6 Ways to Deliver the Best Onboarding Experience for New Hires

We’ve all had our fair share of good and bad onboarding experiences at companies. 

Our first impressions working at the company, that is., the onboarding experience we have, can heavily influence how we feel about the company and how effective we’ll be at our jobs. 

In those initial days, we’ve already made up our minds on whether the company’s worth your sticking around. If you look at the top reasons why people leave, bad onboarding processes make it to the top five. Yet, many companies drop the ball the moment they sign on great talent. 

When your best people start leaving, it takes a toll on your business costs, which directly impacts your revenue. ess. For instance, some studies predict that every time a company needs to find a replacement, it can cost the company at least six months’ worth of pay. 

For a manager making $40,000 a year, six to nine months’ pay is $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.” – PeopleKeep on the real cost of losing an employee

Money
The cost of talent attrition on business. Image courtesy: SHRM

What can companies do to retain their best talent? 

Start by analyzing the existing onboarding processes. The consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) lists onboarding as one of the 22 HR activities that have the highest impact on business growth.

Economic influence
Onboarding is second in the list of HR activities that drive business value. Image courtesy: BCG

Right from the moment you send a candidate an offer, here are six things you can do to reimagine the onboarding experience

1. Deliver a delightful experience

From a sheer tactical standpoint, you’re never going to have the same opportunity to impact people that you do on their first day. Everyone’s feeling great and psyched to be there, they’re willing to sign their lives away. You have to be organized enough to make them feel even more awesome and reaffirm their choices.” – Carly Guthrie on employee onboarding

That’s why your onboarding experience cannot be an afterthought. It should be your core focus and an integral part of how your company operates. 

For an onboarding experience to be delightful, it should start even before the employee officially joins your company. 

HelpScout achieves this by sending a welcome email campaign two weeks before the employee officially starts working. Their four-part campaign includes:

  1. A welcome message
  2. HelpScout values
  3. Quick check-ins 
  4. Remote work tips

Even small gestures such as setting up someone’s workstation, system login credentials, and a clear briefing of job duties help enhance a new employee’s Day 1 at work. 

2. Document the entire onboarding process    

People read faster than they listen. 

Also, if you forget something, you can always go back to the document and revisit the concept. That’s why you should document the entire onboarding process as it simplifies everything not just for the new hires but also for their managers. 

In times of lockdown and remote work, documentation is more important than ever for a smooth virtual onboarding experience.

Besides, when the documentation is meticulous, it also takes care of any gaps in context or knowledge exchange. So even if the current hiring manager leaves your company, their knowledge and approach are safely documented. Documentation is available 24*7, whereas people aren’t.

How you document the onboarding process is completely up to you. Percolate uses an 18-page Day 1 document covering the company’s history, culture, values, and practical advice on effective meetings or strong passwords. 

Others like Trello use an onboarding template that includes step-by-step instructions on activities for the first week and month.

The template that Trello uses to document its onboarding processes. Image courtesy: Trello

Lastly, companies like LinkedIn use a different approach by documenting the onboarding schedule to make the remote onboarding experience easier and smoother.

LinkedIn’s remote onboarding experience documentation. Image courtesy: LinkedIn

No matter the format, make sure that your documentation covers all the essential information a new hire needs to get started. 

3. Add a personal touch

Onboarding isn’t just the responsibility of a manager or a recruiter, but everybody. Even small, thoughtful gestures (i.e., personal touches) such as everyone in the team knowing the names and roles of the new employees can earn a lot of brownie points. 

Another simple gesture is pairing the new hires with a buddy or team member for lunch so that they aren’t left wondering where they’ll eat lunch. 

Some companies go the extra mile and send a hyper-personalized welcome letter. 

A welcome email as part of the human onboarding experience. Image courtesy: HelpScout

Others include gifts, company swag kits, handwritten notes, office plants … the list is endless.

The welcome kit that Percolate gives its new hires. Image courtesy: Percolate

At Birchbox, new employees get a “Say Hi, I’m new” flag to spark team interactions and conversations.

A welcome flag to spark conversations between new and existing employees. Image courtesy: The New York Times

Such gestures might sound small, but they aren’t trivial. 

They help break the ice and remove minor obstacles in the way of new hires, and such efforts don’t go unnoticed as they reflect a degree of thoughtfulness that most companies don’t show.

4. Do frequent check-ins

Initial days at a new company with lots of new faces can be overwhelming for anyone. Frequent check-ins to know how your new hires are doing can help you make their lives easier, and show that you care. 

Check-ins also provide excellent feedback on the effectiveness of your onboarding process and identify aspects to improve. They also help managers detect problems (disengagement, low morale, low engagement, manage expectations) at the workplace and take steps to fix them before it’s too late.

Besides, most new hires value their one-on-one sessions with mentors, managers, and even experienced colleagues. 

If the new hire is joining the sales team, set up a 20-minute coffee meeting with the most tenured sales team member to talk about how things have changed over time.” Liz Hall, former VP of People at Trello.

Companies such as Google, IBM, and Qualcomm make this process easier by assigning mentors or buddies to their new hires, as a way of improving productivity and integration within the company. 

5. Engage more

The level of engagement you have with a new hire is directly proportional to their interest in your company. 

Even before day 1, keep engaging with the new hires and encourage them to ask questions. 

Once they’ve started their journey with you, use gamification, microlearning, all-hands meetings, and team lunches to increase engagement and build rapport within teams.

At Rackspace, the onboarding process includes games, skits, costumes, and even a limbo bar to increase engagement. Image courtesy: Bloomberg

As they get used to working at your company, send them surveys after the first week, month, and year to understand:

  1. Whether they enjoy their job role and work environment
  2. Whether they feel prepared to assume all of their responsibilities
  3. Whether they have all the support and resources needed to do their job well
  4. Whether the onboarding process was successful and the onboarding experience, delightful

Since new hires have a fresh perspective on everything, gathering and incorporating their feedback is one of the best ways to improve your internal processes.

6. Automate the mundane

HR isn’t just for hiring, but also for adding business value. However, most administrative tasks such as paperwork, scheduling meetings, follow-ups, answering questions on company policies are draining and time-consuming. 

That’s where automation can come in handy. If the onboarding workflows are automated, HR doesn’t have to chase after managers or new hires to ensure whether they’ve completed all their tasks as the system will take care of that. 

Similarly, automated notifications act as reminders for employees on everything from updating documents and leave policies to filling up Pulse surveys.

As a result, HR has more time to focus on the strategic, and human aspects of HR, such as:

  1. Doing periodic check-ins
  2. Designing personalized onboarding and learning experiences
  3. Performing regular assessments of the onboarding process and new hires to spot red flags

Rounding up

According to Forbes, almost 20% of staff turnover happens during the first 45 days of employment. 

That’s why delightful onboarding experiences are so important for talent engagement and retention. 

Use these six tactics to improve your current onboarding process and deliver memorable experiences that make your new hires fall in love with you.