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Key Components of a Successful Employee Onboarding Program

Your newest employee nailed the job interview and made it through the rigorous hiring process. Next comes onboarding, during which you integrate this new hire into your company culture and set them up for success by providing the tools and information needed to become a productive member of your team.

The Society of Human Resources (SHR) makes a clear distinction between onboarding and orientation. Orientation involves filling out new-hire paperwork, selecting benefits packages and other routine tasks every new employee must complete before beginning work. Onboarding is a comprehensive process that can last up to 12 months and involves management and other employees.

To fully engage and retain recently hired talent and help them become productive, happy workers, follow these tips for a successful onboarding process.

Gentleman shaking hands with a woman in an office.

Welcome new hires to the workplace before Day One.

Let your new employee continue to ride the excitement generated by landing the position by introducing them to the team and your company's culture before they even start the job. Consider the following creative onboarding ideas:

  • Make personalized welcome videos for your new employee from their supervisor and co-workers to help them put faces to names. You can also send a welcome card signed by the team.
  • Ask new employees to send you a photo and a brief paragraph about their background that you can distribute internally via email or your intranet site. This helps existing employees become familiar with new teammates.
  • Send new employees a questionnaire before they start that asks about their interests, including what their favorite candy or snack is. Place a bag of that special treat on their desk so it's the first thing they notice when they arrive.

Set up your new hire's workstation in advance.

Help your new hire hit the ground running by having their desk, phone, computer and password logins all prepared before they arrive. You don't want them sitting idle at their desk for days waiting for their electronic equipment and database access to be set up. Include a staff directory with everyone's email and phone number and a copy of your employee handbook.

Introduce objectives and set expectations on the first day.

Show your new employee a clear path forward and channel their eagerness to get started by defining responsibilities, processes and expectations for their position. Make sure your new hire has a crystal-clear understanding of the guidelines governing their job duties and accountabilities, so everyone's expectations are aligned.

Review company policies, such as time off, dress code, workplace safety and working remote. Helping new employees know what to expect from the company culture and work environment lets them make better decisions that are compatible with the accepted practices of your business.

Consider including your entire team in this process to help prevent existing employees from feeling threatened by a new hire. Outline roles and responsibilities for every staff member. Clarify the position of the new employee, give examples of how they might interact with co-workers and discuss how projects will flow.

Foster positive peer relationships immediately.

Help new employees make a personal connection with their teammates on the first day by scheduling a group luncheon, either catered in the office or out in a nearby restaurant. Promote social interaction and show the new person that your entire office wants to build a positive, warm rapport.

Assign a mentor.

Where you have hired entry-level talent or a new employee that is making a mid-career change, on-the-job training supported by an experienced mentor can help alleviate stress and boost self-confidence. This coach can take the form of an assigned go-to buddy who's responsible for fielding questions that arise involving company policies and procedures.

Conduct a one-month check-in.

At the 30-day mark, sit down with your new employee to see if they're feeling comfortable and happy with their position. Offer feedback on your new hire's performance and contributions and solicit feedback. You want to be sure that they're ramping up quickly, but it's also important to confirm that the on-the-job training is proceeding at a manageable pace that doesn't inundate them.

Perform a follow-up assessment at three to six months.

A large percentage of new hires leave companies within their first six months. Some reasons include feeling overwhelmed, underqualified, neglected and underappreciated. A recent onboarding survey found the top three reasons new hires left within the first six months were:

  • They were not interested in doing the work any longer (28%)
  • The job was different from what they perceived it to be in the interview (26%)
  • They were unhappy with their manager (23%)

As your small business grows, get the onboarding process right, and you'll likely have a loyal group of productive employees and low turnover.

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