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A Guide to Onboarding New Employees

Did you know employee onboarding can last for as long as a year? If this surprises you, you may be using “orientation” and “onboarding” interchangeably when, in fact, they’re very different processes.

The term “orientation” primarily covers the initial administrative tasks following a new hire like filling out paperwork and providing a tour. Onboarding is about the entire post-hire process. And the fact of the matter is that onboarding plays a direct role in how well employees adapt to their new roles—which in turn affects the company’s bottom line, work environment, reputation and more.

Here is a brief guide to onboarding new employees meant to help you optimize how you hire and retain talent.

Create an Onboarding Plan for Each Position

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, HR professionals and upper management have the responsibility to “devise a plan of action to help new employees quickly assimilate company policies and workflow while getting fully acquainted with the organization’s culture.”

But first, leaders must have a firm grasp on what the organization’s culture is—both as it currently stands and in its most aspirational form. Setting goals is part of any concrete plan, so it’s important to outline exactly what your company expects from any given job role. Then it’s time to step back and look at how each individual hire contributes to overall company culture.

Creating a specific onboarding plan is also key in allowing employees to hit the ground running from day one. The last thing you want is for a new hire to show up only to twiddle their thumbs all day while managers and coworkers scramble to fill in the gaps. Premeditating every step of your onboarding process and compiling resources for new hires ensures the process flows smoothly, bolstering the relationship between employees and employer.

Make New Hires Feel Welcome

Chances are, new hires end up bombarded with names and titles during their first few weeks. They likely have to introduce themselves frequently, both to individual coworkers and perhaps during smaller meetings. While this is necessary for breaking the ice, it doesn’t always make new hires feel like they’re truly part of the company community. Nor are these whirlwind introductions always memorable.

Starting meetings out with creative meeting ice breaker questions and allowing employees to contribute answers using an audience response system is a good way to share some surprises—and perhaps even laughs. These ice-breaking polls can allow for anonymous answers or include each participant’s name along with their response, depending on the exact nature of the meeting.

Here are a few examples of question types leaders can ask to get the discussion flowing, people talking and new hires comfortable in a group setting:

  • “What’s your favorite…?”
  • “What would you do in X scenario?”
  • “Describe yourself in a word or emoji.”

Don’t Forget the Human Element

Put simply, it can be very intimidating starting a new job. It’s easy to forget this once you’ve been with a company for months or years, but there’s value in designing an onboarding process that goes above and beyond to help employees adjust.

Human Capital Magazine outlines one small example: Making sure someone invites a new hire to lunch on the first day. Some companies assign mentors to new hires, so they always have someone at which to direct questions, chat or grab coffee. Providing employees ready access to the company handbook via an electronic portal will help empower them to find answers to questions they may have within the first few days. Going the extra mile by emphasizing the human touch during onboarding will help employees feel like they belong right off the bat.

Successful onboarding requires planning ahead, breaking the ice and prioritizing the human element.