Human Resources
 min read

11 Employee Onboarding Best Practices

11 employee onboarding best practices to make it easier for them to adapt to the business by sharing information about the business, dress code, processes, and people they will be working with.

Imagine yourself pushed into a maze. That’s exactly what it’s like starting out in a new place. New hires might be familiar with the company, given the first few rounds of interviews, but still, it essentially makes for ‘an unfamiliar territory’ for the most part. While there are many ways to make it a little easier for them, here are a few practices that work, making the onboarding process less awkward and more efficient:

Start ahead of the first day

Warm the new hires up before their first day. Share information and counsel them about the business, dress code, processes, and people they will be working with. This will give them a good idea of what to expect and make their first day seamless.

At USC, onboarding preparation begins well before the first day. You should add a similar sort of plan into your onboarding program, too. See the details on their page:

Make the welcome warm and personal

For most of us, starting out in a new place is always a little daunting. The unknown gives an unfriendly pretext, and it’s just naturally uncomfortable. We all know how important first impressions are, and so the pressure to charm becomes high, especially on the new hire’s end.

Making the welcome, on the first day, a little warm and personal always helps. It eases the formality and encourages the new hires to be themselves. This could a be a little note on how you found their profile interesting and are looking forward to seeing them.

This is a practice used by Fortune 500 companies. Here’s an employee sharing a similar experience at the renowned Duke University. It works to make the transition smooth, always.

Keep it easy; focus on the relationship

New experiences are exhausting for most people. It is best to keep onboarding as easy and straightforward as possible. Try not to go into too many details at the start. Chances are they won’t understand them anyway, and it might distract them from more important things. Keep it easy, focus on the relationship and try to build a good rapport. Let them figure out the details. If your relationship is good, they’ll come back to you with questions. Most people fail to understand that it’s really about making relationships. The better yours is with your team, the better you will be as a team.

At Buffer, they have a group of three “Buddies” who play different roles in their six-week onboarding ‘bootcamp experience’; a Leader Buddy, a Role Buddy, and a Culture Buddy.

New hires are introduced to these buddies before day one, and they help guide them through the ‘bootcamp experience’ with regular communication and check-ins.

Take them on a smart company tour

The halls you spent years in are all foreign to them. They don’t know where the store is or where people smoke. Show them everything they need to know. If your firm is large, plan and time a tour. Don’t just show the places that they could have seen on their own; give them the insights and history as well. Not only will this make it memorable, but it will help them connect with others when they discuss the old times or former colleagues.

Make the tour smarter by introducing them briefly to key personnel. That may just be a name exchange and what they do. You might assume your new hire would know a thing or two about the general work attitude, but that’s not always the case. Every office has its own conventions. Tell them those little things while on tour. It’ll make the transition easy.

According to this article by trysapling, Twitter, on the first day for new team members, throws a breakfast with the CEO followed by a tour of the company office, before they group for tools and roles training.

Gift and have some fun

Any company is bound to give some stationery and things to their new hires, depending on their role. Why not present some of it as a gift? That not only makes it personal, but highly active and memorable. It could be as simple as a pen or a notebook with a welcome note. In all, the process should be fun and exciting. Start their job right by making onboarding engaging and entertaining. They’ll appreciate the lighthearted spirit.

Find more tips in this piece by ADP Voice

This is a practice in use by all major tech companies. They say before the new talent is in, a gift, be it a shirt, bottle of wine, pen, diary etc., sits and waits at their desk. A great way to make a great employer impression.

Organize, plan and be clear

Every company has its own way of doing things, and we become so used to it, we don’t really see the need to organize it before sharing with new team members. Do not make this mistake! Learn to put yourself in their shoes. They need it all from scratch, and if it’s not in pieces that add up easily, they will be lost and confused for a long time. The best approach would be to make a list of things they will need to do to get started. This could be setting up a computer login, official email, etc. Add the names and contact numbers of the personnel they will need to get in touch with to get these things on the list done. Walk them through it once, before leaving them to figure things out.

One of the biggest hurdles during the onboarding experience is simply information overload. There’s so much to learn and experience that it can be very overwhelming to bring it all together. In order to make the process simpler, onboarding should ideally be clearly scheduled and tailored to suit the individual.

Have a written plan

Even if your business only has a few employees, it helps to have a written plan for your onboarding process. Take the time to write out exactly what you want to include and exclude. You can always add to it or adjust it over time. This way, you’ll have something concrete to follow, no matter how busy you are that day or who is handling the process. It will also give you a framework to improve upon as you learn which parts of your process are ineffective.

Assign a mentor

A classic mentorship program always helps new hires build confidence, perform better and get a clear understanding of team play from the onset. There's nothing like guidance from a seasoned employee to help climb and become familiar with the inner workings of an organization. We all have questions at times that we feel reluctant to ask, or need to confide in people we can trust. A mentor can play this part and ensure the new hire shines with his/her real potential.

At Quora, personal mentors are assigned to each new hire. Understanding the benefit of prioritizing new hires, Quora respects that mentors lose around 25% of personal output during the first weeks of training.

One day at a time

Don’t scare the new hires by throwing them to the wolves their first day. It’s tempting to get your employees trained and ready to work as quickly as possible for productivity reasons, but it can also backfire and demotivate or scare them to quit. It’s always better to give them a chance to warm up to their environment.

Introduce things one at a time, and give them some breathing room. Don’t exhaust them unless you want them to leave. If the new hire is taking more time than you allocated, then increase it to make space. Don’t be too quick to judge. Some of the most talented professionals may take time to adjust, and that’s fine.

Measure progress

While they are new to the company, they are still employees and should be held accountable for their actions – including engaging in the onboarding process. You can allow some leeway, but having a standardized metrics system in place will allow you to assess a hire’s progress, as well as examine the process itself, in case it needs to be modified. By holding them accountable, you’ll set the bar for being responsible. Be sure to make this a nudging mechanism. You don’t want to push too hard, which could lower their spirits. Make room or extend deadlines where possible. When you do this, explain and encourage them positively. Some people take time to get the hang of a new environment. Always give them the benefit of the doubt. That’s why it’s called onboarding.

At LinkedIn, new employees are given a ‘New Hire Onboarding Roadmap’ – designed to help their transition into the company. It’s a week-by-week guide that supports them to be productive and successful in their new role. Linked in

Provide an opportunity to share new ideas or knowledge

New hires know absolutely nothing about the way your company functions, and they may be able to look at things with a fresh new perspective. Use this opportunity to gain new insights. Encourage them to question accepted procedures and suggest improvements. This will excite them and boost their confidence. They might also have different skills and knowledge if they are coming from different backgrounds. Urge them to share this with colleagues in your office. This might be software skills or general subject knowledge (like an understanding of color theory and its effects) that might help existing employees do better. These sessions will also help develop rapport and build relationships, which are extremely vital for any successful workplace.

At Google, instead of having the usual onboarding talks and presentations, the philosophy of the training program is to give the new team members the tools they need for practical work. This shows that the company trusts in their new hires and will give them autonomy to create their own work early.

Get feedback

Much of the onboarding process is about conveying information to the new hire in a one-sided conversation. However, it’s important that you spend at least some time opening a casual dialogue. Give your new hires a chance to make comments and ask questions during the onboarding process. Be fair to explain or address them. Not only will this help you clarify some points of confusion, but it will also demonstrate that you care about them. That way they aren’t just being pushed through an onboarding assembly line.

Google has also led the charge to measure results with real data from their onboarding initiatives. Even though slightly different onboarding processes are happening within various teams, part of the Google approach is to use data and experiments to continually improve the process.

Jose Leon
Verified writer

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