What is Onboarding? 7 Steps to Build a Stellar Onboarding Program
You've invested so much time and effort into screening, interviewing, and choosing the perfect candidate. Now that they've accepted the offer and have an official start date, it's easy to feel like your job here is done—but this is just the beginning.
The hiring process is only the first step of your new hire’s journey. The next (and arguably even more important) step is onboarding. Onboarding doesn’t just ensure that your new employees feel respected and valued—it also empowers them to become meaningful contributors to your company in less time.
This article will cover everything you need to know about onboarding—including why it's so crucial to the new employee experience and how to uplevel your own onboarding process.
What is Onboarding?
Onboarding is the process of introducing new employees to an organization. An effective onboarding experience sets employees up for success, bringing them up to speed and giving them the resources they need to do their best work.
While every company's onboarding process is different, most include things like:
- Office tours
- Team introductions
- Expectation setting
- Policy training
- Job training
It's important to realize that onboarding and orientation are not the same thing.
Orientation is a one-time event designed to share general company information with new employees across multiple departments.
Onboarding, on the other hand, can take days, weeks, or months to complete. The onboarding process should be specific to each new employee's role within the company, equipping them with everything they need to feel confident and supported at work.
Why is Onboarding So Important?
We won't lie: Building a great onboarding process takes work and dedication.
But the benefits are well worth it—for both the employee and your company.
Properly onboarded employees feel welcomed, valued, and comfortable in their new roles. These feelings lead to a greater sense of job satisfaction and happiness—and happier employees are good for business.
One study found that companies with happy employees outperform their competitors by 20%. When new hires are equipped to succeed from the beginning, they’ll feel confident in their role and motivated to do their work—and to do it well.
An effective onboarding program boosts productivity by empowering your new employees with two key things:
- Knowledge: When your employees know what to do, they'll be able to do it better and more efficiently. So use your onboarding program to teach new hires the ins and outs of their roles. The faster they can learn to do their jobs, the sooner they’ll be able to meaningfully contribute to the company.
- Happiness: A good onboarding process can help people feel comfortable, confident, and ultimately happier in their new roles. And employee happiness has been proven to boost individual productivity by as much as 12%.
Employee turnover is bad news for everyone.
SHRM found that losing an employee can cost your company up to a third of their annual salary. To put that number into perspective, an employee making $60,000 a year will cost $20,000 to replace.
33% of these expenses are due to hard costs, including recruiting and hiring temp workers. But 67% of them are due to soft costs like reduction in team productivity.
A well-structured onboarding process will improve your employee retention rate. Why wouldn't it? When team members feel supported, engaged, and equipped in their roles, they'll be less likely to seek new jobs.
How to Onboard New Hires Effectively
We've covered the what and why of onboarding. Now it's time to talk about the how.
How do you onboard new employees effectively? Here are seven steps to build a stellar onboarding program—or improve a lackluster one.
1. Start the Process Immediately
The best onboarding programs start before a new employee's first day.
Also known as “pre-boarding,” this is when you can handle mundane tasks like paperwork before your new hire starts.
So, as soon as you make a hiring decision and extend the offer, send your new employee their formal contract, payroll information, and any company-specific documents they’ll need to read through and sign to make it official.
Some companies go a step further and invite their new hires to the office for a quick tour, or send them a care package with tasty treats and company swag as part of their pre-boarding routine. However you decide to welcome your newest teammate, this is a good opportunity to let your company’s unique culture shine.
Just remember, proper onboarding starts before your new employee's first day.
2. Personalize Your Onboarding Experience
Ideally, every new employee will go through your company's onboarding process. But the process should not be the same for each person. You need to tailor your approach.
The onboarding process for an executive will look a lot different than the onboarding process for a paid intern. It will also look different for your marketing, sales, and customer service teams. Oh, and don't forget about remote workers!
Your onboarding process should be consistent across the company, but it should also be a unique experience for each new hire depending on their role's seniority and department.
Consider the role of your new hire when designing an onboarding plan for them.
3. Welcome Employees With Open Arms
Your onboarding program should train new employees to do their job. But if that's all it does, you're missing the mark. Top-level onboarding makes new hires feel welcome.
After being onboarded, new employees should feel appreciated, valued, and motivated to come to work every day. They should feel like they belong—not only because your staff is friendly, but because they can contribute in meaningful ways.
Here are a few tips to help new employees feel welcome during the onboarding process:
- Make Introductions: On the new employee's first day, be sure to create opportunities for them to connect with their colleagues—whether virtually or in person. This can look like a team lunch or scheduled one-on-one meetings with different teammates.
- Create a Plan: New employees should never feel like an afterthought. Plan their first day so they always have something to do, someone to meet, or a task to complete. This level of planning will help them feel more prepared and confident.
- Encourage Questions: Your new employee will have plenty of questions: “How do I do ABC? Who do I talk to about XYZ? What's the trick to the coffee maker in the break room?” Encourage new hires to ask questions, and answer them graciously.
Want to learn more about welcoming new employees the right way? Read our full article.
4. Set New Hires Up for Success
You hire new employees because of the unique talent and skills they’ll bring to your company. But they can’t reach the full potential you saw in them during the interview process without an effective onboarding process.
So, your onboarding program should equip them with the tools and resources they need to do their best work. That could include everything from logins to your company’s software programs, the office WiFi password, your company org chart, and any relevant training manuals or how-to guides.
If it helps your new employee get their work done, it should be included in the onboarding process.
5. Use the Buddy System
One of the best ways to supercharge your onboarding process is to implement a buddy system or an informal mentorship program.
Here's how it works: New employees are matched with more experienced colleagues who help them navigate the ins and outs of their new job and answer any questions they might have.
The onboarding process might be for new hires, but having a buddy system is a great opportunity for the whole team to get involved and build a strong culture of mentorship and community.
6. Evaluate Your Onboarding Program
Once you've built an onboarding program, you need to continue to evaluate—and re-evaluate—it.
Is the program working? Are new employees adequately prepared for their roles? Do they feel appreciated, valued, and respected? Are they productive members of your team?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, it’s time to re-evaluate your onboarding process and dig deeper into a few specific metrics:
- Employee Engagement: This measures the level of engagement new employees feel after going through onboarding. You can assess it by evaluating a new hire's work and sending new employees satisfaction surveys.
- Time-to-Productivity: This measures the time it takes for new employees to integrate into their roles and become productive team members. Choose the KPIs that will help you evaluate this metric for your specific team or company, then monitor them regularly.
- Retention Rate: This measures the rate employees leave your organization. A strong onboarding program that supports and empowers new hires from day one should boost your retention rate.
These aren't the only metrics you can analyze, of course. But they should give you a good idea of the health and effectiveness of your company's onboarding program.
7. Document Your Process for Future Reference
Last but certainly not least, make sure to document your onboarding processes.
Why is this important? Because documentation will ensure that every new hire receives a similar onboarding experience, no matter who they are or what department they're joining. This level of consistency will make it easier to achieve employee satisfaction.
So how do you document your onboarding processes? It's pretty simple: Use Tango, the industry-leading solution loved by brands like Netflix, Verizon, and LinkedIn.
Just download the app and turn it on, then run through your processes like you normally would. Tango will automatically capture your step-by-step actions, take screenshots, and even create written instructions.
When you're done, you can edit the Workflow Tango created for you: Adjust descriptions, annotate screenshots, and customize it however you need to. Then, save the Workflow and add it to your library of onboarding resources!
The onboarding process is crucial to the new employee experience. Effective onboarding programs set new hires up for success by bringing them up to speed and giving them the tools and resources they need to be their best at work.
Now, all that's left for you to do is build (or uplevel!) your company’s onboarding plan. And if you're looking to simplify your onboarding processes, give Tango a try.