Does Your Onboarding Process Actually Work?

The first few weeks or months of a job are vital to the success of a new hire. But did you know they can also be an important factor in the success of your business?

Most organizations have adopted an onboarding process for their new employees. An onboarding process is a structured program that familiarizes a new employee with their job, their coworkers and their company. Unfortunately, onboarding is often an afterthought for many businesses—downgraded to a quick introduction, an employee handbook hand-off and a brisk, eye-contact-optional tour of the facilities.

But consider this: Research shows that a well-planned onboarding program can increase employee retention by 25% and improve employee performance by 11%. Not only that, employees who participate in a structured onboarding program are 69% more likely to stay with an organization for three years. On the flip side, 15% of employees said that the lack of an effective onboarding program had a factor in their decision to quit.

Given the time and financial investment required to train new employees, developing an effective onboarding process is a strong business strategy. So, how does your onboarding process measure up? Does it guide, train and help retain employees—perhaps through employee training videos—or does it have new hires running right back to the job boards? Following are a few critical onboarding components on which your business should focus:

Five Keys To Onboarding Effectiveness

Does Your Onboarding Process Actually Work?

1. Taking Your (and Their) Time

Onboarding isn’t something that can be accomplished in a few days or weeks. There’s no fast lane to functional. On average, it takes most employees eight to 12 months to become as proficient as their colleagues. (IBM’s onboarding program is reported to take two years.) The onboarding process is just that – a process. Give it enough time and you’ll reap the rewards that come with a confident, well-trained employee.

2. Giving Them a Great Head Start

You don’t have to wait for the employee’s first day on the job to give them the tools they need for success. Take advantage of their shiny-new-job enthusiasm by providing them with information about your company, your clients and your internal processes before their first day. For example, trendy eyewear manufacturer Warby Parker sends an electronic welcome packet with the company history, core values, press clippings and what a new employee should expect the first day, week and month. The night before starting, their new employees get a call from their direct supervisors to make sure they know where to show up and when.

Of course, your head-start information doesn’t need to be that extensive to be effective. But even an email with good-to-know starting tips and the link to an employee onboarding video can ease their transition.

3. Establish a Training Workflow

Like we said, the onboarding process can take a substantial amount of time. But during that time, don’t let your employees flounder with tasks and deadlines. Showing them how to navigate your business portal (intranet), internal files or Digital Asset Management System (DAM) and routing process will put them higher on the learning curve.

Establish clear goals for their first week, month and quarter. And don’t always expect them to come to you with updates. Check in with them frequently to see how they’re doing or if they have questions. It’s a great way to eliminate any confusion and ensure you’re on the same page.

If new employees are expected to complete formal training, consider implementing a Learning Management System (LMS) to streamline the training process. An LMS is a digital learning platform which organizes training materials (presentations, worksheets, employee training videos, etc.) and guides employees through a self-study process. With an LMS, you can be sure that your new hire has access to all the training information and materials they need. And if it includes a monitoring function, it can let them (and you) keep an eye on their progress.

There are many types of LMS options available, from basic online manuals to multi-media content tailored for an organization. Consider your needs (including the size of your company, the type of training content you need, your budget, etc.), then research what’s available to find a system that fits.

4. Making Connections

Employees spend almost as much time on the job as they do at home. So, helping them connect with colleagues may improve their overall performance and satisfaction.

Team your new hire up with a seasoned mentor in the office. This mentor will be their go-to person for questions and ideas that your employee onboarding videos and materials may not address, helping smooth out and speed up their onboarding process. A mentor can also help them socially, getting them acquainted with their team and introducing them to area hotspots (like that deli with the so-worth-the-carbs bagels).

5. Gathering Feedback

In onboarding, there is no such thing as too much communication (Just to clarify, we said “communication,” not “information.”) By frequently touching base with your new hire, you’ll keep them heading in the right direction and head-off minor problems before they become serious issue. Also, new employees have “fresh eyes”—they may see an issue, an opportunity or a solution that company veterans may have overlooked.

There are an incredible number of digital solutions for streamlining your organization’s communications. What used to be the domain of emails can now be handled more quickly and efficiently though instant messaging and project management tools (such as Slack and Basecamp). But when it comes to employee onboarding, there’s no substitute for one-on-one check ins. Set up a regular schedule, such as the following, to stay updated with their progress and keep the lines of communication open:

  • Check in every single day the first week (10 to 15 minutes each day)
  • Hold an end of week recap/review at the end of week one, then plan the following week
  • Repeat this process each week for the first month
  • Recap at the end of month three, but still check in from time to time

During these check-ins, give your new employee honest feedback on their performance. (Strive for the positive side of honest, not the brutal one.) You’ll help them grow and become more proficient in their job. In turn, they may return the favor by sharing their experiences with others (through word of mouth and on sites such as In fact, a satisfied employee could turn out to be one of your business’s best source of advertising.

Get On Board With An Onboarding Process

An onboarding process for your organization doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does have to be effective. Do some research, talk to your colleagues and reflect on your own hiring experience. What are you doing to help your new hires navigate their new position, and what could you do better?

If you’re finding consistent “sticking points” in your onboarding process (like communications, managing files or training), find out what digital resources are available and compare them to your organization’s needs. Investing in even a few enhancements could not only pay off in a happy, long-term team member, but could also improve your organization’s overall efficiency.

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A well-planned onboarding program can increase employee retention by 25% and improve performance by 11%