PART 1: What is Onboarding / Induction
Onboarding is the process of helping your company’s new hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their jobs as quickly as possible. Human Resources and Training staff are highly involved in the beginning stages, with job function mentors and direct managers more involved in the later phases. A new employee is the responsibility of the immediate manager to whom the new employee is reporting. Human Resources is merely a support function to the line manager, providing process and some content, e.g. policies, procedures, etc.
If you want to retain your employees beyond the first year and have those employees performing at their best, you need to build a strategic onboarding process flow. Properly introducing your new employees to your company culture, their responsibilities, and their co-workers not only helps employees feel more welcome—it also helps your bottom line. New employees need to understand “the way things are done around here” and what your expectations are of them. Clear and regular communication is required for this.
Best practices for onboarding new hires by: “Telling employees the expectations, delivering impeccable training and support to meet those expectations and then create opportunities for easy but meaningful wins in the first few months.”
Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new hire productivity and are 69% more likely to retain their employees up to three years. And with the cost of replacing, holding on to those well-trained employees longer is better for you and your company.
The steps you should take
1. Reach Out to New Hires Before Their Start Date
2. Make Their First Day Memorable
3. Keep Their Schedule Tightly Structured (at Least to Start)
“Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent.”
Source: “The True Cost of a Bad Hire,” Brandon Hall Group
Scheduling a new hire’s entire first week or two ahead of time, is important. It gives the right impression: “Trust us, we know what we’re doing.” They’ll never be left wondering what to do next. Create task lists and schedules for new hires, so they always know where they need to be and what they’ll be doing. As new hires get assignments and start ramping up, you can make their schedule less rigid to allow them to get work done at their own pace.
Schedule some one-on-one time between new hires and veteran workers in every relevant department during their first few weeks, including job shadowing (when possible). This will allow new employees to see how their role fits into the big picture at your organization. What’s more, it can also foster vital interdepartmental collaboration: You never know, for example, when your new salesperson will have a brilliant marketing idea.
When it comes to setting role responsibilities and performance goals, vagueness is the enemy. Setting defined (but realistic) expectations for new hires from the get-go—and communicating them clearly—can help workers evaluate their own progress and prepare for what’s to come. Set short-term and long-term goals, then have managers check in regularly to see if new hires are meeting them. For example, a short-term goal might be, “finish 50 percent of the sales training videos by Friday,” while a long-term goal could be, “complete 10 projects within the next six months.”
After a couple of months, a formal performance review should be scheduled to give new employees honest feedback on how they’re doing. And of course, don’t forget to praise those who deserve it.
Are new hires going to tell you something about your company is awful on their first day? Probably not. But if you leave avenues for honest feedback open, workers will be more inclined to present solutions to problems you may not even know you have. Allow employees to share their feedback. The onboarding process provides an opportunity that can benefit your entire organization: a fresh perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask new hires what they like and don’t like about their job thus far.
Should you implement their feedback, new hires will feel heard, and you’ll have made improvements because of it. That’s a win-win.
Your new hires probably aren’t going to fail because they don’t know how to do their job, more likely, they’re going to fail because their work habits and personality don’t mesh well with your company culture. Even after applicants become employees, a concerted effort should be made to communicate and emphasize your organization’s culture.
Presenting an honest view of your company culture can help new hires decide if it’s a match, or if they need to find an employer more aligned with their style.
While it can be tempting to speed up onboarding and training so your employees can start producing, this can actually be detrimental to worker development and retention in the long run.
Proper onboarding and new hire integration takes time. Schedule regular activities throughout a new hire’s first year to provide structure and allow for feedback. In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.
PART 2: What is the onboarding process?
Simply put, onboarding is the process of helping your company’s new hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their jobs as quickly as possible. Parts of the employee onboarding process can be as simple as introducing new hires to their co-workers and as complex as providing in-depth training on company software and procedures. A successful company onboarding process should consider the Four C’s of your organization:
Compliance: Teaching new hires the basic rules, regulations, and policies that define your company.
Clarification: Educating new hires on their job functions and performance expectations.
Culture: Advising new hires on formal and informal organizational norms, such as the company dress code.
Connection: Helping new hires to build interpersonal and interdepartmental relationships in your organization.
Why a strategic onboarding process flow?
Bringing new employees into an existing company structure can be difficult. That’s why we recommend that you build a strategic onboarding process, with clearly defined roles for Human Resources, mentors, managers, and new hires. When you document your onboarding process flow beforehand, your organization will be able to increase each new hire’s ability to contribute in their role quickly, increase their comfort level, and reinforce their decision to join your organization, leading to higher retention and better long-term performance for both the employee and the company.
There are two common approaches for building an onboarding process flow—by its five major stages and by its timeline.
5 Stages / Phases of the strategic onboarding process
The first major approach divides the onboarding process into stages, beginning before the new employee’s start date with the preparation stage. The process moves subsequently through orientation, integration, and engagement, and ends with reviewing the process in the follow-up stage. Usually, Human Resources and training staff are highly involved in the beginning stages, with job function mentors and direct managers more involved in the later phases.
Generally, the preparation stage spans from the pre-arrival stage through about the first month or so of the new hire’s employment. This phase of the employee onboarding process includes pre-start paperwork, a formal introduction to the company’s policies and procedures, and an informal introduction to company culture through the employee’s environment.
The orientation stage of the onboarding process usually takes place on the employee’s first day or week of work. This phase includes much of the Human Resources onboarding process:
Filling out tax forms
Learning about and signing up for company benefits
Introducing the employee to their workstation
Training the employee on specific software or procedural needs related to their job function
The integration phase of the new hire onboarding process doesn’t have a set time frame, but it generally goes on for the first six to 12 months of the employee’s journey with your organization. This phase has the employee slowly building up their work through mentorship from other employees with similar job functions.
The engagement phase also lasts through the first year or so of the employee’s time on the job. This phase is all about personal relationships within the employee’s team, their manager and/or direct reports, and members of cross-functional teams. For example, set up “new hire lunches” so new employees have the chance to meet people from different teams. True engagement makes the new employee feel welcome and comfortable with the company culture.
The follow-up stage of the onboarding process for new employees is where you should evaluate the employee’s performance and integration into the team. Some companies do this at 90 days, some at six months, some at a year, some at all those milestones. Human Resources or the new hire’s manager meets with the employee to discuss if they are hitting specific performance metrics and also to evaluate how the employee “fits.” This phase also allows your organization to measure the efficacy of the onboarding program itself.
The onboarding process timeline
The onboarding process flow is based on a timeline, beginning before the employee’s start date—right after the employee is hired—and continuing through the first year of employment. The onboarding process flow includes tasks related to the new hire’s schedule and job duties, socialization, training, development, and work environment, performed by human resources, training staff, mentors, hiring managers, and the employees themselves. Building an onboarding process checklist helps you to get things done. The hiring manager is the custodian of this process.
Pre-arrival / Before the employee’s start date
Once the employee is hired, confirm the start date with the new hire and begin preparation for their arrival. During this phase, it’s important to provide any information the employee needs for their first day, such as required identification or paperwork they can fill out ahead of time and the office’s dress code. The line manager liaises with Human Resources to prepare for the employee’s arrival by getting paperwork for benefits and payroll ready, training staff, reads for new hire orientation and job function training and managers prepare for the employee’s first assignments.
Get different functions in the company involved in setting-up the new hire’s workstation (software required, passwords), preparing the office / workstation, organising office access, parking, business cards, telephone….
The line manager should communicate the arrival of the new employee – some relevant information on their background, qualifications and the key role they will be playing within the organisation, their start date, etc.
The employee’s first day
On the employee’s first day, greet them and bring them into the orientation room, where they’ll fill out any necessary paperwork. It’s important to get the employee set up at their workstation, instruct them on any programs they’ll need to communicate, let them know of their schedule for the first week, and invite them to any required meetings. Introduce the employee to their co-workers—a lunch gathering is the perfect place to do this in a relaxed, social setting. If applicable, give the employee their first assignment and get them working.
The employee’s first week
Throughout the employee’s first week, assist them in getting to meetings at the right time and place and give them small assignments that are achievable and measurable to get them up to speed. Mentors and/or managers should stick close to the employee to make sure they feel welcome and comfortable in their new role.
The employee’s first month
Throughout the first month, continue to work with the employee to integrate, giving them larger and larger assignments and introducing them to more co-workers across the company. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings
to evaluate their performance and make sure they feel comfortable. Human Resources should check in to make sure payroll and benefits are properly activated.
The employee’s first three months
At the three-month point, it’s a good idea to check in and review the employee’s performance and to gauge their feelings about their work environment. Continue to introduce the employee to the company’s different aspects, even outside of their job function, and involve them in corporate social events, both formal and informal, to expose them to more of the company culture.
The employee’s first six months
Managers and/or mentors should collaborate with the new hire on a six-month performance review to evaluate not only the employee’s job function but also the success of the onboarding process for new employees. At this point, the employee should be fully integrated into the team’s workflow and the company culture.
The employee’s first year
Parts of the onboarding process throughout the rest of the first year, build upon the foundation of what has come before. As the employee gets more acclimated, they should be encouraged to participate more in company committees and cross-functional teams and to contribute to the company culture. The end of an employee’s first year is a perfect time for performance evaluation—and if you see your employee performing well both individually and as a member of the larger team, you will know that your onboarding process has been a success.
Build your onboarding process workflow
Whichever method you choose to build your onboarding process workflow—by phase, timeline, or a combination of the two—you can create flowcharts and process maps.
No matter how many people are involved in your onboarding process, you can diagram each person’s role, responsibilities, and accountabilities easily and clearly.
PART 3: Key aspects of importance for ensuring new employee success during the first year
The first three months:
The worst thing for a new employee is being wooed through the recruiting process and then arriving on the job and the receptionist isn’t even expecting you or your office isn’t set up.
Employees need to have crystal clear ideas about what their job duties and responsibilities are on Day 1.
New employees need to get to know the job and get to know their new co-workers. Social interaction is critical. You want them back on Day 2 and to be successful, contributing to your company’s success.
A message to new hires: “We cared enough to hire them, we want them to know we care enough to build rapport with them”.
Aligning expectations of both parties, is critical.
Organizations that don’t focus on acclimating new employees to their corporate culture are at a significant disadvantage.
Employees who know what to expect from their company’s culture and work environment make better decisions that are more aligned with the accepted practices of the company.
To keep existing team members from resenting a new employee, make sure roles and responsibilities are outlined for the entire team.
Sometimes existing team members could feel threatened that someone new could take over their responsibilities. It is a good idea to clarify the position of the new hire as well as [the positions of] other team members whose work is closely related, how they’ll interact with each other, and how projects will run.
It’s important for HR to have a one-month check-in to make sure that that the new employee is comfortable, happy and engaged.
Reviewing and giving thoughtful feedback on your new hire’s early contributions are also important during onboarding.
According to a survey, three-fourths of new hires said training during the first week on the job is most important to them.
If you aren’t communicating what new hires are supposed to be doing and arming them with the tools to do it properly, you’re setting them up to fail.
Do not inundate your new hires with too much information.
While it’s important to get your new hire ramped up and productive quickly, you also need to make sure you provide on-the-job training in a manageable flow.
Hopefully, new hires have picked a mentor by the end of the first month, having a buddy or mentor at work was very important when getting started.
High-performing organizations are nearly two-and-a-half times more likely than lower-performing employers to assign a mentor or coach during the onboarding process.
Mentoring programs can be as simple as assigning a new employee a go-to person or having an elaborate team of mentors for any questions that might arise.
The First Three to Six Months
HR to conduct another check-in between three and six months, depending on the employee and the role.
Unfortunately companies do not continue onboarding after six months. Nearly 90 percent of employees decide whether to stay or go within that first six months. Continued onboarding has a huge impact on that choice.
Sometimes just show that you care sincerely.
The First Year
An employee’s performance at the end of the first year will prove if they’re fully productive, after this, you can plan for future development. Show them what their career looks like at the company.
The end of the first year is when traditional onboarding transitions into retention and employee satisfaction.
Shift from on-the-job training to continuous development. It’s also a great time to have the compensation conversation.
Why onboarding? “Your new hires will thank you for setting them up on the path to success and your company will be well on its way to turning those new hires into seasoned employees.” Their success is predicted by your efforts to ensure effective onboarding.
Prepared by Florence Thom, Executive Search Director
With acknowledgement to the Lucidchart Content Team Lucidchart.com Employee Onboarding Process, Randy Holley SHRM-SCP and “The True Cost of a Bad Hire,” Brandon Hall Group.
Also read “The Ultimate Guide to Structuring a 90 Day Onboarding Plan” by Alida Miranda-Wolff