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Best Practices for Onboarding New Hires

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Daphne Blake

By Daphne Blake

Too often, all that's involved in the onboarding process for new hires is a quick orientation, a packet of information, and a new nameplate on a desk. But with the best candidates off the market within 10 days and 95% of HR professionals feeling urgency and pressure to fill roles, it's no wonder the onboarding process can seem rushed.

But with 40% of employees leaving within the first 6 months at a new company, a thorough onboarding process could be one of the most important things standing between your team and a costly turnover rate.

According to a study from the Wynhurst Group, employees are "58 percent more likely to still be at the company three years later if they had completed a structured onboarding process." Company culture and clear opportunities for growth play an outsized role in whether an employee decides to stay, too - which means the onboarding process can make or break your team's productivity and retention rate.

Ready to re-boot your onboarding process for new hires? Here are a few best practices to keep in mind throughout the hiring and training process.

Create Resources

create resources

Onboarding a new team member happens long before they clock in on their first day. Whether this is a new position or a well-established role in the company, make sure your new hire has access to the resources they need to find their way around the office and succeed in their role.

Before They Arrive- Introduce your new hire to your team via email before they arrive, providing a bit of background or even stand-out sections from their application. Providing context on your new hire for your team will also help team members connect, trust, and work with the new guy that much more quickly.

Around the Office - What can you do to make your new hire's first day at the office easier? From an IT standpoint, make sure their email account is set up, and that their computer has all the software it needs. Do you have a futzy copier or copier codes to worry about? What about security clearances or passwords other employees may now take for granted? Don't forget to think about employee comfort, too - tips on how to navigate parking near the office or a list of favorite lunch spots will make your new hire feel welcomed.

The First Few Weeks- From a managerial standpoint, it's crucial to get your team member ready to go in their role as quickly as possible. Don't just leave a packet of forms from HR on their desk (though you should have these ready, too.) Develop an initial work plan and schedule, and make sure you build out more time in your day to check in on your new hire, formally or informally. Remember - other people can be resources, too. Whether you assign your new hire an "office buddy" or a full-fledged mentor, use the other members of your team to help you with your training objectives.

Welcome Your New Team Member

new team member

You don't have to be the tech start-up that takes new hires mountain climbing or the nonprofit that schedules a volunteer day. Even something as simple as a team lunch can help employees get acclimated to their new workplace and colleagues.

Here are a few welcoming tactics to try -

Cubicle Love- Create a welcoming workspace. Go the extra mile by including a nameplate, business cards, a calendar, or a stress ball - anything that's personal, functional, and recalls your company culture.

Get-to-Know-You- >As you walk your new hire through the office, make introductions; alternatively, schedule a staff meeting to showcase your new team member. A team-building lunch or other activity can be a great way for new folks to get to know their co-workers, too.

Brand It- Proud of your product or service? Make sure to gift your new hire with company swag so they feel like a part of the team.

Set Expectations for Work and Management Style

work and management style

If new hires bail on a company within the first 6-12 months, it's often because there was no clear explanation of their role - or they determined there was little room to grow and develop new skills.

Make sure your employee's first few weeks of work include opportunities to meet measurable short-term goals, as well as discussions about skills development and future training.

Action Steps- Clearly outline expectations. Go beyond the job description. Give your new employee a sense of expectations and responsibilities, as well as any potential pathways for growth within the company. Plenty of these questions were likely ironed out during the hiring process, but it's a good opportunity for your new hire to ask in more detail.

Identify goals and a workplan. What projects can your new hire tackle right now? Which team can they join or add to? What does their job look like one month from now? Three months? Six months?

Remember to check in. Training a new hire is intense for everyone involved - including the manager! You'll have to make more time in your schedule for regular check-ins, meetings, and questions.

Assign a Buddy or Mentor

assign a buddy

According to HubSpot, mentorship is a clear predictor of career success - and can increase retention, too.
Whether the buddy is a peer who can help your new hire navigate the office, or a seasoned professional who can help your new hire grow into their role, building a supportive network for new hires increases retention and fast-tracks productivity.
Need some ideas for an informal or formal mentorship program? Here are a few starting points to consider -
Monthly meetings with a mentor to discuss roles and growth
Informal check-ins with peer mentors or office buddies
Direct management from supervisor, who is highly engaged with new hire during first three months

Plan for Training and Development

training and development

Employee engagement is the industry buzzword from the past few years - but this elusive idea is still key to happiness and retention. According to Forbes, only 30% of employees feel engaged in their work, and 82% of companies have a plan to further train or develop employees to increase their engagement.

What concrete steps will your company actually take to help employees develop their skills - and how can you fold this into your onboarding process?

Action Steps- Provide a roadmap for growth at the company. Is there a clear path for your new hire, in terms of more responsibility or promotion? If there's not a role they can grow into, what other training or professional development opportunities can you offer?

Take a skills inventory. Did you hire a video editor who's also an incredible graphic designer? What about a grant writer who has a knack for publicity? Whatever your new hire's skills happen to be, find ways for them to flex their muscles in their new role.

Outline new opportunities. What training is available within the company? What partnerships or other opportunities does your company cultivate for its employees?

Encourage employees to collaborate. New hires are often exciting to work with because they look at your company differently, and they bring their own set of experiences and resources. What kinds of cross-team collaborations or opportunities does your new hire see?

Provide and Gather Feedback

provide and gather feedback

Within the first three months, make sure to sit down with your new hire for a formal or informal review. Detailed feedback about their performance, tied to concrete annual review metrics, should give them a sense of how they're stacking up so far.

As with any review, make sure you-

a. Focus on positives. What projects or tasks did your new hire knock out of the park? Thoughtfully identify areas for continued growth. At what points did you notice they needed extra support?
b. Address challenges. If your new hire experiences challenges in their role, give them time and space to reflect. Why was the task difficult? What other resources did they need? How was their time-management? What could have happened differently?
c. Provide opportunities for feedback. Collect a self-reflection before the review, so you have more time to consider concrete solutions that address problem areas. Thoughtful employees may even provide feedback that can help you think through the very nature of their role.
d. Make yourself available for questions. New hires deserve an open-door policy. Decide what yours will be.

Personalize It

personalize it

Every company culture is different - make sure your onboarding process feels unique to your company and brand.

If you're a lifestyle company or tech start-up, consider a fun way to involve your product in the onboarding process, or send your new hire home with a bag of sample merchandise.

How does your company handle teamwork? Competition? Give a new hire a sense of your corporate culture by incorporating team-building activities or low-key competitions and games. Even a field day or short hike can give new employees a chance to have fun, let loose, and get to know their co-workers.

Are you a mission-based company that believes in giving back? Embrace your corporate giving statement for a day by volunteering with a community partner.

From a manager's standpoint, onboarding is a never-ending process. There's always something you'll want to do better or differently during your next search. By developing a clear, organized, friendly training program that makes new employees feel welcomed, valued, and poised to succeed in the company, you'll be going a long way toward making your new hires satisfied and comfortable in their new roles.

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