December 14th, 2021

How to Create an Exceptional Employee Onboarding Experience

It’s your first day at a new job and you’re excited, nervous, and probably a bit overwhelmed. We’ve all been the new person before. What happens on day one sets in motion your employee onboarding experience. 

In some cases, the employee onboarding experience can be a bad one. Maybe your boss isn’t there to greet you, your desk isn’t set up, there is no training, and you haven’t had a chance to meet any of your new coworkers. 

Just like our first impressions of people, the first few weeks on a job can say a lot about a company. As a result, many businesses spend a great deal of time building a program to facilitate a positive employee onboarding experience. 

What Is the Employee Onboarding Experience?

The employee onboarding experience is just that—an experience. It’s not just a new hire training or orientation. Instead, the onboarding experience is the culmination of a variety of activities an employee experiences until they are fully ramped. In other words, employee onboarding is the process of transitioning a new hire to a valued member of the organization. 

The onboarding process can last up to a year. According to Jobvite, 33% of employees leave a new job after 90 days. So many employers focus their onboarding efforts on the first few weeks and months of their new hires’ experience. The onboarding process can include many activities:

  • New hire paperwork
  • Equipment set up
  • Office tour  
  • Team lunch
  • Systems training
  • Company history and culture training
  • Product training
  • Manager one-on-ones 
  • Cross-functional team introductions
  • Company events

Why Is an Employee Onboarding Experience Important?

The first few days of a new job can set the tone for the rest of an employee’s duration at a company. The overall employee onboarding experience is what helps a new hire transition to an official employee. So if it’s not done correctly, that may never happen. 

Having an employee onboarding program is critical to the assimilation of an employee into your culture, processes, and the employee’s role so they can be a productive member of your organization. 

A poor onboarding experience results in lower productivity, lower engagement, and turnover. 

Employees who have a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to look for a new opportunity in the near future. After all the hard work of recruiting and hiring someone, this is the last thing you want to happen. As a result, having an employee onboarding program is essential to your business. 

Creating an Employee Onboarding Program

The employee onboarding experience starts as soon as your new hire accepts their job offer. So one approach to an onboarding program is to section activities or objectives based on before the employee starts, and then their first days, weeks, and months. 

Before their start date: You might provide an outline of what to expect on the first day, access to the employee handbook, and their schedule for the week. And be sure to introduce the rest of your team to the new hire by sending out a communication introducing the employee. 

On day one: Be sure the new employee receives initial logins and passwords to your systems and knows how to reach IT in case of difficulties. Helpful information on the first day may also include a tour of the office or workspace (e.g., restrooms, kitchens, office supplies, emergency exit plans, and meeting rooms) as well as suggestions of nearby lunch spots and other conveniences. 

No two onboarding processes will look exactly the same, but the intention is the same—to make each new employee feel welcome and properly equipped for the new role. It helps to put yourself in the new employee’s shoes—what questions, concerns, or needs would you have? 

An onboarding plan should include: 

  • Tools required to complete the onboarding (i.e. onboarding or training platforms)
  • Resources for the employee (e.g. office map, company directory, etc.)
  • The people necessary to support or execute each activity 
  • Dates to complete each activity

A formal onboarding plan serves as a reference for your HR department and hiring managers, but can easily be converted into a checklist for the new hire. The onboarding process should be a mix of formal and informal experiences. Employee onboarding programs that include more than just paperwork and training are more likely to result in a positive experience. But there are a variety of ways to improve your onboarding program. 

Improving Your Employee Onboarding Experience

Perhaps you already have an existing onboarding program in place. If so, that’s awesome! You’re well on your way to creating an exceptional experience for your team. But here are some other ways organizations have improved their employee onboarding experience:

  • Automate paperwork. Having employees fill out paperwork by hand takes a lot of time. There are plenty of free or low-cost platforms that can allow employees to fill things out electronically—even before they start—and save them automatically. 
  • Make it fun. Onboarding doesn’t have to be a bunch of scheduled meetings and training sessions. Your onboarding program will include administrative work, but also throw in fun activities such as lunch with the team or training offsite. 
  • Pair new hires with a buddy. Some new hires won’t know anyone besides their boss when they start. A designated coworker can show the new hire around or answer questions they may not be comfortable asking their managers. 
  • Make it personal. New employees should feel welcome and appreciated. Even if you’re hiring a group of people at one time, find a way to make them feel special. Write a handwritten welcome note and a personalized gift for their first day. Share a personal anecdote about them in a company meeting or email so others can get to know them too. 
  • Make it interactive. Employees watching videos on their own for every training can get tedious and isn’t a great way to ensure they’re learning. Incorporate some interactive meetings where new hires can share personal experiences or actively participate in their learning. 
  • Maintain communication. The onboarding process will eventually end. But since it can last up to a year, having regular check-ins with employees to see how they’re doing and if they have feedback on their onboarding can help improve the process moving forward. 

Hiring new employees is exciting—especially in this job market. So make sure your onboarding program sets new hires up for success. The better your employee onboarding experience, the better your company productivity, employee engagement, and retention will be. To learn more about how to retain top talent, download the guide below.

Download Our Guide: How to Retain Your Employees

Learn the top 4 reasons employees leave and multiple ways to address them.

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