As companies continue to grapple with remote hiring and in-person team dynamics, it’s essential to have a strong onboarding process for new employees. Having the right practices can prepare your existing team for welcoming new members and set the foundation for the successful onboarding of new hires.
Whether you manage a Human Resources (HR) department or lead a small business, this article can help you succeed in your company’s efforts for onboarding new employees. Check out our comprehensive list of employee onboarding best practices and our helpful onboarding FAQ to make sure your team is ready to go and set up for success.
The importance of an effective onboarding process
An effective onboarding process for new hires is critical to the long-term success of the employee and the business. Onboarding is more than just paperwork and orientation—it’s an opportunity to create a positive relationship between employers and employees from the start.
Onboarding processes provide a personalized, transparent, and welcoming experience for new hires, helping them quickly integrate into their new roles, build confidence in their capabilities, foster trust with colleagues and managers, and increase job satisfaction. Results for the company include reduced turnover rates and higher return on investment.
Effective onboarding involves coupling initial activities with ongoing communication, which sets expectations and continues to provide feedback on performance going forward. When managers invest time for onboarding employees, businesses can be rewarded with satisfied employees committed to helping drive organizational success.
Best practices for employee onboarding
As an employer or manager, you want new employees to get up and running quickly and effectively. A well-planned onboarding process is one of the best ways to ensure this.
To help you out, we’ve compiled some best practices for onboarding new employees. These tips can help ensure every new hire’s transition is successful, efficient, and stress-free.
Onboarding best practices:
- Prepare for onboarding
- Make day one a success
- Boost training and development
- Foster employee relationships
- Evaluate results
1. Prepare for onboarding
Preparing for a smooth onboarding process is essential to help new hires feel welcome, comfortable, and capable in their new roles. It sets the tone for the entire working relationship and can impact productivity and employee engagement.
Some best practices for preparing for new employee onboarding include:
- Develop a structured onboarding plan. A comprehensive and well-thought-out onboarding plan ensures every step of the process is accounted for, allowing you to give each new hire equal attention and care.
- Prepare for the new hire’s arrival. Make sure you have all the necessary supplies before your new employee’s first day, such as a workspace, computer hardware and software, access cards, email accounts, etc.
- Assign a mentor or buddy. Designate an experienced colleague or manager as a mentor to help guide new hires through any confusion or uncertainty about their job duties or expectations. Creating a buddy system gives the new person someone to reach out to for any reason during the first few days and weeks of work.
- Consider potential onboarding challenges for remote employees. If you have remote workers, it’s important to adapt your onboarding strategy to a virtual environment. Remote onboarding could include scheduling video conferencing calls with supervisors or colleagues, sending digital documents by email, providing remote tech support, and assisting with other helpful actions.
- Create opportunities for meaningful conversations. Introducing new hires to other team members early on helps them build relationships with colleagues while giving them useful insights into the company culture and expectations.
- Organize social activities and team-bonding exercises. Creating opportunities for socialization allows new hires to build strong connections with their co-workers while having fun at the same time. These activities can include office lunches, volunteer activities, or sports tournaments.
With these preparation tips, you can ensure new employees get the support they need during onboarding.
2. Make day one a success
Day one of the onboarding experience is critical in setting the tone for a new hire’s entire experience. Giving new hires an inclusive, positive first impression of your workplace and culture is essential.
To ensure a successful start, consider using an onboarding checklist to complete the following best practices for day-one onboarding.
- Welcome the new hire. Send a personalized welcome email to the new hire before their start date and ensure everyone the new employee will meet on their first day is aware of a new team member’s arrival.
- Tour the workplace. When your new hire arrives for their first day, provide a tour of the physical workspace to help familiarize them with their surroundings.
- Introduce co-workers. Introduce the new hire to their fellow team members and other colleagues they might work with regularly, as well as the HR department.
- Provide an overview of company policies and culture. Give an overview of your company values, policies, and culture, so the new hire better understands how things work at your organization.
- Complete paperwork. Handle new hire paperwork before or on your new hire’s first day. Paperwork might include a contract, insurance forms, tax forms, etc.
- Provide access to tools and resources. Make sure all tools and resources are accessible, from access cards to project management software.
- Check technology and connectivity. Check that all technology and internet connectivity works properly for them (laptop, monitor, site access, etc.).
3. Boost training and development
Training and development play an integral role in the new hire onboarding process. It’s essential to have a plan so new hires can quickly become accustomed to their job responsibilities and hit the ground running.
Follow these best practices for training and developing new employees.
- Offer formal and on-the-job training. Formal training can include using onboarding software, new hire orientations, one-on-one sessions, or group training sessions. On-the-job training allows employees to learn through hands-on experience in their roles.
- Understand the employee’s preferred learning style. Every employee learns differently—some prefer visual aids, while others may respond better to auditory explanations—so it’s important to assess each individual’s approach to maximize their learning potential.
- Set clear expectations and metrics. Establish specific performance targets at the beginning of employment so both parties know what the employee needs to achieve over time (such as sales targets, customer service team goals, etc.). This clarification can help new hires know which metrics they’ll be evaluated by once they become comfortable with their job duties.
- Encourage continuous learning and goal setting. Promote individual growth by providing resources like books, videos, webinars, or other materials that allow employees to learn something new regularly or set goals for professional improvement.
These best practices for training and development during onboarding can help ensure your company sets up its new employees for success past day one.
4. Foster employee relationships
Building relationships is paramount to long-term success in the workplace. It all begins during the onboarding process when a new employee is just starting their new job and needs help feeling like a valuable part of the team.
Use these best practices for relationship-building during this time.
- Encourage social connections. Start connecting with your new hires on social media, such as LinkedIn, or other forms of communication during their first week or first month. This connection helps establish familiarity and allows them to learn more about their teammates.
- Engage in team-building activities. Give your new hires a chance to get to know their co-workers by organizing team-building activities like virtual happy hours or icebreakers. Co-workers can bond while getting comfortable with one another’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Welcome open communication. To ensure effective onboarding, provide a relaxed environment where your new employee feels comfortable asking questions or seeking guidance without fear of judgment or retribution. Create channels using online portals, like Slack, or internal messaging systems for employees to communicate with each other.
- Follow up with mentors. Managers should follow up with new-hire mentors and get feedback on how the process is going directly from them to help bring the new employee up to speed faster and facilitate their transition into the role smoothly.
By following these best practices, employers can help new hires build relationships with their new co-workers, leading to long-term organizational success.
5. Evaluate results
Evaluating aggregate results of the onboarding process is important for senior leaders to do. Through evaluation, you can measure the success of your onboarding program, identify areas of improvement, and ensure a positive employee experience from the start.
To evaluate how successful your onboarding program is, follow these practices.
- Monitor progress regularly. Keeping tabs on how new employees progress during their first few weeks or months on the job is key. Your new hires’ direct managers should also check in with them regularly to see how they’re settling into their roles, tasks, and workflows.
- Offer routine feedback. Provide ongoing feedback to new employees throughout the onboarding process, positively reinforcing when needed and offering constructive criticism where applicable.
- Encourage employee feedback. Ask new hires for feedback on your onboarding program and make adjustments based on their response.
- Provide recognition. Show appreciation for a job well done by recognizing employee milestones, such as achieving goals or completing training modules.
Employee onboarding FAQ
Are you an employer or a manager looking to understand how to create a successful employee onboarding process?
The onboarding process starts when a new hire accepts your job offer, yet many employers are unprepared for the steps involved. From completing paperwork to understanding company policies and procedures, leadership must complete numerous tasks for the hiring process to succeed.
To help make even better sense of it, we answer some frequently asked questions about employee onboarding.
How long should onboarding last?
Onboarding a new employee is an important process that can take anywhere from a few days to 90 days, depending on the company and the role.
The employee onboarding process starts before the new hire’s first day when the hiring manager makes sure all parties complete the necessary paperwork and set up any required technology. It’s also important for employers to set aside time during the first week of employment to provide general orientation and team familiarity activities, such as introductions with colleagues, tours of the facility, or training on company policies.
After the initial week, employers should focus on providing more specific job training and a more detailed introduction to their work culture and values, which can help foster employee engagement.
Following this, employers may consider setting goals for each week or month as part of the onboarding process. Doing this lets you better track progress and measure performance over time, eventually determining whether the onboarding process was successful.
All in all, onboarding should be a comprehensive experience for new employees that spans several weeks (and sometimes months) rather than just a single day of orientation.
After the onboarding process is complete, employers should continue supporting their new employees to ensure employee retention and satisfaction. You can offer ongoing support by providing opportunities for learning and development through workshops, lunch and learns, mentorship programs, and other resources that foster knowledge and skills.
What information should the new employee receive during onboarding?
It’s beneficial for new employees to receive an employee handbook that outlines policies, procedures, and expectations of all employees during their employment at the company.
Employees should be given the following standard onboarding information:
- Company culture and values
- Job description and responsibilities
- Organizational structure and reporting lines
- Overview of the company’s products or services
- Employee benefits and policies
- Performance expectations and evaluation process
- Health and safety regulations
- IT policies and security measures
- Orientation to the physical workspace
- Introduction to colleagues and key stakeholders
- Training and development opportunities
- Information about the company’s history and goals
- Payroll and benefits enrollment processes
- Resources for employee support and assistance
- Code of conduct, dress code, and ethical guidelines
- Time and attendance policies
- Holiday and vacation policy
- Contact information for key personnel and resources
- Communication channels and tools
- Opportunities for collaboration and team building
By providing this detailed information upfront, employers can set up their new hires for success from day one.
Nail the onboarding process with help from Upwork
The success of your organization in 2023 and beyond hinges on how effectively you onboard new employees. By following the best practices outlined above, you can ensure your new hires feel valued, supported, and prepared for the job.
Remember, employee onboarding is an essential function that should be taken seriously by organizations of all sizes. To take your onboarding process to the next level, consider engaging freelance professionals from Upwork to help you craft a more robust and effective program. With the help of Upwork’s employee onboarding freelancers, you can create a welcoming work environment where new employees feel comfortable and confident in their roles.
Ready to start nailing your onboarding process? It’s time to get connected with top talent on Upwork.
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