Even though it takes time, effort, and dedication to make onboarding a smooth experience for new employees, it’s also a very rewarding and exciting time for your business. Introducing your staff to your business story means building a tight-knit group who share your vision and are dedicated to helping you achieve your dreams.
Why onboarding matters
So you’ve hired an employee—what comes next?
Onboarding isn’t just about going through the motions—it’s a pivotal time in your employees’ experience when they can learn about the ins and outs of the company, set expectations and benchmarks, and get to know their team. Not only does a strong onboarding experience create a welcoming environment for your new employees, but it gives you the opportunity to kickstart productivity and increase retention too.
Here are our key onboarding tips for you as you welcome new members to your team.
1. Identify the onboarding type
It’s important to think certain elements through before your new hires’ first day. Start with choosing your onboarding style: Will it be informal and unstructured? Will you have a standardized process across all employees and teams? Or will it fall somewhere in the middle?
It can help to have a solid outline in place. Implementing clear steps means that the program is predictable, manageable, and consistent. If you’re confident in the process, your new employees will be too.
2. Identify new employees needs
To create the most effective onboarding plan, start by listing employee needs, from the general to the specific. They should guide you along the way as you’re building out the program, from the first greeting to the final training. At the very least, onboarding should serve to answer questions before they arise and to provide resources for employees as they get used to their work environment.
Take this time to break down basic requirements of the job, clarify the structure of the organization, describe the company culture, and establish the key players who’ll be working with the new hire day to day.
3. Prepare the first day
When your new hire comes in, all the necessary onboarding elements should be ready. Have a job description on hand, as well as a list of upcoming projects and goals. Set up the employee’s work station and grant them access to the necessary tools, accounts, and resources they need. Paperwork like the employee handbook, tax documentation, and direct deposit forms should be available to sign.
Basic compliance conversations should be conducted, and any required tests should be performed. Have a checklist available so you can efficiently complete these tasks and create more time for the activities that are unique to your company.
If you’re not the new hire’s direct supervisor, work together to create a tailored experience. On the first day, the employee should feel valued and productive, which means learning job-specific information, meeting the team, and getting settled in. The sooner you can answer any general compliance-related questions, the more meaningful you can make the first day.
4. Introduce the company culture
A job isn’t just a sequence of tasks—it’s about the everyday interactions that make a strong team. That’s why company culture should be top of mind when you’re creating your onboarding program. When employees embrace the company’s purpose, mission, and vision, they can step back and appreciate the bigger picture. Once they’ve gotten used to the company’s dynamic, they’ll be more comfortable in the work environment and feel at home.
At this point in the onboarding process, clarifying your priorities as a team and a company can give the new hire a clear picture of what it means to work with you. It might take some time to condense all your thoughts and observations about your business, but thinking through the key characteristics can be a great reminder for yourself and the team about what you really stand for.
5. Encourage and facilitate connection
Building relationships with co-workers is a critical part of any position, and your job is to facilitate those interactions. That way, new employees can begin to make meaningful connections that help build loyalty and increase retention.
Onboarding should be a process for welcoming the employee and providing key information about what it’s like to work at your company, not just about day-to-day responsibilities. This can be a good opportunity to take a step back and allow new hires to make introductions on their own so that the relationships they form come naturally.
For example, shadowing is a great way to give seasoned employees the chance to show new hires the ropes and create a more seamless transition.
6. Set milestones for new employees
To measure the success of your onboarding program, it can help to set milestones so that not only do employees have clear expectations, but you have confidence in the process. Implementing key benchmarks will also give you the chance to check in and assess performance over time.
There won’t be any surprises–you’ll have a predetermined schedule to follow that your employees can use for their reference.
Within the first week, make sure you assign a meaningful project to the new hire. Fostering a sense of purpose and direction can help you start off on the right foot, and the employee will be given a significant responsibility to manage. Don’t leave new hires on their own though—be available to provide guidance, answer questions, and identify the key resources they need to succeed. With strong connections in the workplace, new hires will be able to collaborate and solve problems together, but make sure you’re present to support them along the way.
7. Measure long-term employee growth
What does a successful first month, quarter, or year mean to you? This will depend on your defined benchmarks and expectations. No matter how you’ve decided to break projects up into actionable steps, ensure that your new hire is on the same page. This will help team members prioritize tasks and perform at their highest level. If you’re not aligned on the big picture, you might find a mismatch between your expectations and the results you receive.
This is where regular check-ins come in to play. With open lines of communication, everyone on the team will be up to date on company development and have the opportunity to pitch ideas, ask questions, and provide feedback that can help you take your business to the next level.
You’ve put in the work to bring on the right people—now it’s up to you to make their experience joining your team as smooth, fun, and informative as possible. As you’re building your onboarding program, you’ll have the chance to highlight the qualities that make your company unique and to identify the key resources your team needs to succeed.
For more helpful tips and expert recommendations, visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog. You’ll find articles, videos, infographics, and more that can help you learn more about the ins and outs of small business. Search for “Employee Management” for more info on people operations and recruiting efforts.