Onboarding Process

The onboarding process of an employer is how they bring an employee onto the payroll and give them an orientation on the organization they are joining.

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of acclimating a new employee to a culture and company. It also gives the new hire the information and tools they need to be successful in their new job at their new company. The first step in the process is the administrative tasks of collecting all information needed for human resources, benefits, and payroll forms. If onboarding is successful, then it has a positive effect on the whole organization. In addition, new employees should feel prepared and accepted in their positions. They should feel confident and know that they have the resources necessary to be able to contribute. This is a very important quality in organizational and individual development. A successful onboarding builds the foundation for success in both the long and short time. The new employee may feel a bit vulnerable about their transition into their new job, the onboarding process is designed to reduce any anxiety or worries. The successful onboarding established the new employee as a happy business contributor.

Some companies make their onboarding last for up to two years and this period is made up of consistent feedback, communication, and performance measurement which all have been identified as key to employee retention. Various software products can be used to automate the steps and events in tracking onboarding events throughout the process. Long-term effects have been tracked to an employee’s first weeks of employment. Statistics have borne out that employees feel better about their company and what they contribute to that company when onboarded properly. The company also profits from proper onboarding because employees perform better. For tips on creating an employee handbook go here.

The 10 Commandments of Onboarding

Truthfulness to Employees - Ensure that the job, the worker thought they were hired to do is what they are going to be doing. The employer that doesn’t tell the truth about the employee's new job terminates trust in the company immediately, after which no amount of onboarding efforts can change the initial damage.

Job Descriptions - A written map that describe the expectations, objectives, and strategy diffuses any confusion about a new employee's function and also opens up discussion about the new job or new opportunities.

Ensure that the onboarding is a priority to whoever is conducting it - Limit all of the typical distractions (i.e., email, phone calls or texts) during the employee’s orientation events. Prepare a checklist of topics and meetings with the new employees. Also, ensure that everyone who meets with new hires also adheres to the “no-distractions” blueprint so that new employees feel that they are the most important item on a person’s agenda.

Be Prepared - All documents or electronic forms for benefits, employment, and direct deposits are all ready and queued up to be completed on the first day so that time can be most effectively used. In this way, all the administrative tasks can be taken care of right away.

Introduction - Provide colleagues with a brief bio of the new employee and when able a photo so that people will be able to greet them around the office. Make sure the introduction also includes their title, job, and department in which the new employee will be working. This should be combined with introductions at each meeting the employee attends in their first few weeks of work. (This is also a great time to assign a buddy for new hire as a resource for any questions about organizational culture, goals, and where to grab lunch).

Prepared Workstation - Before the employee arrives, ensure that their workstation is ready with everything from computer (complete with password and login information) to sticky notes and pens. The best of the best will already have business cards made for the new employee and have some swag like shirts, hats, or coffee mugs with the company name. Also, ensure that the employee has access to an organizational contact list (it could be on paper or electronic).

Manager 1:1 Meetings - The direct supervisor or manager of the new employee should have a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with the employee. If it is not possible then arrange meetings to provide comprehensive feedback at one month- and three months checkpoints, or at six months.

Create Balance - The first day can often be mind-numbing and a little overwhelming. Meeting so many new people in formal settings can be quite stressful. Arrange for less formal events between meetings. For example, take all of the new hires to lunch on the first day to allow them to meet and chat a little.

Introduce Culture - Formal introduction of the company policies is obviously part of the onboarding. Some of the informal things that happen at the company should also be introduced. For example, if everyone wears red on Tuesdays, this is something to mention to the new employee.

Continue to Onboard - The first day can seem like the most important part of onboarding, but that is not true. Onboarding continues for the first two years of a new hires employment. It includes a lot of communication between the employee and their manager, HR, and their executives.

Getting Started with the Onboarding Process

The implementation of an onboarding process should be handled just like every project. First get executive buy-in by having answers to the following questions:

  • What will be the tentative start date of this new program?
  • What is the impression the company strives to get from the onboarding?
  • What are the key values we want the new employee to understand that the company holds dear?
  • What do employees need to know about the work environment?
  • What role will the Human Resources team play in this process, also colleagues and managers?
  • What goals do the employees need to adopt during this time? How will the success or failure be measured for this program?

When the questions listed above have been answered, the team of managers and Human Resources professionals can start to frame a plan to help new employees swiftly understand the company policies and workflow while getting up to speed with the company culture.

Onboarding Is Not the Same as Training

While both training and onboarding are both important, sometimes the two terms (training and onboarding) are used interchangeably, which leaves room for a false impression of what is really going on with a new hire's first 90 days on the job.

Training is a part of onboarding, but it is by no means the only thing that is going on during the first day, month, three months or even two years of the employee’s tenure. Onboarding is more about giving the employee information and resources they need to be successful in their new position. Training is really giving them the skills to be successful in a particular area or portion of their job.

Structured Onboarding Impacts Retention

A well-organized onboarding process has a big and statistically verifiable impact on retention. In fact, a new employee who goes through a well-structured onboarding program is almost 60 percent more likely to remain with the company after three years. The new hire’s feedback can also help keep them engaged in their organization and their part in it. Hiring is expensive, recruiting costs can be exorbitant, an outstanding onboarding shows the new hires how happy the company is that they’ve joined the organization. This feeling can be further communicated through regular check-ins and listening to new hire feedback. It makes new employees feel like they are valued, listened to, and accountable. 

Training Must Encompass How and Why

Training is a learning designed to help an employee understand the how and why of their job. If the employer can give employees information about the company and its culture while also giving them the nuts and bolts of their job, then it’s a win/win. CareerBuilder reports that most employees expect to learn skills required to do a job while on that job. In addition, a lot of employers believe that employees and employers are equally responsible for the training required to do a job.

Mentors are a great way to continue to build an employee’s skills. The benefits of such a program are organization wide. It encourages inter-office relationships, and new employees become more comfortable with the company.

A Balanced Approach

New hires are also a great way to gain feedback about training they receive. They also may have some tips from training they’ve received at other employers. They are a wealth of information about what is working and what is not working in your onboarding program. This mutual benefit can also start making the employee feel valuable right away. Current employees may feel that the training that they have to provide is keeping them from doing the job they were hired to do. Take this into account as you prepare the onboarding process. Perhaps it is best to have a rotating schedule that allows many subject matter experts to provide the material to new employees. Guide the program to maximize all employee’s time.

A balance must be struck between the training given to new employees and the cultural and less job specific information. Some people consider training to be the fuel for the engine of onboarding and one is pointless without the other. Create an onboarding program with great care, consider the things that an employee will need to succeed in their new job (big things and little things). Give as much value to how the employees feel throughout the program as it to the program itself in order to ensure success.

Employee Onboarding: Easing First-Day Anxieties

A lot of emphasis is given to the first day of an employee’s employment because naturally, everyone expects the new hire to be somewhat anxious or nervous (anyone who has ever had a new job can relate to this feeling). The welcome should kick off the process of making the new employee feel comfortable by doing the following:

  • The receptionist or someone from the Human Resources team should provide a warm greeting upon the new employee’s arrival (which they were given details about in their offer letter along with the time they should arrive on their first day).
  • Arrange for the hiring manager to escort the new hire to their assigned workstation or office.
  • Have a designated person introduce the new hire to other members of their work team.
  • The head of HR should also meet with the employee during the first day to warmly welcome the employee to the company and ensure that the new hire knows how glad everyone in the organization is to have them start with the company.

Onboarding During the First Week

Here is some basic information that every onboarding program should include to ensure success:

  • The fundamentals of the company’s history, even if it was also covered during interviews for the job.
  • Products, services, or data that the company offers or provides as their business should obviously be included in this first week of employment.
  • The size in both employees and (when appropriate) sales annually are also important to a new employee.
  • The general organization of the company (privately held? publicly traded?).
  • The company’s competition, an overview of the industry, and where the company fits into the big picture.
  • The mission statement of the organization along with real examples of how individuals in the company live up to that mission on a regular basis.
  • An individual employee's own short-term and long-term goals and how those goals roll up into the company strategic objectives and company goals.

If you need help understanding the onboarding process or have any other legal need, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law School and Yale Law School and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.