BlogHuman Resources

12 Absolute Best Practices for Employee Onboarding

Jamie Olson
VP of People & Culture
Human Resources
March 28, 2024

Master the art of onboarding with these 12 best practices, ensuring new hires feel welcomed, informed, and set up for long-term success.

Onboarding Checklist

Employee onboarding is a crucial step when integrating a new hire into the organization. Creating an effective onboarding process is a goal most HR professionals and organizations strive for.

These employee onboarding best practices are streamlined and consistent, allowing an organization to do more than simply introduce a new hire to the company while gaining the following benefits:

  • Quicker new hire ramp-up times
  • Improved workplace communication
  • Better employee productivity from the start
  • Consistent communication
  • Clear goals and guidelines
  • Saves time and money for the future

To create a solid onboarding experience, we've compiled a list of the best practices for employee onboarding:

1. Use the right onboarding software

One of the best practices for onboarding starts with the organization and its leveraging of employee onboarding software. With the abrupt change to fully remote working, a digital onboarding solution like Continu can help organizations and HR professionals:

  • Automate the entire onboarding process using workflows
  • Save countless hours on repetitive tasks
  • Assign learning and training materials to new hires
  • Track the progress of new hire onboarding
  • Provide company information 24/7
  • Integrate new employees much faster
  • Create an engaging onboarding experience

We put this as our first tip for improved employee onboarding as it can solve the majority of onboarding problems that may arise. By using a modern learning platform, your organization can handle HR, onboarding, sales, training, and learning within a single tool.

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2. Communicate before initial onboarding

Communication between an organization and its employees is key. There are a variety of benefits to corporate communication and it's not just in the office. The time between hiring and initial onboarding is a crucial time to stay in communication with new hires.

In fact, 82% of organizations believe that communication throughout the entire onboarding process (especially before) leads to better engagement with new employees.

To improve onboarding communication, try the following:

  • Stay in constant email or phone communication until an employee's first day
  • Have their direct manager reach out to introduce themselves
  • A message from the CEO can go a long way in creating a relationship
  • Team members can start following them on social media

There are a lot more ways to keep communicating during the onboarding process, but anything is better than a complete disconnect.

3. Practice pre-boarding employees

Pre-onboarding is the process of starting an employee's onboarding experience BEFORE their first day. This helps HR professionals gather required paperwork, documents, company information, and the new hire's information ahead of time.

Practicing a few employee pre-boarding best practices improves the new hire onboarding experience by:

  • Organizing everything ahead of time
  • Making their first day about joining the team, not just signing papers
  • Shows your HR professionals are organized and experienced
  • Demonstrates the organization's appreciation of the new hire
  • Pre-packages everything for quicker consumption
  • Introduce them to team members or provide contact information

4. Send a welcome kit

A new employee welcome packet says a lot about the organization:

  • First, it demonstrates to the new hire that the organization is "investing" in their future by including some paid, branded, or personalized items.
  • Secondly, the organization is providing new hires with everything they'll need to succeed.
  • Lastly, this new hire welcome kit does exactly what it's meant to...welcome the new hire.

Some companies use this as a hiring incentive within job descriptions and previous employees tend to post their welcome kits on social media, spreading even more brand awareness.

5. Create first-day preparations

Ensure the new hire's first day or week of onboarding is scheduled and organized. There's nothing worse than an unorganized onboarding experience full of dead spots, sitting around, and waiting for your hiring manager to get their stuff together.

In fact, optimizing for a more structured onboarding can improve employee retention by 69%!

To ensure a streamlined first day of onboarding:

  • Onboarding documents and tax information should be signed
  • Software, logins, email, and other tools set up
  • Meetings scheduled for initial introductions
  • Initial training assigned in the company's LMS
  • Links to important references and company data

With all the boring document signing, company policies, payroll info, and account logins out of the way, the new hire can now partake in the more fun and engaging aspects of onboarding.

6. Introduce new hires to the team

Introducing new hires to team members during employee onboarding. Picture joining a company and aren't introduced, let alone mentioned to the rest of your team, that would be pretty isolating, correct?

Doing so enables the communication between them and their new team members as well as where everyone sits within the company. It also provides a sense of inclusion and belonging within the organization.

It doesn't particularly matter which method you use to introduce them, as long as the rest of the company and team are aware of this new hire.

7. Assign a mentor or buddy

A mentorship program allows employees to mentor or "buddy up" with a new hire and shows them the ropes. These mentors are there to show them around the office, answer common questions, get a sense of their schedule, and get familiar with their new job roles.

Mentors are great for employee onboarding because they:

  • Provide the first relationship with new team members
  • Answer common questions about the company, role, or department
  • Give context to work-related rules and guidelines
  • Include new hires in cross-departmental communication

The mentor is there to be a friendly face a new hire can turn to when integrating with an organization. They also act as a middle-person to avoid turning to upper-level management or the HR department to answer questions.

8. Set realistic and attainable goals

This employee onboarding best practice is all about setting SMART goals that the new hire understands, agrees with, and strives to achieve. These goals are there to set an initial benchmark on the employee to base their performance. Without initial goal-setting, the new hire won't have a number, metric, or KPI they can try to reach and compare themselves to.

Here are some best practices for setting new hire goals during or after onboarding:

  • Make them relevant to their job and skill set
  • Create a fallback and a stretch goal
  • Develop unique goals personalized for the employee
  • They should fit within the department and organization's goals

Setting far-stretched goals can discourage your new hire when they can't achieve these results. By creating realistic and attainable goals that your employee can achieve, they'll gain more satisfaction in their work. Then when it comes time to update goals to the next level, they'll be more comfortable and know the ways they can achieve these goals.

9. Share the employee development plan

After initial introductory meetings and paperwork, it is a best practice for onboarding to share the employee development plan. Onboarding is the perfect opportunity to put all the cards on the table: salary, benefits, goals, and progression. Meaning, that they thought of a learning path that can improve the employee's skills while giving them the opportunity to advance their career into more managerial positions.

Sharing an employee's plan for development during onboarding can:

  • Provide a structure for employee progression
  • Develop an executive presence
  • Reassure the organization has the employee's best interests in mind
  • Enable growth to upper-level positions
  • Display a sense of opportunity for growth
  • Ease the process of employee development

When new hires are aware of their development plan during onboarding, they see right from the start how to go from their current position to eventually hold senior executive-level positions.

10. Avoid overwhelming new hires with information

Sending new hires too much information or even too little information can cause onboarding overload. A best practice for employee onboarding is to provide just the right amount of information to get the point across.

Starting a new position at a company is already scary enough, then tossing more fuel on the fire makes it even worse. That's exactly what it's like to overwhelm a new hire with a giant list of training, videos, assessments, documents, and signatures.

Try the following tactics for delivering content to new hires during onboarding:

That's why organization and scheduling are best practices for new hire onboarding. It creates an easy-to-follow schedule where you can provide new information slowly and ensure new employees retain what they've learned during onboarding.

11. Check-in frequently

To ensure new hires have assimilated into the organization effectively and have everything they need to succeed, it's important to check in frequently. Now "frequently" doesn't have to be daily or even weekly, a typical check-in timeline is the 30/60/90 day timeframe.

This check-in timeline provides just enough distance from the employee where you're not overburdening them or setting up unnecessary meetings. Plus they would have enough time to formulate their opinions of the company and their role.

  • After 30 days the employee has been in the company for long enough to develop an impression of the organization
  • Once 60 days pass, the employee has a firm grasp of their job duties, responsibilities, and management
  • Finally, post 90 days, the employee has worked for an entire fiscal quarter and has data to back up their goal progression

Each check-in period post onboarding should be a different conversation. These check-in conversations will range from "How's your experience with the company?" to "What would you like to see implemented for next quarter?". Frequent check-ins are a great way to stay in communication with the employee and judge how your onboarding has set them up for success.

12. Collect feedback

No process is ever complete, especially onboarding new hires. Collecting feedback from new hires before, during, and after their experience is an important employee onboarding best practice. Use your LMS to send out assessments, forms, quizzes, and even video capture to have new hires explain their onboarding experience.

The data you gather from new hire onboarding feedback is incredibly valuable. Use this feedback to:

  • Improve the onboarding process
  • Find ways to automate repetitive tasks
  • Get new hires up and running faster
  • Create a better onboarding experience
  • Shorten the onboarding process time

Onboarding feedback is a gold mine for improvement methods.

Onboarding Checklist

An ultimate guide for a successful onboarding process.
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Onboarding Checklist
About the Author
Jamie Olson, VP of People & Culture at Continu
Jamie Olson
VP of People & Culture

Jamie Olson is the VP of People and Culture at Continu, a leading Learning Management System (LMS) company. With almost 20 years of experience in Human Resources, Jamie brings a wealth of knowledge in areas such as Learning and Development, Employee Training, Talent Management, and Performance Management. She's passionate about creating environments that foster learning and growth, and she's an expert in leveraging technology to enhance HR processes. Jamie's insights are grounded in her extensive experience and her commitment to helping organizations cultivate a culture of continuous improvement.

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