5 min

A Guide for Effective Employee Onboarding

Post by 
Akash Ambade
September 3, 2019
A Guide for Effective Employee Onboarding

Did you know that 23% of new hires turn over just before they complete the first year in an organization? Even more shocking - 33% of the new employees look for another job within their first six months. What could be the reason for such an alarming rate of employee turn over? What makes them leave a job that they painstakingly secured in the first place? Research shows that one of the reasons could be the lack of an effective employee onboarding program.

Do all the organizations have a great onboarding program?

The Allied Workforce Mobility Survey of 2012 shows that it is not the case. Here are their findings.

  • 22% of the organizations that they surveyed don't have a formal onboarding program.
  • 49% of the sample set had a "somewhat successful" program.
  • Only 28% of the organizations have a highly successful onboarding program.

In light of these findings, it is worth asking the question. What is an effective employee onboarding program? Why is it so important?

In simple terms, employee onboarding is a process of helping the new hires to integrate themselves into the technical and cultural fabric of your organization. It is an elaborate regimen enabling the new hires to learn the tools, technology, behavior, and attitude that would help them be productive.

"Onboarding starts with satisfying the most basic of Maslow's psychological needs: belonging. New hires shouldn't arrive to an empty cube and be forced to forage through corridors searching for a computer and the bare necessities of office life. A new hire isn't a surprise visitor from out of town. Plan for their arrival." - Jay Samit, Independent Vice Chairman of Deloitte


Effective employee onboarding is crucial

According to the famous O C Tanner report, 69% of the new hires likely to stay in your organization, provided you have a great onboarding program. So, there is no question of whether you need an onboarding strategy for the new employees.

The real questions are, How to design a great onboarding program and what are the benefits of it? Let's tackle the second question first.

Benefits for an organization from effective employee onboarding

“Employee orientation centers around and exists to help the individual employee, but it is the company that ultimately reaps the benefits of this practice.” - Michael D. Watkins, Author of The First 90 days

As the author of the best selling book on career transitions rightly points out, the organization itself is the benefactor and the beneficiary of a great onboarding program.

  • Speeding up employee productivity

A recent study shows that 75% of the participating organizations believed that it would take any time between 12 months to 2 years for an employee to become fully productive. It is rather a too long-time period, considering the dynamic business scenario. So, getting a new hire to become productive has a great impact on the profitability of the organization. An effective employee onboarding program provides the required information, equipment, guidance and support for an employee. It also helps to improve the employee's attitude and which would result in faster learning.

Effective employee onboarding improve productivity

Effective employee onboarding improves productivity

  • Decrease the rate of employee turnover in the initial months

According to a 2019 survey by Jobvite, 29% of the 1500 workers they surveyed have at some point left a job within the first 3 months of the employment. The cost per hire doesn't exactly measure the efficiency of the recruitment. According to Psychology Today,

"The real measure of recruitment effectiveness/efficiency is the cost per hire after the first 120 days, including the costs to re-hire and terminate."

Can a great onboarding program help to reduce employee turn over? According to the Forbes Insight study, Nearly 92% Nearly all low-turnover firms have thought through an onboarding process that helps with retention.  They have also found that 20% of high-turnover firms do not have an onboarding process. How does it happen? The new hires are most often anxious about their career change and enthusiastic to contribute. Without an effective onboarding program, the new hires might feel lost. They might perceive the lack of interest in the employer more gravely than an experienced employee.

  • Build better relationships and contribute to the culture

A great employee onboarding program gives the new hires to socialize and build a positive relationship with the team. This is very important as the new hire might be feeling a fish out of water. A great support system for the new hires would help to reduce their anxiety. The more the new hires feel connected with the other team members, the more they feel the part of the team. Hence, a good onboarding process with plenty of time assigned for team interactions and socializing would greatly benefit the new hire as well as your organization

Socializing with the new team

Socializing with the new team is key for onboarding

  • Helps with future talent acquisition

In this era of social media, news spread faster than wildfire. A great employee onboarding program could turn your new hires to your brand ambassadors. While a badly perceived onboarding program could result in employee turnover, a good program not only retains your new hires, it also attracts more talent. When a new hire is disappointed in your onboarding program, it might create a perception that your organization poorly manages everything else. It would affect the brand value of your company as well as tamper the talent acquisition. You don't want to get into that!

A phase-wise onboarding plan

There are several useful resources out there to help you plan the onboarding activities for a new employee. One such resource is Hubstaff's onboarding checklist. The below phase-wise plan is adapted from the same checklist.

According to the check-list, the onboarding activities can be roughly divided into the following categories.

  • Employee processes
  • Socialization
  • Setting up the work environment
  • Technology and access
  • Training and development

Extending a warm welcome to the new hires - Designed by / Freepik

Extending a warm welcome to the new hires - Designed by / Freepik

Phase - 1: Before the first day of work

The onboarding process starts even before the first day of work. You should make sure the employee feel welcomed and settled into a productive workspace. Teammates of the new employee can help in easing the new hire through the first day/ week

  • Process
  • Add the new hire to the HR system and Payroll of the organization
  • Contact employee to confirm the start-date, arrival time.
  • Set up an orientation calendar and share with the new hire.
  • Plan for the first assignment for the new hire.
  • Socialization
  • Assign an onboarding buddy
  • Arrange meetings with manager/leadership and teammates
  • Setting up the work environment
  • Make sure the work computer is up and running
  • Provide accessories like a welcome kit, access cards, employee manual, contacts
  • Technology and access
  • Give the new hire access to systems and networks
  • Provide access to shared drives and coding infrastructure
  • Training and development
  • Sign up the employee for a formal corporate training

Socializing with the new team - employee onboarding

Getting to know the new team is essential in on-boarding

Phase - 2: The first week of work

In the first week, the employee should be settled comfortably into the new workspace. The new hire should be given an introduction to the company procedures, processes and performance expectations

  • Employee processes
  • Assign the first task to the employee
  • Explain the goal-setting and review processes for the employee
  • Organize frequent one-one's to understand if the new hire has any difficulty.
  • Socialization
  • Arrange a lunch or coffee meeting to integrate the new employee into the team.
  • Arrange for a personal welcome from the executive team and manager
  • Technology and access
  • Make sure the new hire has access to all the relevant drives, information, technology, and software.

Phase - 3: The first month of work

In the first month, the focus should be on ensuring the employee is building a good rapport with the team. The manager needs to check if the employee continues to develop in their roles. The employee should be engaged and know the impact of their work on the organization.

  • Employee processes
  • Provide timely feedback on the way the employee accomplishing the tasks
  • Solicit feedback from the new hire about the work and also the organization culture
  • Discuss and set goals for the new hire and also provide feedback.
  • Socialization
  • Make sure the new hire is building rapport with the team, not only the onboarding buddy
  • Introduce the new hire to key people, also make sure the new hire attends key meetings
  • Training and development
  • Make sure the employee is continuing the corporate training as planned
  • Make sure the relevant knowledge transfer is given to the employee

Phase - 4: The first three months of work

In the first three months, the new hire should be well settled into the new role. Hence, it is important to make sure they understand the roles and responsibilities. The manager should also ensure that the new employee can contribute independently to the team. The employee should also show signs of growth and socialization with the team. There could be a three-month review meeting to understand the employees feedback on training and work.

In the first six months, the new hire should have gained enough confidence to contribute to the team goals and deliverable. Also, the new hire should start taking initiative on the work. The new employee should continue to grow and engage in the new role.

In the first year, the employee should have a strong sense of organizational culture, values, and mission. The employee should be able to work in complete autonomy. The dependence on the team members should be minimal. The management should continue to support the employee with proper recognition for the achievements. Also, the management should seek feedback from the employee and guide them through the review process.


A Fully functional work desk for the new hire

How does technology leaders approach Employee onboarding?

As mentioned earlier, 92% of all low employee turn-over companies have great onboarding program. Here is one example. Social media giant, Twitter's "Yes to Desk" program comprises of a comprehensive 75 step process. It helps them to engage the employee from the day they say "Yes" to Twitter to the day they are finally settled in their "Desk". Here are some key elements of this highly successful onboarding program.

  • Socializing right from the first breakfast

On the first day of the employee, his/her manager joins them for breakfast. It gives them a feeling of familiarity right of the bat. The team members join the new hire for lunch. The same routine is repeated with HR, facilities and IT. Even before they start the first day, a T-shirt and a bottle of wine would be waiting for them on the desk.

  • Ramp up sessions on the first day

Once the employee has met the manager and teammates, there would be sessions on company structure, ongoing projects, company history and sometimes, inside jokes.

  • The new-hire happy hour

Every Friday afternoon, there would be a 30-minute presentation given by the senior teams. It helps the new employee to meet all the key people in the organization.

  • On-job training

The new hires are given rigorous training and knowledge transfers on the technologies that twitter works. They are also given an introduction to the code base of Twitter.

Tools and technologies for effective employee onboarding

There are several tools and technologies out there to help you make the employee onboarding easy and effective. There are automation tools for document verification and processing the paperwork. Here is a few free and premium tools for effective employee onboarding processes.

Various HR firms and companies have done extensive research on what should be included in the employee onboarding process. Based on their research and experience, they have designed many checklists for onboarding. These checklists are available for free from their website.

As mentioned earlier, Hubstaff's onboarding checklist provides a comprehensive list of onboarding activities. Another reliable source of such a checklist is  Talent Lyft.

There are several HR cloud solutions. For example, KiSSFLOW provides a comprehensive solution for employee onboarding. BambooHR is another cloud-based HR platform that provides all-in-one HR solution including the onboarding tools.  There are also dedicated software like Talmundo and Click Boarding.

There are technological innovations that assist parts of the employee onboarding experience. For example, Slack is a tool for team collaboration, Lessonly for delivering training content and Organimi for creating and sharing org charts.

Key Takeaways

  • Recruitment process doesn't end with a candidate accepting the job offer; effective employee onboarding process is an essential part of hiring.
  • A great employee onboarding program can reduce the early employee turn over, increase productivity and improve brand value.
  • Employee onboarding starts before an employee joins the organization and extends up to months after the joining.
  • An effective onboarding program is designed in different stages,  seeks active feedback from the employee as well as the team members.
  • There are several tools and technological innovations available to assist the employee onboarding program.

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