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All About Employee Onboarding: What It Is and How to Do It Well

All About Employee Onboarding: What It Is and How to Do It Well

If you’re a leader looking to up-level your company onboarding experience, here are some solid ways to do it.

Far before GPS and the navigation apps on your smartphone, you had to rely on handwritten directions or maps to get from one place to another. Per the former, you hoped the person doling out instructions knew the area well enough (and had nice writing) to direct you where you needed to go. Otherwise, you were in for a headache and lots of stops at gas stations along the way to find out how to get where you were supposed to go.

Employee onboarding is kind of like that: It helps guide new hires during their early days at your company. A policy and strategy for onboarding could mean the difference between an automatically updated map and someone handing you a napkin with chicken scratch on it.

Regardless of the role or level of experience, you should have an onboarding policy for all new employees on your team.

If you’re a leader looking to up-level your company onboarding experience, here are some solid ways to do it. We’ll cover some onboarding basics and — most importantly — how to onboard well.

Why You Need to Care About Employee Onboarding

Workers around the globe feel empowered to make a change. Talks of “The Great Resignation” — employees who, after working remotely for most of 2020, are reevaluating their work situation and considering leaving their current companies — are ramping up.

The Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation conducted a poll, and 42 per cent of employees responded that they’re thinking about changing their job or whole career within the next year, according to CityNews. Workers want better compensation, flexible schedules, hybrid or completely remote offices, and clear advancement opportunities — and the scales have tipped in their favor like never before.

The common theme? Employees want to feel supported to do their best work. Not only is a solid onboarding process a sign of support, but it is also statistically proven to improve retention. Your onboarding procedures can help you attract and retain top talent.

Whether you’re looking to finesse onboarding for new hires or improve your current system to better serve all employees, you should take it seriously for the long-term health of your organization. Here’s what you need to know.

Employee Onboarding vs. Employee Training: What’s the Difference?

It’s important to note that onboarding is different from training. While both are important for a functional work environment, each one serves a distinct purpose.

Employee Onboarding

Onboarding introduces a worker to the company at large: the leadership, their teammates, and the culture. Companies dedicate anywhere from a couple hours in one day to several months to onboard new hires.

Initial onboarding typically entails reviewing important documents and the company handbook, touring the office layout if they work in one, and meeting with key leaders and team members. Some companies implement content — such as an email or a video series, or an interactive new-hire checklist — to touch on prime onboarding items, too. Many workplaces use this opportunity to treat new employees to coffee or lunch and swag items on their first day to foster a sense of community early on.

Companies that stagger their onboarding may establish checkpoints throughout the year. For example, HR might set up 30-, 60-, and 90-day check-ins to make sure a hire is engaged and getting the support they need to flourish in their role. This can also be an opportunity for newer employees to share career goals and provide valuable feedback on their onboarding experience.

Employee Training

Training covers what a worker needs to do their job. This includes going over on-the-job procedures, getting them set up on software and with technology, reviewing their tasks, and covering any other item that will help set them up for success.

Basically, you teach employees how to handle and complete the day-to-day duties of being on the job.

Employee onboarding and employee training are essential components of an efficient workplace. While some of these points may seem obvious to your organization, remember that you’re already on the inside; companies everywhere manage jobs and processes differently.

By creating and implementing uniform procedures at your company, you set a standard for everyone to follow.

3 Big Reasons Why Companies Should Value Employee Onboarding

Here are three of the main ways you can cultivate success for your business and your employees with onboarding.

1. You Set Expectations

When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Hiring a new employee without a roadmap — for them and the organization — makes measuring progress toward goals difficult to track. It also puts undue pressure on both parties.

With a clear onboarding strategy, you do everyone a favour by setting clear expectations. There’s no confusion on:

  • What a completed job looks like

  • How often their performance will be evaluated

  • What a path to promotion looks like

  • Where they fit in the overall company

  • What kind of support they can expect from their peers, leaders, and the company

This level of preparation can create feelings of empowerment and help new employees transition into their roles smoothly.

2. You Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Starting a new job is often a major life change. For employees who leave one job and begin a new one right away, they may be a little burned out or even unintentionally carrying over some feelings from a past employer.

Avoid putting them in a situation where they have to navigate a new organization on their own. This will cut down on their new-job jitters and stress load, and helps create an environment where employees are more likely to perform at their best and stay at the company longer. As an added bonus, high employee retention rates are better for your budget, as high turnover can cost you thousands of dollars per employee.

3. You Empower New Employees

When onboarding is done right, you introduce hires to the company culture, provide them with resources to grow into their role, and give them the tools they need to succeed. This doesn’t just make for an efficient organization: It lays the groundwork for an employee to feel incentivized to stick around. Engaged employees are good for your bottom line, and they’re also good for morale.

Tips to Improve Your Employee Onboarding

Here are a few solid ways to kick off your efforts.

Get a team together.

Determine who the key stakeholders are for putting together your company onboarding policy. Typically, this includes HR, hiring managers, and may include input from members of the C-suite or other company leaders.

Brainstorm ideas.

Decide what you want onboarding to include. For instance, maybe you don’t have the budget for swag, and gifting new hires a teddy bear wearing a company t-shirt isn’t going to make the cut this year; that’s fine. Identify the must-haves, such as:

  • An overview of the company history, mission, values, and vision

  • A copy of the employee handbook

  • Information on what new hires can expect on their first day

  • Notice of any mandatory trainings or meetings they’ll need to attend within the first few days

Additionally, and importantly, make sure your process abides by nationally mandated regulations for new employees.

Think about what makes your company stand out, especially compared to the competition. If you pride yourself on being an eco-friendly company with a focus on sustainability, for example, find ways to highlight that. Maybe that swag bear from earlier could be a plantable-seed bookmark instead.

Design how it will look.

Figure out what onboarding will look like and how long it will last.

  • Will it look different based on the new hire’s role? Or will it be the same across the board, from interns to senior managers?

  • Do you want it to be self-led via an online program, or do you want to appoint a committee within the company to show new hires the ropes?

  • Should it last one full day or longer? Or, depending on your company, do you want to put a six-month plan in place?

  • Do you want to include a mix of all of the above?

There are no right or wrong answers for your organization. Make a decision, and then you can revisit it and modify your onboarding as needed down the line.

Outline goals.

You should structure your onboarding so there are clear outcomes. For example, you may have different goals for the first day of onboarding versus the first week of it. Put these expectations in writing so everyone is aware of them and so they can be tracked accurately.

Gather feedback.

Organize a check-in — and the opportunity to speak freely and honestly — for new employees who have completed onboarding. Ask what they liked and didn’t like about it and why. Collect the data so you can improve onboarding for future employees.

It’s Never Too Late to Kickstart or Enhance Your Onboarding Process

If your employee onboarding needs a tune up, now’s a great time to put a plan together. Many people are looking for jobs and expanding their reach globally — maybe for the first time ever. You suddenly have access to top-tier talent who could be looking to make a move, especially if your company has put in the work to successfully recruit them.

Attract, engage, and keep your talented employees, and be intentional about how you do it. Employee onboarding is a major step in improving that entire process.

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