SmartRecruiters Blog

Five Onboarding Best Practices New Hires Will Thank You For

Getting your new hires up to speed takes time, but without a positive onboarding experience, many employees lose interest. Here are five ways to keep up the momentum—and engagement—in those first few days.

So, you sent an offer letter, the candidate accepted, and now you’re ready to sit back and congratulate yourself for a job well done. Your bit isn’t over just yet. You’ve still got to onboard. For new hires, the first few days are hugely important to their future work performance, their job retention, and their overall satisfaction. Research conducted by IBM found that when employees have regrets about accepting a new job, they are three times as likely to leave. However, positive employee onboarding experiences can be a crucial first step for everyone you welcome into your organization.

But before you drop a payload of paperwork on your new hire all at once, here are five ways to maximize your onboarding, and keep new employees happy and excited about their career decision.

1. Start Onboarding Before Day One

This one sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many companies wait until the last minute—or the day of—to start onboarding a new hire. The fact is, the sooner you begin, the more up to speed your new employee will be before he or she starts. It’s important to consider your employer branding—if you’re giving new hires the silent treatment between the offer letter and their first day, you’re already sending them the wrong message. Personal touches like an email that walks them through their first day, a welcome pack with a personal note or card, or even a phone call from a manager, can help ease anxieties.

More pragmatically, the time before a new hire starts is prime to begin the dreaded paperwork process. No one wants to spend their first few hours, or days, sitting in HR working their way through a mountain of forms, so send them important documents such as employee handbooks, I-9s, payroll forms, and non-disclosure agreements beforehand. Even better, set up a portal that contains digital versions of important documents that employees can complete during downtime, or throughout the week, rather than in one long sitting.

2. Make the Process Cross-Departmental with Collaborative Onboarding

Pairing up your new hire with a seasoned employee to teach them the ropes is a tried-and-true method, but maybe it’s time to try a collaborative approach, which builds rapport with other teams much faster than one-on-one onboarding. It’s a challenge for any one department to know the answer to every question to arise during onboarding, so it makes sense to rely on each team for their area of expertise—HR knows compliance; management knows performance expectations; coworkers know the day-to-day, and IT knows how to get equipment up and running.

Social-media-manager app Buffer assigns every new employee three buddies during their onboarding—leader buddy, role buddy, and culture buddy—as a way to give “a variety of interactions within and outside of their core areas”. This allows them to see how their new role fits in with the larger company structure, and can lead the way to future collaborations between departments, especially if your new hire comes in with strong ideas for projects or improvement.

3. Arrange One-on-One Time with Direct Managers

According to a recent LinkedIn survey, which polled 14,000 global professionals about preferred onboarding techniques, 96 percent responded that spending one-to-one time with their direct manager is the most important aspect of their onboarding experience. Entry-level and veteran hires benefit from learning about their responsibilities and expectations, and it gives them an opportunity to lay a solid foundation for a key work relationship. Studies show that greater supervisor support in a new hire’s first 6–21 months result in greater job satisfaction, higher engagement, and quicker salary increase over time.

4. Set Expectations and Goals Early

Uncertainty about job expectations and performance goals is a new hire’s worst enemy, which is why steps like establishing a relationship between new employees and direct managers are crucial to a new employee’s success. According to LinkedIn’s survey, understanding performance goals was the second most important aspect of onboarding. Setting goals and communicating them at the outset allows new hires to evaluate their own progress during their first few months. A formal performance review will help keep new employees on target, and allow for any course correction early on.

It’s also important you listen to new hires’ understanding of the goals and expectations. Maintaining communication will encourage even the most timid of new hires to voice honest feedback about what is or isn’t working for them—and may point out problems in your organization you didn’t know were there. SHRM reports that 38 percent of employees felt that when leaders dismiss their ideas without entertaining them, they tend to lack initiative. Don’t underestimate or waste a fresh perspective by discouraging open communication and feedback.

5. Double-Down on Company Culture, Values, and Principles

Eighty-one percent of new hires fail due to a lack of cultural fit, so proactively broadcast your company’s culture by sharing content on the company’s social media channels, include new hires in meetings or events, or feature the company history in the employee welcome packet. Be sure that your company’s Employee Value Proposition, mission statement, and guiding principles are all aligned.

At Zappos, employees who complete the five-week course focused on the company’s culture and values are offered around $4,000 to quit if they feel like the culture is not the right fit for them. Why? The company knows that poor cultural fit will impact employee engagement and performance.

Turning new hires into lasting employees isn’t rocket science, but with a thoughtful approach to how you onboard, you can set up your organization—and your new coworkers—for both short- and long-term success