Effective Onboarding Practices

by Kimberly Barton, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Bulletin,  HR Expertise and Support,  Leadership

The majority of employers have a new hire orientation program that typically occurs on the first day of employment. A portion of these employers has embraced the practice of expanding orientation into an extensive onboarding program taking place over several months. And while many companies understand the importance of having a comprehensive onboarding program to set employees up for success, there is a strong connection between an effective onboarding program and employee retention. Research by Gallup shows that a thoughtful and thorough onboarding program is key to retaining new hires, especially within their first year at a company. Timelines and action items for onboarding will vary by company, but the overall objectives are generally the same. The goals are to assimilate new hires into the organization and guide them into a highly engaged and meaningful career.

Several Key Themes of an Effective Onboarding Program

As you look to tailor the onboarding approach to your company, keep the following themes in mind:

Be Transparent

After a candidate has accepted an offer, companies should keep in regular contact with the candidate and let them know what to expect and the anticipated time frames of when and what will occur. Consider a checklist or a workflow in place with different tasks designed to touch base with your new hires. If you have the technology, then automate the checklist/workflow so that canned emails can be sent at a minimum. Provide as much information as possible on the company and onboarding process. Share a copy of the employee handbook and benefits package to allow new hires the opportunity to familiarize themselves with policies, practices, and benefits ahead of orientation. Remember that orientation can be overwhelming and stressful, so any tips on what to wear, where to park, or what to expect during morning rush hour will be appreciated.

Be Effective and Intentional

Make a strong effort to bring the onboarding process to life as much as possible. Incorporate the company’s mission, vision, values, and culture into orientation by including real-life examples. It’s important to have CEO and/or executives meet with new hires to share the company’s story and understand how they fit into the organization’s mission. Schedule a time for Payroll, IT, and other operational support employees to stop by and introduce themselves. As the HR leader, make it your goal to ensure new hires feel valued and appreciated and that the organization is excited they’ve joined. Many employers have found utilizing mentors to be a highly effective onboarding practice. Good mentors act as a peer resource and source of encouragement for new hires during their first months on the job. They play a substantial role in adjusting to life within your organization, and they jump-start the process of building a support system and a sense of belonging. The overarching goal should be to build trusting relationships and reiterate the company’s dedication to employee success.

Constantly Improve the Process

As with most things in life, we should always be looking for ways to improve our processes. Make it a habit to periodically review the onboarding process to ensure the information you’re providing is accurate and up to date. Ask yourself, are your new hires confused about where to go for information? Do they know who to contact for issues with their paycheck or their benefits? When looking to measure your onboarding strategy’s success or baseline, begin to send out short surveys at various intervals throughout the employee’s tenure. Aim for sending a survey to new hires after they’ve completed their first month on the job and follow it up with a stay survey once the employee hits six months to one year of service. Your onboarding survey should focus heavily on ease of integration into the company, whereas your stay surveys should focus on employee engagement factors. Analyze the data from survey responses to pinpoint strengths and areas for improvement.

As Gallup states, “If you don’t welcome new employees like rock stars, the experiential disappointment could start them off on an emotionally slippery slope, leading to low engagement and seeking out a new opportunity.” So put the effort into an effective onboarding program to get the results you desire: engaged and retained employees. Employers Council can help; give us a call.

About the author
Kimberly Barton, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Kimberly joined Employers Council in 2009 with over 14 years’ experience as a human resource director in the hospitality industry and for a nonprofit organization. Her specialized areas include human resource consultation, compensation, surveys, and special projects.