10 Best Practices for Successful Onboarding

Welcoming a new employee into a long-term positive relationship with their organization requires an effective onboarding. How can you take steps to ensure that the process is as successful as possible from both the employee and the organization’s perspectives? Following are some best practice tips for effective onboarding.

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  • Onboarding starts in the very beginning. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that onboarding can’t start until the employee is physically on your premises. Most prospective employees are anxious to learn as much as they can about their new organization and the people they’ll be working and interacting with. Today’s technology makes it possible to connect and engage with employees from the moment they accept your offer. In fact, Aberdeen Group has found that integrating onboarding throughout the recruitment process can help companies achieve best-in-class performance.
  • The sooner, the better. If you do take the traditional route of beginning the onboarding process after the employee is officially on board, try to start as soon as possible on his or her first day on the job. In fact, starting on the first day can have a big impact on an employee’s productivity and readiness for the job, as this bank discovered.
  • Get the essentials out of the way first. New employees want to know about their jobs, obviously. But, first, they have a number of other “housekeeping” types of questions that you’ll want to make sure to cover: where are the restrooms, where is the breakroom, how do they get in touch with key colleagues (e.g., phone directory, chat groups, etc.)? Hint: You can gain insights into these important “little things” by asking other employees what they wish they had known, but didn’t, when they were first hired.
  • Interactivity and involvement are key. Provide plenty of time for interacting, networking, and “getting to know you” activities. Don’t make your onboarding process an exercise in show and tell, with all of the showing and telling being done by talking heads. Get new employees involved—with each other and other members of the team—to help them start building relationships.
  • Roll out the welcome mat. Take steps to ensure new employees feel welcome—and welcomed—right out of the gate. Make sure someone is at the door to greet them on their first day. Have a work space set up for them equipped with the basic supplies they will need. Consider offering welcome gifts—flowers, a coffee mug, lunch certificates, or other welcoming gestures. Ask a colleague to be available to take the new employee out to lunch or invite him or her for coffee. These small gestures can go a long way to easing the stresses of the first day on a new job.
  • Involve senior leaders! Employees don’t just want to get a sense of the colleagues they will be working with but are curious about their leaders as well. Involving senior leaders has a positive impact of employee perception of the onboarding process, ATD has found. Even if senior leaders can’t be part of the official onboarding training sessions, they can take part. Set up a schedule of one-on-one interactions between employees and key leaders they’ll encounter in their jobs. It’s a great way to break the ice, especially for employees who may be inexperienced and intimidated by their superiors.
  • Don’t give up too soon. L’Oreal offers an intensive 2-year onboarding process, recognizing that it can take some time before employees feel fully acclimated. Two years may not be the right time frame for your organization, but somewhere between the more typical 2-day and 2-year point lies the sweet spot!
  • Make sure they fit. Zappos famously uses their onboarding process to screen out those who are not truly a good fit for the organization. After an intensive 5-week training program, employees are offered $2,000 if they decide not to remain employed. Amazon, which owns Zappos, has taken it a step further with their “Pay to Quit” program. “Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Time Magazine. “The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up $1,000 a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is ‘Please Don’t Take This Offer.’”
  • Gather feedback. In a spirit of continuous improvement, don’t miss the opportunity to ask employees what they thought of the onboarding process and whether they have recommendations for improvement—not only immediately after the training but also once they’ve been on a job and have time to really consider the value of the training they received.
  • Offer redos. Employees are understandably overwhelmed during onboarding, especially if the process is crammed into a few short days before they really understand their roles at the company. And, things change! Because of this, don’t limit onboarding opportunities just to new employees. Old pros can need refreshers too.

Onboarding is key to ensuring success for employees and helping them quickly learn the ropes of the company and the individuals they’ll be working with. Take steps to make sure you’re thinking creatively about ways you can go above and beyond the traditional to have a measurable impact on employee satisfaction, engagement, and tenure with your organization.

Lin Gresing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor for the L&D Daily Advisor.

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