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Strategic Employee Onboarding: How to Set up New Hires for Success

Discover onboarding strategies that give your new hires the tools to become engaged, productive...

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
Contributing Experts
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15+ Best Employee Rewards Programs (2024)

Beyond simply filling out paperwork, employee onboarding has the potential to be a memorable, engaging experience — one that can have a crucial impact on a new hire’s tenure. After all, 86 percent of new hires decide to stay or leave a company within the first six months.

You can make the most of a new employee’s first months with a thorough, strategic employee onboarding program. Employee onboarding is the process of familiarizing new hires with your company’s expectations and culture, as well as the skills and knowledge for their upcoming role. Onboarding also involves creating an inclusive, welcoming environment that encourages new employees to develop connections with their more seasoned colleagues.

It’s time to think ahead — onboarding should begin even before an employee’s first day. From the moment of making an offer, you are responsible for guiding your new recruits beyond that settling-in period and toward becoming productive, contributing employees.

The good news: An effective onboarding process can make all the difference in employee retention. New joiners who complete a structured onboarding are 58 percent more likely to still be with their company after three years.

In This Article

Employee onboarding process

Your onboarding program should involve human resources, managers, and current employees. The goal is to quell any new-job jitters and set up hires for success. Consider how your company can approach the following elements of an effective onboarding experience.

Ensure compliance with legal regulations

An inescapable aspect of onboarding is filling out forms. Necessary paperwork encompasses employment contracts, health and safety training, I-9s and W-2s, company policies, benefits and payroll forms, and sometimes non-disclosure agreements. Often, that adds up to a lot of reading and signing on a new hire’s first day. However, thanks to onboarding software, this process can be paperless, mobile-friendly, and automated — and sometimes completed before new hires even step foot in the office.

Employment Eligibility Verification document submission

ClearCompany’s solution helps handle everything from compliance to office policies to team introductions.

Introduce new hires to your company culture

Before a hires’ first day, you can jumpstart engagement by welcoming them with branded and personalized pre-onboarding communications. These emails and texts can serve a few different functions.

You can lead new hires to dedicated landing pages that highlight your culture, values, and team members. New hires should also be able to visit an employee portal to complete their own accounts, as well as review their onboarding checklist, key handbooks, and company policies in advance of their first day. This way, they’ll kick off their first week with foundational knowledge, and they’ll have more time during the workweek to get to know their new colleagues and job responsibilities.

Provide training

In addition to companywide instruction, new employees need guidance specific to their roles. At this point, HR should loop in hiring managers to provide job training. Managers should create a clear plan that defines goals and milestones for their new hire’s first three to six months of employment. To keep managers involved and organized, you can employ onboarding technology to establish customized workflows. This gives stakeholders an understanding of their own tasks, as well as an overarching view of the entire process.

Throughout the duration of onboarding, you can encourage continued learning. Some onboarding technology provides tools to teach and test important new skills.

Onboarding new employees

Leapsome, shown above, offers personalized online learning for employees throughout the employee lifecycle.

Involve colleagues

Relationships are important. Seventy percent of employees say friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. Research also indicates that people with strong work relationships are more engaged, productive, and successful.

You can encourage a sense of camaraderie and belonging by weaving social aspects into your overall onboarding experience. Consider a kickoff team lunch, meet-and-greet office tour, and designated “culture buddy” to guide hires through their first days.

Create a strong inviting culture through work relationships

Onboarding technology from bob eases introductions with customizable new-hire packets and a Get to Know You email to highlight common interests.

Remote onboarding

With many modern workplaces going remote, hiring and onboarding processes are following suit. Fortunately, onboarding software can help make distanced new employee orientation and training a breeze. You can follow all of the same automated, personalized processes as usual, plus group discussions, Q&As, and training sessions by videoconference.

It doesn’t need to be all business; first impressions still matter. Be sure to consider creative ways to help a hire feel involved with colleagues they’ve never met in person — think remote coffee dates, virtual team-building projects, or timed lunch delivery.

Remote onboarding software

For remote or in-office onboarding, technology like BambooHR gives new hires checklists to stay organized and on track.

Onboarding best practices & pitfalls

Your strategic approach to onboarding should evolve as you learn more from new employees, their experiences, and your own company culture. To keep new hires all aboard, think through these common policies and plunders.

Keep expectations clear

It’s important to ensure alignment between new hires and your organization. Jay Samit, serial entrepreneur and author of “Disrupt Yourself,” calls this part of the process "matching the new car smell." According to Samit, there are all-too-often differing expectations on new employees’ roles and duties. During the onboarding process, it’s up to the employer to clear up any misconceptions as soon as possible. You can help keep everyone on the same page with a written plan of objectives and responsibilities. “The more detailed the documentation, the less confusion about expectations and organizational dynamics,” Samit says.

Automate the onboarding process

As you welcome new hires, consider bringing in robust onboarding software. Technology saves employees’ time on the busywork — sending reminders, scheduling, filling out paperwork, collecting measures — so that onboarding stakeholders can focus on the very human experience of settling into a new job.

Measure onboarding metrics

Don’t forget to periodically analyze your programs to be sure they still support your company’s business goals. Establish key performance indicators and track your success, get new hires’ feedback with anonymous surveys, and share your program’s successes with the C-suite.

Avoid isolating new hires

Onboarding is more than just orientation. Make it a social experience so that, someday, your recent joiners can become leaders who guide others through the onboarding process.

Remember, a new employee’s first six months can have a lasting impact on their productivity and longevity. Empower your new hires — and invest in your company’s health — with today’s best employee onboarding software.

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
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Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2023, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

Featured in: Entrepreneur Harvard Business School Yahoo HR.com Recruiting Daily Hacking HR Podcast HR ShopTalk Podcast Employer Branding for Talent Acquisition (Udemy Course)

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