Components of an Effective Onboarding Program

The old HR adage remains true – new employees form their first and lasting impression within their first days of employment.

Having oriented and onboarded hundreds of employees over my career, I know this to be true.

Your new hires may not ask you for information they didn’t receive in onboarding.  Instead, their lack of knowledge and information might result in poor-quality work or even their departure.

So how do we put together an effective onboarding program?

An effective onboarding program should address three goals.

  • Getting the new hire employed
  • Providing the information they need to do their job
  • Setting them up to be successful in their role and the organization

The First Week

While HR best practices have expanded the onboarding process, getting the employment matters handled quickly and accurately remains important.  More organizations are sending the new hire paperwork and information in advance to maintain the connection with the new hire and create a favorable first impression of the organization they have chosen to join.

The new hire’s computer and systems access should be ready the minute they start to make a good first impression about the organization and enable new hires to begin working without delay.

It’s important to welcome the new hire to the organization.  Some companies send a gift—perhaps a branded coffee mug or t-shirt—before the start date.  Most companies take the new hire out to lunch or send a gift card for lunch delivery on the first day.  Small touches like this go a long way in making new employees feel important.

Information about how to get work done in their role and within the organization should be presented over the first week to keep from overwhelming the new employee with information they won’t retain.  Prioritize what they need to know first.  Often, this will be things like sending emails with the correct format and signature block and completing their timesheets.  I recommend providing some “downtime” each day so that new hires can process and organize information.  New hires are eager to log into their email and get started.  They want to know what’s going on and begin to make an impact.

New hires are excited to start meeting people and forming relationships to do their jobs.  I like to provide time each day for new hires to meet small groups of people—departments or teams—and learn more about what they do.  Meeting their own team on Day One is crucial.  Forming effective relationships is vital to success in the job and satisfaction with the organization.

Onboarding is More than an HR Responsibility

Some onboarding topics can be handled effectively by the people responsible for those areas.  For example, the marketing team probably owns branded templates and social media and could onboard new hires in those areas.  Not only does this help to relieve the HR team, but it also helps to support forming relationships.

The new hire’s manager also plays a critical role in this process.  I recommend that they meet with the new hire daily during the first week, rolling out initial assignments and more long-term expectations and providing training.  The manager should establish communication expectations such as a schedule of meetings.  They should let new hires know how and when to ask questions and what types of information they expect to receive.

Onboarding Does Not End After the First Week

When the first week is over, it’s time to focus on integrating the new hire into the organizational culture and setting them up for success.  Hopefully, the organization has defined its cultural values and understands the aspects of their culture that they want to leverage.  I suggest that new hires meet with management team members, including the CEO, to onboard the company culture.  They can also discuss the mission, vision, and organizational goals so that the new hire understands how their work fits into the big picture.  These meetings could be in small groups rather than one-on-one.

Assigning a mentor to a new hire during the onboarding process is helpful.  New hires like to have someone they can ask questions other than their manager and who provides feedback and guidance to help them get off to a great start.  The mentor can also share information about the company culture.

Surveys or focus groups for new hires can provide data on the effectiveness of the onboarding program and lead to new ideas for ways to improve.  Focus groups of new and tenured employees can help guide the organization on the topics and information to include.

You work too hard to find talent for your organization, only to risk losing them after they are hired.

I can help your organization develop an onboarding program that prepares and retains your new hires.  I’ve worked with management and staff to create onboarding programs for many organizations.  I would love to discuss this with you—please reach out to me by email (mebrennan625@gmail) to start the discussion.