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Tips for Creating an Onboarding Program

A lot of companies know how to hire great people, but that’s only half the battle — you also need those employees to stick around.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that 69% of employees were more likely to stay with a company for three years if they went through fantastic onboarding, and new employees who had a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to stick with the company after three years.

Onboarding is an area where many companies struggle. More than one-third don’t have a structured onboarding process, according to a survey by CareerBuilder, and those that do aren’t making the most of it. Just 12% of workers strongly felt that their employers do a great job of onboarding new employees, according to a study by Gallup.

What’s a Good Onboarding Program?

Welcoming a new employee to the company should be exciting, and the onboarding process is crucial in getting them up to speed in their new job as well as in making sure they’re aligned with the company’s mission and goals. Failing to do so can get in the way of building a relationship and connection with the new hire, and that can impact retention.

A good onboarding program should feature a detailed plan that includes a schedule and benchmarks for an employee’s first day, week, month and quarter.

The First Day

If possible, send new employees all of the necessary paperwork before they arrive on the first day. This will help ensure you can engage with them right from the start instead of waiting for them to fill out forms. Use the first day to give a new employee an overview of the company — everything from company history to its mission, products and services.

Make sure your new employees have a dedicated work area and all of the resources required to get started. There’s nothing worse than showing up to a first day on the job and not having a place to sit or the tools you need. SHRM used the example of Facebook’s “45-minute rule,” which says that new employees should be able to begin to work within 45 minutes of arriving on their first day because all of their systems and devices have already been set up.

Don’t forget to provide “survival” information — answers to questions on parking and transportation, where to find the restroom and the best lunch spots in the area. It can help to assign a buddy for the first few days or weeks. New employees might feel awkward asking the boss some of these questions, so having a coworker who can serve as an information source will be priceless.

The First Week

It can be tempting to provide employees with as much information as possible on the first day, but that can be overwhelming. You want the new hires to go home excited about their job, not feeling stressed out. Since the first week sets the tone, use it to go over all the basics.

In a BambooHR survey, 76% of new hires said receiving training during the first week on the job is most important to them. Surveyed individuals also indicated that they’d like a review of the company’s policies and administrative procedures, a facility tour, a workstation set up and an assigned buddy or mentor. HR professionals believed the most important aspects of the onboarding process for the first week included on-the-job training, a mentor or buddy program and an updated employee handbook.

By the end of the first week, management should ensure employees have had all of the proper introductions, including to co-workers and clients. New employees should understand the company’s organizational chart and should have received an overview of policies such as benefits, vacation, attendance, dress code, computer usage, performance milestones and more.

New employees’ direct managers should work with them to review their job description and discuss expectations and working styles. They should also set up a schedule to complete orientation, establish goals that align with their responsibilities and facilitate or organize any training necessary.

The First Month

After the first month, employees should feel like they have a grasp of the workplace and where they fit in. If they aren’t feeling that way, it’s important to figure out why — one of the most crucial parts of successful onboarding is checking in regularly.

Schedule one-on-one meetings, and when possible, stop by the employee’s desk to touch base and ask candid questions. Do you feel like you’ve got a good understanding of your job requirements? Have there been any surprises? Do you need anything from us?

The First Quarter and Beyond

After the first quarter, hold a formal meeting to go over the employee’s first 90 days. At this point, new employees should have a thorough understanding of their role and be able to integrate with normal daily operations. While the onboarding process may be complete, employee retention is an ongoing effort. Continue checking in with recent hires to help them set goals within their position and for their overarching professional development.

The Key to Retention

BambooHR reported that there are two main reasons employees leave a new job within the first six months: either they decided the work was something they didn’t want to do or they felt the job was different from what they expected. A good onboarding program has the potential to eliminate these concerns and ensure that new employees know what they’re getting into and love what they do.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza is an experienced writer who specializes in small business, finance, HR and retail. She has been a regular columnist for Fast Company for more than four years and her work frequently appears in Inc., Entrepreneur and Parade.

See all posts by Stephanie Vozza
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