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5 Best Practices For Onboarding New Employees

The key to successful employee retention is strong onboarding. Whether you have an existing onboarding program, or if you’re building one from the ground up, here are five best practices to keep in mind!

Start your onboarding process during the interview process.

Much of onboarding new hires consists of introductions. But many of those introductions can be made during the interview process. Instead of waiting until a new hire walks into the office on their first day, leverage interviews to familiarize the potential new hire with the company, its values, and the people with whom they’ll be interacting on a regular basis.

There are a few ways companies can get onboarding started during the interview process:

Create diverse interview teams: Consider building interview teams with different objectives, so the potential new hire gets a more holistic view of the company.

For example, you could include the hiring manager to talk about the job requirements, a peer who can speak to experience on the team, a leader from a different department to discuss how they may interact with others, and an engaged employee who can speak to the company culture.

Show them around the office: Instead of shuffling a potential new hire from a lobby to a closed office or meeting room, take the time to walk them around the office. Not every office space works for every person. Some do well in open collaborative spaces, while others perform better in private rooms free from distraction.

Showing the potential new hire where important things are—like the kitchen, restrooms, and meeting rooms—can help alleviate first-day anxiety.

Set expectations for next steps: A simple “If you were to join us, here’s what your first 30 days would look like,” goes a long way. Not only does it show the potential new hire that the company is organized and invested in their success, but also allows them plenty of opportunity to ask questions about what to expect and eliminate potential confusion.

The interview process is a great way for companies to assess whether they want to hire a candidate, but it’s also an effective way for a candidate to decide if it’s the right move for them, too. By starting the onboarding process during the interview process, the potential new hire can get a better feel for whether or not it’s a mutual good fit—and potentially save a lot of frustration down the road.

Reach out to new hires before their first day.

Once an employee has been newly hired, keep communication ongoing. A simple best practice is to have the hiring manager send a congratulatory welcome note, as well as have teammates and peers send welcoming messages by email or through LinkedIn.

Hiring managers and peers should feel comfortable letting the new hire know they’re there to be a resource for any questions leading up to their first day. When the team is open and transparent, it creates a less stressful transition for all involved.

Outreach doesn’t have to just be limited to email or social media, either. It can come in the form of a welcome basket or company-branded merchandise, such as a coffee mug or a t-shirt, mailed to them at home.

The more connected a new hire feels to the company and team before they walk through the door on their first day, the more welcome they’re likely to feel, too.

Onboard the manager and team, too.

When a new employee is hired, a new team is created. Every person brings a unique skill set and personality to their team, so team dynamics will inevitably shift. Take time to invest in team-building activities from the start, so that the newly-formed team can get to know each other and learn how to work best together.

It can be as simple as a team lunch or small intermittent activities like smaller collaborative projects. Introducing the team dynamic early will help create a smoother transition for the new hire and existing team members.

Use onboarding as an opportunity for the manager to get better acquainted with new hire and level set on communication frequency, expectations, etc. Having these discussions early will help protect against frustrations down the road on both the part of the manager and the new hire.

Set new hires up for success before they walk in the door.

When a new hire walks into the office on day one of their new role, there’s always the question: Where do I begin? Setting a new hire up for success by providing them with relevant information and documents before they need to ask will go a long way in making the onboarding process a smooth one.

Begin with the calendar: Employee email accounts and calendars can be set up even before the new hire’s start date. As relevant meetings pop up, be sure to include the new hire on those invitations, even if they happen prior to their first day.

This will provide context for projects or initiatives they may need to start working on. Be sure to also include calendar invitations for company-wide meetings, events, and holidays.

Create a starting plan: It can be as simple as a checklist or as robust as a full-on project plan—but giving a new hire tasks and milestones to achieve will keep them from idly waiting for their next instruction. They can work at their own pace, so onboarding doesn’t feel like a sink-or-swim dilemma.

Provide access to reference documents: Company directories, employee handbooks, and other documents that are crucial to employee experience should be introduced early and be easy to access. Having the ability to search for answers on their own can be helpful in their onboarding journey.

Make onboarding an ongoing process.

Successful onboarding is an ongoing process that can’t be rushed. It also requires continuous feedback, both for the new hire and from them.

Have managers establish 30- 60- and 90-day check-ins to evaluate performance and see how well the new hire is adjusting to the team and company. This is also an effective time to set up personal and professional goals and measure against them, providing feedback to the new hire along the way and adjusting where necessary.

Just as the new hires receive feedback, be sure to ask for their feedback on the onboarding process itself and how they’re acclimating to their new team and company. Taking feedback from new hires will not only make them feel valued, but it will continue to improve the onboarding process for future new hires, too.