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Employee onboarding 101: Supporting retention and engagement

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Are you leaving new employees to fend for themselves? If so, you’re not doing your workers or your company any favors. A thoughtful employee onboarding process can give your workers the tools they need to succeed, which can improve employee engagement, retention and productivity.

Seeing Employee Onboarding from the Employee’s Perspective

Imagine it’s your first day at a new company. You arrive a little early – they’re not ready for you yet. You wait until the receptionist calls for you. It’s time to start! You can’t wait to meet everyone and learn more about your new role.

The receptionist leads you to a room, hands you a big employee handbook and tells you to read through everything and sign the forms at the end. Then, the receptionist leaves you alone in the room. You try to read the handbook, but it’s dense and you’re nervous. You skim it until the receptionist comes back.

The receptionist asks if you have any questions. You do – in fact, you have a lot of questions. You want to know exactly what the company expects of you, how the hierarchy works and where you fit into it. You’d also like to know where the breakroom is. But you don’t feel comfortable asking. As it looks like you’re expected to figure things out on your own, you decide to try to do just that. You sign the forms and start working.

The first weeks are fine, but you feel uncertain about your role in the company, and you don’t have the support you need. You start looking for jobs at other companies.

With a more intentional employee onboarding process, this could have gone differently.

Helping New Employees Get Off to a Strong Start

Not all onboarding processes are quite as bad as the above example. Nevertheless, many leave a lot to be desired. A subpar onboarding program can have a massive impact on employee satisfaction among new hires.

Companies invest significant resources recruiting qualified workers. It’s therefore a major disappointment – and a waste of time and money – when new employees quit.

Unfortunately, turnover can be high among new employees. Sometimes this is because the employee wasn’t a good fit. Other times, the employee onboarding process is to blame. According to BambooHR, employees who had an effective onboarding are up to 18 times more committed to their workplace.

You spent time and money finding the best applicants to fill your positions. Don’t undermine these efforts with an ineffective onboarding process.

Creating a Purposeful New Employee Onboarding Process

Employee onboarding is too important to figure out on the fly – you need to have a purposeful process.

To start, consider the employee onboarding process flow. It’s impossible to fit an effective onboarding process into a single day. You need to break it up into multiple phases:

  • Before the orientation day. Give yourself and the new employee time to prepare.
  • During orientation. This is when you cover the handbook, policies and forms. You’ll also need to show the new employee around the facilities and provide training materials.
  • The final phase. During this time, new workers are settling into their roles. They’ll need guidance, feedback and mentorship.

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New Employee Onboarding Best Practices

As you create your employee onboarding process, consider the following best practices:

  • Make sure everyone’s prepared. Both parties need to be ready for the onboarding process. The employee should know where to go, when to arrive and what to bring. Likewise, the person who’s in charge of onboarding needs to be ready to start the process.
  • Anticipate questions. New employees may feel overwhelmed or nervous. They may ask few questions as a result. In addition, employees may not even realize they need more information. Help workers by anticipating questions and needs. Think about what new employees should know and ask your recent hires for input on what they wish they had known.
  • Leverage technology. New employee orientation often involves many forms. You’ll need your new employees to fill out tax forms, make their benefits selections, and attest that they understand your company policies. This requires a lot of new hire paperwork. To make the task less daunting, consider switching from a stack of forms and a physical employee handbook and benefits package to digital alternatives. The added benefits of this are you won’t spend money on printing, and updating information will be easier. It’s even better if you make your digital employee handbook and benefits package interactive. This will create a more enjoyable and engaging experience for your recruits.
  • Show new employees around. New employee onboarding should be about more than filling out forms. Help your new employees acclimate to their workspace by showing them around. Take them on a tour, introducing them to people along the way.
  • Create training materials. You can achieve a consistent orientation experience by using training presentations. For example, all new employees might benefit from a presentation that introduces the company and its policies. You can gear additional training materials toward certain groups of workers (such as managers) or explain basic job duties and expectations for workers in specific roles. Although you could use training videos, bear in mind that interactive digital programs can boost engagement.
  • Don’t forget about remote workers. Employees who work from home still need an effective employee onboarding experience. If your paperwork and training materials are already digital, creating a good remote employee onboarding process shouldn’t be too difficult, although you’ll still need to pay attention to things like introductions and communication.
  • Think about the impression you’re creating. First impressions matter. A poor employee onboarding experience may have long-lasting effects on employee engagement. Are you giving your new workers a warm welcome? Or are you subjecting them to an overwhelming amount of paperwork and a cold reception? Is the experience reflective of your company culture? Breaks and informal activities or games are a great way to give everyone a chance to get to know each other.

Your New Employee Onboarding Checklist

A lot needs to go into your employee onboarding process. Use this employee onboarding process checklist as a starting point and, to customize this list, add any other tasks your company needs.

  • Give the new employee information on where to go, when to be there and what to bring for orientation.
  • Make sure someone is ready to meet the new employee and provide a warm welcome.
  • Prepare all the materials you need (paper or digital), including a tax withholding form, bank deposit form, benefits package and enrollment forms, your sexual harassment policy, a non-disclosure agreement, your time-off policy and your employee handbook.
  • Plan a tour to show employees the building and give them the chance to meet people.
  • Create training materials to cover key policies and procedures.
  • Allocate time for questions. Since some employees may be shy about asking questions, be ready with questions you can ask to gauge their understanding and encourage discussion.
  • Designate a colleague, supervisor or mentor who the new employee can go to for additional help.

HR Support

Successful employee onboarding is a major undertaking. If your HR team is stretched too thin, important tasks may fall through the cracks. Don’t let that happen. Higginbotham provides HR services to support your existing HR team. Learn more.

Not sure where to start? Talk to someone who wants to listen.

A great plan starts with a conversation. Let’s talk about what you need.

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