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How to Develop an Effective Onboarding Process

The employee onboarding process is intended to help acclimate new hires to the workplace. Ideally, this helps them become productive sooner, develop a sense of enthusiasm about their role, and fit into the company culture. Furthermore, onboarding can improve employee retention.

Clearly, onboarding is important. Despite this, only 12% of employees feel as though their organization has a strong onboarding process.  

What Is an Employee Onboarding Process?

The term “employee onboarding process” describes a very wide range of activities designed to help new workers succeed. This is something that can look very different from one organization to the next. Departments within the same company might even take a different approach to onboarding.

For example, one employee might go through a brief introduction to their coworkers, watch a video, then be expected to get started right away. Another might go through a week of orientation and shadow a more experienced worker for a period of time before they are considered to be fully onboarded.

Which Onboarding Process Is Best?

Is it better to onboard quickly so workers can start doing what they were hired to do? Should onboarding be a longer, more thorough process? There’s no single answer to this. That’s why onboarding should be tailored to each position. 

For one employee, an in-depth onboarding process would be pointless and a bit miserable. A worker in another position might need the support and acclimation upfront to truly perform at their best.

What Kind of Onboarding Processes Are Most Popular?

There are five primary types of onboarding. Many organizations touch on one or more of these when they hire new employees.

1. Social

This is about creating social connections and making the new worker feel welcome. It may involve partnering a new hire with another worker to show them the ropes. Social onboarding can also begin before the employee’s first day. For example, they can be invited to a team happy hour.

2. Talent

This onboarding component is more about helping the company make the best use of a new hire’s talents. Imagine having new staff members’ most important skills articulated so that everybody understands what they bring to the table.

3. Knowledge

In order to be successful and productive, new employees must be given specific, job-related knowledge. Knowledge onboarding involves identifying what the new worker has to know and connecting them with resources to help them learn.

4. Operational

Operational onboarding consists of the details required to get the employee off to a good start. This includes ensuring they are issued a laptop, having their workspace ready, setting up their system credentials, etc.

5. Performance

There are two components to this. The first is working with the new hire to set goals and objectives. These should include some loftier items and a few easy wins to help them get started.

The second component is to tee up an initial assignment or project. This will help new staff members to get familiarized with systems and processes. It can also allow them to complete a relatively simple project to gain some confidence.

What Causes an Onboarding Process to Fail?

An effective onboarding process can improve worker retention by 82%. Unfortunately, many organizations fall short in this area. Some onboarding processes fail because of:

Delayed Onboarding

This is often a problem in busy, hectic workplaces. There may be an onboarding process in place, and management has every intention to use it. However, staffing may be inadequate, and new workers aren’t given time to take part in onboarding. Instead, they are simply expected to get to work and learn as they go.

Too Little Structure or Preparation

Workplaces are becoming more casual, and that’s generally a good thing. However, taking too laid back of an approach to the employee onboarding process can be problematic. Workers feel lost and adrift, even frustrated. Meanwhile, management often assumes they can just “ask somebody” or simply figure things out.

This doesn’t mean that all companies need to adopt a lengthy, formal onboarding process. Simply implementing an onboarding checklist can ensure that all of the important tasks are completed.

Information Overload

A good onboarding process will involve giving workers plenty of useful information. Unfortunately, it can be a bit overwhelming to be subjected to all of this input. It’s difficult to retain information, even when it is important. This can be avoided simply by offering new employees access to information sources about benefits and policies rather than expecting them to memorize things.

Failure to Address Individual Worker Needs and Concerns

Many organizations deploy a one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding. Unfortunately, workers don’t get the information and insights they need. 

Imagine starting a new job as a manager in your fifties. You probably care about retirement planning, health benefits, and 401K rollover options. Now, imagine having to sit through an hour of onboarding addressing this information as a part-time employee in your late teens. You may not even qualify for those benefits.

No Employee Onboarding Process for Remote Workers

Plenty of organizations have gone completely remote or adopted a hybrid schedule for employees. This changes how employees complete tasks, communicate with one another, and engage in online training. In spite of this major shift, many have failed to create or change existing onboarding processes to be useful for remote workers.

Lack of Technology

Onboarding is often clunky, fragmented, and inefficient. This doesn’t have to be the case. Organizations can use technology to automate, personalize, and streamline onboarding. This includes adopting the following:

  • Performance management tools for setting and tracking goals
  • Digital signature apps
  • Learning and assessment platforms
  • Project management tools to set onboarding deadlines
  • Communications apps for asking questions and sharing information

Employees can be given access to these tools prior to their first day to get a headstart on paperwork.

How to Create an Onboarding Process for Your Organization

It’s easy to see how onboarding processes can fall apart. Here are some actions you can take to build an onboarding process that results in positive outcomes for everybody.

Start the Onboarding Process with Your Offer

The onboarding process begins when you send the candidate a job offer. This should contain a detailed job description, salary offer, and other details they need to accept or counter.

Create a Pre-Onboarding Process and Get Workers Started Early

Pre-onboarding is the series of steps workers can take prior to their first day of work. This may include filling out tax forms, reviewing and signing employee handbooks, completing insurance forms, and writing out their employee profiles. 

Managers can then use this information to ensure new hires have everything set up for payroll, getting their security badges, and accessing the network. This also takes some pressure off of the employee’s first day of work. 

Keep Workers Engaged

There’s usually a period of two to four weeks from the time a worker accepts an offer and their first day. Keep the onboarding process active during this time. Send periodic engagement emails, invite new hires to a social event to connect with their new coworkers, and keep them up to date with company news.

The purpose of keeping in contact is to ensure the employee stays interested and excited in their new position. There’s a growing trend of workers ghosting new employers. This often happens when they are distracted by other job offers or a counteroffer from their old workplace.

Create a Schedule and Checklist for Day One

It’s important that both the new hire and manager understand what to expect on day one. Create a schedule and checklist for the new employee, and give it to them. They will be able to see clearly how their day will unfold. Also, they can use the document to check off any self-directed onboarding activities that they complete.

Develop a Training Plan the Right Way

Onboarding is the perfect time to set goals and get new workers started on a learning development plan. While onboarding and training are two different activities, planning for upcoming training is a key part of any effective onboarding process. 

This part of onboarding might include the following:

Establishing and Documenting the Employee’s Baseline Competencies

The first step is to identify the worker’s strengths and ability to contribute to the team as a new hire. This information can be taken from their documented experience, assessment results, and statements about their own abilities. This helps everyone to understand where they are, what they can contribute, and where training gaps exist.

Setting Training Goals Based on Team or Organizational Needs

Training goals will likely be divided into two categories. The first will be ensuring that the employee receives the training they need to meet the organization’s needs and requirements. This will include compliance and safety training and other instruction needed to ensure they can work accurately and productively.

Setting Training Goals that Align with the Employee’s Professional Development Plan

Employee retention and engagement significantly improve when workers are able to pursue their own professional goals through workplace training. New hires should start this during the onboarding process. 

They should be encouraged to articulate their short and long-term goals, including training they would like to receive. This is also the perfect time to educate workers about opportunities such as management development programs, mentoring, or cross-training.

Developing a Training Plan and Schedule

Now that there have been goals established, it’s the perfect time to create a training plan to ensure the employee achieves their objectives. By creating a schedule to go along with the plan, the employee (and their manager) feels a sense of urgency to make progress.

In addition to creating a plan, it’s imperative that new workers have access to the resources and information they need. This includes:

  • How to access and navigate the learning management system
  • Information on existing knowledgebase information
  • Guidance on using and completing self-directed training programs
  • Instructions on signing up for both remote and in-office training

There should also be coordination with team leaders and other stakeholders. This will ensure that new hires are given adequate time to pursue their training goals.

Establishing Training Checkpoints at 30, 60, and 90 Days

Is the employee making sufficient progress through their training to make a positive contribution to the organization? Have they hit any roadblocks or identified any issues that require some adjustments? 

Onboarding isn’t something that ends after the first few days of employment. Follow-up is absolutely a key part of this process. Set up checkpoints throughout each new worker's first 90 days of employment. This will help to ensure the employee is on track, progressing, and still engaged. It’s much easier to make adjustments early on than it is to deal with the ramifications of a new worker who hasn’t received adequate training.

Onboarding Process Templates for Consistency And Efficiency

Onboarding is all about helping the worker adapt quickly and ensuring they get off to a great start. However, it’s also important to make the process work well for hiring teams, department managers, and training staff. One way to do this is to create a set of helpful onboarding process templates. 

The benefits of using onboarding process templates include:

  • Consistency in look and messaging
  • Ability to get communications out quickly
  • Ensures steps aren’t missed
  • Reduces errors
  • Increases time and resources to focus on important onboarding steps

Once you have a set of onboarding templates, you will be able to create a pre-onboarding welcoming packet for new employees.

Collect Feedback on the Onboarding Process

Are workers satisfied with the onboarding they received? Do they feel as though it gave them extra help in fitting into the company culture and becoming a productive worker? What about their managers and coworkers? It’s important to collect feedback so onboarding can be improved and refined over time.

A Learning Platform for Any Employee Onboarding Process

Continu is a learning management system that can be used to drive successful onboarding and training for any organization. Use this tool to create new employee training programs, assess competencies, and track progress through custom-designed training plans. Contact us for more information or a free demo.

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