Employee onboarding is a great way to boost your employer brand, but it’s also a smart investment. When you look beyond the swag and team happy hours, these processes are about getting the most Return on Investment (ROI) possible from your recruiting budget. Let’s dive into why it’s important to delight your new employees.
Hiring is often one of the biggest challenges for a company. As those in HR and talent acquisition know, finding a candidate with the right skills takes time and money. In fact, SHRM found that on average companies take 42 days and spent around $4,129 to acquire new talent per open position. That’s no small investment!
After all that work, it’s important to do your best to train, retain and engage employees throughout the lifecycle of their time with the company. Onboarding can be a problem area for employee attrition. A study from BambooHR found that 33% of 1,000 professionals surveyed had quit a job in under six months. The top reason for these quick exits? A lack of onboarding.
Another survey from Glassdoor and Brandon Hall Group found that new hire retention can be improved by 82% and productivity by over 70% through stronger onboarding programs.
With these statistics in mind, we wanted to explore how talent acquisition experts are approaching onboarding as a strategic process. We talked with experts at Zenefits, SmartRecruiters, Lever, HigherMe, and here at Checkr for insight on how to optimize the new employee experience. Before we jump in, let’s cover some of the basics around onboarding.
Why should you plan for your employee’s first day?
The first day for a new hire should be all about making them feel comfortable. Start by sending the new hire basic information in advance so they know where to check-in and what to expect. At the same time, you can notify the office that there will be a new employee so that current employees know to say “hello” and introduce themselves.
While some paperwork and orientation activities will be necessary, use the bulk of the time you have with the new employee to focus on culture and personal connections. If you focus entirely on processes during the first day, the new hire will be overloaded with information and when they have questions down the line they won’t know who to reach out to for answers. Personal connections empower new hires in the long run.
What should your employee onboarding plan involve?
While employee onboarding should be consistent for all new hires you still want to maintain a personal approach for each individual job. To achieve this winning combination, you must balance all the elements of the hiring process without over-emphasizing one to the detriment of another. You can avoid this common mistake by creating a new hire checklist to help design your employee’s first day and beyond. This will help you keep your aim on the big picture. Below is a checklist you can use to ensure you provide a successful onboarding for your new hires.
✓ Logistics: Make time for the basics including paperwork to be completed, processes to be taught, equipment to be ordered, and information to be communicated in order for the new hires to perform their jobs.
✓ Delights: This looks different from place to place but could include a welcome package with the new hire’s favorite snacks or company swag.
✓ Connection: Introduce new hires to the company structure through personal relationships. Make sure they know their key stakeholders, organizational chart, and (of course) team members.
✓ Ways to win: You want new hires to feel successful from day one so that they are motivated to stay and make a big impact. Set some short-term goals that the employees can execute in their first days and weeks.
✓ Check-ins: Make time to check-in with your new hires after a week and a month. These down-the-line touchpoints show the new hires that the company truly cares about their experience. It’s also a great time to gather feedback on the process for future optimization.
Now that you have a firm grasp of new hire basics let’s move on to onboarding advice from our experts!
Experts weight in on best practices for new employee onboarding
- Let your new hire know what to expect.
Much of new hire stress comes from not knowing what to expect. The obvious way to reduce this nervousness is to give employees some basic info in advance, like directions, meeting schedule, and lunch plans. Danny Speros, Senior Director of People at Zenefits also suggests building in some personal time so the employee has a chance to reflect on the day’s learnings.
“Onboarding: Don’t make it awkward—no one likes surprises (well, except for swag), and no one wants to sit through eight hours of presentations. We help all of our new hires know what to expect on day one, from their schedule to a who’s who guide to the people they’ll interact with along the way. Perhaps most importantly, we build in a little ‘me’ time for them to take it all in, use their new equipment and peruse some curated content.”
- Prepare all the logistics in advance.
As the HR representative or recruiter liaison, you may be handing over the actual employee onboarding to the hiring manager. However, you still want to take it upon yourself to ensure the process will be run in a way that reflects your company culture. Run through your new hire checklist with the hiring manager to ensure nothing is forgotten. Arthur Yamamoto, VP of Talent at Checkr suggests meeting with your stakeholders in advance to discuss the basics.
“Be prepared. Nothing worse than ambiguity on your first day. Ensure the new hire has all the equipment they need on Day 1, and that their manager has created a schedule for their first few days. A clear plan on what they need to do, who they need to meet, and what they need to know in week one. Also, ensure time is set aside for new hires to get all of their administrative tasks done on day 1 (I-9 verification, benefits, etc).”
- Start communicating early.
Don’t wait until the new hire is in the building to begin onboarding. You can communicate with the new hire in advance so they can get to know the company culture and basic info before their first day. Sarah Wilson, VP of People at SmartRecruiters shares how she uses these early touchpoints for a smooth candidate to employee transition.
"We start communicating with our new hire the day they sign their offer. We send a flow of information to them—from tactical instructions to swag packages to a 'pump you up playlist'—through to their first day (and beyond)."
- Introduce the team in advance.
The biggest part of a new hire’s onboarding experience is getting to know their team. You can facilitate this process by making introductions on both sides. Caitlyn Metteer, Recruiting Lead at Lever, reminds you that it’s great to get creative by incorporating visuals and team personality into your correspondence.
“One of our favorite traditions for new hires is that we send them a welcome GIF of their team while also introducing them to the company via email prior to their first day. We want them to know just how excited we are for them to join the Lever team! We also provide a number of resources for new team members to prepare for their first day, so that they know what to expect on day one and make an impact right away.”
- Set the tone with a great first impression.
As the old saying goes: you only get one chance to make a good first impression. A new hire’s first day is just one day out of (hopefully) many, but it sets the tone for their employee experience. Imagine showing up on your first day of work and there’s no laptop for you to use or place for you to sit. You would feel anxious and confused. Heather Dolan, Customer Success Manager at HigherMe shares her approach to making sure new hires feel comfortable and productive from day one.
“It is important to be prepared and show the new hire that you put thought into how their first day and subsequent training was going to go. Have a schedule printed for them, and training materials for them to reference as they go. Explain to them what is going to happen that day and set expectations early, so they aren’t milling around or confused about where to go or what to do. As an HR Manager, I fully bought into the idea of Servant Leadership—meaning it was my job to serve each employee. This mentality was always extra helpful when onboarding new hires, because it reminded me that my entire job was to set them up for success. When I took care of the needs of my employees, the employees could focus on taking care of the customers.”
Final thoughts to help you boost your employee onboarding experience
One of the hardest parts of onboarding is keeping the process consistent. It’s difficult to make sure everyone gets an on-brand experience, especially when there are multiple stakeholders like team leads and hiring managers. That’s why it’s important to define your company-wide onboarding goals and check-in with stakeholders about their plans prior to the new hire’s first day. Not every team has to have the exact same process, but there should be general guidelines in place across the organization so all new hires experience a fairly consistent and overall welcoming onboarding.
At the end of the day, employee onboarding is a fun process to optimize as the positive effects are immediate. It’s great to see new hires find their footing and have an awesome first day. This is also a good chance to involve your long-standing employees—what do they wish they had known when they started? Or, what are common questions they get from team members? The information they have can make your process much more relevant and valuable to new hires. Happy onboarding!
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