August 2, 2018

Welcome Aboard: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Employee Onboarding


Subsequent to landing a new position, new hires have much to take in during their early days on the job. Lack of familiarity with their new work environment can make for an anxious time. Typically, new employees are eager to make a good first impression and may be reluctant to ask questions.

As managers, it’s critical to make new hires feel welcome as well as to bring them up to speed on company culture, policy, and procedures. A 2017 survey found that 79% of managers feel it is very important for new hires to successfully assimilate into the company culture.

What are the best ways for managers to ease an employee’s transition into a new working environment?

It all starts with employee onboarding. Onboarding is the process that ensures “new hires adjust to the social and performance aspects of their jobs so they can quickly become productive, contributing members of the organization.”

Onboarding provides managers with an opportunity to give new hires the tools to succeed within their organization, and the results of a proper onboarding plan can be long-lasting.

HR experts say that 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they experienced efficient onboarding. Reducing employee turnover can have a significant impact on your business’s bottom line. Research shows that employers need to spend six to nine months of an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement.

Many companies adopt a “sink or swim” approach with new hires, but it is far more beneficial to view each new employee as an investment in the future success of the business. Onboarding is one of the best ways to help maximize that investment. Early experiences in a new work environment can significantly impact an employee’s long-term relationship with the organization.

There are different approaches to employee onboarding, but they all support the same objectives: Easing an employee’s transition into their new job and securing a positive, productive, and lasting relationship.

Here are five steps managers can take to ensure a constructive and successful onboarding process.

Put it in Writing

The onboarding process should start even before managers begin hiring. Onboarding goals and objectives should be quantified and documented in a written manual with actionable steps. Even if each new hire requires unique handling, an onboarding manual should establish a viable baseline approach.

Managers should consider employing onboarding checklists to help ensure that all essential and repeatable steps for new hires are completed. The checklist should include administrative tasks such as setting up a new hire’s company email address and granting access to the tools they require to perform their duties.

While documentation is crucial, onboarding procedures shouldn’t be carved in stone. They should be reviewed and regularly revised, particularly as a team grows in size and the company vision evolves.

Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Any new employee, regardless of role, should be treated as an essential addition to the team. Here are four crucial steps every manager should take to help new hires feel valued, welcome, and at home.

Be Prepared

Managers should work to make a new hire feel as prepared as possible for their first day on the job. Before that day arrives, send a welcome letter detailing the start time, dress code, and schedule. This information can help the employee feel well-prepared and help alleviate first day jitters. Employee benefit documents, forms, and manuals should also be sent in advance, giving employees the opportunity to review and complete them prior to their start date.

This cuts down on time filling out forms that can be better spent elsewhere. Ensure that those team members and supervisors who will have direct interaction with the new hire are aware in advance that they’re starting, and consider blocking off time in a coworker’s schedules, even just 15 minutes, for them to get acquainted with their new colleague.

Assign a Buddy or Mentor

Depending on their role, a new hire may have a formal mentor that guides them through specific tasks. Regardless of the position, it’s a good idea to designate a point person, or buddy, for the new employee who might join them for lunch, sit with them the first day, and remain available to answer questions as the new hire gets acclimated to the company and their new role within it.

Put Names to Faces

Skip the text-based organizational chart in favor of one that includes photos and hobbies of staff members. A visual representation of the organization not only makes it easier for the new hire to learn names but reduces the anxiety of approaching someone they’ve never met in order to collaborate on work matters.

Make It Personal

As a general philosophy, managers should onboard the individual and not the job. Of course, there will be job-specific items relevant to new employees, regardless of experience, that must be reviewed during orientation, but managers should tailor their approach to the person. It’s important to recognize that a new hire who’s spent years working in the industry will have different needs compared to a more junior-level trainee, for example.

Give buddies and mentors a brief overview of the new employees’ past experiences, so they know how to interact with them at the right level. Encourage them to listen to the new workers’ questions, and to refrain from making any assumptions about what they may or may not already know.

Overall, keep employee orientation friendly. Onboarding is a human process. Get to know the new hire’s general interests and lifestyle outside of work in order to emphasize that they are valued over and above the work they have been hired to perform.

Establish Rules and Procedures

Documentation is an unavoidable aspect of the orientation process, but management should endeavor to inform, not overwhelm, the employee. When it comes to company policies, personalize the journey as much as possible.

Provide an Employee Handbook

A comprehensive handbook should include every workplace policy, as well as helpful information about employee benefits and company organizational charts. The new hire won’t read it all right away, but it’s there as a reference. As mentioned earlier, it might be best to send this in advance of the employee’s start date.

Review Key Policies

For every job, there are essential policies that new hires must know. Time and attendance policies, vacation policies, personal conduct policies – the most mandatory and important ones that affect their everyday work lives. A buddy or mentor should take some time to review critical sections with the new hire and give examples of how they work in practice.

Encourage Questions

It is hard for anyone to absorb a massive amount of information all at once, let alone a nervous new employee. Managers should consider employing microlearning methods. Rather than overwhelming a new employee with too much information, incrementally imparting policies and processes improves knowledge retention and makes the onboarding process less intimidating. Make it easy for the employee to clarify any policies and procedures. Encourage them to ask questions and underline that they won’t suffer any negative repercussions for doing so.

Foster a Cultural Fit

Immersing a new hire in the organizational culture is one of the best ways to ease their transition into the new job. While culture can be difficult to define, it is typically shaped by the unspoken rules of behavior and performance expectations of a team.

Company culture can be crucial to performance. 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to success. Elucidating what makes the company special and involving new hires in work-related social activities is one of the best tools managers have to make new employees feel they’re part of the team.

Workplace culture is often best imparted through example and interpersonal interaction within the team. New hires should ideally be given as much exposure as possible to the way team members communicate and interact within the company. Here are some ways for managers to encourage this interaction:

Schedule Social Time

Invite the new employee to lunch or an informal gathering after work. This provides exposure to how people interact with each other outside of the office environment.

Encourage Team Building

Invite new hires to company retreats, bonding activities and optional social get-togethers. Spending time with colleagues helps integrate new hires into the company culture. Organizing team building activities and events helps to reinforce and grow company culture with new and existing employees alike and highlights that a positive company culture is a priority.

Celebrate Company History

Organizational culture is largely defined by how a company has grown and changed over the years. Give new hires a copy of the business biography and value statement, so they know what they should strive to emulate and achieve.

Involve Everyone

While the onboarding process is ostensibly about new employees, it’s really about integrating the team as a whole. It’s important to keep everyone informed about new arrivals and the roles they will play. That way, team members from various working groups will have some background when a new name appears in their email inbox.

Existing employees can also be instrumental in imparting company culture. Encourage them to act as a resource for new arrivals and to make them feel part of the team. Asking team members to recall their own nerve-wracking first days on the job can encourage them to sympathize with and welcome new people.

It’s important to make new hires see their place in company culture. Everyone should be encouraged to go out of their way to make them feel welcome as he or she engages in off-the-clock or outside-the-office activities.

Ask for Feedback

Eventually, the new employee will become a seasoned team member. Managers should endeavor to collect feedback on the onboarding process after the new hire has spent about three months on the job, so they can evaluate what worked and what didn’t. This feedback should be taken into account during the regular review of onboarding procedures.

This three-month check-in point likely coincides with initial performance reviews, making for an ideal opportunity to gauge the employee’s overall experience. After having spent sufficient time on the job, employees should be able to give thoughtful and actionable feedback on what they wish they’d been told on day one.

Successful Employee Onboarding Makes for a Successful Team

Managers have many factors to consider when onboarding a new team member, and it demands a substantial investment of time and resources. But onboarding pays off handsomely when managers get it right.

Businesses of all sizes rely on their people to make the company a success. Providing new hires with the tools to succeed and supporting them as they integrate into their new roles will benefit both them and the organization as a whole.