Driving Great Hires through Onboarding: Seven Critical Steps to Success

Is your team using data analytics, technology and specialized expertise to accomplish the very best results in research, sourcing, recruiting and hiring, but when your new hires accept the offer, they enter a black hole as your team hands off to HR, management, or, worst, no one? You may be in need of an onboarding plan in 2018. If you work in a large company with abundant resources and teams dedicated to handling onboarding, it may surprise you to learn that not everyone has the capacity to easily hand off to another team to help ensure new hires are integrated into your culture and feel welcome, even before day one. With a little planning, and some cooperation, every organization can achieve great onboarding!

According to Sean Little, writing for the SHRM Blog, “effective onboarding should acclimate the new employee to allow him or her to become a contributing member of the staff in the briefest period possible, while engaging the employee to enhance productivity and improve the opportunity for the company to retain the employee.” It’s pretty clear that getting new employees contributing to the bottom line as quickly as possible represents a greater return on investment in that new resource. But what other benefits should drive our quest for effective onboarding? For one, the data has shown that those new hires who undergo a full onboarding program have increased rates of retention. Retention helps reduce the cost of turnover, and capture the benefits of training and development invested in each hire.

Where to Start

It is easy to identify a great starting point for your onboarding program. It starts the moment your new hire accepts an offer. What does this important first step look like?

•       Provide information on what to expect next with any post-offer activities like background checks and drug testing, and include updates as they are received to keep nervous new hires up to date

•       Send “pre-boarding” information like tax forms, I-9, emergency contacts and payroll information in advance, or provide an electronic platform for your hire to log in and complete these needed steps.

•       Set up a new employee welcome lunch for the first day

•       Put together a schedule for your new hire’s first couple of days, including a buddy

•       Outline basic practical details, like where to park, who to call upon arrival and cell phone numbers for HR and the hiring manager

•       Assign your new hire a team member who can be a “go-to” help with questions

Immediately enveloping your new hires with a warm welcome and details to help them feel a sense of belonging will ensure they are part of the team, from even before day one. Now that we have a sense for what the first steps toward effective onboarding might be, let’s move on to outline a plan for a full year of onboarding for your new employee.  

What does a full onboarding plan look like?

•       First Day - Orient your new hire to the new surroundings, continue cultural integration that began during the hiring process, provide technological resources and basic information needed to do the job

•       Teammate program – Assign a teammate to every new hire who is tasked with answering questions, introducing the new hire to others, and providing support. Teammates can develop long-term collaborative relationships, and since we know that having friends at work can increase engagement, this is an opportunity for you to help your new hire start a first professional relationship with a co-worker.

•       Drive by say hi (stay plugged in) – HR, managers and teammates should check in on an informal basis to see how things are going, and it’s even better if other leaders and employees do so as well. There’s nothing that communicates how much an employee is appreciated like hearing from a skip-level manager, or even receiving a surprise informal note from an executive leader!

•       Managing the Manager - Ensuring job training is delivered & is effective, especially over the first 90 days of employment, is a critical part of the onboarding process. Managers get busy, and sometimes they need support to ensure they make time for training and coaching a new hire. New hires need coaching, feedback and performance assistance, and training is a large part of meeting that need during the early days of a new role.  

•       The Offer – Some organizations, including Zappos and Amazon, have instituted an offer for every new hire to leave at a certain point, and take a payout (often two weeks of salary) with them. This approach isn’t right for every organization, but where I have recommended it, I’ve suggested the offer be given at 90 days. This allows new hires to fully understand what the job is about, and what the company is like, and make a wise decision about whether it makes sense to continue or move on. This can be an easy way for a failed hire to gracefully exit, and for a great hire to recommit.

•       6 months in – A sense of true belonging should be taking root with your new hire. The six-month mark is a wonderful time to look back and celebrate all of the progress your new hire has made, and make more substantial development and growth plans for the remainder of the first year. Candid, specific performance feedback is appropriate here as well, as your hire continues to develop fully in his or her role-and feedback goes both ways. Continue asking your employee what you can do better to help him or her be successful at work, and then take action!

•       Hire-a-versary: Wow! That first year flew by! It’s time to celebrate your new hire’s employment anniversary with recognition and appreciation suitable to your employee’s needs and values. It could be the right time to deliver his or her first annual performance review, if that fits with your performance review process, but hopefully, if you have been following a good onboarding process, you have been delivering feedback and coaching at every step along the way. If all has gone well, it may even be appropriate for your new hire to become one of the trusted teammates you assign to mentor other new hires.

Implementing these seven steps will help ensure that you are successful in integrating your new hires into your organizational culture, maximize their contributions and engagement, and retain them for future success, and your employer brand will benefit as well! For more details on how to make and keep great hires, see my book, Driving Great Hires: Using Authentic Employer Branding to Find Your Best Hire.

Kelly Marinelli