The process of onboarding new employees is usually done with good intentions but not doing it well can have far-reaching ramifications for the business, even impacting the bottom line.

The employee experience of onboarding has been shown to have a direct influence on how well they integrate with their teams, how long they stay with the organisation and how successful they are in their roles. A 2015 study by global research firm, Brandon Hall Group, The True Cost of a Bad Hire, found that companies with a strong onboarding process, “improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%”.

With the increased propensity of job-hopping among the Millennial generation, procedures that increase employee retention are more important than ever. A 2018 survey conducted by the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) found that 58% of Millennial employees and 37% of 26-35 year olds leave a job within a year.

With that in mind, we have prepared an outline of current best-practice onboarding steps to help ensure that your new employees are happy and content from the very beginning of their journey with your organisation.

Begin onboarding before day one

Reaching out to new employees in the weeks before their start date can serve to positively reinforce their impression of the organisation, which they will carry into the office on day one. This might include emailing information such as the time to arrive on their first day, who to ask for upon arrival, available parking, public transport timetables and the company dress code. This provides an understanding of what to expect on day one and therefore helps ease the inevitable anxiety about starting a new job.

Conversely, not making contact with a new employee at all before their start date can convey the message that they are not highly valued.

Create an onboarding checklist

Many companies send out an email to the line managers of new employees to remind them of the start date and a checklist for the new employee’s first week. An onboarding checklist provides new employees with a focus for the first few days on the job and ensures that all aspects of the onboarding process are attended to.

The checklist might include tasks such as undertaking employee induction, completing necessary paperwork and introductions to key members of the management team. Essentially, it should cover who and what the new employee needs to know to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

Automate the boring stuff

Let’s face it, no one enjoys having to fill out a bunch of forms when they begin a new job. The employee experience in this area can be greatly improved through automation of the process with onboarding software. Automation also allows HR and line managers to more easily track the completion of the documentation.

Prepare a company handbook

Some organisations have a handbook that communicates information to new employees such as a welcome note from the CEO, company history and values, code of conduct, training and development opportunities, and policies and procedures. Increasingly, company handbooks are posted on information boards rather than being printed as physical documents.

Create a memorable first day

The last thing you want is for a new hire to get home after their first day and say that they sat around doing nothing except filling out a bunch of forms. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Suggestions for helping new employees to settle in on their first day include:

  1. Making sure that their desk is set up, including, email and necessary software. Being told, “IT will be around later to set up your email and passwords” creates a negative image in relation to the efficiency of the organisation.
  2. Preparing a welcome pack that might include a welcome message, the company handbook, business cards, stationery and a small gift.
  3. Scheduling a one-on-one meeting with their line manager on the first morning, no matter how busy the manager is.
  4. Assigning a team member to take the new person around the office and introduce them to co-workers in their immediate area. Also, essentials such as where the bathrooms are located and how to use the printers.
  5. Scheduling lunch with the team, paid for by the organisation.

Establish an onboarding team

Creating an onboarding team of staff from different areas of the business provides new employees with a valuable overview of the operations of the company. It also gives the newcomer some points of contact outside of their own team and provides a peer perspective on company culture, which is more personal than that of management and HR. It also allows other employees some ownership of setting new employees on the right path.

Assign a buddy

Assigning a co-worker as a ‘buddy’ for new employees is a great technique for creating a smoother onboarding experience. It immediately provides newcomers with a person that they can communicate with on a more social level than they would with their manager. New employees will also feel much more comfortable asking a peer the many questions that inevitable come up when starting a new job, rather than their manager.

It is crucial to assign someone that you know is engaged and motivated in their own role. Just assigning the person who has been with the company the longest could result in a buddy who is jaded or apathetic, which creates a terrible impression on the new hire.

A buddy will also be able to determine the rate at which the new employee is coming up to speed, which allows their manager to either reduce or increase their workload and responsibility to a more appropriate level.

Create realistic expectations

It is critical to have realistic expectations of a new employee. There can be a tendency to load them up with work to alleviate pressure on other staff – after all, that’s why you hired them in the first place.

Employees who move into a new position within the organisation are particularly susceptible to being overloaded as there is often an assumption that they already know everything.

But, overwhelming a new hire with work can create enormous pressure on them as they are settling in to a new environment and style of work. New employees are eager to impress so are much less likely to push back when they feel overworked. However, this can plant seeds of resentment and affect retention in the long run.