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A complete guide to the employee onboarding process

Think you do a good job of welcoming new employees? According to Gallup, only 12% of people feel their companies do well with onboarding. Employee onboarding can affect a new hire’s experience with the company and determine how long they stay. Learn more about what the onboarding process is and how you can improve yours.

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What is an employee onboarding process?

The onboarding process is a set program of activities and supports that help your new hires settle into their roles with the right tools, information and assistance. During the process, employees learn about the social aspects and the performance expectations of the job. It gives you a chance to build relationships, offer encouragement and give feedback.

Why you should focus on employee onboarding

The cost of recruiting and hiring is high, especially when you consider that 33% of people quit in the first 90 days, according to one survey. While there are many reasons people might leave a new job quickly, having a strong onboarding process can help you hold onto your new hires.

Effective onboarding helps your newest employees feel like a part of the team and the company culture from the beginning. They’re more likely to feel engaged, which can improve performance and encourage employees to stay with the company longer. Gallup reports that only 35% of employees are engaged, so finding ways to increase that number can help your company perform better as a whole.

New employees can perform their full duties faster with an effective onboarding process. Feeling like a part of the team and having the necessary tools and information allows them to jump into their tasks more quickly. They also have lots of opportunities to ask for help and raise concerns.

How long should onboarding last?

The new hire onboarding process typically lasts for at least the first 90 days on the job. Some companies stretch out the onboarding process for the first year. Each part of the onboarding process has different goals and activities to help your newest staff members settle into a routine and get the support they need. Stretching out the onboarding process over a longer period ensures continued support and evaluation to get the employee off to a successful start.

New hire onboarding process

Having an onboarding process for all employees ensures that every new staff member gets adequate support. Break down your onboarding process into logical chunks. These guidelines can help you get started.

Before the first day

As soon as a candidate accepts a position, you can start the onboarding process.

Goal: Pre-arrival onboarding sets expectations for the first day and provides necessary information before starting. It helps put new employees at ease and makes the first day run smoothly.

What to do:

  • Email the new employee a welcome packet with necessary information about paperwork, documents, dress code, policies, benefits and job functions.
  • Provide an itinerary for the first week.
  • Set up logins and equipment requests for the employee.
  • Prepare the workstation so it’s ready to go on day one.
  • Send a new employee announcement to other employees to ensure everyone knows when to expect the new employee.
  • Inform any team members who are going to help train or mentor the new employee about their duties.

First day

First-day jitters are common for new hires. A good onboarding process helps ease the stress and lets your new employees feel at home.

Goal: On the first day, you’re helping the new hire become familiar with the company. It’s a chance to get orientation tasks out of the way, introduce them to the team and get them set up for their first work assignments.

What to do:

  • Schedule orientation.
  • Meet with new employees as soon as they arrive to welcome them and show them to their workstations.
  • Take a tour of the facility.
  • Plan a team lunch or other informal introduction.
  • Introduce them to their assigned mentors.
  • Provide a high-level overview of job duties.

First week

The rest of the week is a little easier on the nerves, but your new staff members are still getting used to how things work.

Goal: The first week should build off of the first day, helping the new hire become more familiar with the workplace, their colleagues and their specific duties. You can also start easing them into assignments and getting others involved in helping them learn their new role.

What to do:

  • Introduce various programs or equipment their role requires.
  • Walk them through various parts of the job.
  • Start specific training programs.
  • Have mentors and managers check in every day, sometimes multiple times per day, to help them feel at ease and answer questions.
  • Touch base at the end of the week to see how the new employee is feeling.

First month

Throughout the first month, new employees often start to find their groove in the new job. But they’re still newbies and need continued support.

Goal: During the first month, the onboarding process helps the new hire fully learn the job responsibilities and additional company policies. Early evaluations ensure the new employee is progressing as expected.

What to do:

  • Schedule weekly one-on-ones with a manager.
  • Train them on more advanced job duties.
  • Increase work assignments.
  • Have mentors check in at least once per week.

First 90 days

By the 90-day mark, most employees should be comfortable with their job duties and understand how things work around the office.

Goal: Help new employees continue to understand their role and get better and faster at what they do. Focus on employee development and continued work independence.

What to do:

  • Continue weekly one-on-ones, or space them out to biweekly if that works better.
  • Increase the number and complexity of job assignments with support from peers or mentors when needed.
  • Provide regular feedback on employee performance.
  • Set short-term goals for those first 90 days.
  • Toward the end of the 90 days, start working on a career path with the employee.
  • Hold a formal performance review at the three-month mark.
  • Have mentors meet with new employees regularly for continued development.
  • Introduce them to social events for the company, whether formal or informal.

90 days+

Once an employee reaches 90 days, the supports are often fewer and more time between, but it’s important to keep monitoring and supporting new employees.

Goal: Make sure the employee is progressing and also being challenged.

What to do:

  • Continue with regular formal evaluations every three months for the first year.
  • Ensure they’re fully integrated into the team and workflow.
  • Provide additional support to help the new hire catch up if needed.
  • Invite the employee to join committees or take on other responsibilities.

Onboarding process FAQs

What is the difference between employee orientation and employee onboarding?

Employee orientation is a short-term program at the start of employment designed to welcome employees. It often includes things like introducing the employee around the office, handling paperwork and touring the facility. Orientation, often considered a part of onboarding, is typically a smaller, one-time event.

Employee onboarding, on the other hand, is a longer-term support system — sometimes lasting up to a year — that pulls in different people throughout the organization. It involves a variety of events and supports, focusing on how to help the new hire be successful.

Who should be involved in employee onboarding?

Managers and supervisors play a key role in the onboarding process. This gives your new staff members a chance to build relationships with them. HR often plays a role in onboarding for things like handling paperwork and getting necessary equipment. It’s also common to assign a peer mentor to new hires.

Can you start onboarding before the employee’s first day?

Onboarding should start with the job offer. Engaging new employees before they start helps them feel more at ease. Getting a jump start on sharing information or having employees fill out paperwork lets you focus more on the experience on the first day.

A new employee welcome email is a good way to kick off the onboarding process. It should include all important information needed before the first day. Receiving info on what to bring, where to go and what to expect can put your new hires at ease.

How do you develop an onboarding process for the first time?

Determine the length of the process, with a minimum of 90 days. Break down the process into smaller chunks based on the progress you expect new employees to make. The onboarding process might look different for each position based on what that role needs.

Creating a new hire onboarding checklist ensures you cover all of the important activities. This should include things like paperwork, necessary equipment, account and login setups, orientation and assigning a mentor.

If you have remote employees, you might need to make adjustments to your virtual onboarding process. You need to arrange to get equipment to the employee, and all of the onboarding activities happen virtually. It often takes more effort and communication to help remote employees feel like a part of the team.

Onboarding can be an evolving process within your company. Get feedback from employees who go through the program to make it more effective.

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