Is Your Onboarding Strategy Setting New Employees Up for Success?

Effective onboarding is a vital piece of the hiring process. It helps new employees familiarize themselves with your company culture while providing them with the tools and resources they need to comfortably hit the ground running. Employee disengagement is a real issue – one that’s only been made worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity – equal to 11% of the global GDP, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report. The more disengaged an employee is, the more likely they are to find work elsewhere, and the more lackluster your onboarding process, the less likely your new employees will ever become engaged.

Don’t allow this to happen. If you want to maximize company productivity and profit, reduce turnover, and support employee wellness, a comprehensive and engaging onboarding strategy is a must. So, what does your current onboarding process look like? How do your team members feel about your onboarding process, and are they still ‘onboard’? It may be time for an onboarding revamp. Let’s dig into the best practices for onboarding in 2023 so that you can set up each new hire for continued success.

Prepare Everything in Advance

First impressions matter – and it’s not only the new employee who needs to worry about this. They are interacting with your company as a member of the team for the first time. If they show up to work on their first day and things are disorganized and unprepared, the employee could easily believe this lack of preparedness is the standard operating procedure for the company. In turn, this could lead them to believe they don’t need to give their best effort moving forward, new employees aren’t a priority or both. Getting everything prepared in advance enables you and the new hire to hit the ground running. It lets the new team member know you’ve been eagerly awaiting their arrival and are excited to help them get started.

With thorough advance planning, you can let the employee know beforehand what they need to bring and expect on the first day. Of course, this will vary for in-person and virtual onboarding, but either way, let your new team member know what to anticipate and which tools or resources will be most beneficial to them as they get started. Also, note which tools and resources will aid you and your own team in the onboarding process. Every organization will be a bit different, but here’s a list of a few important things that should be prepared before you begin onboarding an employee: Keys/ID badge, workspace – desk, chair and so on, or a virtual setup, employee handbook, payroll and benefits (tax forms, direct deposit forms, etc.), noncompete or nondisclosure agreements, equipment provided by the organization (computer, mouse, etc.), technical details, such as logins, security contacts and IT contacts, and professional communication apps like Slack. Utilize a pre-established onboarding checklist to ensure nothing is missed or forgotten.

Engage with Preboarding Activities

Preboarding gets some of your onboarding tasks out of the way in the days leading up to an employee’s start date, and when executed well, it builds excitement for the new employee. The key to preboarding success is to limit the work you pass on to the new hire. They aren’t being paid yet, and they likely already have a lot on their plate with the transition into their new role. Choose a couple of small tasks, such as setting up payroll or preparing their new email account. Be enthusiastic while sharing why these advanced tasks are to their benefit. During the preboarding phase, you might send a welcome package that includes company-branded swag or a welcome gift. This is also an ideal time to share an agenda of what they can expect on their first day. Show them in advance you’re organized and on top of the onboarding process. Ensure they know just how excited you are to have them join your team.

Communicating early and often is another crucial aspect of preboarding that can set the tone for a positive relationship. Send a welcoming message from either the team leader or a future coworker. Include some introductory information about the team they will be joining, the company’s mission and culture, and perhaps a fun fact or two about the office environment. Emphasize that you’re excited and prepared for their arrival, giving them a sense of belonging from the outset. By implementing effective preboarding strategies, you can spark excitement and create a positive initial impression that will carry through to their first official day and beyond.

Avoid Starting with Rules

Starting the onboarding process by overwhelming the new hire with company rules, procedures, and policies can be counterproductive. Instead of emphasizing the limitations and regulations of the workplace on the first day, focus on making the new employee feel welcomed and comfortable. Reserve the comprehensive review of company policies for later in the onboarding process. Instead, provide an overview of where these policies can be accessed and let the new hire review them at their own pace during the first few days or week. This approach not only prevents information overload but also starts the relationship on a positive and supportive note.

By focusing initially on what makes your workplace unique and enjoyable, you can create an engaging first-day experience. Inspire your new hires by sharing stories of success, innovation, and collaboration within the company. Showcase your company culture, values, and mission to instill a sense of purpose and belonging. This positive reception helps to set the tone for their future experiences and interactions, making them more likely to absorb information about rules and policies without viewing them in a negative light. Creating a welcoming environment on the first day is an effective way to build rapport and trust between the new employee and the organization.

Introduce Team Members by Relationships

Personalizing introductions to team members can enhance the onboarding experience significantly. Instead of a quick round of name and title, take the time to explain the relationship and expected interactions the new hire will have with each team member. This contextual approach helps the new employee understand their role within the team more clearly and can foster meaningful connections right from the start. For example, instead of merely introducing someone as the “Payroll Manager,” explain, “This is Sharon, who will help ensure you get paid and can assist with any payroll questions.”

Such introductions humanize team roles and make them more relatable. This also extends to explaining team dynamics, daily interactions, and collaboration tools. An emphasis on relationships helps new hires see the team as a supportive network rather than a list of hierarchical titles. This strategy can ease some of the anxiety that comes with new job initiations and fosters a more interconnected and cooperative work environment. It can also help new employees remember their colleagues better, reducing the initial overwhelm that comes with meeting many new people.

Plan for Lunchtime

Lunch on the first day at a new job can feel daunting for many new employees. To alleviate this and ensure the new team member feels included and welcomed, plan a group lunch or one-on-one meal with a key colleague. This provides a casual setting where the new hire can get to know their coworkers and begin to feel like part of the team. It also shows your commitment to making them feel welcome and appreciated. Be sure to communicate these lunch plans in advance so the new hire knows what to expect and doesn’t bring their own lunch needlessly.

Consider dietary preferences and restrictions to ensure everyone enjoys the meal. If a group lunch is not feasible, another good practice is to familiarize the new employee with common lunch practices within the team, such as break times and where people usually eat or socialize during breaks. Quick tips about local lunch spots or popular choices among the team can also be helpful. The aim is to eliminate any uncertainty or solitude the new hire might feel during this time, making their first day more enjoyable and setting a positive tone for their integration into the team.

Define Success Mutually

A crucial part of onboarding is ensuring that both the employer and the new hire have clear, shared expectations about what success looks like in the role. During the early days, spend time discussing goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), and milestones that are important for the role. This conversation should be a two-way dialogue where the new employee can share their aspirations and career goals. Collaboratively setting objectives helps establish a path for their success and demonstrates that their professional growth is a priority for the company.

Use concrete examples from past successes within the team or organization to help illustrate what successful integration and performance look like. Be specific about the kind of projects or tasks the new employee will be handling and how their progress will be measured. This clarity eliminates ambiguity and aligns both parties on what needs to be achieved. It’s also an excellent opportunity to identify any initial training or resources the new hire might need to meet these expectations. By working together to define success, you are more likely to foster a sense of ownership and accountability in the new employee.

Allocate Time for Questions

The onboarding process is a new terrain for the new employee, full of unknowns and uncertainties. It’s essential to build in dedicated time for the newcomer to ask questions and seek clarifications. While it’s common to tack on a Q&A session at the end of the day, having designated time slots specifically for questions throughout the day can be far more effective. It demonstrates that your organization values communication and is committed to providing the new hire with the support they need to succeed.

Encourage the new hires to think of questions in advance and maintain an open-door policy for ongoing questions. Make it clear who they should go to for different types of queries, whether they are related to IT, HR, or their specific tasks. A culture that encourages curiosity and openness from the start can lead to a more engaged and satisfied workforce. By making room for these questions, you are creating an environment where new hires feel comfortable and supported, which can significantly enhance their initial experience and future retention.

Schedule Ongoing One-on-One Meetings

Onboarding doesn’t end after the first day – it’s an ongoing process that continues well into the new hire’s journey with your company. Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings after the initial onboarding phase can provide continuous support and ensure ongoing development. These meetings offer an opportunity for the new hire to discuss their experiences, challenges, and any feedback they may have, which can be invaluable for their integration and performance. It also shows that you’re committed to their long-term success and well-being.

Having a structured plan for these one-on-ones helps keep the lines of communication open. Establish a recurring schedule – whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly – and stick to it. This regular cadence ensures that there are frequent check-ins to address any issues promptly. Use these sessions not only to evaluate performance but also to gauge the new hire’s comfort level and engagement. It’s important that these meetings don’t become merely perfunctory but remain a valuable tool for mutual growth and understanding.

Implement Continuous Onboarding (Everboarding)

Traditional onboarding processes often have a clear start and end, but the latest trend in effective onboarding is called everboarding. Everboarding emphasizes the idea that onboarding should be a continuous journey rather than a finite process that concludes after a few days or weeks. This approach can be particularly beneficial in a rapidly changing work environment where continuous learning and adaptation are crucial. Everboarding supports this ongoing development by facilitating continuous learning opportunities and fostering a culture of perpetual growth.

Everboarding aims to keep employees engaged and informed by providing them with resources and training well beyond their initial onboarding phase. This concept aligns with the increasing desire among employees for opportunities for professional development and lifelong learning. By promoting a culture of continuous improvement and learning, you not only support the professional aspirations of your employees but also enhance the overall performance and innovation within the company. From regular training sessions to updated onboarding materials and mentorship programs, everboarding ensures that learning and growth are ingrained in your company culture.

Onboarding Success Well Beyond the First Day

Preboarding allows you to complete some onboarding tasks in the days before an employee’s start date, and it can effectively build excitement for the new hire. The key to successful preboarding is to keep the workload manageable for the new recruit. They haven’t started getting paid yet and are likely already busy with their transition into the new position. Opt for a couple of simple tasks, such as setting up payroll or creating their new email account. Make sure to convey your enthusiasm and explain how these early tasks will benefit them.

During this phase, you might also send a welcome package featuring company-branded items or a small gift. This is an excellent moment to provide an agenda for their first day, demonstrating that you are organized and ready for their arrival. Showing them that you are prepared and excited for their start will set a positive tone.

Early and frequent communication is another critical element of preboarding that helps establish a good relationship. Send a welcome message from the team leader or a future coworker, including some introductory information about the team, company mission, and culture. You might add a fun fact about the office to make them feel more at ease. Highlight your eagerness and readiness for their arrival to give them a strong sense of belonging right away.

By implementing these effective preboarding strategies, you can ignite excitement and create a favorable initial impression. This positive start will help maintain enthusiasm and productivity from their first official day onwards.

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