Most employers, team managers, and HR experts are still quite surprised when faced with the idea that employee onboarding is a long-term, high-touch process that can last up to a year.
Indeed, they are even more surprised to learn that onboarding unofficially starts as soon as a new employee accepts your job offer.
Well, we’re here to set the record straight. This article will propose a highly effective timeline for your employee onboarding process full of engaging activities and valuable objectives you should aim for when onboarding new hires.
Read on to find a wealth of actionable tips and professional advice that will help you onboard successful team members and increase your chances of retaining them for years to come.
After the Candidate Has Accepted Your Job Offer
The conventional way to think about onboarding is that it starts when your new employee walks through the door on their first day. However, an effective, successful onboarding process should begin long before that.
In fact, the appropriate moment to start is as soon as the new hire accepts your job offer.
Starting your onboarding efforts so early is a good idea because your new employee’s decision to accept your job offer isn’t set in stone.
They might still be receiving other job offers, meaning there’s a very real chance that they’ll change their mind.
Therefore, try to get in touch with a welcoming email as soon as possible.
Besides acknowledging that the offer has been accepted, you can also write a personal thank you message and establish a point of contact between your company and the new employee.
That way, the new employee knows exactly who to contact should they have any questions or issues.
In addition to that, why not take this opportunity to brag about your new hire?
Get on your company’s LinkedIn profile and write a post about your new team member to introduce them to your team and the public. And don’t forget to tag them, if possible.
With such a token of appreciation, the new recruit will be much more likely to stick with their decision to work for you, even with other offers to consider.
Plus, it’s never too early to start fostering excitement and team spirit in your new employee.
Remember, onboarding should start as soon as your new employee accepts your job offer and continue in the weeks leading up to their first day at the company. The following section will give you some more tips for this “pre-boarding” period.
During the Waiting Period
The waiting period after offer acceptance and the employee’s first day is a great opportunity to get to know them a little better and prepare for their arrival.
That way, the new employee can focus on their work from day one, and your HR department can rest easy knowing they’ve collected all the necessary documentation beforehand.
An important aspect to deal with during this time is the new hire’s living situation. Are they moving to a new city to do their job?
If so, it’s important to offer support and help them make the transition as easy and comfortable as possible.
Relocating poses many challenges, so your new employee will be very grateful for your support.
Also, it’s a good idea to complete the relocation process before they start their work as that will mitigate a lot of the stress and help the new employee concentrate on integrating into their new role.
In addition to that, pre-boarding is an excellent time to get the new employee acquainted with company culture and their new role.
In fact, employee surveys have shown that new hires expect to learn as much as possible about the company during this waiting period.
To help them learn, it’s a good idea to prepare an information library that holds important documents, such as company policy, details about the role, and information about their new colleagues.
Using documentation software like Archbee, your knowledge library becomes easily shareable and conveniently searchable so that even your newest employees can find their way around with no trouble at all, like in the example below.
Just imagine, you can have all of your company documents on hand on a single webpage like the one above. You can give your employees access so they can learn about your company before they come to work on the first day.
The main takeaway here is that the waiting period shouldn’t be a time of silence.
Rather, you should consider it a great opportunity to get as much as possible out of the way so that the new employee can focus on what really matters once they start their new job.
Just Before the First Day
A day or two before starting their new job is one of the most stressful periods your new employee will have to go through during their time at your company.
That’s why it’s important to get in touch and set your new employee’s expectations and comfort level before they come to work on their first day.
Getting in touch with a warm message or a personal call will help the new employee relax and cancel any uncertainty and confusion. It will create the atmosphere needed to have a truly productive and positive first day at work.
While you’re at it, it might be a good idea to provide them with an itinerary for the next two days. Have the new hire look it over and answer any questions they might have about it.
A full itinerary is crucial because having a busy couple of days when the new employee starts will help them integrate better into the team and prevent them from feeling lost.
Noah Brier, a co-founder at Percolate, the content marketing platform, says that a full schedule for the first day is one of the most important features of their onboarding process.
“In my own personal experience, it’s a weird feeling to show up on the first day and not having any work or idea of what to do. So we fill those days as much as possible.”
Keep in mind that the new hire’s excitement about their new position is almost at its peak at this point and that they’re feeling a bit stressed as well.
Checking in and offering a kind word and some practical tasks to focus on will help you put their mind and ease and have positive first contact with your company.
The First Day
The day has finally arrived for your new employee to begin their work.
As you can imagine, they’re feeling somewhat confused and nervous, so do what you can to prepare for their arrival and give their first day a personal touch.
Planning for a personalized and social experience for the new employee’s first day will go a long way to help them ease into their new role without feeling insecure or confused about their place at the company.
Of course, the preparation should be done before the new hire arrives to work.
This means making sure they have all the necessary equipment and access to company systems to really have a productive start at their new job.
So take some time to double-check that the new hire’s workstation is ready and functioning.
This is important because there’s nothing more awkward than arriving at work on the first day only to sit around and wait for someone to find you a computer so you can do your work.
Coming in on the first day, your new employee probably won’t have an easy time finding their way around the office or meeting their new colleagues, so it’s a good idea to take them on a tour of the premises and introduce them to their new colleagues.
It also wouldn’t hurt to ask the new recruit to write a short email to introduce themselves to the team.
That’s an excellent way to kick off connection building and give the employee a chance to introduce themselves in their own words, and not just in terms of the job they will be doing.
If you stay close for this crucial day, your new team member will definitely be grateful for your effort, and it’s the best way for them to start building a positive relationship towards their new job.
The First Week
The first week is the most sensitive part of the onboarding process.
It will have a major impact on how the employee perceives their new job, which means it will also impact your employee retention rates.
Therefore, once again, it’s important to keep this week as eventful and productive as possible.
That way, the new employees gradually incorporate themselves into their new role and start to contribute to the team in more meaningful ways.
One of the most important things to do in this period is to establish goals and expectations.
This should be done in cooperation with the new employee, so find some time to sit down with them and discuss what you expect them to achieve.
Make sure that the employee understands and agrees with the goals and expectations set before them.
Finally, don’t forget to explain how their progress will be measured.
The best way to measure your employee’s success is to evaluate the process regularly and monitor the outcomes of the goals that have been set.
They should also know that their goals will be expanded over time and depending on their success.
Another great idea for the first week would be to plan a small event to welcome the new employee to the team.
Let’s face it, everybody likes a party so putting an event together will give that crucial first week a boost of positivity your employee will surely remember fondly.
The event doesn’t need to be something grand. It could be an organized lunch for the whole team to sit down together and get to know the new employee or even a coffee break at a nearby café.
What’s important is that you invite the whole team on time, so that everyone can plan to attend and organize the event in a way that puts the new employee in the center.
After a private goal-setting meeting with their superior and a chance to get to know their new colleagues, your new employee is sure to have a stimulating and engaging first week that’s sure to pave the way for future success.
The First Month
Retaining a high-touch, engaging approach during the first month of onboarding is essential because as many as 91% of employees consider quitting after the first month.
That’s because one whole month is needed for your employee to settle in and learn the ropes, which means their opinion about your company and their role becomes fully formed.
The first month of onboarding should be about learning and evaluating.
And this evaluation flows both ways. As your employee is evaluating your company and their job, you should be evaluating their performance.
The most effective way to accurately evaluate your employee and learn how they fit in their work environment is to exchange feedback regularly.
Regular feedback exchanges will help you get on the same page, meaning you’ll know exactly what to do to retain your employee.
Likewise, your employee will also know what steps to take to exceed your expectations and become an invaluable part of the team.
Furthermore, regular feedback also has a major impact on your employee’s engagement levels. This is important because feeling disengaged at work very often leads to employees quitting their job and looking for a better fit.
Make sure the feedback you give is specific and actionable, so you can turn it into concrete steps the employee can take to advance their performance.
Also, don’t forget to also ask for feedback from your employee.
Onboarding should always be an employee-centric process so any feedback you can get will help you improve and perfect your onboarding process.
The takeaway here is that this first month should be a high-touch period.
You and your employee need to work together to create the optimal circumstances that will enable you to get the best from your employee and help them find a place for themselves at your firm.
Continuity until the End of Onboarding
The first month can definitely be the most intense and most important period in employee onboarding.
However, this should not mean that the onboarding process is completed after this first month.
In fact, experts agree that employee onboarding should take at least three months and up to a year.
Extending your onboarding process beyond three months increases your chances of retaining the employee because it helps them become comfortable in their role and do their best work, day in and day out.
After the first month of onboarding, it should be alright to scale down your one-on-one meetings with the employee.
However, it’s still important to sync up from time to time to evaluate the employee’s progress and how satisfied they are with their work.
At this point, a topic you may consider adding to the conversation is the employee’s future at the company.
After all, they are gradually becoming a full member of the team, so it’s important to discuss where they plan to take their role in the future.
In addition to that, your main objective until the end of the onboarding period should be to foster independence in the employee.
That means giving them more advanced goals to achieve and more complicated tasks to accomplish while taking a more passive mentoring role.
Remember, employee onboarding is a long-term, continuous process.
Even after you determine that the employee has learned the basics of their role and accomplished the onboarding goals you have laid out for them, it’s important that you stay involved in their progress.
Having followed your employee for their first months at the company, or even for the entire year, you’re sure to gain a high-achieving, successful member of your team who is unlikely to leave your company any time soon.
Hopefully, this article has successfully expanded your view on what a highly effective onboarding process should be.
Rather than serving as a short training session on how things are done, a good onboarding process integrates a new employee into their new role and broader company culture.
It provides them with ample reason to stay at the company and helps them realize their full potential.
All of this, of course, takes time. Therefore, we’ve outlined our vision of onboarding in several phases.
Starting at the moment of offer acceptance, we feel that the perfect onboarding process should take at least three months and up to a whole year.
Your next step is to reevaluate your own onboarding process and see if you can apply some of our advice to make it longer, more effective, and employee-centric.