The best practices for your employee onboarding
As a new employee, it’s definitely nerve-wracking to enter a company with the expectation that you’ll need to learn how things work inside and outside and learn them fast. But the pressure put on employees is often much too weighted on their own personal capabilities to pick up and properly work with everything regarding their role and the company at large.
The company is often equally accountable (some would argue more accountable) towards the proper integration or “onboarding” of a new employee to the company, their team, their role, and more. But even with that understanding, companies tend to fumble at the starting line by improperly handling the employee onboarding process and leaving new hires to fend for themselves.
But just because something might be prevalent in the industry doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way.
Best Practices for Employee Onboarding
Note that while these are relatively common and effective practices, the actual implementation and execution of each strategy will likely vary from the context and situation your company finds itself in. Study each of the practices further and see how each one can be developed and integrated into a select participatory team to see how you can adjust to the entire organization down the line.
Workable, an HR resource platform, noted during new onboarding process development that much of the thinking should be generated through insights and employee-need identification. Still, having this set of actionable strategies can be helpful in arriving at that final state of company onboarding.
Have Developed (and Updated) Reference Materials
One of the best ways to develop an employee onboarding program is to have everything developed as a separate tool for the employees to use at their disposal for their new hires, regardless of whatever focus or specialty they may have.
You might have seen these in positions where onboarding might have been conducted remotely and asynchronously through e-learning platforms. With the onset of an even stronger push for remote work, HR managers have begun transitioning and developing these types of onboarding tactics (to mixed success). In “Onboarding Can Make or Break a New Hire’s Experience”, Sinazo Sibisi and Gys Kappers write that remote onboarding training has been the biggest challenge for employers, with as much as one-third of them finding it difficult to even establish a process of doing so.
That’s why these reference materials are key to onboarding as they are accessible documents that can better explain aspects of the company that may be too long or too complicated (often both) for the new hire to review later and when needed. These types of materials need not be fully animated or interactive, with some companies keeping the bulk of details in separate appendix documents away from their simpler related training modules.
What’s important is that these reference materials are there to address your new employee’s uncertainties and concerns. Moreover, you’ll need to keep these materials updated as you enter new organizational shifts. Onboarding new hires with outdated materials can lead to more confusion compared to when they initially just started.
Indicate Key People and Stakeholders
Regardless of how well you might craft your reference materials, there are bound to be aspects of the company and taught materials that will need further clarification for the new hire. These questions can raise from the commonly asked to the more specific and fine-pointed inquiries that will require some expert opinions to weigh in. For both scenarios and everything in-between, we recommend that you ensure you highlight key people and stakeholders in the company as soon as you can as part of the official onboarding process.
In an article in Business News Daily, editor Adam Uzialko writes that 30% of all onboarding processes have methods to include a “team meeting” phase that assists new hires in meeting their direct teammates, their reporting manager, as well as any other cross-functional people they may regularly interact with.
In this respect, the new hires are able to also better integrate socially within the company as work commitments will naturally lead them to more and more people around them. These interactions can be stemming from the need to gain expertise from others or to ensure cross-functional collaboration between projects. In any case, indicating key people and even key stakeholders that will be affected by their projects can help new hires better understand the wider scope of their work, both internally and externally.
Introduce Company Culture
Beyond the explicit processes of how to execute specific operational aspects of the company, there is also another key thing a good onboarding process should do: introduce company culture.
Culture itself has a wide hold over the different arms a company might have. A company’s culture will direct how it approaches both large and small-scale projects, how it assigns and distributes work, as well as how it eventually rewards progress and manages adjustments daily.
The problem with culture is that many companies (especially new companies) have yet to formally define what their culture is exactly. While it may seem too abstract and distinct from tangible business results, company culture can have some long-standing effects on your company.
Larry Alton, a contributor for Forbes, writes that not only do millennials and the general younger working population seek out companies with a strong sense of culture, but they are also more likely to stick around for the longer term. This can keep the company innovative and strong in its position as an employer while ensuring low generation of employee turnover costs.
But culture is likely the hardest aspect to get across to new hires, especially as early as the onboarding. With something as integral as a culture that shapes the ultimate identity of the company, it’s important for them to see it being practiced outside onboarding situations as well.
Follow-through with Consistency
As we’ve discussed many different aspects that can help you craft your employee onboarding process, from granular aspects such as material development to higher-level concepts like company culture, don’t forget that onboarding remains just a small part of the new hires’ complete company experience.
Onboarding presents the groundwork that the rest of their stay will be informed, and much of this onboarding can have informal aspects to it that might go beyond whatever process you might have developed. But it’s in the weeks after they complete their onboarding that consistency plays a big part in hammering home and learnings they might have picked up during the process.
It’s here that all the previous practices, such as reference materials and knowing who to talk to about specific topics, can really make a difference in an employee’s overall experience. Think of this step as really living into the company culture you established in the previous entry. With many employees taking as much as 6 months to a year to become fully engrossed in the role, having the consistency to stick to the principles you introduced to them can be invaluable in the long run.
Always Give Opportunity for Feedback
Lastly, it’s important not to forget that all of these different training processes in line with onboarding should be informed by, and overall centered on, the new hire’s need and desired experience. That’s why having periodic reviews of the process can greatly help you adapt and update the onboarding to better suit the needs of the changing work market.
The Thinking Behind Employee Onboarding
Onboarding is a pretty generally understood process of introducing the new hire to the company and their roles within it. But the specific scope and width of the official onboarding process can vary from company to company. Some companies dedicate a complete comprehensive introduction through engagement sessions, while others prefer to indicate specific company policy matters as the official onboarding procedure while leaving “soft aspects” like team introduction to more flexible and/or informal processes.
Whether your company falls into either a bucket or a completely separate one, the exact methodology of any company’s onboarding process will highly depend on the standing culture, values, and overall goal that its collective workforce works towards. In fact, onboarding has become so integral to the workplace that the new hire turnover rate can be correlated to how successful onboarding procedures go. In a Forbes article by contributor Melissa Llarena, it was noted that poor onboarding contributed to up to 20% of all new hire turnovers within the first 45 days. Indicated in that same article are implications on company efficiency and even replacement costs (hint: it’s a particularly high cost).
These are, however, a few practices that have been noticed across some of the best companies that utilize novel and effective tactics to better onboard their new hires towards their roles and responsibilities as well as their company’s culture as a whole.
Business Cases for Good Employee Onboarding
With more than 13,000 full-time employees in offices around the world, LinkedIn definitely knows something about how onboarding is managed at a large organization. New hires are expected, on the first day, to collaborate with each other on specific icebreakers as well as learn activities about company culture. Part of this onboarding includes utilizing sticky notes that have their name as well as a headline indicating their status as a “professional” and one interesting fact about themselves (always a great ice breaker).
Their next step is to begin “Investing in You”, which is a combined campus tour and lunch for the new hires. Those onboarded can learn about orientation topics like insurance and other company benefits on offer. This is followed by some executive talks, which conclude with equipping the new employees with their LinkedIn office essentials (laptops, backpacks, etc). They then go on individually through their comprehensive weekly 90-day orientation plan to help them further along in their transition to the company.
Google likes to start off at the ground level for its onboarding, leveraging team-level activities and processes that have expanded throughout its 100,000-employee-strong organization. It’s an innovative stance for sure as it deviates from industry norms of centralizing the process, but Google has always led the charge of change as their onboarding team also takes a deep dive into understanding the different data points that come out of their regular onboarding sessions.
It’s through this that Google can continually develop its onboarding and orientation process even further. In Lazlo Bock’s ‘Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead’, the Head of People explains how Google front-loads people's investment, with 80% of their time focused on recruitment and onboarding. Google hires and onboards smart people, and then lets them “run the asylum”.
This has kept Google extremely competitive in the hiring space, not only recruiting some of the top talents in the market but ensuring that interest in a position within their company remains consistent over time.
Square was able to build a strong workplace culture and increase employee engagement by creating a personalized onboarding experience. The HR team also hit impressive milestones, growing from 60 to 1,300 in under four years.
Two unique elements of Square’s culture include a distinct, fun coffee culture and providing opportunities to connect junior team members with senior leadership. For new Square employees, during their first week, new-hires met with Square’s CEO and other senior team leaders during roundtables. Members of the executive team would also grab a cup of coffee and hold casual 1-on-1s with new team members at local coffee spots.
The HR team at Square also believes that an employee’s first week should be delightful. For example, they start their employees later on the first day of work. On their first day of work, new hires are also met with shirts, books, and stickers to make them feel like a part of the team.
Onboarding new employees is a challenge by itself with short deadlines to convince new hires that they have made the right choice, and high stakes for the company not to lose time and make sure that it goes without trouble. Online tools can also be helpful to help you onboard your new team members, such as Klaxoon. Feel free to try it out!