Editorial

01 Mar 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Stellar Onboarding Process

Kelsey Kaczynski

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." - Will Rogers

We all know how important a first impression is. Your first opinion about a person or organization can drastically impact your overall experience and opinions about them.

Employee recruitment is no exception, and neither is onboarding experience. You want to put your best foot forward right from the start.

Creating an effective onboarding process is essential. A proper onboarding experience will help you set up employee performance for the long run and align your employees with the company goals.

Your new hire orientation is an employee’s first official contact with their new employer and should be a proper welcome to the workplace. You want them to complete the process feeling acclimated, welcomed, and fully informed.

We all know how it feels to be the new person in a workplace and how nerve-wracking it can be. As an employer or HR Manager, it is your job to try and lessen that anxiety and turn the experience into a positive one.

This article will explain what an onboarding process is, the steps you should take during each stage of the process, and how you can digitally onboard an employee.

What Is An Onboarding Process?

An onboarding process is the strategic introduction of an employee to their new company.

Onboarding introduces workers to the team, their job role, career path, and future responsibilities. As such, it should strongly incorporate the company handbook, detail your organizational values, and explain your company mission.

There is so much a new employee needs to learn about the company goals and products, so you might as well start right away.

This process is as much for the company as it is for the new employee. This is your opportunity to create a strong base from which you can build these employees' knowledge of the organization and their role within it.

There is no concrete definition that says exactly which activities fall into the realm of an onboarding process, but it typically includes hiring paperwork, training, education, and team welcoming.

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This process lasts between a few months and a year, although most organizations make the mistake of only focusing on the first week that the employee is at the company.

Effective onboarding programs focus on helping the employee settle in much longer than just the first week. The bulk of the structured onboarding program should occur at this time, but there should be ample follow-up and support continued after this first week.

You can’t just set up an employee at their desk, sign some papers, introduce them to their team, and go on your way. You need to have a process that ensures they are checked on long after their first day or week.

Of course, this is easier said than done in a dynamic organization with many new employees. The task of following up and ensuring that everyone is acknowledged isn’t always an easy one.

However, we have tons of tools and tricks that we’ll be discussing and linking in this article, so don’t stress out quite yet. This should be a fun process!

Besides introducing an employee to the technical side of their new work, it should also make them feel comfortable, accepted, and welcome. This should be something that you stress to your team and the new employee's coworkers as well.

It can be as simple as inviting them to drinks after their first day, or just sending them a personal Slack message to say you’re happy they joined the team.

Many employers and HR professionals tend to overlook the importance of creating relationships and bonding during an employee onboarding process, don’t make that mistake.

An employee that feels welcomed and valued on their team is more likely to stick around and acclimate to the work environment quicker.

An effective onboarding process leaves little to no questions about the new employees duties, ensures employee preparedness for their daily operations, and establishes a line of communication with co-workers within the work environment.

Ultimately, it should also ensure that a hire feels a sense of belonging to their new workspace. Set up meet and greets, lunches, and other forms of welcome that will make the employee feel comfortable.

Unfortunately, 88 percent of organizations don’t onboard well, according to Gallup. That can lead to new hires being twice as likely to look for other opportunities.

If your company establishes a strong onboarding process, you’ll be in the minority and you are more likely to set your team and your employees up for long term success.

An effective employee onboarding process is undoubtedly critical for preventing employee turnover and ensuring long and happy employee engagement.

That is why it’s essential to pay attentio to every step of the process from the employee's first day of employment until their last.

Steps of Onboarding Process

Every employee onboarding process requires well-thought-out and intentional steps. It can seem overwhelming at first, but don’t worry we are here to help.

These are the steps you can follow to establish a stable and consistent onboarding workflow.

Combine them with additional steps tailored to your company culture, values, and objectives. Each company is different and requires a different approach to onboarding. We can only give you the basics, the rest is up to you.

Pre-Onboarding Phase

The onboarding workflow and hiring process should start with a clear job description, strategic candidate attraction, careful recruitment, detailed administrative tasks during hiring, and an impressive workplace presentation.

The goal is to be transparent and convey the right message throughout the hiring process and onboarding program while also impressing the employee with your workplace, culture, and compensation plan.

Our Prior To Onboarding Checklist has some tips on how you can start out your onboarding process on the right foot.

Recommended Practices:

  • Evaluate your website, social media handles, and job ads to ensure each candidate understands the job role, responsibilities, company policies, and company culture from their first Google search.
  • Ensure communication from human resources is be consistent. Most of the time companies use employee handbooks to convey this information to the new hire. You can use our Employee Handbook Checklist to ensure you’re hitting all the most important points.
  • Consider using case studies, personality tests, or job-related tasks to identify how candidates perform during a regular workday and how they might work with their team. That also helps them understand company expectations and results in employee satisfaction once the candidates are hired.
  • Emphasize employee perks, initiatives, and procedures, such as vacation time, remote work, and well-being programs for a successful approach to onboarding and long-term employee retention.
  • Assess your hiring process to ensure everything aligns with employee needs and role expectations.
  • Show potential new co-workers the workplace and the tools they will use for their daily tasks. Make sure they know where they will potentially be located in the office and the tools available to them.
  • Introduce them to the HR team, their team members and encourage them to ask questions and get to know the company better.

New Job Offer Letter

The effort shouldn’t fade after the ideal candidate confirms their interest in working at your company. Sending a new job offer letter isn’t enough to convince the future employee you appreciate that they’re joining the team.

Be sure to offer a competitive wage and make all benefits, relocation fees, and starting bonuses clear. Also, include a sincere note of excitement and appreciation for them selecting your company.

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Recommended Practices:

  • Consider sending a message of appreciation to the new role, and express how happy you are they became a part of the company.
  • Many companies decide to go the extra mile and send a welcome gift like branded gear or food. This is also a great time to ask future employees about their food preferences and dietary restrictions. If you’re not ready to send a welcome gift at this point, don’t worry there will be other opportunities.
  • Remember to send them a PDF file that outlines employee daily operations, benefits package, responsibilities, and expectations for satisfactory employee orientation. That also helps to prevent potential surprises after a new hire starts working.

Onboarding Excitement Build-Up

After the candidate signs their employment contract, the onboarding process officially starts. This is a crucial time for an employee's tenure with your company.

The time between accepting the offer and starting to work is critical for cementing their positive impression. Show your enthusiasm for the new employee by creating a solid line of communication.

You don’t want to overwhelm the new hire with messages after they accept their offer letter and before they start full-time employment, but it is good to keep an open line of communication between yourself and them.

In the case of remote onboarding, it would be beneficial to have reliable onboarding software and to pay extra attention to ensuring the employee is ready to start work.

Recommended Practices:

  • The hiring manager should embrace candidate experience by establishing onboarding excitement.
  • The hiring manager should share all the relevant data with the new employee, such as assignment details, itineraries for the first few weeks, and communication credentials.
  • This is another time when you could consider sending the new hire a welcome kit with branded items if you haven’t already. These gifts can be fun or things can be used for their work tasks to increase employee retention and the overall onboarding experience.
  • Organize a team welcome video or meeting to make the employee comfortable during their first impression.

Onboarding Process: First Day

The big day is here! Lights, camera, action.

At this stage of onboarding workflow, it’s essential to deliver a stellar onboarding experience and ensure the employee feels welcome and at ease.

Check out our Onboarding Day Checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything important. The first day is a big one. Some companies also decide to split the suggested onboarding requirements between several days or a week to avoid overwhelming the employee.

How you decide to split up this process depends on how advanced the position is, how much time your HR team has, and how many coworkers and managers can and will support the employee.

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Recommended Practices:

  • Organize check-in meetings to remind the employee they have your support and assistance throughout their employee orientation day.
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  • Organize a team lunchtime (or virtual lunch for remote onboarding) with coworkers that work closely with the new employee. Keep it light and casual, ensuring they get to know their colleagues better. 
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  • If you didn’t do it in the previous stages, give the new hire an onboarding goodie bag, and make their day with items such as company-branded mugs, notebooks, or t-shirts. Or, you can have two separate sets of branded items, one for the early stage of hiring and one for the first day.
  • Provide the employee with video presentations or powerpoints that will outline company history, objectives, mission, and employee testimonials. The first day and week should be all about teaching the new employee about their new company.

Onboarding Process: First Week

Now that the first day is over, your work isn’t done.

Ensure your new hire understands what the company expects from them in the first few weeks (or months) and get them excited about the future opportunities.

This first week is all about slowly introducing them to their role without overwhelming them with too much information or responsibilities.

Recommended Practices:

  • Introduce the new employee to the company by sending out a new hire announcement. Remind your employees to say hi when they see the employee around, or when they’re added to the Slack channel. Consider a newsletter, email, or video, and make the worker feel appreciated.
  • Organize meet and greets with significant stakeholders and team members to help the new hire meet other departments.
  • Introduce new workers to the top performers and company leaders to boost motivation. Offer options for mentorship with members of your team who are in roles that the employee may one day take on. 
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  • Create a list of daily activities, objectives for the first six months, and stretch goals. For instance, the flair platform is ideal for setting goals based on reviewed performance metrics.
  • Inform the employee about the growth opportunities for their position, and encourage seasoned hires to share their experience. Give the employee something to look forward to and aspire to in their position.
  • Organize regular team buildings and check-ins to increase the sense of belonging and efficiency. This will set employees up for success and create stability for their first weeks and months.

Onboarding Feedback

Feedback is key to helping employees and managers grow. No matter how well set up your onboarding program is, there is always room for improvement.

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It is crucial to track and measure the onboarding process. One great way to do that is to get feedback from employees who have gone through the process.

Giving and receiving feedback is an art. Check out our guide to 360 Degree Feedback for some tips.

The first thing to keep in mind is that employees must feel comfortable in order to share their feedback and opinions with you. If they fear that honest critique will not be taken well, they won’t share anything truly useful.

Ask them questions that will encourage them to share their experiences and feel comfortable giving honest feedback. Getting their honest feedback will help you rectify potential issues timely and ensure a flawless employee experience.

Recommended Practices:

  • Implement regular surveys for employee insights. You will find out how satisfied they are with the onboarding workflow and how you can improve for the next time.
  • Send out a survey to employees immediately after their onboarding process is complete, while their thoughts are fresh.
  • Use our customizable questionnaires to create a feedback cycle tailored to your team.
  • Work to create an open and honest line of communication with current employees and a relationship where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Digital Onboarding

After remote work became the norm after the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital onboarding took over recruitment.

E-Recruitment is a process we know well and actually encourage for all companies. Read our guide to e-recruitment for more information.

Even though introducing new employees to the workplace virtually may feel detached, it is possible to compensate for the missing human element. You can do this by scheduling more check-ins, sending a welcome gift, or ordering lunch for the employee on their first day.

Many companies have created effective onboarding processes for digital employee onboarding. Here are our tips.

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Recommended Practices:

  • Ensure the onboarding plan reflects the company culture by implementing a virtual help desk to answer all employee questions from remote employees. This can be anything from IT help to better understanding your products and customers.
  • Use regular employee satisfaction surveys to get insights into how the new employee feels and how they would improve the onboarding workflow and hiring process.
  • Check whether your new remote employees have the necessary equipment for virtual work. Provide relevant training sessions, account access, and information.
  • The employee should feel at ease during the digital onboarding tasks and daily tasks. We have a remote preparedness checklist that can help you navigate this.
  • Organize regular online team workshops, meetings, and coffee breaks. Implement all the events and activities you would do during the face-to-face onboarding process, and ensure the new hire feels they belong in the team.
  • Create an onboarding checklist that will help create a memorable onboarding experience and will ensure you curate a proper onboarding experience. The employee onboarding checklist can include things like job training, meetings with direct managers, learning about company structure, and team lunch.
  • Leave time for additional training on subjects that the new employee struggled with during the training sessions. There are tons of options on online training including webinars, free tutorials, and mentorships with your top-performing employees.

All of those practices can be automated with flair's recruiting feature, for a more pleasant employee and HR experience!

Time To Create Your Own Onboarding Process

No matter if it’s digital or in-person, the onboarding journey should be cohesive and strategic for all employees. The onboarding process will set the tone for the rest of the employee's tenure.

By following our onboarding steps, you can rest assured that your new employee will receive an all-encompassing experience to prepare them for their daily activities.

Remember, strategic employee onboarding doesn't end as soon as Friday afternoon of their first week is over. It is an ongoing process.

Check out our After Onboarding Process Checklist for help figuring out what the next steps are.

You should be sure to monitor their career progression and continue to offer onboarding tools and learning resources until your employee is fully acclimated.

It's also a good idea to have a meeting six months and one year after a new employee joins your team to ensure job satisfaction and to see how they are adjusting to your corporate culture.

Combine the list with additional procedures tailored to your company to get the best results and enjoy welcoming the new team member.

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