Effective Onboarding Process for Employee Retention

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Finding an ample amount of exceptional employees can be a complex process. In fact, the difficulty behind the vetting and recruitment process is why businesses like Tier2Tek Staffing exist. We spend the entirety of our efforts helping companies find the perfect candidates. Unfortunately, the difficulty doesn’t fizzle away once the hiring paperwork is signed. An effective onboarding process can prove to be arduous and time-consuming, too.

Brandon Hall Group reported in 2015 that an effective onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. Furthermore, this was reported before the life-shifting event that occurred at the beginning of the decade (do we need to name it?). In a post-pandemic world, we have found ourselves acknowledging and prioritizing life. The Great Resignation, as it’s often referred to (we discussed that ad nauseam here).

Without delving too much into the psychological tidal wave caused by an existential world crisis, we will note this: it’s more important than ever for employees to feel cared for and listened to by their employers. Therefore, the onboarding process has become unbelievably crucial. The first impression of a company upon its new workers is key to both retention and happiness.

How do you go about creating an effective onboarding process? How do you improve employee retention within the first week of employment? Let’s get into it.

What Is the Onboarding Process?

Before delving into the intricacies of a great onboarding program, it’s important to make a few clarifications about the concept of onboarding as a whole.

Firstly, onboarding is not the same as orientation. Ultimately, orientation is the act of shaking hands and signing necessary paperwork. This period may take a single day or even just a few hours. Sometimes, orientation can be done entirely through email, especially in the post-pandemic world.

On the other hand, onboarding is the beginning process of a new hire’s experience at your business or company. This involves the training necessary to fulfill the position. Depending on the position and company, the process can last from a week to three months. Sometimes the onboarding process is considered to be the entirety of the probationary period, which can be six months.

From touring the office to shadowing a fellow employee, every part of the training process is considered onboarding. Until the employee is entirely independent and has earned the company’s trust, they are being onboarded.

Why Is an Effective Onboarding Process Necessary?

Circling back to the initial statistic, an exceptional onboarding process can raise employee retention rate by 82%. That’s more than a coin toss. Keeping great employees requires an onboarding process. There’s no way around it.

They (not sure who) say that first impressions are the most important. Potential candidates spruce up their suits and ties when turning in their applications. Workers practice interview questions relentlessly before meeting with hiring managers. That same level of effort should come from the employer, too.

The onboarding experience is crucial for setting a standard. Not only does it provide a great first impression for your new hires, but it allows for questions to be smoothed before things get too far.

How many times have you seen an employee quit shortly after the introductory period? This action may not solely be the employee’s fault. Maybe the intention and job were not clear from the onset.

Henceforth, the onboarding process should be clear, concise and inclusive. You should take the time to ease the employees into the role. This is the opportunity to turn an outsider into an insider. Be prepared to answer any question, be clear about roles and objectives and introduce the candidate to the rest of the team. The worker should leave the onboarding experience feeling positive and knowledgeable about the position ahead.

Being tossed directly into the fire can cause a lot of workers to burn out quickly. The training and tone you set from the beginning can dictate the entirety of a worker’s tenure.

How to Create an Effective Onboarding Process

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Firstly, we have to note that the vagueness of the following information is fairly intentional. Consequently, it would be impossible, or extremely difficult, to create a general how-to guide that adheres to all onboarding necessities. As with most staffing-related inquiries, it’s entirely based upon the job and industry.

While the overall onboarding process will work, details have to be filled in depending on the job. For example, if your open position requires an industry-specific certification, the teaching and testing process should be factored into your onboarding process. Therefore, remember all of these specifics while reading through these generalized tips.

1. Create a List of Objectives

It’s impossible to create an effective process without knowing exactly what is needed. Ultimately, you understand that the onboarding period should involve training and introducing your new employee to the role, but that’s too general. You don’t want to forget certain necessities.

“I forget to get Harry to sign his benefit paperwork!”

Uh oh.

As with everything important, an overall list of objectives should be written before creating your process. These objectives and questions may look like this:

  • When will onboarding start?
  • How long will it last?
  • What does the new employee need to know about the culture and work environment?
  • What do you want the new employee to think about your company culture and ideals?
  • What information is needed to do the job? Are there requirements that the employee needs to receive?
  • What login credentials and other tech-related profiles are needed?
  • Should the employee shadow someone in the same position?
  • How and when will you go about reviewing the employee and offering feedback during the process? Will you have a meeting at the end?

Keep a Checklist

This tip can go for anything. In fact, I have a checklist for my day-to-day life.

Take a shower? Is it on the list?

Jokes aside, keeping a checklist of onboarding and orientation objectives can be extremely helpful in making sure you check all of the boxes. What forms are needed? Who should the employee meet? What is necessary for benefits and other work-related necessities?

2. Plan the First Day

As we stated, first impressions are the most crucial part of any relationship, even working ones. You want the employee to immediately feel welcomed, appreciated and accepted. Furthermore, you want to show the employee that you are well-prepared and already have an effective onboarding process in place.

While the rest of the plan can end up being vague and generalized goals, the first day should have an extensive and disciplined outline.

Ultimately, the first day should involve expressing job expectations, instilling overall objectives and showing your company’s culture. It should never be overwhelming, negative, or downright boring. Tossing a worker directly into their position on the first day is a surefire way to spoil the soup (or whatever saying you want to use). Giving an employee nothing but paperwork is also a quick way to instill unease.

You want to give them a taste of the role, not just a load of paperwork. You don’t want to force them into the entire meal, though.

Also, introducing the employee to the rest of the team is important. A person, regardless of job, should feel welcomed. The quicker they are acclimated to their peers, the easier there transition will be. If your onboarding process begins with a full day that doesn’t involve meeting others, you are already heading towards negativity and inefficiency.

Example of First Day

Here is a look at what a first day schedule could look like for a new employee.

Remember, this is both generic and basic. There will always be more detailed and specific tasks for the real day.

  • Meet with supervisor and fill out paperwork – 1-2 Hours
  • Tour of facilities, fire drill and safety, any other location-based information – 2 Hours
  • Take employee to lunch or set up lunch with fellow team – 1 Hour
  • Shadow worker in same role (or similar position) – Rest of Day
  • Meet with supervisor before end of the day

3. Always Have Supervisor Meet With Employee

The end of the first day should always include a one-on-one conversation with the supervisor. Not only does this allow the employee to ask any questions or air concerns, but it establishes a sense of mutual respect. It shows the employee that the supervisor cares about them and maintains an open-door policy for future inquiries.

Furthermore, a meeting allows the supervisor to plan the next few shifts accordingly. If the worker needs more time or does not accomplish all of the tasks listed above, time can be spent on it going forward.

4. Have the Entirety of the Month (Or Longer Period) Planned

An effective onboarding process does not end after the first day.

Let’s point out two contradicting statistics.

According to a report by Sapling HR in 2021, a new employees must complete an average of 54 activities for onboarding purposes. This often includes a total of 41 administrative tasks and three documents to complete.

According to a report by Aberdeen in 2018, only 37% of businesses polled ensured that their onboarding process is longer than a month.

See the issue here?

Cramming 54 activities into one day or week is a quick way to overwhelm the employee. Even the greatest of worker should be eased into the job. Plenty of workers have left companies because they were tossed directly into a raging fire. Onboarding should, and does, take time.

Example of First Month Goals

Here is a look at what some first month goals could look like for a new employee:

  • Assign a project of medium-to-low importance.
  • Oversee the project providing constructive criticism.
  • Set expectations for the entire month (or longer).
  • Have a check-in meeting again after the first month.
  • Make sure all long-term paperwork is filed.
  • Meet with mentor (if assigned) to discuss employee’s progression.

5. The First Project Is the Most Important

If your industry or business is fast-paced or stretched for time, it can seem impossible to ease an employee into their new role. If the employee has a plethora of experience on their resume, it may seem beneficial to get them to work immediately.

Regardless of your company or the expertise of the employee, their first project (or first few small projects) should not be something of extreme importance.

Firstly, you want to see what the worker is made of. Ultimately, resumes can be a shining star of achievement, but it isn’t written in gold. Even those with the most glamourous resumes can be bad workers. You want to take the probationary period to see if they are everything you thought they would be. Or, in less negative situations, they may need a bit more training then you thought initially.

Secondly, don’t connect an important project to a worker that’s just starting. Overwhelming is not the way to someone’s heart. Pressure may make diamonds, but it doesn’t make diamond employees. The employee’s first month should not be met with stress-inducing responsibilities. Ease them into the role.

Consequently, this does not mean you should give a new employee trivial tasks during the onboarding process. They should still be getting a taste of the job at hand. Just don’t throw them into the flagship project looming in the distance quite yet.

6. This Is the Time for Hands-On Criticism

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After an employee has proven their worth, it can become easy to trust them. In fact, you should have a workforce you trust to complete satisfactory jobs without constant oversight.

On the other hand, an effective onboarding process should involve keeping a strong eye on the new employee and offering more feedback than normal.

There are a plethora of workers that have felt as if they don’t understand the goals of their new job. We’ve all experienced it. Your new boss tosses you a project and takes off. You aren’t sure if you are doing it correctly or living up to standards until you’re finished. Don’t do this to new workers.

Offer frequent insight and criticism. Check in with the new worker throughout the first project. Let them know if something is incorrect or not up-to-par. This is the time to make sure you are on the same page regarding tactics and quality. Don’t let bad habits be formed from the get-go.

7. Job-Specific Training Comes First

Does this seem like a lot of information? Seem overwhelming for an effective process?

Imagine being the employee.

The beginning of a new job can be overloading and overstimulating for anyone. Even the most seasoned of workers can find themselves anxiety-ridden when going through their first week. There is a lot of information to take in. If the employee is just starting in this field, there is a lot of training to take in, too.

Make sure the job-specific training is the top priority during the introductory period. Allow the worker do to projects that correlate directly with their new role, not a variety of other skills and traits.

For example, if your company has a stretch of compliance policies, now is not the time to pile them on. You may want to introduce the important ones upfront, but it shouldn’t be limitations strapped to the employee in their first month. Don’t give them work that relies on information and crosstraining that they don’t have yet. Let them work on the basics of their specific role, first.

8. Be Open to New Ideas

Being a great communicator is having an open path on a two-way street. Communication is the discussion of multiple parties, not just one.

Regardless of the managerial style you imploy, listening to your new teammates should always be a priority. This does not mean you have to take all of their grievances into account, but you should be available for them to express them, especially during the onboarding process.

Employees want to feel heard. Employees want to feel valued. We are in the time of the Great Resignation. Potential candidates know their worth and they deserve to be treated as such. If a new employee notes something that should be addressed in the onboarding process they are going through, listen to them. It may help you in the future.