At some point, most business leaders have looked at their organization’s onboarding process and thought, “It would be great if we could welcome new talent more effectively and help them hit the ground running.”
But how do you introduce a new team member to the team, help them feel like they belong, and set their expectations for the next year while ensuring they don’t get overwhelmed?
The answer? Employee onboarding.
But don’t most organizations do a decent job orienting new employees? As we’re about to learn, orientation is only a small part of the onboarding process. A comprehensive employee onboarding process consists of multiple phases spread across departments, and has multiple short-term and long-term goals.
So, in this article, we’ll discuss different employee onboarding strategies, look at the onboarding experience in some of the world’s biggest companies, and share tips to automate the whole process to increase efficiency.
Let’s dive in.
It’s natural for new employees to be anxious when they show up on day one of their new jobs. Existing employees already know their roles and responsibilities. They’re aware of the culture and are well integrated within their teams. Without someone to show them around as a guide, they may seem lost and clueless. An employee onboarding process solves this very problem.
An ideal onboarding process begins right from the job offer, helps seamlessly integrate new employees, and makes them feel welcomed. In addition, it provides them with the necessary knowledge about the company, its culture, employees, and business model to help them perform their jobs confidently.
Here’s an example of a basic employee onboarding process.
However, modern organizations have much more extensive onboarding practices that cover an employee’s needs from multiple angles. Some examples of the additional activities an onboarding process may include are:
- Introductions with critical internal and external stakeholders
- Team training
- A presentation of the company's current goals and recent accomplishments
- Welcome gifts
- Team lunch
The duration of an onboarding process varies from one organization to another and may be anywhere from a few days to a year. At the end of an effective onboarding program, new hires feel comfortable and confident about their role in the organization and are ready to contribute to its cause.
Employee onboarding and employee training may look similar, but they’re entirely different concepts.
Employee onboarding is the broader set of activities designed to ensure that an employee feels welcomed in an organization and has the necessary information and relationships to ensure maximum productivity.
In comparison, employee training is a part of the onboarding process. It ensures employees understand the technicalities and the details required to perform their daily tasks effectively.
Training may include familiarization with relevant technology, tools, software, and equipment. According to a study by Axonify, 93% of employees said that well-planned employee training programs positively affect their level of engagement.
Onboarding in the context of training is about making sure the employee understands how their training complements the work of their teammates, and fits into the bigger picture.
Employee orientation is also a part of the onboarding process. But it’s common for managers to use the two terms interchangeably.
Here’s how to draw a clear distinction between the two. While onboarding is a more long-term process, orientation may include activities like:
- Meeting with colleagues
- Familiarization with the office space
- Understanding the organization’s procedures and policies
- Learning about the perks and benefits the job brings
- Receiving access cards and keys
In short, employee orientation is one of the phases of employee onboarding. The goals of employee orientation are to provide an employee with the relevant contractual information and workplace resources they’ll need.
Organizations use different onboarding processes and strategies depending on their business goals. However, every onboarding strategy needs to have the 5 Cs of onboarding to make an impact.
The 5 Cs of onboarding are:
This step involves familiarization with company policies and procedures. Compliance onboarding may also include understanding documentary processes, such as signing off on NDAs, non-compete agreements, and password policies.
The goal of this step is to ensure a new employee knows the necessary policies they need to comply with while working at the organization.
In the context of onboarding, clarification means communicating job performance expectations and addressing any uncertainties or questions.
Clarification may involve a detailed Q&A session with the new hire. This step aims to minimize confusion, set clear and manageable goals, and brief the employee on what the organization expects from them.
Familiarizing new hires with the company’s culture is vital to integrating them into the organization. The organization’s culture is ultimately defined by what it rewards and discourages. How they go about it is typically outlined in the company’s handbook.
Culture onboarding includes making them aware of the company’s social and extramural calendar. For example, signing the new hire up for the company’s sports team.
It’s essential to build a positive relationship with new hires from day one. Gestures like a welcome note, an email, or a video message can go a long way toward establishing an initial connection between the employee and the organization.
Online or in-person introductions with critical internal and external stakeholders that the new hire is most likely to work with are vital to this process. Not only does this create an impactful first impression on the employee, but sends a message about the professionalism of the organization to external stakeholders.
- Check back
New employees must learn the organization’s culture and familiarize themselves with their specific job responsibilities at the same time. In such a situation, all the information provided during the onboarding process may quickly fade from memory.
Check back with them and schedule meetings 30, 60, and 90 days from the commencement of the onboarding process. These meetings can serve to evaluate the progress of the employee, obtain their feedback on the onboarding process, and revisit key focus areas of the onboarding program to keep the employee on track for success.
Employee onboarding is where an organization makes its first impression on new hires. This is the company’s chance to make sure their new team members feel like they belong. Research proves that most employees decide their future with a company based on their onboarding experience.
Numerous other studies back this finding and prove there’s a direct connection between employee onboarding and employee performance, productivity, and retention. Here’s what you should know:
- According to a Careerbuilder and Silkroad Technology survey, 1 in 10 employees leaves because of a poorly designed onboarding experience.
- Click Boarding found that 69% of employees are likely to stay for at least 3 years with a company that has a great onboarding process.
- Glassdoor found that new hire retention went up by 82% for companies with effective onboarding.
- Gallup found that a meager 12% of employees are satisfied with their company’s onboarding process.
- A Kronos survey of 350+ organizations found that the longer an onboarding program is, the better the business outcomes are. These outcomes include higher employee engagement, improved business reputation, and higher-quality recruits.
- In the same study more than half of the respondents said over-burdened managers and a schedule too busy for proper onboarding were their greatest challenges for an effective onboarding process.
These stats show that onboarding is critical for employee productivity, performance efficiency, and retention. So, investing in a formal employee onboarding process is a necessary expense. It contributes directly to an organization’s performance, workplace environment, and ultimately its business results.
Good employee onboarding is a complex process with multiple moving parts. It requires an eye for detail and well-documented steps. This section will outline the seven most important steps in any onboarding process.
Creating the ideal onboarding procedure for your organization would require adding specific details and sub-steps to this process.
Step 1: The Offer
An organization’s onboarding process begins immediately after recruitment. The HR manager sends a pleasant email to kick off onboarding, sharing the good news with the successful candidate.
In addition, necessary documentation at this stage, such as the offer letter, onboarding forms, and other organizational policy documents, are shared with the new hire. This is a crucial step to give the employee a feel for the organization’s culture. So make sure to set the tone right.
Step 2: The Acceptance
The onboarding process moves forward when the candidate accepts the job offer. Ideally, HR should schedule a call at this point to address any questions or concerns the employee might have about the offer. The bigger goal is to keep the new hire engaged and build an emotional bond with the organization.
This is achieved by setting expectations for how long any next steps might take and maintaining regular contact until the date of joining. A slow hiring process or lack of communication at this point can allow uncertainty to creep in. A candidate who starts doubting your hiring process may well ghost you before their date of joining.
Step 3: Pre-Joining Checklist
It’s important to set the new hire up for success from day one. Unfortunately, many organizations unnecessarily delay simple yet important pre-joining onboarding tasks such as document verification, signing of contracts, and obtaining references. This may leave a bad impression on the new employee.
Create a checklist of documentation the employee can complete, sign and send before their first day, so it is out of the way when they start.
Step 4: Joining Day
This is an exciting day for the new employee. So, the HR team should make the most of it to ensure the new team member develops a sense of belonging and establishes an emotional connection with the organization.
An effective onboarding process should have a list of activities planned for an employee’s joining day so that they feel welcomed and immediately become a part of the company. These activities could include briefing the new employee on the company’s history, values, and goals through video documentaries or printed material, meetings with colleagues in-person and online, as well as a team lunch where the new employee can interact with their colleagues informally.
Step 5: Cross-Functional Coordination
Cross-functional coordination is critical for seamless employee onboarding. Ideally, the HR department should coordinate with the relevant departments and stakeholders to ensure everybody knows what’s expected from them in a new employee’s onboarding.
Furthermore, the team should be briefed on the new coworker’s priorities and responsibilities before their first day at work to facilitate easy collaboration right from the start.
In most organizations, departments nominate a team member to coordinate with HR and brief the new employee about the department’s functions and role in the company.
Cross-functional coordination ensures that departments plan their part of the onboarding process in advance, so it doesn’t impact regular operations.
Step 6: Orientation
Orientation sessions are essential in familiarizing new hires with the organization’s culture, mission, vision, values, and goals. This gives the employee an accurate idea of what is expected of them in the next month, the next quarter, and the year ahead.
You can measure the effectiveness of your orientation through a survey which also serves as a way to check-in with the employee. The survey can not only get you valuable feedback to improve the orientation process, but can also show the employee what the company’s priorities are based on the questions.
Step 7: The First Quarter
Completing the first quarter with a new hire is an important milestone. This is where the organization and the employee can review the results of their efforts and identify improvement areas.
Setting measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from the outset is essential, so this review phase is easier and more productive. KPIs help to make performance reviews less subjective and more measurable.
New employees can review their KPIs regularly with their managers to maintain a realistic understanding of their job performance vis-a-vis expectations. No surprises for anyone at the end of the quarter.
In addition to the points mentioned above, the following checklist will help you ensure your onboarding process is comprehensive and effective:
- Prepare the orientation schedule in advance and keep it handy.
- Procure and assign IT assets for the new hire. This can include a company laptop, their email account, and their phone if required.
- Have the necessary office supplies ready, such as stationery and office keys.
- Activate a salary account for the employee.
- Assign a colleague as a guide who can help the new employee settle down.
- Review their performance periodically and provide constructive feedback.
- Ask the employee about any concerns or issues they might be facing.
- Discuss career paths and growth.
- Get open feedback about the existing onboarding process and ask for suggestions.
- Ask the employee about their workload and find out if it matches their expectations.
- Identify whether they require further training.
COVID-19 has led to a global change in how people go about their daily work routines, mainly because of work-from-home policies. It has also changed the way companies onboard remote employees. You can learn more about this change in our detailed guide to remote employee onboarding.
Creating an onboarding process is a complex task. So it’s always good to have some ground rules about things you absolutely should or should not do to make things simpler.
- Prepare and share a well-documented plan for onboarding before the new employee joins to set expectations.
- Have a list of goals prepared for the employee to achieve along with timelines during the onboarding process.
- Help the employee understand the company culture, such as policies, arrival and leaving times, overtime, and communication after work hours.
- Pair the new employee with an experienced colleague as a guide they can go to for help or ask questions.
- Set short-term targets. These are the things the employee needs to dive into immediately to make a positive first impression on their colleagues. Examples of such activities are attending daily meetings, completing mandatory training, and responding to emails.
- Convert short-term goals to annual milestones once the employee settles down and understands their role.
- Set up regular check-ins to make sure the employee is settling in well and can focus on their role.
- Get feedback on your onboarding process. Any insight regarding your organization’s onboarding process from your new hires is essential to improving it for your future hires.
- Don’t mix up onboarding with orientation. Employee orientation is for familiarization with the essentials, while onboarding is a more profound exercise undertaken to integrate new hires into the organization and set them up for success.
- Don’t think of onboarding as a one-day thing. Employee onboarding is called a “process” for a reason. It may go on for weeks or months until the employee feels confident in their role.
- Don’t overwhelm employees with information. Instead, break the process down over days, weeks, and months to ease the employees into the organization's culture.
- Don’t think of onboarding as an HR-specific event. It is a cross-functional exercise where representation from multiple departments is required throughout the program.
To make sure your employees are on track to succeed at your company, you need to provide them with the right tools to maximize their engagement and productivity. Learn more about setting up new hires for success at your organization.
If you’re considering automating your onboarding process, you may have several questions in mind.
- Can an onboarding process be effectively automated?
- What about personalization?
- Does automation really help?
- What if we already have onboarding software?
- What are the benefits of onboarding automation?
Let’s address each question in more detail below.
Should I Use Automation in Employee Onboarding?
From an HR manager’s perspective, the biggest impediments to an effective onboarding experience are inconsistencies throughout the company, lack of clarity on priorities, and the absence of measurable metrics for onboarding effectiveness.
Onboarding automation can save time and improve your new hire’s onboarding experience. Automation also provides a level of consistency and standardization to your onboarding process that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. And it provides analytics to help you measure the performance of your onboarding program.
Is Automated Employee Onboarding Impersonal?
It’s natural to ask whether a completely automated onboarding experience may feel cold and impersonal. However, onboarding automation can allow for advanced customization and personalization.
When done correctly, onboarding automation can surprise you and your new hires with the level of customizable detail it can deliver, boosting employee engagement throughout the onboarding process.
For example, once a candidate is marked as “hired” in your Applicant Tracking System (ATS), you can trigger the following steps through your integrated onboarding automation software:
- Creation of their employee profile in your HRIS.
- Company email account setup.
- A welcome email is sent to their new work email.
- Their account is created in an IT service management system.
- Ticket is added to track their progress throughout the onboarding stages.
How Does Automation Help?
Based on a Formstack study, 55% of managers spend around 8 hours per week on tasks that could be automated.
Onboarding automation can save time, deliver operational efficiency, and boost new hire engagement and retention.
Typical employee onboarding processes require new hires to complete more than 50 activities throughout the program. This often requires dealing with multiple people, departments, and manual procedures that can run more smoothly when automated.
What if We Already Have Employee Onboarding Software?
Does your onboarding software integrate with your recruitment software, as well as all the different steps and sequences in your onboarding process? If not, you need to consider switching to a solution that connects all your functions and automates your work.
Functions such as recruitment, document processing, and IT provisioning can all work more efficiently with the help of integrated automation.
This seamless integration and automation significantly improve your new hires' onboarding experience, leaving a lasting positive impression on them.
What are the Benefits of Automating Employee Onboarding?
Connecting the Dots
Connecting your recruitment process to onboarding is a great way to save time and make your onboarding experience more seamless.
This can be done through automation when the last step of your recruitment process or applicant tracking system (employee selection confirmation) is linked with the first step of onboarding (sending the offer letter and other documentation).
According to Zach Lahey from Aberdeen Research, the most innovative and employee-centric organizations are 53% more likely to kick off their new hire’s onboarding process before they formally join the organization. A process referred to as pre-boarding.
Pre-boarding is a process where data is collected from the new hire prior to onboarding, using web forms, email, and eSignature tools. Onboarding automation can utilize technologies such as OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and document extraction to process, share, and save the submitted employee data automatically without involving any human resources.
By automating pre-boarding, organizations can optimize the use of their new employee’s time on the day of joining by avoiding tedious paperwork and form-filling. Instead, the new hire can focus on more productive activities, such as in-person meetings and immersion in company culture.
Centralized Data Retrieval
Another advantage of using a modern automated onboarding system with advanced integration capabilities is that all related functions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), accounting, and payroll can connect to the automation onboarding platform to retrieve relevant employee data as and when needed.
When all these systems are connected with your organization's latest data-set, generating instant reports on things like employee headcount, and demographics is always a few mouse clicks away.
Seamless Technical Onboarding
Many organizations leave their new hires to figure out complicated technical issues like software licenses, internet access, and application installation.
Use onboarding automation to provide these assets before the employee even joins. By saving tons of time through automation on the tech side of things, your IT team can be more efficient at onboarding and training the new hire in terms of the tech solutions available at the organization.
Improved Employee Engagement
Onboarding automation allows new employees to arrive at work on their first day with most of their paperwork already processed. This allows them to utilize their time more efficiently with their managers and team members.
A study by LinkedIn revealed that 72% of new employees rate time spent with their direct manager as the most valuable part of their onboarding process.
Onboarding automation facilitates this process by taking care of administrative tasks in advance and freeing up the employee’s time to have more engaging and productive sessions with their direct manager.
Furthermore, onboarding automation can allow organizations to set up meetings automatically for new hires with the key stakeholders, schedule site visits, and organize team introductions.
Employee onboarding automation is also a great way to set expectations for each new employee according to their job role. For example, the system can generate a custom schedule for every new hire and communicate it to them so they can come prepared.
Benefits & Perks Automation
A high-quality onboarding automation system can quickly get new hires started on their benefits enrollment procedures. These benefits may include:
- Transportation benefits
- Health insurance
- Membership benefits
- 401K packages
The system can send automatic emails to new hires with information about their customized benefits package and instructions on how to activate them online. These emails can be set up to be sent automatically on the day of the employee’s joining or any other day.
Did you know that about 20% of new hires leave their jobs for better opportunities within 45 days of joining an organization?
This problem may be minimized by extending the automated onboarding process beyond the first month, an effort that 37% of organizations fail to make.
Onboarding automation, when done right, can go way beyond automatic emails, meeting schedules, and paperwork management. With advances in the Artificial Intelligence space, automated onboarding can recognize patterns based on employee feedback and provide useful insights to hiring managers about their behavior.
For example, new employees can be sent feedback surveys after they complete their first day, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and so on. These surveys can give you valuable feedback to improve your onboarding process and pinpoint any employee issues.
Moreover, data from such surveys can also help the AI report on whether a new hire is a flight risk, so the problem of turnover can be addressed before it even occurs. This gives the manager a chance to take corrective action for any problems the employee might be facing.
For continuous feedback, a great onboarding practice is to set up automatic reminders for managers and the HR team to regularly check in with new employees to address any unresolved issues.
Let’s discuss the employee onboarding processes at some of the world’s largest companies like Google, Facebook, and other tech giants. These companies have invested heavily in human resource development and employee onboarding.
Studying their practices can help you gain valuable lessons for your onboarding strategy.
How does Google Onboard New Employees?
Starting from a garage, Google has grown to become one of the biggest brands in the world with over USD 257 billion in revenue. They have hundreds of locations worldwide and employ thousands of brilliant people. Google is a mission-driven company and has, over the years, truly changed how we live our lives.
Google’s success isn’t possible without a relentless focus on acquiring and retaining the best available talent in the market. Indeed, Google owes a large part of its success to the effectiveness of its “just in time” employee onboarding process.
Google’s “Just in Time” Employee Onboarding Checklist
A day before a new employee joins the company, their manager gets an email with a checklist of five critical tasks.
- Discuss the roles and responsibilities with the new employee
- Match the new hire with a peer buddy
- Help the new hire build a social network
- Set up employee onboarding check-ins once a month for the new hire’s first six months
- Encourage open dialogue
This no-nonsense checklist is sent to the manager “just in time” (a day prior) to ensure they understand its importance and urgency. The approach has largely been successful and has improved Google’s onboarding results by 25%.
How Meta Onboards New Employees
Meta is another company that has truly impacted our lives on a global scale. Hundreds of millions of people use Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram every day to communicate with their loved ones, and express themselves.
The company has helped businesses thrive, helped people stay in touch with their friends and family, and in some cases, has helped people find their soulmates.
With over 60,000 employees worldwide, Meta maintains a strong focus on hiring and retaining top talent. Its managers make sure new hires understand the company's core values so they can align their goals accordingly. As a result, their employees have given the company an overall culture score of 79/100, indicating a strong positive sentiment.
The onboarding process at Meta is run in a Bootcamp style. The activity lasts for six weeks and truly immerses employees in the company's work culture. Here’s what happens at the Meta Employee Onboarding Bootcamp:
- Pre-Bootcamp Activities
A day before the commencement of the Bootcamp, the IT team sets up the systems and installs the required applications for the new hires to perform their practical work. This intensive exercise sets the tone for the rest of the event.
- The 45-minute Rule
The new hires attempt to complete their assigned tasks in 45 minutes. These may include bug fixes and feature development. Similar challenges are thrown at the new employees for six weeks, preparing them to be active problem-solvers at the organization.
- Assigned Bootcamp Mentors
Meta assigns its experienced employees as mentors to guide new hires through the Bootcamp. They help newbies figure out how to solve the problems thrown at them, what to prioritize, and whom to work with.
During this intense onboarding exercise, the participants are encouraged to work with various teams on different projects. The objective is to help the new hires figure out which teams and products they want to work with the most based on their interests.
- Introduction to Culture
An essential part of the onboarding process at Meta is communicating the culture of employees owning the company just as much as the managers or the top management. The company has internal workgroups to discuss workplace culture and continuously improve it with the help of employee feedback.
How Twitter Onboards New Employees
Twitter’s onboarding process is a meticulous exercise spread over 75 different activities between the new hire, the HR team, and the hiring manager. Some of these activities are:
- Email setup
- Furniture choices
- Laptop procurement and setup
- Availability of relevant documents explaining the job role and expectations
The company has perfected the art of onboarding and refers to their process as “Yes to Desk” - referring to the set of activities that take place from the time of the offer acceptance until the employee shows up on the first day.
From the outset, a manager joins new hires to make them feel comfortable. After that, the employee gets to explore the office space, meet with IT, and gets familiarized with the facilities.
At lunch, the new employee meets the team they will work with. You’d never see a new hire looking for a chair at lunch. It would be reserved for them. Later on, a happy hour with the team is scheduled so the new hires can socialize in an informal setting.
Continuous feedback is a critical element of Twitter’s onboarding process. So, after a few months of joining, the employees are asked what they liked and didn’t like about the onboarding process. What worked? How can it be improved? Twitter’s HR and decision-makers take this feedback seriously and continuously improve their process.
Apart from these popular tech companies, most successful organizations have well-defined employee onboarding processes. If you want to study more examples, here are some excellent case studies of organizations onboarding employees the right way.
Throughout this article, we have learned how crucial the onboarding process is for new hires to build a connection with the company. We’ve also seen how onboarding is the way for employers to make a solid first impression, retain employees, and make the best use of their talents.
Building an effective onboarding process may be a costly exercise, but the cost of not building one is far greater in the long run.
Want to create an employee onboarding process that seamlessly integrates all your cross-functional teams and helps you automate onboarding effectively? Then check out our list of the best onboarding software in which we’ve reviewed and rated the finest onboarding tools after extensive research.