What is employee onboarding?
Employee onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into a company. The process differs from company to company and may involve tasks, activities, and functions that can last a couple of days, weeks, or months. Employee onboarding enhances talent retention by building a sense of belonging and, later, loyalty in the new hire.
Employee onboarding begins once the employee accepts an offer and can last until the end of their first year with the company. The processes involved in onboarding are designed to make the new employee feel welcome and to reinforce their decision to join and stay with the company.
During the onboarding process, a new employee learns about the company’s culture, receives the relevant training and tools for their role, and completes the necessary documentation. Employee onboarding requires full company involvement with HR, IT, and Learning and Development departments playing crucial roles.
The new employee would typically be paired with other employees in formal or informal settings to support this process. This pairing has posed a challenge as companies continue to digitally transform and create hybrid, if not entirely remote, workspaces.
Importance of a formal boarding process
Although companies agree that onboarding is essential, up to 22% of companies do not have a formal onboarding process. This is unfortunate because onboarding has been consistently shown to improve employee engagement, grow loyalty to the company, help assimilation of company culture and values, and drive employee retention.
It also offers an improved bottom line, as effective onboarding improves product quality and customer ratings in the long run.
In a recent Gallup study, findings showed that employees who felt their onboarding was great were nearly three times as likely to say their jobs were the best. On the flip side, only 12% of employees thought their companies did a great job with their onboarding.
The employee onboarding process prepares the new hire for what they should expect on their job and provides them with firsthand information on the company’s employee value proposition (EVP).
Employee onboarding provides the ideal opportunity to make new hires feel supported and help them build relationships with other employees and management. It’s also a great time to reinforce the company’s commitment to its EVP, including how it fosters employees’ professional growth. This becomes part of the foundation for employee engagement and productivity in their new role.
When done well, the new employees assimilate into the company culture, feel warmth in the working environment, and become integrated into the rest of the company and their immediate team. Employee onboarding sets the stage for their performance in their role and determines how invested they will feel in the company.
Components of the program
The activities involved in the employee onboarding process vary between companies. Some companies choose the innovative and fun route, and others ensure that new employees have everything they need by their first day of work.
For example, Facebook operates on the 45-minute onboarding rule that ensures the new employee can start working within 45 minutes of arrival. At Suffolk Construction, new hires participate in various team-building activities, including rowing the Charles River. Even though the activities and processes embodying the employee onboarding process can vary widely, specific components characterize the process and are integral to it across all companies.
Let’s dive into these components in this section.
Employee onboarding can begin from the moment the offer is accepted. In this case, the company can start getting the new hire familiar with the company’s procedures and culture before the start date.
During preboarding, the company will develop strategies to keep the employee engaged with the company. This could include a facility tour with the employee and their family. This activity could go as far as house hunting and a community tour if the new role requires the employee to relocate.
Other examples of preboarding include care packages, buddy matching, helpful company literature, and more. The company could send care packages in the form of company merch like coffee mugs, hoodies, and more with the company logo. HR could also email any helpful information about the company, such as organizational charts and documents explaining benefits and the company’s vision and mission to the employee.
At the preboarding stage, the new employee can be matched with a buddy who connects with them before their first day and answers any questions they may have. Questions could revolve around first-day expectations, dress code, getting around the office, locating the cafeteria, and more.
The preboarding stage prepares new employees for their first day at work and helps them manage expectations and anxiety about starting their new role.
This is a formal event through which companies work to get new employees acquainted with the company structure, mission, vision, and values. During the event, managerial-level leaders and the employee’s supervisor will also engage in various activities involving the new hire, such as reviewing the employee handbook, highlighting significant company policies, reviewing essential administrative training, completing all necessary documentation, and providing training. The new employee typically has a lot of information to assimilate during the orientation. As such, it is better conducted over a couple of days or a week for ease of understanding on the employee’s part.
The onboarding program should lay the foundation for the employee’s experience in the company. The relevant pillars of the company must be emphasized and demonstrated throughout the onboarding process. It can take many months for new hires to absorb all the information. Thus, leadership needs to be consistent with their application and ensure that the company’s policies, values, and culture are lived every day. This also means that leadership has to identify and be specific about the company’s enduring values and aspirational goals. Doing this will provide guidance while developing an onboarding program. For many companies, and as suggested by Gallup, employee onboarding can take up to the first year.
Mentoring and buddy systems
Employees can be paired with older colleagues designated as buddies or mentors to support them during the onboarding period. HR, the department head, or volunteers can select these buddies or mentors. Some companies favor choosing recent hires as buddies as they can better articulate what was helpful for them during their onboarding.
Typically, the mentor or buddy will direct the new hire to the appropriate authority when they need help. The mentor or buddy wouldn’t be acting in an official capacity or a position of authority but more as a friend or colleague. They would be responsible for simple tasks like showing new hires where to eat, how to get to the restroom, parking guidelines, and more. They may also be responsible for helping the new employee understand the company’s operations, like how to get projects approved and which executive leader to approach for what.
The mentor or buddy can work with the new hire to get settled in for a day, a week, a month, or as long as a year.
Reboarding involves re-educating employees about company nuances when they’ve been away for some time, have been promoted to a new position, or have been transferred internally. The purpose of reboarding is to update employees on ongoing projects and to acquaint them with their new teams, processes, and procedures. Through reboarding, the employee would understand the current expectations of their role. Reboarding can boost productivity, causing employees to achieve success in their roles quickly. It also fosters relationships between team members. In the long run, reboarding bolsters job satisfaction and improves employee engagement.
During reboarding, the employee is already familiar with the company culture, administrative processes, and other important company information. Reboarding focuses on the employee’s specific team and relies on the manager and other team members to (re)integrate the employee into their role and the team culture. For it to succeed, all team members and the manager must be deeply involved in the reboarding process. Situations requiring reboarding include medical leave, internal transfer, promotion, etc.
Benefits of efficient employee onboarding
Companies with efficient employee onboarding processes enjoy numerous benefits beyond ensuring compliance and affect critical aspects of the company, like its turnover rate, employee retention rates, customer ratings, and product quality.
When the benefits of great onboarding are considered, business leaders realize that it is well worth the effort to develop and invest in an efficient employee onboarding program. Let’s consider the most crucial benefits that the right onboarding program can offer your company.
Stronger employee experience
The employee onboarding process sets the tone for the entire employee experience. If the onboarding process is excellent, then the employee will likely have a great time working at your company. It positions them in the right frame of mind to explore opportunities, collaborate and deliver on the company’s aspirational goals.
Management and HR must constantly build strong employee experience through the onboarding process and by living the company culture daily. Employees should feel that you value them to enable them to enjoy working at your company and be as productive as possible.
The downside of not building an efficient onboarding program is that employees can quickly jump on another opportunity with a different company that they feel values them more. Employees are likely to stay where they get the kind of experience they want, which helps them enjoy their roles. The onboarding process is critical to igniting an unforgettable employee experience from the time new hires have their first interactions with your company.
Higher employee engagement
Similarly, when correctly implemented, the onboarding process can boost employee engagement, boosting productivity, and profitability. Currently, the employee engagement rate is at 33 percent, which is low in terms of organizational turnover. To improve employee engagement in workers’ roles and within their teams and the larger company, it is crucial to make them feel connected to the company.
Absorbing the company’s mission, vision, values, administrative processes, and nuances can get a new hire to this place. It all begins with the onboarding process. You must introduce them to this company information and continue emphasizing it for weeks and months. The more they learn about your company, the more engaged they feel; this can take up to a year.
Employees become productive and more participatory through proper onboarding within their roles, teams, and company-wide events. Employee engagement can be ignited in simple ways like mentoring and buddy systems, early recognition of performance, and providing feedback, amongst others. When you include these and other techniques for engaging the employee in the onboarding process, you kickstart the process early enough, making them productive and making your organizational goals around their work more easily achievable.
Better employee retention
The cost of filling a position left vacant by a new employee is much higher than that of filling one left by an employee that has spent years at the company. Maximizing your employee lifetime value is critical to boosting your company’s profitability in other areas. The cost of vacancy and the cost of backfilling the position are expensive when compared to employee retention. An efficient onboarding process can increase employee retention by up to 82%, saving you money in the process. Sometimes, new hires can change their minds after an offer is accepted. Beginning the onboarding process immediately when an offer is signed can help reinforce their choice of your company and not waste their efforts in finding new talent.
Easier talent attraction
An efficient onboarding program can help to attract top talent. If employees do not get a rewarding experience and a beneficial onboarding process, they can leave bad reviews of your company on sites like Glassdoor. They will also be unlikely to recommend your company to others. As a study shows, only 1 in 5 new hires will recommend their employers.
To offset this possibility, you should provide your employees with an onboarding experience that is memorable. You should also encourage these new hires to write a preliminary review on Glassdoor.
In addition, inform them of your employee referral program so that they recommend strong candidates for your future openings. Employee referrals are less expensive to hire, faster to recruit and onboard, and tend to stay longer with your company. Thus, attracting talent through your employees is an excellent benefit of an efficient employee onboarding process.
Stronger company culture
Maintaining organizational success requires attracting and retaining the right talent, not just any talent. A candidate that is a good fit for one company may not be a good fit for another. This disparity in how candidates fit into companies concerns the company culture.
Your company culture might suit some candidates but not others. You must ensure that you choose candidates who fit well with your culture, values, and team. This requires you to build a strong company culture and hand this to candidates and new hires through onboarding materials after making it clear throughout the recruitment and onboarding processes.
Being clear about your company culture and clearly expressing and enforcing it through company processes, policies, and activities can help you attract and retain the right talent.
An efficient onboarding program will also assist with absorbing the company culture. Companies with extraordinary onboarding processes say that the onboarding process helped employees assimilate the company culture more easily.
New employees do not become productive automatically. It can take up to a year for a new hire to settle into their role and start yielding results through their work. This is even more true if they are not appropriately onboarded and trying to get around the company and independently sort out their job roles.
An efficient onboarding program will speed up this process and has been found to increase productivity by more than 70 percent. A great onboarding process will deliver the tools, resources, and contacts that employees need, helping them get to work faster while having all the support they need. Employee onboarding helps to motivate employees early in the process and throughout their life cycle with the company so that they are better able to produce quality work.
Tips for creating a great employee onboarding experience
- To make your employee onboarding process rewarding, memorable for the new hire, and beneficial for your company, you should plan and have a dynamic program. Instead of waiting until the employee’s start date before you begin the onboarding process, start during recruitment.
- Distribute company literature during the recruitment process and begin to talk about your company’s EVP. You can create links to helpful information for prospective new hires to read and can send them an onboarding pack once an offer is accepted.
- When the new employee accepts the offer, you want to keep them connected to your company by various methods, some of which we have discussed above. And ensure that you make their first-day hassle-free.
- The last thing you want is a nervous new hire who doesn’t think they fit into your company—pairing them with a buddy before their start date or organizing tours can put them at ease. You want to introduce new hires to their colleagues during the onboarding process.
- You should also try to personalize the employee onboarding process as much as is practicable for each employee. As the onboarding process progresses, you want to implement participatory learning and explore different training methods. It is also beneficial to hold regular meetings to evaluate the employee experience and address any feedback they might provide.
Onboarding process flow
Although onboarding can be different between companies and experienced differently by employees, it typically follows a generalized path. This path involves the following stages:
Making the offer
Before onboarding begins, HR has to make a formal offer to the new employee. When HR is convinced about who the right candidate is, HR will move forward by releasing the offer to the candidate, thereby setting the onboarding process in motion.
The recruitment process ends when the new hire accepts the offer. This step also sets the onboarding process in motion. Once the new employee has committed to joining the team, the hiring manager should notify HR and work towards establishing a start date.
The manager should also secure an offer letter for the employee to sign and return. After this is done, HR will provide the new employee with all relevant forms and documentation. These materials would contain all the details of the employment contract.
Some companies choose to engage the new employee before the start date. Helping them maintain links with your company can keep your offer of employment top of their minds, as they may be open to other offers. It’s easy to do this through community tours, facility tours, buddy matching, etc. This is the preboarding stage. HR can also work with other teams like the Learning & Development team and the departmental head to ensure a smooth onboarding process. Creating templates that managers can use to build onboarding plans tailored to the employee’s needs can help make for an easier transition from the hiring process to the onboarding process.
Day of joining
Employees should have access to all the tools and resources they need on their first day joining the company. If they use specific equipment, these should be prepared beforehand, and the employee should find them easy to navigate.
You should prepare their workspace and provide them access to essential company software. Even if the employee works remotely, they still need access to software that they use to complete their work. The employee should be welcomed by a colleague and introduced to team members. The employee’s supervisor or manager should also send a company-wide email introducing and welcoming the new employee. For employees working remotely, a video call to meet up, an online guided tutorial, or a video training can help get them settled in.
Coordinating with other departments
For onboarding to be successful, HR and IT must work together. But so would the Learning and Development team. The employee’s direct supervisor and the manager would also need to be involved in the onboarding process, ensuring that all departments work together to make it a success.
Training and orientation
Employees usually learn on the job and may not know all about their roles before starting. During orientation, the new hire will learn all about the workings of the company and the technical details of their job. However, training continues into the better part of a year. You should hold regular meetings with the employee to assess their performance, address any issues and provide feedback. As employees become familiar with their roles, they also begin to understand their performance metrics. You should ensure that the new employee takes on new challenges and is spurred toward growth through continuous training.
Another way to determine how to structure your onboarding program is by selecting specific timelines in the process. Here are the typical time frames within which to structure your employee onboarding.
The first day the new employee joins the company, the main focus should be to ensure they feel supported and fit right into the working environment. They should be introduced to their colleagues, team members, and management personnel. HR should set the employee up for relevant training programs and show them around the facility if they haven’t yet been given a tour during preboarding. They should also be scheduled for an orientation meeting emphasizing the company’s policies, values, aspirational goals, mission, and vision.
Employees should be allowed to adjust to their roles within the first week. The supervising manager should hold meetings with the employee for feedback and questions and address any concerns. HR should check in with the employee on all forms and documentation to ensure they have been completed. They should also provide the employee access to all the resources needed to perform their job, including all hardware and software.
Within the first month, the employee would typically develop a routine already. This is a good time for management to assess the employee’s work using set performance metrics. The supervisory manager or HR should meet with the employee to evaluate their work. Any issues that surface should be addressed at this point, and you should provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. Enroll employees in training programs and schedule them for knowledge advancement opportunities.
Most companies see the three-month mark as the end of the onboarding process because the employee would have acclimatized to the company culture, work routines, job roles, and environment. They would also have developed an understanding of their performance metrics and how to collaborate with team members and their managers. It is essential to schedule a meeting with the employee at this stage for feedback and to evaluate their progress. Some companies take this review at the six-month mark. Regardless of your onboarding program, by the end of the first year, the process should have ended with an employee that is invested in and enthusiastic about their job role at your company.
Tailoring the onboarding process to different audiences
Every employee will require onboarding. Regardless of the category of employee you intend to hire, you will need to design an onboarding program that suits them. As such, your onboarding program needs to be employee specific. The different categories of employees you’re likely to encounter will require other onboarding programs that meet their needs.
Essentially, your onboarding should meet the EVP for each employee. While managers will require training on the different company policies and the employee handbook, executives will require training that revolves around team building and stakeholder alignment.
Differently abled employees will require accommodation options tailored to their specific needs, while veterans will require training to translate their military skills into new roles. Access to company software may be essential for remote workers to help them complete their tasks. They may also need to learn about the time monitoring techniques you have set in place and how to address communication challenges.
For onboarding to be successful, all company levels must be involved. As such, most companies distribute onboarding responsibilities throughout the various departments to ensure that it delivers. Here are the parts that specific departments play in the onboarding process.
HR Department: ensuring that all forms and documentation are completed, organizing tours with new employees, and providing details, including work hours, organizational charts, and policies that the new employee should know.
Training Department: facilitating new employee training, including providing lectures, reviewing training videos, and organizing discussions about the company culture and aspirational goals.
Supervisor: providing guidelines around new employees’ duties and responsibilities, job expectations, and work behaviors; introducing new employees to team members and other colleagues; facilitating a tour of the department; setting standards for teamwork, output quality, and general productivity.
Executive team: helping the employee grasp the company’s mission, vision, values, and culture.
Colleagues: helping the employee understand how the team functions and gets work done, guiding new employees on how to find requisition tools and equipment, and showing new employees where to find support.
Mentor/Buddy: responsible for mundane tasks that help new employees get around on the first day and first week, introducing members of the company to new employees, helping to review the company’s informal rules, and informing new employees of the nuances within the company.
Automating the onboarding process can improve the experience of both HR and the new employee. HR is often exhausted by the end of the hiring process. The many forms, documentation, and materials they need to prepare before beginning the onboarding process can be a considerable workload. Technology can help make this easier.
On the other hand, technological tools can help make onboarding exciting and engaging for employers. Not only would HR be able to get new hires to complete their tasks without having to chase them, but they will enjoy the process too.
Employers should evaluate their company’s onboarding strategies using a variety of metrics that are meaningful to the company. Examples of metrics you may want to consider include turnover and retention rates, time-to-productivity, employee satisfaction and engagement, informal feedback, performance measures, and so on. The goal is to ensure that your employee onboarding achieves the right results for you and the employee.
Onboarding new hires isn’t easy, but with a bit of planning, it can have long-term positive impacts on your employees, your company, and your bottom line! See how Simpplr helps companies facilitate employee onboarding.