What are the Best Employee Onboarding Practices?

By Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder
Published: Feb 17, 2024
Most companies would agree that effectively onboarding new employees is critical for organizational success. In this post, you’ll discover the best practices for onboarding that set employees up for productivity and long-term retention. You’ll come away with a comprehensive understanding of the 4 phases of onboarding and how to implement the 5 C’s at each […]
A hand drawing the word 'ONBOARDING' with a blue marker, symbolizing the active process of integrating new employees into a company.

Most companies would agree that effectively onboarding new employees is critical for organizational success.

In this post, you’ll discover the best practices for onboarding that set employees up for productivity and long-term retention.

You’ll come away with a comprehensive understanding of the 4 phases of onboarding and how to implement the 5 C’s at each step.

Introduction to Effective Employee Onboarding

A person in a blue blazer extending a welcoming handshake, symbolizing an inviting and professional onboarding process.

Employee onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into a company and preparing them to be productive members of the team. 

An effective onboarding program is much more than orientation – it continues after day one and sets up employees for long-term success. 

Proper onboarding leads to higher job satisfaction, better retention, and increased productivity.

Understanding Employee Onboarding

Onboarding differs from orientation in that it is an ongoing process, not just a single event. 

Orientation introduces basic policies and procedures, while onboarding establishes role expectations, instills company culture, provides training, and promotes connections, while onboarding continues through the first months of employment.

The True Cost of Employee Turnover on Your Business

Companies with poor onboarding have over 60% voluntary turnover in the first six months. 

This churn is enormously expensive – losing an employee can cost 1-2x their annual salary. 

Effective onboarding leads to 54% greater new hire productivity and 50% increased retention.

Goals of an Onboarding Process

The goals of onboarding include:

  • Accelerating new hire productivity
  • Improving employee retention and engagement
  • Transmitting company culture and values
  • Establishing clear role expectations and goals
  • Identifying strengths/weaknesses to customize training
  • Promoting connections with team members

What are onboarding best practices?

A group of diverse colleagues smiling and applauding as two people shake hands, representing a positive and inclusive employee welcoming

Onboarding new employees is crucial for setting them up for success and retaining top talent. However, effective onboarding requires planning and effort. 

Here are some best practices to help:

Start before day one
  • Send a welcome packet with key information ahead of the first day so employees can prepare
  • Set up equipment and access in advance so the employee can dive in quickly
Assign a buddy
  • Pair new hires with a peer buddy to help navigate questions and office culture
  • Buddies give new employees a trusted resource beyond just managers
Don’t forget to onboard the team
  • Inform teams that a new member is arriving to welcome and assist with integration
  • Schedule a team lunch to facilitate relationships and camaraderie
Include cultural onboarding
  • Share company history, mission, and values to convey culture
  • Highlight norms like communication styles, work schedules, and dress code
Get feedback
  • Check-in regularly to address concerns quickly
  • Adjust onboarding based on new hire input to improve experience

Following structured best practices makes onboarding more consistent and effective for assimilating quality talent. 

Comprehensive onboarding leads to more engaged, productive, and longer-tenured employees.

What are the 5 C’s of onboarding?

Hands carefully encircling a circle of paper cut-out figures on a table, depicting the concept of team unity and protection in the workplace.

The 5 C’s of effective onboarding provide a useful framework for organizations looking to improve their onboarding processes. 

They include:

Compliance

Ensuring new hires complete all necessary paperwork, training, and certifications to comply with legal and regulatory requirements. 

This includes items like:

  • Tax forms
  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • Sexual harassment training
  • Safety certifications
Clarification

Clearly defining the new employee’s job responsibilities, performance expectations, workplace policies, and procedures. 

This clarity helps avoid confusion and sets them up for success.

Confidence

Giving new hires the tools, resources, and support to build self-confidence in their new role. Self-assured employees perform better.

Connection

Introducing and integrating the new hire into the organization’s culture. A sense of connection improves engagement and retention.

Culture

Educating the new employee on company values, norms, and beliefs. Understanding the culture facilitates assimilation.

Following these 5 C’s allows organizations to improve new hire onboarding. It leads to greater productivity, satisfaction, and retention.

What are the 4 phases of onboarding?

A large hand picking a businessman out from a lineup of white silhouetted figures, illustrating the selection of a candidate for a position or a special role in a company.

Onboarding often occurs in four key phases:

Pre-Onboarding

Before an employee’s first day, it’s important to make preparations to welcome them, such as:

  • Send a welcome email with key details like start time, dress code, who to ask for, etc.
  • Make sure their workspace is set up with equipment and access.
  • Provide any pre-reading material so they’re informed on day one.
Onboarding and Welcoming New Employees

The first day and week are critical. You want new hires to feel welcomed and excited. 

Key elements:

  • Greet new employees on their arrival. Give them an office tour and introduce them to team members.
  • Review company history, mission, values, and culture. Explain their role.
  • Handle any HR items like paperwork, payroll details, etc.
Training

The next phase focuses on job-specific training:

  • Provide hands-on training for their particular role.
  • Explain processes, systems, tools they’ll be using.
  • Set goals and create a training schedule if needed.
Transition to New Role

Finally, support their transition to fully functioning in their job:

  • Check-in regularly to see if they have any questions.
  • After 30/60/90 days, review their progress and see if any additional training is needed.
  • Celebrate milestones and provide feedback to ensure their success.

Following structured onboarding phases helps new hires get up to speed quickly and smoothly.

Preboarding Strategies for New Hires

A group of five cheerful professionals with documents in hand, standing in an office setting, representing a team ready to collaborate and engage in the workplace.

This section will cover important preboarding activities that help new hires prepare before their first official day.

Welcome Communications and the Employee Handbook

Sending a welcome email to new hires right after they accept the job offer is a great way to start the preboarding process. 

This email can cover logistics like the first day schedule, parking details, dress code, etc. It’s also a chance to express excitement about the new hire joining the team.

Attaching the employee handbook to this email enables new hires to start learning about the company history, mission, values, policies, and culture. 

Having this context before day one facilitates a smoother transition. 

The handbook also serves as an ongoing reference for any questions new employees have later on.

Completing Payroll Forms Like Form W-4 and Form I-9

Important payroll and compliance paperwork should be sent to new hires early on as well.

This includes tax forms like Form W-4, direct deposit info, non-compete agreements, and Form I-9 to establish employment eligibility.

Having new employees complete these forms ahead of time ensures payroll and HR issues don’t delay their start date or first paycheck. 

It also gives the opportunity to collect any additional employment documentation required.

Remote Hiring: Equipment and Access Setup

For remote employees especially, making sure they have full system access and equipment on day one is crucial. 

After an offer is accepted, order any technology the employee will need, like a laptop.

Also coordinate with IT to guarantee all accounts, logins, email addresses, software systems, and collaboration tools are completely set up for their start date. 

Test access in advance to troubleshoot any issues early on.

With these preboarding strategies, new hires will start off knowledgeable, compliant, and equipped on day one.

First Impressions: The First Day for New Hires

Welcome sign to the first day of work

Creating a welcoming and informative first day is critical for new hires. 

Here are some recommendations to help them feel supported as they begin their new roles.

Creating a Welcoming Workspace
  • Have their workspace, computer, supplies etc. fully set up, organized and ready prior to their arrival. This makes them feel valued and prepared to dive into work.
  • Assign them a peer buddy on their team to show them around, answer questions and introduce them to others. This personal connection eases first-day nerves.
  • Make their direct manager available to greet them, give a warm welcome, answer questions and set the tone for a positive working relationship.
Orientation vs. Onboarding: Setting the Stage
  • Focus less on an orientation manual review, and more on personal introductions, business context and culture. Save admin details for later.
  • Introduce new hires to key peers they’ll collaborate with. Quick 5 minute peer meetings make connections.
  • Have HR briefly discuss company vision, values and culture so they understand the environment.
Communicating the Business’s History, Vision and Mission Statement
  • Share any interesting details on company founding and history to convey heritage and culture.
  • Explain the company’s vision, organizational priorities and strategic mission so new hires grasp the big picture.
  • Discuss core values and how they shape decisions. Aligning with values creates engagement.

With a welcoming environment, interpersonal connections, and context about the business, new employees will feel supported as they transition into their critical first day.

Ongoing Support: Additional Employee Training and Development

A chalk drawing of one person helping another to climb up steps with a finger acting as the middle step, symbolizing support and mentorship in career progression.

The Role of Additional Employee Training

Additional employee training is crucial for ensuring new hires develop the necessary skills and knowledge to contribute effectively to the company. As the business landscape evolves, so too must employees’ capabilities. By investing in ongoing training programs, companies empower their workforce to keep pace with changes and operate at peak productivity.

Some key benefits of additional training for new hires include:

  • Accelerating their professional development
  • Closing any skills gaps that may still exist post-onboarding
  • Keeping them engaged as they settle into their new roles
  • Promoting collaboration by having cohorts go through training together
  • Ensuring continuity of brand values and best practices

Ultimately, additional training leads to more confident, capable employees that align with the company’s needs.

The Importance of Flexibility in Business and Training

Today’s business environment demands agility, and this extends to employee training programs. Rigid, one-size-fits-all approaches often fail to resonate with learners’ diverse needs.

By baking flexibility into training and operations, companies can better support new hires. This includes:

  • Customized development plans: Creating personalized training paths based on individuals’ growth areas.
  • Self-paced options: Enabling employees to learn at their own pace.
  • Cross-functional exposure: Providing training across departments to spur innovation.
  • Remote-friendly resources: Offering virtual instructor-led and self-guided courses.

The more tailored and flexible training is, the more likely new hires will be to retain information and enjoy the experience.

5 Employee Performance Metrics You Should Track

To gauge the effectiveness of onboarding processes, companies should track key performance metrics for new hires. Five vital ones include:

  1. Time to productivity: How long it takes for new employees to reach full productivity.
  2. Ramp-up speed: The rate at which they acquire skills and knowledge.
  3. Engagement levels: Their sense of connection and commitment to the company.
  4. Retention rates: How many new hires stay past one year.
  5. Manager feedback: Commentary from direct managers on new employees’ performance.

By monitoring these metrics over time, organizations can identify areas for improvement in their onboarding and training programs.

Conclusion: Onboarding New Employees for Long-Term Success

A group of professionals high-fiving in the air

Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success

An effective onboarding process is key to ensuring new employees are set up for long-term success. By providing a structured introduction covering goals, values, training, and culture, companies enable new hires to quickly become productive team members. Best practices include:

  • Clearly communicating company mission, values, and goals so new hires understand expectations and priorities from day one
  • Conducting thorough training on job responsibilities as well as company policies to promote compliance
  • Introducing new employees to team members and processes to facilitate collaboration
  • Providing adequate resources and support such as mentors or additional job training
  • Welcoming new hires’ perspectives and ideas to signal an inclusive culture

Following structured onboarding processes maximizes new employees’ ability to contribute and thrive.

Best Practices for Establishing and Filling a New Role

When establishing and filling new positions, thoughtful planning and execution is critical. Key steps include:

  • Defining concrete responsibilities, requirements, and objectives for the role based on current and future business needs
  • Posting openings across diverse channels to attract qualified, cultural-fit candidates
  • Setting structured interview processes assessing both hard and soft skills
  • Extending offers aligned with position benchmarks and business budget
  • Collaborating cross-functionally to ensure the new hire has resources for success

With strategic role establishment and hiring techniques, companies can build strong teams ready to move the business forward.

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Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder

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