20% of new hires leave a job within the first 45 days. That sounds high, right? But then consider the fact that many businesses have no formal onboarding approach to support incoming employees. How you welcome a new hire into your company and set them up in their early days can have a large impact on their tenure with the organization. In fact, 69% of employees say they're more likely to stay with a company for 3 years if they're onboarded well. Now yes the pandemic has certainly decreased voluntary turnover numbers, especially in the spring, but as the world starts to stabilize we're beginning to see a return of old habits. If your new hires are walking out the door, then it's worth having another look at your onboarding program to see if there's anything you could be doing differently.
Before a new hire starts
First, think about onboarding in terms of what happens before your new employee even walks in, or logs in, on day one. Usual tasks in this onboarding phase falls into two categories: 1) the paperwork that needs to be done before someone starts and 2) the socialization a new hire needs to become part of a team. The first part is pretty basic. Think about a time when you started a new job. Did you have to fill out forms on day one? Were you twiddling your thumbs while your supervisor sorted out everything you needed? That doesn't make a great first impression. Instead, figure out what can be done ahead of time so your new hire can hit the ground running. This means identifying their technology needs and shipping their equipment before their start date, making sure all the paperwork is in with HR, and getting a copy of the employee handbook ready. These days when being together can be difficult, you might want to make use of an online tool like DocuSign to handle the paperwork aspect before the new hire starts.
The social connection is a little harder to control. When a new employee arrives on their first day, they often feel adrift. It's even harder to find your groove when you have to meet new co-workers through a screen. The average new hire in an office has hours each day to get to know their teammates and interact with them to break the ice. In a remote world, new hires likely only have a few pre-scheduled meetings to try and build that connection. To help, arrange a buddy for your new hire. You can even introduce the buddy before the new hire starts so they have someone they can ask questions to and get to know. Knowing someone already on the team can go a long way toward soothing first day jitters.
Your before day one checklist includes:
- Confirm the start date, schedule, and dress code (if applicable in these remote work days)
- Figure out all technology needs
- Complete paperwork
- Set up an onboarding buddy
On day one
Next we need to sort out what happens on day one when your new hire shows up. Here's where things might look a little different if you're back in the office vs working remotely. A welcome meal is going to be a challenge through a screen, for example, but a great thing to do (safely) if meeting in person. Depending on your circumstances it's best to adjust your onboarding accordingly.
In terms of what information needs to be covered, the classic day one training usually involves an overview of the company itself and its mission. This is even more important in a virtual world when your new hires isn't going to pick this sort of information up from the co-workers around them. Take a minute to explain what kind of company the new employee has joined and what sort of culture they'll find there. Yes, it's tricky showing someone company culture remotely but not impossible. You can have video greetings prepared from senior leaders or show old pictures or videos of fun work events. The idea is to give your employee a sense of the company and their place within it.
You should also go over details of the job and review expectations so the new employee knows what their duties and targets are. HR will likely need some time to review company policies and benefits as well. Think of day one as your foundational day where you cover all the basics. But don't keep it purely educational. Carve out time for your new hire to be with their buddy and schedule meetings with team members to introduce them to everyone. Try to keep the first day as engaging and fun as possible to help your new hire feel like they've made the right decision.
Your day one checklist includes:
- Cover company information like culture, history, and mission
- Reiterate expectations and duties
- Have HR cover any benefits, policies, or procedures needed
- Introduce the team and pre-schedule introductory meetings for the new hire
During the first week
Now things can start getting more interesting. Once you've covered the basics with your new employee it's time to get them on their feet. Week one is probably going to look very educational. You likely have a lot of material to cover that will help the employee understand how to do their job. The trick here, especially if onboarding in a virtual environment, is not to overwhelm them. Don't just talk at your employee for 8 hours. Make a plan for what you need to cover and break it out over the first week. Intersperse engaging activities with reading or listening tasks so the new hire doesn't zone out. Help them connect with their team members and meet new people as they learn. And when in doubt, make sure to check-in and ask if your employee needs a break or wants to cover anything again. Topics that should be touched one at some point during the first week include goal-setting and an overview of the performance appraisal process, meetings with senior leaders and introductions other departments, and daily check-ins to keep learning on track and progressing.
Your week one checklist includes:
- Meeting relevant stakeholders
- Learning about the new hire's job and how to do it properly
- Setting goals and performance expectations
- Getting to know the team better
Beyond the first week
The length of your onboarding program will depend on the role and seniority involved. Some types of very technical onboarding can last a the whole first year of an employee's tenure. Others last 1-3 months. It's a good rule of thumb to schedule check-ins and formal onboarding touch points up to 3 months so your new hire feels supported well beyond their first week.
What should happen between week one and the end of onboarding? Well this is the time when the employee is getting up to speed and becoming a contributing part of the team. It will be very important to prioritize the social aspect of onboarding so the new hire feels comfortable with their team members. A poor culture or team match can drive down retention rates so you want to spend the time getting everyone accustomed to each other.
You'll also want to check-in with your new employee regularly to ensure they are supported and working effectively. This is a a good time to plan out a personalized path for the employee in terms of what they'll learn and when over the coming weeks. Taking individual differences and learning styles into account when onboarding is crucial to success. In fact, it's even better if you can start personalizing the process before the new hire even shows up. If an employee filled out any sort of assessment information as a candidate during the hiring process, then make sure you're using their results to guide your planning. When employee feel seen and heard, they are more likely to stay. And when they are onboarded in the way that best suits their learning style, they'll find their feet faster.
Your 3 month checklist includes:
- Creating a learning schedule that's not overwhelming
- Taking a personalized onboarding approach
- Regular check-ins and clear targets
- Team building activities to integrate the new hire
Make onboarding count
Effective onboarding is a complex process that involves balancing both educational tasks and social interactions. The easiest way to initially manage it, and make sure that the new hire feels like part of the bigger team, is to walk through all the steps above and really take your time with the onboarding process. There is little to be gained by rushing these steps, especially with the threat of early turnover ever present. Instead, make an effort to help your new employee feel like they've joined something great. You'd be amazed by how something small like not having access to the right tools on day one can derail a new hire so make sure it doesn't happen to you. Be thoughtful and personal in your onboarding approach and see the difference it makes on your team.