Tailor your onboarding process to the employee
Many companies view their onboarding with company eyes and focus on what they want to get from the experience.
While this isn't wrong, slipping into your employees’ shoes is important. They’ve just uprooted their lives and made a significant career adjustment to come and work for you. How can you make them feel welcome and included? And what can you tell them about how your organisation operates?
Asking these questions already shifts the focus away from a company-centric onboarding process, instead honing in on the employee.
Next, figure out what your current employees think of your onboarding process. An easy way to do this is to run an employee survey or set up meetings with new employees who’ve passed their probation recently or are being onboarded.
Ask them the following questions:
- What do you like about our onboarding and why?
- What do you dislike and why?
- On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with your onboarding experience?
Use these insights to understand what you’re doing well and what needs to change.
Make a case for improving your onboarding
Numbers never lie. Most managers know the cost of recruitment— including how much money the company wastes when an employee walks out before the first year. Poor onboarding is a major cause of employee turnover, costing a company 100-300% of the employee’s total salary.
The surest way to get buy-in from stakeholders and the leadership team is to make them understand the benefits of employee onboarding.
Understand what new employees want and value
For the employee, changing their job is often a life-altering decision. From the company’s side, you spend a lot of money on recruitment and employer branding. How can you create a frictionless onboarding journey for employees and make them feel included and confident with their new position and the organisation?
The first step is to understand what it is your employees value.
According to research, new starters find the following factors critical to their onboarding experience:
- Longer and more structured onboarding
- Clear goals and measures for what success is
- Personal support throughout the onboarding journey, not just a set schedule
- Managers must play an active role
- Opportunities to form workplace relations with peers, stakeholders, and managers
- Mentorship opportunities and performance coaching
- Pre-boarding efforts to feel welcome
- Scheduled time for feedback and follow up
Setting clear goals and measures for what success looks like in the role will enable you to determine whether your new hire is worthwhile. It's also an opportunity for employees to show what they're learning in the role and their development areas.
How to improve your employee onboarding
The keys to onboarding success lie in the following steps:
- Document and evaluate your current process
- Foster relationships between new starters and the leadership team
- Invest in mentorship opportunities
- Implement a pre-boarding phase
- Treat employee onboarding as a long-term game
Step 1: Document and evaluate your current onboarding process
Start by going through your onboarding objectives. Have you clearly explained organisational policies, values, and role expectations? What happens after an employee has completed onboarding?
Once you’ve created a list of goals that make sense for your company, the next step is deciding what success looks like. Some metrics to keep track of include the percentage of new hires still with you after a year, and qualitative metrics like feedback from new hires about their onboarding experience.
Step 2: Foster workplace relationships
Employees are more than three times as likely to love their onboarding experience when managers are active in the process. That shows just how important it is to shape your onboarding around workplace relationships.
How to cultivate manager-employee relations:
- Provide opportunities for the new employee, team, and manager to mingle. For instance, organise a lunch and greet within the new starter’s first week at work
- Organise a team-building social activity within the employee’s first month
- Set up recurring weekly meetings between the new starter and the manager. Treat this time as sacred, where the manager and new employee can bond, discuss the role, and flag issues in a safe, confidential space
- Invite the new employee to company-wide leadership meetings
Step 3: Provide mentorship opportunities
Investing in mentorship doesn’t have to be pricey, especially if your budget is tight. A convenient and cost-friendly way to make new employees feel valued is to assign them a mentor or co-buddy. This co-buddy is on hand to answer any questions or concerns the employee may have and set up weekly or fortnightly coffee chats (either face-to-face or virtually).
This will give your new hire the best shot to succeed in their new working environment and provide them with some comfort in knowing they have a buddy they can turn to, no matter how silly the question may seem!
Stina Hauschildt, CEO of EasyHR, shares her tips on getting co-workers onboard with the mentorship idea:
Step 4: Pre-boarding
If inspiring employee loyalty and excitement is important to you, then pre-boarding is essential. Employees need to feel welcome before they start.
Actionable tips for setting up your pre-boarding:
- Send a warm welcome email before the employee's start date, letting them know how excited you are that they're joining
- Offer a sustainable starter kit like a branded goodie bag, water bottle, laptop bag, etc.
- Send some inspirational employee stories to showcase your employer branding and keep new employees motivated before they start
Extra tip: Don't just talk about your culture; show the how! How do you live the culture? What do your values actually mean?
As Stina Hauschildt, CEO of EasyHR notes:
Step 4: Consider the long-term structure
On average, the onboarding process lasts 90 days. But it takes up to a year for an employee to feel entirely comfortable and secure in the role. Mapping out what a successful onboarding experience looks like long-term is critical.
Think of your onboarding as an evolving journey where the new employee slowly gets settled into the role, gets to know their colleagues, and sees what your organisation stands for. Instead of creating a tedious box-ticking process, treat your onboarding as a collaborative effort between employees, managers, and HR, helping the new-starter ease into the role with confidence and clarity.
We’ve covered a lot of ground here. Let’s quickly recap on how to revamp your onboarding process:
- Keep an eye on what your employees currently think of your onboarding-Use these insights to fuel your onboarding strategy going forward.
- Start forming goals and success metrics- Know what’s working and what’s not so you can measure success.
- Personalise your onboarding- We are humans, and our new employees are essential. Show every new employee that walks through the door that’s the case.
To wrap up
When organisations struggle to keep talent, creating a powerful onboarding process for new employees is vital. Not only will it signal that you value your employees, but it will also make new starters feel like their input matters in the organisation, cultivating an inclusive environment that retains talent long-term.