The Importance of a Positive Onboarding Experience

Building a strong relationship with employees begins with the onboarding process. Although employee onboarding can start before a new hire enters the door and typically takes place alongside training, elements of your onboarding program should ideally continue even after initial training and orientation end. While your candidate experience – i.e., everything that happens during the application and interview processes – certainly has a significant impact on how your company is viewed by potential employees, onboarding is the first taste a new hire will have of how your company truly operates.

A successful onboarding process increases your chances of turning your new employee into a productive and loyal team player that much faster. By contrast, if your company doesn’t manage onboarding well – for example, rushing through it in a hurry to get the new hire working at the pace and experience level of a veteran – you may soon find yourself looking for a replacement. That will cost you valuable time and money. As the Society for Human Resource Management pointed out, you can blow as much as $240,000 on tracking and hiring a new worker whom you put through subpar onboarding, causing that employee to leave prematurely.

Here are several key objectives that every onboarding process should include:

Cover the basics right away

Citing research from Google’s analytics team, LinkedIn noted that the simple act of establishing a reminder email or alert for a hiring manager, advising them to set up a first-day agenda before a new hire arrives, can help novice staff get up to speed on the essentials of their new roles 25% faster. An in-depth discussion of roles and responsibilities is key here, as is establishing a check-in schedule to periodically find out how a new employee is doing over their first several months.

Simple as this may seem, it’s what start dates are for: You cross t’s and dot i’s related to what a new hire’s position entails and what’s expected of them as members of your organization (i.e., within the corporate culture; more on this below). Last but not least, get any legal paperwork (W-2s, I-9s, payroll setup, benefit enrollment, contract signing, NDAs) taken care of as soon as possible. Not just for compliance purposes, but also so there’s more room in this first day for more substantive discussions about what it means to be part of the team.  An integrated HR platform with onboarding capabilities can streamline all necessary new-hire paperwork so you and your brand-new employee don’t have to waste a lot of time on that task on day one. Instead, the new hire can focus on getting acquainted with the company’s culture and values.

Onboarding is important for the establishment of a good employer-employee relationship.Onboarding is important for the establishment of a good employer-employee relationship.

Sell them on the company culture

Culture means something different to every organization, but one consistent truth is that employees who don’t respect or support the culture won’t last.

Onboarding is a perfect opportunity to clearly communicate the key tenets of your company culture. Providing a brief history of the business, its founders and its leaders can help a new employee understand the roots of the organization’s unique culture, which is a key step toward accepting and embracing it.

Making room in your orientation and onboarding programs for this kind of culture briefing – or having your new team member meet with a tenured employee who can add color and perspective to the company’s background and values – can have a long-lasting impact. It may also be valuable to use this meeting as an opportunity to assign a mentor for the new hire.

Develop realistic expectations

Setting accurate performance expectations for new employees is key. Based on what you’ve learned through the hiring process, you know the breadth of your new staff member’s experience. So you should be able to determine what they can manage right away and what practices or tools will require more time and effort to master.

If a new staff member stumbles a bit in the beginning despite possessing the right skills, cut them a little slack. Help the employee determine where the breakdown is occurring and make sure to explain how your organization may tackle similar processes they have performed differently in the past. And don’t forget to explain why you do things differently – this is an opportunity to showcase your organization’s strengths and reinforce culture. Your new employee can use that feedback to improve themselves and learn more about how your business operates at the same time.

Don’t move at light speed

When you’re hiring to fill an immediate need, it can be tempting to train an employee quickly. If you move too fast, however, this approach can backfire. Forcing people to consume information at a rapid pace doesn’t help them retain it. In fact, it can have the opposite effect, increasing their chances of forgetting valuable principles and practices and leading to costly mistakes down the line.

According to HR Daily Advisor, the ideal onboarding experience should unfold over several months – and some firms stretch it out over the course of a year. Something that long might not be viable for your company, but a few months (about 90 days) should be doable. The first three months typically represent something of a “grace period,” which is typically the time frame during which new employees decide if they will stick it out or head back to the job-posting websites. So be sure to make the most of every moment.

Leveraging technology for better onboarding

Managing the onboarding priorities described above with out-of-date tools and excessively paper-centric processes can slow everything down. New hires quickly notice sluggishness and inefficiency: If they see your organization as a bureaucracy rather than a modern organization, that can be a major impediment to effective onboarding.

An agile HRIS makes it possible not only to enhance the onboarding experience, but also to simplify and accelerate so much of the overall HR cycle. Centralizing HR operations this way creates an undeniable efficiency that provides team members with the time they need to focus on strategic operations for improving the workforce.