go-to IT guru, the print master or the department head).

Give a full tour of the office, complete with tips such as how to use the quirky microwave and where the closest bathroom is located. Next, they may have technical questions about their computer, email system, etc. — make sure this is explained in detail. Give a rundown of any office perks, such as a free pass to the building’s gym, a parking pass for the deck, any great nearby restaurants, etc. Lastly, specify working hours, as well as any options such as flex hours or extra days off.

Give them a schedule to follow.

Don’t leave your new members sitting on their hands, wondering what it is they’re supposed to be working on, breaking a stressful sweat because they’re not sure (quite the anxiety-producing situation, especially when they want to make a good impression and prove their value).

To avoid this, give them an organized schedule to follow in the first days or weeks so that they know exactly where to be, what to do and what’s expected of them. Look for an online onboarding platform that lets you quickly and easily make schedules and to-do lists for your newbies (insert their sigh of relief here).

Give them the chance to practice what they’ve learned.

When new employees are mastering the daily tasks of their new roles, it’s immensely helpful if they’re able to exercise the tasks with other new employees, as well as practice them with experienced employees to gain constructive feedback. This builds self-assurance and a feeling of accomplishment and allows them to learn more quickly because they’ll learn what they’re doing well and what can still be improved.

Are you using a new employee onboarding software program that allows your new members to communicate, collaborate and practice?

Utilize technology to build concrete connections.

Essential to the new employee onboarding checklist is the use of new technologies to make everyone’s job easier. Even though there’s value in face-to-face meetings like those mentioned above, in today’s world of busy days, offsite meetings and ever-conflicting schedules, it may be worth looking into an online software that allows you to connect with your new members one-on-one through video chat features — meaning you don’t even have to be in the office to build and maintain healthy relationships with each member.

On a peer-to-peer level, platforms with shared learning features enable individuals to easily make and share videos instantly, which is especially advantageous for companies with a younger, millennial-aged population that lives on technology, social media and video streaming.

Give them epic goals to reach.

When thinking about new employee onboarding best practices, does your new team have goals and benchmarks to work towards? Do they know precisely what is expected of them? This speeds up their integration process, giving them an immediate sense of purpose and helping them keep up with their own progress.

One way to do this: Give them the challenge of setting a 30-day goal (such as, pass all training evaluations), a 90-day goal (such as, obtain business from three new clients), and a 180-day goal (such as, retain the business of the three clients with high customer satisfaction ratings).

…But don’t push them too much.

While giving new employees a sense of destiny and purpose is very important, you also want to be wary of going too far and having the opposite effect. Giving too much work and responsibility too soon can be overwhelming, impacting an employee’s sense of control and leading to a lack of confidence.

When it comes to your new employee onboarding, consider a software that offers “drip learning,” meaning you can release video training content in small, consumable bits at a time. Only once they’ve mastered this material can they move onto the next topic.

Measure progress — from both sides.

With all these ambitious goals, there needs to be a way to measure progress. Make sure somebody else is keeping track of their goals and holding them accountable. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, their 90-day mentor can own this responsibility and ensure progress is being made. Make it easier for both the employee and the mentor by utilizing a platform that makes goal creation and evaluation simple, clear and fast.

On the flip side, one of the best recipes for employee satisfaction is giving them the chance to provide feedback and measure your success in onboarding them. Whether through an in-person meeting or an online survey, give them a chance to evaluate the company and its training process. In addition to making them feel valued, heard and respected, who knows? They may even have ideas or suggestions you’ve never even considered.

New employee onboarding is one of the most important processes of your company. Over half of HR professionals have observed a rise in employee engagement in association with improved onboarding processes. Don’t let your company lose valuable members simply because you didn’t take the time to properly set them up for success — take a second look at your onboarding process, as well as the onboarding platform used, and you’ll be glad you did.

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