April 26, 2024
March 1, 2024

Employee Journey Series: Onboarding Best Practices

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Every employee goes through certain stages at an organization, from their first day to their last. This is called the employee journey, and it’s typically broken down into five different stages:

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Engagement
  • Development
  • Separation

In this series, we’re breaking down each of these stages to help you make the tenure of each of your employees as successful and satisfying as possible for both you and them.

We already have a post on recruiting the best talent to your organization. So we’re on to the second stage: employee onboarding.

If recruitment is their first impression of the company as a whole, onboarding is their first impression with their position, their team, and the company in a more personal sense. 

Think of it in terms of a blind date. Recruitment is where your friends tells you all about the person and how great they are, extolling their virtues and getting you excited. Onboarding is when you first sit down at the restaurant and meet the person for the first time—do they live up to what you heard? Are you comfortable around them?

Just like with a fun and rewarding blind date, onboarding is meant to be the start of a long and rewarding relationship between both parties. With an impactful onboarding process, employees will stay longer, be happier, and know how to succeed right off the bat.

Understanding Employee Onboarding

Onboarding starts from the moment they accept a job offer and goes until they feel comfortable with their job responsibilities, the people around them, and the company culture. It’s vital to keep this in mind—onboarding doesn’t have a set completion date.

According to Gallup, it takes new hires an average of nearly 12 months to become fully confident and productive in their jobs. So why on earth would anyone stop the onboarding process after only a month or two?

When you cut off your onboarding efforts after a short time, you’re missing opportunities to build trust, confidence, and a support network between the organization and new employees.

And that’s what onboarding is all about—building a strong foundation of confidence, trust, support, and recognition that new employees can rely on as they grow with your company. And when it’s done right, onboarding can drastically cut down on your turnover. In fact, good onboarding

Despite these benefits, many organizations still have a ways to go. Only 12% of employees claim that they had a good onboarding experience, 39% of employees who have been at their jobs for less than six months are already planning on quitting, and 1 in 10 employees end up quitting because of bad onboarding.

All of this goes to show that the first few weeks and months are a vital part of employee retention. If you want to learn how you can upgrade your onboarding efforts and increase the retention of your talent, check out the best practices below.

three people holding new computer, a balloon, and megaphone announcing new employee

Step-By-Step Guide for Improving Employee Onboarding

1. Prepare Everything Before Their First Day (Pre-Boarding)

After the employee has accepted your offer, you’re going to need to prepare to onboard them smoothly. Make sure you have things like IRS paperwork for taxes, an up-to-date employee handbook, and a direct deposit form. Having the correct paperwork ready to go from day one makes onboarding easier for everyone.

You also need to set up any new hire accounts, such as company emails, instant message software, and HRIS software. Get employees in your systems before they start so that their first day isn’t bogged down with a bunch of logistical work.

You should also prepare your employees workspace with whatever equipment they may need, including computer equipment, a headset, safety equipment, an ID card, a parking pass, etc. Whatever your employees need on a daily basis, make sure it’s ready before each new hire starts.

Finally, send new hires resources to answer any questions they may have, like where do I park? What time do I start? Should I bring my own lunch? A map of your workspace layout can also be helpful here.

2. Plan Ways to Recognize and Welcome New Hires (Pre-Boarding)

With the boring (albeit important) stuff out of the way, like paperwork, you should prepare fun ways to help new hires feel welcome and recognized. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Send them a handwritten letter thanking them for applying and expressing your excitement to have them join the team (bonus points if their manager writes it!).
  • Send them a survey asking about their interests, their clothing size, their favorite snacks, or their favorite color. Then, prepare a little welcome gift of personalized items or swag to wait for them on their desk.
  • Provide remote employees with a stipend to upgrade their home office. 

This type of preparation will make your new hires feel especially welcome and cared for, right from the very start.

The key here: DON’T give new hires generic swag. This will just show them that they’re cogs in a machine that doesn’t see them as individuals. Instead, customize the items you give them to fit their needs/wants. Or even better, let employees choose the swag or items that will be most meaningful to them.

3. Make Their First Day a Great Experience (First Day)

Any employee’s first day is going to be a little overwhelming—which is why the first day is less about how much information you can dump on their heads and more about the experience they have. They’ll remember how they felt a lot better than what they were told.

Here are some tips for making the first day welcoming, fun, and effective:

  • Make sure someone is ready to let them in and welcome them to the building
  • Give them a tour of the workspace
  • Introduce them to their teammates and the C-Suite
  • Set them up with a buddy who will act as their first point of contact during onboarding
  • Provide food, snacks, or drinks during the training they attend
  • Take a new headshot to use for ID badges and software profiles
  • Have a presentation on your culture, your values, and your mission

The administration tasks should be done by now, so this day is all about making employees feel comfortable and relaxing. 

If you have an employee recognition platform, this is a great opportunity to recognize new hires, reinforce your culture of recognition, and show them how they can recognize those around them.

4. Set Them Up for Success (First Week)

The previous three tips were focused on everything leading up to and including their first day. However, now it’s time to help them fully understand and gain confidence in their roles, their team, their trajectory, and their place in the company.

Their job responsibilities should be clearly defined and in writing so that new hires know exactly what they need to do, and when they need to do it, to be successful. What is expected of them each day? Each week? Each month? 

Also, have managers sit down with them to work on goals and aspirations. Once new hires are familiar with their job and their responsibilities, help them make goals for themselves. Personal goals and team goals, both in the short and long term, are great for keeping employees motivated.

These expectations and a clear direction will ensure that new hires can instantly contribute to the company and build confidence in themselves.

5. Help New Hires Get to Know Their Team (First Week)

No matter how capable or extroverted a new hire is, joining a new team is going to be at least a little intimidating. Make sure your organization has a process to help new hires get to know their team as soon as possible.

One way to do that is to provide a budget for a team activity sometime during a new hire’s first week. A lunch in the office, a lunch at a restaurant, a team building activity, or even just time to sit down and chat as a team are all good ideas.

Another option could be having each team member scheduling a time with the new hire to have a short one-on-one to get to know them, share more about what they do on the team, and answer any questions the new hire may have.

6. Train Managers to Recognize New Hires Frequently (First Month)

Did you know that when managers make the effort to frequently recognize their people, those employees are 43% more engaged? If you don’t have a culture of frequent recognition and appreciation, it’s time to build one.

An employee recognition software like Awardco can make it easy. Managers can either type a quick digital message of appreciation or hand out custom cards, depending on their employees’ needs.

Whatever method you choose, managers need to understand deep down in their bones that recognizing new hires from the very start for their efforts can have a huge impact on not only employee well-being, but on the success of the company as a whole.

Manager-led recognition isn’t about fanfare or expensive gifts—it’s about showing new hires that their work is noticed, their efforts are appreciated, and their presence is valued.

7. Establish Regular Check-Ins (First Week Onward)

Similar to the last tip, ensure that each new hire has regular check-ins with their manager or, if they have the time, department leads or even executives. These one-on-ones are a great time to ask how they’re doing, provide ongoing feedback, gauge performance, and track goal progress.

They also help new hires feel that someone cares about their success and will provide support throughout their tenure.

man climbing stairs with pencil, hand with gift at top

8. Set Up Regular Company-Led Recognition for At Least a Year (First Year)

New hires should know that the organization cares about and values them beyond just the first day.

Imagine this: you’re a new employee who just started your dream job. The first day is great—everyone is welcoming, the company gives you a gift, and you have a lot of fun. Then the next day, no one goes out of their way to talk to you. The next week, your manager only talks to you if you reach out first. Over the next month, the company doesn’t acknowledge your existence, even though you put in great effort every day. You soon realize that no one seems to care about what you’re doing, and you fall into disengagement and dissatisfaction.

That initial excitement of the first day would quickly curdle to indifference and then resentment, right?

That may be an extreme example, but the point is that onboarding can’t last for only a day, a week, or even a month. As we mentioned, it takes new hires around 12 months to fully gain confidence in their jobs—so they need to feel supported and cared about for at least that long!

A great way to do that is with recognitions at regular intervals. Reach out and recognize employees after they reach:

  • A week
  • A month
  • Three months
  • Six months
  • A year 

These recognitions can be short and sweet—something like: “Congrats on your 6-month mark! We’re so glad you’re here and we appreciate everything you’ve already done to help us level up.” Include some points, a gift card, or swag that the employee will actually like to really show your appreciation.

A Quick Recap

Let’s recap the strategies to give you a snapshot of what effective onboarding looks like:

  • Prepare legal paperwork, resources, and recognition before the first day
  • Put together a gift box of personalized items and swag
  • Plan a fun and engaging first day
  • Assign each new hire an onboarding buddy to be their resource and friend
  • Give each new hire a breakdown of their responsibilities and expectations in writing
  • Allow for a team building activity each time a new hire joins a team
  • Train managers to recognize their teams, including new hires, often
  • Set up regular one-on-ones for each new hire
  • Establish a cadence for company-led recognition throughout the first year

If you want to cut down on turnover and increase employee satisfaction, you’ll put effort into onboarding from day one to day 366. Hopefully, this onboarding guide will help guide your efforts.

Technology Tools for Onboarding

There are numerous tech solutions that can make effective onboarding easier than ever. Even a small HR team can maintain a robust onboarding strategy with the help of the following tools.

Onboarding Checklists

Provide a digital checklist for HR professionals, managers, IT teams, and new hires to know exactly what needs to be done when a new hire joins the company. Check out Indeed’s example here.

These checklists make sure everyone is on the same page and ensures that no important touchpoint is missed.

Onboarding Software

Onboarding software is built to make onboarding easy for everyone. There are some great options out there, such as:

Different software solutions focus on different onboarding needs, so make sure to do research and find the right one for you.

Employee Recognition Platforms

Recognizing new hires increases engagement, satisfaction, happiness, and retention. Employee recognition platforms make it easy to give employees shoutouts, gifts, swag, and more.

For example, one Awardco client, ClickUp, has built a custom onboarding to help employees feel recognized from their first day onward. Add that to their service award program, their birthday program, and their peer recognition program, and new hires have ample opportunity to feel appreciated and valued.

Keep Top Employees On Board With Onboarding

Long-term onboarding is the key to retaining your best employees—it’s that simple. Onboarding is the process of setting your new hires up for success from day one, and it should really continue through their first year (if not beyond).

Contact Awardco if you’re interested in building a custom onboarding program of your own that helps your new hires feel appreciated and supported right from the start.