How to improve your employee onboarding process
Subscribe to our blog updates
Want to create a better experience for your new starters? Read our guide to creating a better employee onboarding process
Getting your onboarding process right is essential for making sure that your new hires are welcomed into your organisation, feel supported and valued during their first few weeks with you, and become productive members of your team more quickly.
Good onboarding also contributes to improved staff retention: employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding, according to one study. Further research that suggests up to 20% of staff turnover happens during individuals’ first 45 days with an organisation further reinforces the importance of getting this period right.
Ready to take your onboarding strategy to the next level? Read on for our helpful tips, then use our free new hire onboarding checklist to get your worker’s employment off to a good start.
1. Don’t wait for contracts to be signed to start thinking about onboarding
2. Prioritise the employee experience
3. Keep it simple (stupid)
4. Personalise the experience as much as possible
5. Get buy-in from across the organisation
6. Regularly review and refine how you onboard new people
7. Use specialist onboarding software to streamline the process and engage new starters
If you wait until a new employee signs on the dotted line before thinking about their onboarding experience, you’ve left it far too late to ensure their smooth transition into working at your organisation.
Every organisation needs a comprehensive onboarding strategy that can be customised for different locations (including onsite, hybrid, and remote workers), departments, teams and job roles as appropriate. You should regard your organisation as ‘onboarding’ a new hire from the moment they accept the job offer, right until the end of their induction period (which may be in line with your probation period).
There’s a lot that new starters can be getting on with in the period between accepting your offer and their first day. If you have a self-service portal as part of your HR system, you can give new starters access to a range of information and functions before day one, such as:
- The ability to input essential information, such as bank details, and training and qualification details
- The option to read and confirm acceptance of policies and documents
- Overview of the organisation: its history, culture and mission, using a mixture of text articles, pictures and videos
- Employee directory, with pictures of colleagues
- Copy of an induction plan
- Sitemap of your office
- Information about the local area, such as where to park or get lunch
- Links to internal social media channels such as Yammer and Slack
Understanding and improving the employee experience is vital for ensuring that great staff want to continue to work at your organisation.
As consulting firm Deloitte explained in its 2017 Human Capital Trends report, “Traditionally, HR has addressed issues such as employee engagement, culture, rewards, and learning and career development as separate, independent programs in individual silos… The employee sees the picture differently. Starting as potential hires and recruits, employees look at everything that happens at work as an integrated experience that impacts daily life in and outside the workplace, including overall physical, emotional, professional, and financial well-being… This integrated view increasingly leads to employees demanding a holistic, end-to-end – recruitment-to-retirement – experience from their employers”.
There are tangible gains to be made from focus on the employee experience: companies that invest in the employee experience are four time more profitable than those who don’t, according to an analysis of 250 organisations by Jacob Morgan in 2017.
The employee experience naturally starts with the point at which a person first engages with your organisation: the recruitment process. Onboarding is a key component; the benefits of a great recruitment experience could be nullified by a disorganised onboarding period, and might even cause the worker to leave your organisation before they can reap the rewards of all the hard work you’ve done in areas such as performance management and reward. A study published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2012 found that the first 90 days of a worker’s employment is pivotal to building rapport with the brand, senior leaders and colleagues. When support levels were high from the organisation, new employees often had more positive attitudes towards their job and were more productive, found the researchers.
So, think about onboarding and induction from the employee’s perspective: how did you feel when you arrived at the organisation? What aspects of the onboarding programme were helpful, and which weren’t? Consider surveying recent new starters to find out what they think of the existing process before scrapping it and starting again.
When you come to redesign your onboarding programme, think how you can make new hires feel more comfortable and supported at every step of the way. You may want to consider:
- Sharing employee success stories
- Arranging informal meetings with senior leaders
- Sharing interesting facts about the organisation and its history
- Sharing photos and videos about what it’s like to work there
- Arranging for the relevant team to take their new starter to lunch on their first day
Each person will approach their new role in a different way but, for many, it can be a time of anxiety and an overwhelming amount of information to absorb in a short period. That’s why it’s crucial you take things slowly and carefully pace the onboarding period.
Making sure the onboarding process contains only essential information and is easy to follow – without sacrificing its quality or effectiveness – not only improves the employee experience but also reduces the administrative burden on HR teams. A confusing, overly complex onboarding process will give employees a negative impression of your organisation.
Every aspect of the process should benefit either the new hire, you as the employer or, preferably, both of you. How you achieve this is up to you – but the experience should not be clouded with non-beneficial content or additional steps that provide no value.
The entire onboarding programme should be well-coordinated, motivating and inspiring. It should include individual meetings with managers about personal development goals and performance objectives, so personal goals and objectives are aligned with organisational ones from day one.
HR teams should bear in mind that they may need to upskill or provide additional support to line managers who are new to supporting staff during their onboarding phase.
While you’ll want to create an onboarding programme that is broadly the same for each new starter – covering IT setup; orientation; and organisational values, strategy and culture, for example – the most crucial elements will be tailored to the division, department or team the new employee will be working in. These might include:
- Learning that is specific to that role, function or department, and is suited to the employee’s learning style
- Policies and HR documentation
- Objectives, goals and performance management
- Reward and benefits information, which may differ by seniority level
- Start times and remote working arrangements
- Safety information and procedures
A personalised experience will not only make the new starter feel more valued and better supported, it’s also likely to be more effective than a standardised induction programme.
Getting a new starter up to speed required a significant investment of time and energy not only from their team, their line manager, and the HR department, but also from colleagues in the wider organisation. Senior leaders should understand why it’s important they take time to greet or meet with new employees; to explain how their role fits into the wider organisational structure, and contributes to your overarching mission and goals. That requires you to encourage and promote a collaborative culture; one where staff are happy to share their time and expertise with new colleagues. You may even want to set up an internal network of mentors who are on hand to provide extra support and insight for new hires.
Every time someone new joins your organisation, you have an opportunity to learn what works in your onboarding process, and identify aspects that need further refinement.
Remember, different people will have different expectations around their onboarding, and will experience the same process in different ways. The more data and evidence you collect, the more sophisticated and intelligent you can be in your refinement of your organisation’s processes. Asking for feedback early on in an employee’s time with you will help to establish you as a transparent employer that listens to feedback.
Some questions you could ask new hires as part of an anonymous engagement survey, or end-of-induction review meeting, could include:
- What was your overall experience of the onboarding process?
- What was the most helpful or effective part of the programme?
- What one thing would you change or want to see improved?
- Was the organisational culture accurately reflected by our onboarding approach and content?
- Was there anything missing from the process that would have made your first few days and weeks easier?
- What did you like most/least about the process?
Specialist onboarding software such as Ciphr Onboarding gives new starters access to vital information ahead of their first day, and, when linkedin with your central HR system, enables them to complete tasks – such as training and administrative activities – before their first day. Not only does this help to enage them with your organisation, it also speeds up the time it takes to help them become a productive member of your team, ultimately contributing towards long-term retention.
This article was first published in October 2016. It was updated in October 2018 and July 2022 for freshness, clarity and accuracy.
Want to improve your onboarding process to reduce HR time on administration and create a better experience for your new hires? Speak to one of our experts to find out how Ciphr’s integrated HR, recruitment and onboarding solutions can help