Create an engaging onboarding experience

When done effectively, onboarding helps new employees perform more effectively while also gaining a sense of belonging in their new role. Onboarding can help new employees understand their new role more quickly and accurately than they would have otherwise, and they get a head start on establishing relationships that can help them succeed. Alternatively, an ineffective onboarding experience might leave employees questioning their decision to join your organization. A study conducted by Gartner in 2014 found that nearly one third of the 1,005 respondents who quit a job within the first six months, did so because the guidelines they were given by their leadership weren't clear, their training wasn't effective, or because they didn't establish effective relationships in their new environment.

Have an onboarding program in place

It's important to understand how and where you can improve your onboarding process. The following questions might help you analyze and improve your onboarding process in a systematic way.

  • What is your attrition rate?
  • Are new employees successfully completing all of their required onboarding tasks?
  • How long does it take for a new employee to ramp up?
  • How do new employees rank their satisfaction?

Don't wait until your employee's first day to start onboarding. Onboarding should start when your new employee has a start date. This often referred to as pre-onboarding or "pre-boarding". This is your chance to keep new hires excited about their choice to join your company, foster relationships, and demonstrate your company's culture and values.

One of the most important pre-onboarding activities is preparing new hires for their first day of work. This can be a stressful time for them. Reduce the stress by creating a checklist and agenda for their first day.

What to include in a checklist

  • What to bring, such as a photo ID and bank information.
  • Dress code, if your company has one.
  • Directions to your office.
  • The name of a contact person, or even better, a hiring buddy.
  • Any company handbooks or policies that they should read.

Bonus

  • Send them some company swag, such a t-shirt or mug.
  • Send video messages from the team welcoming them to the company.
  • Include a personalized welcome from the CEO or another executive.
  • Make their first day special.

Don't make a new hire question their decision to join your company by setting a bad first impression on the first day.

Create a good first impression

Create an agenda for the day and share it with your new hire. Don't just focus on orientation. Make sure to have fun, introduce them to people, and show them around the office. Keep other employees in the loop. Let them know that someone new is joining the company. Don't leave out the people in IT, Payroll, and other administrative departments. Make sure that new hires have everything they need to get started. This includes a workspace, computer, and required credentials, software, and tools. Focus on relationships instead of paperwork.

Relationships are key to getting new hires get up to speed. More importantly, they help create a sense of community and belonging in your company.

  • Find an expert or champion in your company and make them an onboarding buddy.
  • Connect new hires with job-related communities or interest groups. This is a great way to find coaches or mentors.
  • Share team member profiles (ideally, ahead of time) to speed up communication, knowledge sharing, and networking.
  • Don't forget about social communities or events that align to your employee's personal goals.

Provide training

Give your new hire the confidence and tools that they need to be successful. This starts with clearly defining their responsibilities and setting your expectations for how they will be achieved. Next, create a training plan that focuses on the skills they need to meet your expectations. Don't just focus on compliance-based training.

Set clear milestones

Set up clear checkpoints and feedback loops between you and your new hire. Create as much opportunity to intervene and course-correct as possible. You want to address issues before they become problems, or worse, lead to attrition.

Schedule a one-on-one meeting with the new employee before their first week is over. This is a great time to discuss expectations, work styles, and career growth.

Define 30-, 60-, and 90-day goals for your newest team members. When the goals are set, be sure to check in regularly to see how their progress is tracking against these goals.

Measure and optimize

When you roll out a new onboarding program, pay careful attention to the following questions.

  • Are you improving attrition?
  • Is satisfaction increasing among new hires?

Measure these details and make small improvements with each new hire.