New Employee Onboarding: Building a Strong Foundation for Engagement

In life, first impressions are everything. For a company, first impressions are developed during the onboarding process. New employee onboarding sets the tone for an employee’s experiences at the organization. Whether good or bad, its effects are lasting.

Picture this: you’re starting a new job and aren’t sure what to expect. On your first day, you are simply sent a PDF document detailing the company’s mission, vision, and onboarding instructions. And you’re not introduced to many of your new coworkers. This leaves you feeling in the dark about your new role and isolated from your team.

In contrast, imagine that your manager hosts a welcome meeting on your first day. You’re introduced to new colleagues, connecting with those you’ll be working closely with. You then walk through the onboarding process with your manager, working through any questions in real-time. This prepares you for your new role and responsibilities and surrounds you with support, welcoming you to the team and encouraging engagement.

New employee onboarding is an important catalyst in deciding how engaged a new hire will be as they transition into the company. It’s important to put the necessary time and resources into creating an effective and engaging onboarding strategy. To not risk starting off on the wrong foot, you must identify where many onboarding strategies typically go wrong, to avoid falling into the same mistakes.

Onboarding Issues for Employers and Employees

According to Gallup, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. This means that a staggering 88% of organizations don’t onboard well, resulting in increased turnover and decreased productivity.

There are many common pain points that often interfere with creating an effective and engaging onboarding strategy. A few issues that often arise with employee onboarding include the following:

A good onboarding process takes time. For employers, it may not always be easy to take time away from regular tasks to prioritize onboarding, but it’s critical to not let this negatively impact an employee’s training. During a new employee onboarding, it’s also important to avoid overloading new hires with too much information. By giving ample time to process, employers can avoid overwhelming employees and improve engagement and participation.

New employee onboarding can suffer from a lack of specificity. Whether it’s unclear performance measures, an incomplete list of job responsibilities, or vague workplace expectations, a lack of clarity is detrimental to an onboarding strategy. This can lead to confusion, which can be avoided by providing a bit more detail. Onboarding should be customized to each new hire, detailing their roles and responsibilities. This better communicates expectations and can provide actionable advice and valuable information.

Many employers make the mistake of thinking onboarding is a one-and-done event. Onboarding should be a continual learning process that takes place over the course of an employee’s career and development at the company. To avoid this, managers must establish clear lines of communication with new hires to address any questions and take advantage of any learning moments that arise.

In addition to these missteps, a unique challenge that employers must consider is remote onboarding.  If done poorly, remote onboarding can lead to a disconnect from company culture and values and create poor social connections. Managers have to navigate the dynamics between new employees and senior employees who’ve worked together for years, and work to limit the social isolation that often comes with remote onboarding.

Although the list of common missteps may seem daunting, it reveals a roadmap for creating an engaging and successful onboarding strategy. By understanding the weaknesses and downfalls of many onboarding processes, your company can create a stronger onboarding strategy that both prepares employees for their new role and encourages engagement in that new hire.

Best Practices for New Employee Onboarding

Onboarding is about learning and connection, building the foundation for new employees and their journey with your company.

To understand the impact of onboarding, consider these stats:

  • 93% of employers believe a good onboarding experience is critical in influencing a new employee’s decision whether to stay with the company.
  • New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years.
  • Well-executed new employee onboarding improves retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

Now knowing the importance of onboarding, as well as many of the common missteps, you may be wondering how to create an engaging and effective new employee onboarding strategy. To get started building your strategy, consider these best practices checklist:

1. Begin onboarding before the first official day.
Establishing the right tone from the moment they accept their job offer will build a solid foundation for an employee’s entire career at the company. Be sure to highlight company values, mission, and culture – communicating what’s most important at the start.

Set your new hire up for success before by getting all the tech they’ll need in order, setting up their new email, and organizing any paperwork. Making this part of the process as easy as possible will let your new employee focus on company culture, values, and connections, rather than being overwhelmed by administrative tasks.

2. Connect with the direct manager.
Start creating connections by getting their direct manager involved in the onboarding process. Managers often hold more knowledge of the team and can better anticipate what new employees may need and how to best support them.

According to Gallup, when managers play an active role in new employee onboarding, employees are 2.5 times more likely to strongly agree their onboarding was exceptional.

3. Gather feedback about their experience and act on it.
Give new hires different methods of inputting feedback. Clear lines of communication help them feel heard and appreciated. Collecting feedback is also valuable for employers, as this information can reveal any weaknesses in your onboarding process and help improve the process for future employees.

Establish a feedback loop between your new employee and leaders and executive directors. When leaders understand the experience of new employees, this can help them make better workplace decisions in support of their employees.

To learn more about employee feedback strategies and how they can benefit your company and employees, check out this recent Aduro blog: Employee Feedback Strategies to Improve the Workplace.

4. Set goals and objectives beyond their first month.
A critical aspect of onboarding is to set clear expectations. Communicate to your new hire what their first week, month, year, and so on should look like. It takes new employees 8-12 months to become as efficient as their regular coworkers, so employers must factor in this learning curve to their goals and expectations.

It’s important for employees to feel like they’re making a contribution to stay engaged in their work. Setting clear, concise goals can aid new employees in their transition to their role and can help them find where they fit into the team.

One way to support goal-setting is to take a coach approach and create mutually agreed-upon goals, which can greatly benefit their onboarding experience.

5. Create opportunities for personal connections.
Help new employees connect with their coworkers and form bonds on a more personal level. Meaningful connections with coworkers result in better team collaboration, increased morale, higher retention rates, boosted productivity, and increased employee satisfaction and well-being.

There’s also an opportunity to address and embrace cultural and generational differences. A coffee chat with a co-worker outside of their team can help them build further organizational knowledge. Or encouraging them to join an employee resource group based on their identity or interests can help to further build relationships.

An HBR survey revealed that new hires with a moderate number of strong relationships within their cohort reported greater job satisfaction four months after joining the company, received higher annual performance ratings, and were less likely to leave the company in their first three years.

Onto Better Onboarding

Onboarding sets the stage for an employee’s career at your company, so this experience must be intentional. Onboarding must be an organization-wide initiative, taking involvement from the entire company to be successful. By encouraging engagement, creating a welcoming environment, and introducing coworker connections and support networks, your new employee onboarding strategy can make an excellent first impression, setting your new hires up for success from day one.