onboarding best practices

Every new employee reflects time and money – not only in the recruiting and interviewing process but in the time it takes to bring them up to speed and make them productive. Creating an engaging and comprehensive onboarding program will maximize your investment, reduce your overall training time, and generate motivated and enthusiastic new employees who are ready to help your company thrive.

Many companies view onboarding as simply “orientation” – those first few days on the job where new hires learn how to use the phones, find the bathrooms, and fill out paperwork. This completely misses the bigger picture.

Onboarding is more than Orientation

Onboarding is an opportunity to immerse your new team member in every element of your company – from the basic and tactical to the strategic and cultural. An effective program will help new employees become ambassadors of your brand and organization, which is especially crucial if they have contact with customers, vendors, partners or anyone outside the company. They will reflect and deliver your brand to the outside world so it’s imperative they do so in a brand-right way.

By integrating brand, culture, and marketing messages into your onboarding program, you will generate alignment and consistency throughout your organization and support the delivery of your brand.

Onboarding Best Practices

  1. Reflect the brand. The strength of your brand plays a huge role in recruiting and retaining top talent. The onboarding process should reflect your brand seamlessly and consistently.
  2. Reduce time to productivity. How fast can your new hire be up-to-speed? The sooner they’re productive, the sooner the company will benefit from their contributions.
  3. Unify all onboarding efforts. There are multiple components and agendas that make up onboarding – everything from payroll and benefits to security, IT, branding, customer service and more. A unified and integrated program that covers all onboarding elements will ensure each topic is trained consistently and according to company standards.
  4. Introduce company culture. New employees can impact an organization’s culture. Now’s the time to introduce the company culture, and help new hires understand how they will be expected to meld into it.
  5. Roll-out for maximum retention. Don’t overwhelm new hires by cramming all onboarding into the first few days or weeks on the job. Spread it out to improve retention and provide on-the-job experience that can build better context.
  6. Provide coaching & mentorship. It’s easy for new-hires to get frustrated, overwhelmed, and simply throw in the towel. If you lose them, you’ve also lost time and money. Give new employees an appropriate and safe outlet to vent, ask questions, and get coached.
  7. Include evaluation and go/no-go checkpoints. Sometimes that person who shined in the hiring process turns out to be not the best fit after all. Build in checkpoints and measures for evaluation to help identify and de-select a poor fit early in the process, before you’ve invested a lot of time and money.
  8. Involve managers. Don’t pass off onboarding to the training or HR departments. Involve managers to establish rapport quicker and help them identify strengths and weaknesses, communication styles, motivation factors, growth opportunities and more.
  9. Keep employees in the work environment. It’s tempting to ship your new employees off to a classroom for onboarding, but they’ll learn faster and retain more if you provide as much training as possible in the actual work environment.
  10. Map to a larger plan. Onboarding should connect to and reflect your overall business objectives to support long-term company success. Also, development plans for each employee that are initiated in the onboarding process will improve motivation while building upon larger business goals.

For other thoughts on onboarding, be sure to check out this article:

Eight Benefits of a Brand-Aligned Onboarding Program

About Alice Wright

As Director of Content Strategy, Alice directs projects while also designing program strategy and instructional content. She has more than 22 years of experience managing integrated strategic marketing, communication and training programs for globally recognized brands. Some of her current and past clients include Nike, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Banfield Pet Hospital, Office Depot, Unilever, LensCrafters, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, adidas, Joann Stores and others. Alice earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and teenage son in Portland, Oregon where she loves exploring the outdoors and being a soccer/band mom.