Bringing on new team members is an exciting but often daunting time in a company’s lifecycle, so it really helps to familiarise yourself with the latest, research-based onboarding best practices before they start.
Today, we’re sharing some of our favourite onboarding process examples to help you set your new hires up for success from day one… although, as we’ll soon discover, the work starts long before they walk through the door!
Let’s start by defining some goals for the onboarding process.
- Create a good first impression of the company, the people and the work that you all do
- Help new hires understand their role and responsibilities
- Connect new hires to their colleagues and set the foundation for strong relationships
- Set new hires up with any information and/or equipment they need to do their job
- Ensure new hires feel supported to succeed
- Introduce new hires to the company’s mission, vision and culture
A structured and effective onboarding process can lead to higher productivity and retention rates, and improve overall company success.
The onboarding process has a huge impact on an employee’s decision to stay or go. And let’s not forget about the cost of replacing a new employee, which is estimated to be between 50% and 250% of the employee’s annual salary (1).
- Organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and new hire productivity by 70% (2).
- Companies with a structured onboarding process experience 50% greater productivity among new hires (3).
- 69% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they experienced great onboarding (4).
- Employees who receive effective onboarding feel 18 times more committed to their organisation (5).
- 77% of HR professionals believe that onboarding will become increasingly important (6).
- Just 12% of employees strongly agree their organisation does a great job of onboarding new employees (7).
- 60% of companies report that they do not set short-term goals for new hires (8).
- 36% of HR executives say they have insufficient technology to automate or organise the onboarding process (9).
- Up to 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days (8), but the number is even higher for Millenial and Gen Z employees. Gen Z are expected to change jobs up to 10 times between the ages of 18 and 34 (10).
- It typically takes new employees 12 months to reach their full performance potential (11).
The message here is clear - employee onboarding is not something we can afford to get wrong.
1. Plan the employee onboarding journey
Don’t wait until your new hire’s start date to kickstart the onboarding process. Between arranging paperwork, equipment, onboarding materials and organising events, there’s a lot to do! Create an onboarding checklist to ensure you’re fully prepared.
2. Take care of the paperwork ahead of time
If possible, complete employment paperwork and organise payroll before their first day at work. This allows new hires to really focus on getting to grips with their new role.
3. Organise technology and tech stack access in advance
Remember that small details like mouse pads and Slack channel access could be integral to a new employee's experience. Ensure they have the necessary equipment and software to get stuck in.
Bonus tip: Create and maintain an onboarding checklist for new hires, with a dedicated section for technology and tech tools.
4. View onboarding as a team sport
No one person in the organisation should be responsible for onboarding new hires - leadership, managers, peers and HR all have a role to play.
The manager's role is particularly important - research by Gallup finds that when managers take an active role in onboarding, employees are 3.4 times as likely to strongly agree their onboarding experience was exceptional (11).
5. Give your other employees a head’s up
Clearly communicate details of your new hires to everyone on the team as far in advance as possible - their name, their role, and when they’ll be starting - so that employees can make room in their calendars for the new arrivals.
You want initial catch-ups and handover sessions to take place on time. Rushing through these meetings will not only make things awkward but reduce the efficiency of the onboarding process.
6. Make day one exceptional
First impressions matter, so it’s important that new employees feel comfortable and welcome from the moment they arrive. This isn’t about flashy gifts or welcome parties, it’s about taking the time to consider each element of their experience.
If they’ll be working in a physical office, ensure there’s a tidy, comfortable, well-lit desk space ready for them. Take the time to give them a full tour and go slowly - there’s a lot of information to retain on those first couple of days. If they’re working remotely, plan a get-to-know-you call with their new teammates.
7. Connect them with their new colleagues
Your new hire is probably meeting a lot of people for the first time. Even in smaller companies, this can be overwhelming, as they scramble to remember names, faces and associated roles.
Providing them with an organisational chart or people directory can make their transition to the new role easier and more relaxed.
Bonus tip: Use Frankli’s People Directory to connect your people - employees are invited, but not obliged, to add personal and professional interests to their Frankli profile, and a description of who they are and what they do.
8. Create a welcome package
Spending an entire day in meetings can be exhausting at the best of times, but even more so for a new member of the team. Ensure part of the onboarding process can be done asynchronously by preparing a welcome package for new hires.
This might feature information on the company’s mission, vision, values, history and policies, direct new employees towards orientation materials or involve something a little bit more fun and offbeat - it’s all about finding what best represents your company’s culture. You can use a free online video maker to create a helpful video.
9. Find out what additional resources they need
Aside from the basic equipment and software new hires need to get the job done, there may be other resources that will help set them up for success.
Maybe there’s a tech tool they swore by in their previous role, or maybe they’re more productive when they use a co-working space. Managers can include a question on this in early 1:1 meetings, or include it in their onboarding survey.
10. Get them up to speed on culture
The onboarding period is a great time for new employees to learn about the company's mission, vision, values, and culture. This helps them understand the company's structure and how their role fits into the bigger picture.
This can be done in person, virtually, or a combination of both and should cover key topics such as company history, policies, and benefits.
11. Schedule regular 1:1 meetings
All employees, including new hires, should meet one-on-one with their manager regularly. In the first weeks and months of the employee lifecycle, this should be fairly frequent - weekly or monthly - before the new hire and their manager settle on a permanent rhythm.
As well as performance-focused conversations, job satisfaction, career development and work-life balance can all be covered in dedicated catch-ups.
Bonus tip: Use Frankli to set up a recurring 1:1 meeting with new hired and use our talking point templates to automate the agenda.
12. Pair new hires with an onboarding buddy
Connecting new employees with an onboarding buddy from the existing team is a great way to build relationships and ensure the new hire has somewhere to turn for help. Their buddy can answer questions, provide guidance, and offer support during the onboarding process. Their onboarding buddy can be from their team or another area of the business entirely, but it should be someone with a good understanding of the company culture and values.
There’s tonnes of great data to back this one up - in one study, 56% of new hires who were assigned a buddy as part of the onboarding process indicated they were more productive because of the connection; that percentage went up to 97% when the number of interactions with the buddy was more than eight times over the first 90 days (12).
Bonus tip: Encourage buddies to set up a recurring 1:1 meeting with the new hire through Frankli, using the Employee-led Conversation template. Of course, employees can create their own agenda if they prefer.
13. Provide clear goals and expectations
New employees need to know what’s expected of them from the start, so it’s important that managers are extremely clear about their responsibilities. This includes setting goals with deadlines.
If responsibilities or expectations have changed since the interview process, it’s best to be upfront and honest about this - this will help your employee gain the clarity they need to make progress, and build trust.
Bonus tip: Take your new hires through company, department and team goals in Frankli to give them an overview of what success looks like for your teams.
14. Set a dedicated onboarding goal
A good way to ease your new hire into the goal-setting process and culture at your company is to set them a dedicated onboarding goal on their first week. Key results might include, “Complete GDPR training”, “Watch 5 product tutorials”, or “Meet 1:1 with each member of your team.”
Bonus tip: Onboarding goals are easily managed through Frankli. Simply create a custom Onboarding Goal template that you can use with all new hires and tweak depending on the role.
15. Host a social event
Whatever form your company’s social events take - virtual, in-person or a combination of both - make the effort to plan one during your new hire’s first few weeks, so they can get to know their teammates without a work-related agenda.
16. Post a welcome message on social media
Announcing your new hires on social media is another way to make them feel welcome. Don’t overthink this one, simply say how delighted you are to have them join your team. And be sure to ask permission before you use their name or image.
17. Consider giving them a gift
Let’s be clear, great onboarding experiences don’t require free stuff. But if your employees love their company-branded hoodies or coffee mugs, gifting a piece of company merch is a nice touch.
Some companies prefer to gift sweet treats or a seminal book that influenced the company’s founders. Just remember the golden rule: your gift should reflect the company culture and brand.
18. Set up a performance review
If your new hire is subject to a probationary period, it can be helpful to schedule a performance review according to this timeline.
This provides managers with the opportunity to reflect on the new hire's performance, request feedback from any peers or direct reports, and/or ask them to reflect on their own performance.
Bonus tip: Use Frankli’s review space and question templates to set up a performance review in minutes.
19. Celebrate milestones
Onboarding is a journey, not a destination. So rather than setting hard deadlines, celebrate the milestones along the way, such as completing training, reaching performance goals, or arriving at a work anniversary.
Acknowledge a new employee’s contributions and progress will show them that they’re valued members of the team.
20. Run an onboarding survey
Of all our onboarding process examples, this is probably the most impactful on future success. Inviting new hires to participate in an onboarding survey will help you understand how successful the process was, and, crucially, identify room for improvement.
The responses can have a profound impact on employee engagement and retention, so this is well worth doing with each hire.
Bonus tip: Use the Onboarding Survey template in Frankli to speed up the process of creating your survey, and automate reminders.
21. Evaluate your onboarding process regularly
No onboarding process is perfect, there’s always room for improvement. Using the results of your onboarding survey, review your process at least once a year, more frequently if you’re in a phase of rapid growth.
Focus your efforts not just on making efficiencies, but on creating a meaningful onboarding experience that will build trust and loyalty among new employees.
22. Take your time
All of our onboarding best practices have one thing in common - they encourage teams to take things slowly. In all the research we looked at, longer onboarding processes yielded better results, so don’t be tempted to rush things along. Slow and steady is the name of the game.
1. SHRM, Essential Elements of Employee Retention. 2. Brandon Hall Group, The True Cost of a Bad Hire. 3. SHRM, Don't Underestimate the Importance of Good Onboarding. 4. Bamboo HR, The New Definitive Guide to Onboarding. 5. Talmundo, Expectations Vs Reality of Onboarding. 6. Gallup, 7 Problems With Your Onboarding Program. 7. MIT Sloan Management Review, Getting New Hires Up to Speed Quickly. 8. Kronos, New Hire Momentum: Driving the Onboarding Experience. 9. SHRM, Reducing New Employee Turnover Among Emerging Adults. 10. Zurich, How is Gen Z changing the workplace? 11. Gallup, 7 Problems With Your Onboarding Program. 12. Harvard Business Review, Every New Employee Needs an Onboarding “Buddy”.