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Steps to a Successful Employee Onboarding Experience


As we covered last week, proper new employee training is absolutely integral to a company’ success. Proper employee onboarding ensures that the lengthy and effort-intense hiring process is worth its weight (and considerably more so) in gold. Our overview of how to create an effective onboarding experience can serve as an ideal new employee checklist for absolutely any type small business.

Even if you’re hiring the next Steve Jobs himself, no employee can achieve his or her highest potential of productivity, success, and job satisfaction without a thorough, well-designed onboarding and training process. According to a recent study by Wynhurst Group, new employees are 58% more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they experience a structured orientation program.

Help your new hire be the best they can be (quickly!) by following these five steps to create a stellar employee onboarding experience:


1) Start By Hiring Well

Let’s back up for a minute. The top item of every new employee checklist is to confirm the very basics: Ae you sure this is the person you want for the job?

Effectively onboarding an employee starts before you’ve even offered anyone the job. It starts with who you choose to hire, and how you communicate the job at hand to those interested in applying. You should qualify potential new hires the same way you qualify leads and potential new customers- tirelessly.

Take the time to write great interview questions that will help you weigh strengths and set potential hires up for success. You want to know how they work, and whether they can fulfill the job requirements—but you also want to find out what they’re interested in—their passions and how hope to grow their career.

For example, if a prospective hire is capable of bookkeeping, but they absolutely hate it, that’s not something you want them doing. Even if the skills are there, in the long run you’ll have an unhappy employee and a higher risk of turnover.

Hiring well is about cultivating a long term relationship. Be as transparent as possible with prospective employees about what a job entails and what you expect. By creating a comfortable environment where the prospect feels able to share openly, you’ll get more honest answers that allow you to make an informed hiring decision.


2) Budget Adequate Time and Resources for Training

Let’s be honest. The process of onboarding and training new employees is both exhausting and expensive. You’re already busy actually doing your job—who has enough hours in a day to also conduct extensive trainings?

But not allowing enough time to train new hires well is perhaps the biggest mistake companies make. Because let’s face it—no matter how great your new hire is, if they’re not well trained, you’ll end up getting less from that person than what they’re capable of, and what you’re paying for.

If you can, allot the resources in your budget for an overlap between an old employee’s departure and the arrival of his or her replacement. Dedicate that time to training and passing on important information your new hire will need to know.

Yes, it’s an expensive cost to bear. But going through another round of turnover because your new employee is ineffective or unhappy would be even more expensive.

Ultimately, dedicating adequate time to the training process saves your company both time and money in the long run. If you’re short on ideas, we highly recommend Doris M. Sims’ book, Creative New Employee Orientation Programs.


3) Foster Team Relationships

Your new hire will likely be joining a team that has been together for some time and has already established trust. The longer your new team member is held on the outside of that circle of trust, the longer it will take for the team to work seamlessly together.

Take proactive steps to integrate new employees with your existing team. Introduce your new hire, explaining what value he or she brings to the company, as well as something relatable about him or her personally.

This process will be particularly important if you have a remote team, if your new hire will be managing other employees, or if he or she is replacing a beloved colleague.

Arrange a small lunch gathering with members of the team, or create opportunities for team members to share workplace successes and personal triumphs on a weekly basis.

Team members need to get to know each other socially in order to trust one another’s work ethic and contributions to the business.

4) Meet Their Expectations

According to a study by BambooHR, new hires prefer for management to show them the ropes (33.23%). Their next preference would be HR (28%) or their own department head (26.6%). You might alright expect a high degree of turn over risk from your entry level employees, but BambooHR found that 38% of intermediate level employees left before the 6 month mark- so make sure you have an onboarding program for those new hires too. To put your programs in perspective, 45% of the HR professionals surveyed believed their businesses had wasted more than $10,000 a year on ineffective or unhelpful onboarding. 37% of everyday employees surveyed by BambooHR said that they like to have a designated mentor or “buddy” to address their questions to, as the need arises. Today’s employees also expect an interactive onboarding experience where they can ask questions or even be quizzed to solidify key concepts. New employees typically respond most positive to Socratic Method training, where after initial instruction you give them a scenario and ask them what they think should be done. Instead of merely correcting a wrong answer, the instruct should debate the trainee- and have them question why that might not be the best possible solution. Be sure to collect regular feedback from the new trainee in a casual setting, such as over lunch, to make sure they are positively responding to the onboarding, or if perhaps they’d prefer a different learning style.

5) Consider a Trial Period

It’s becoming an increasingly common practice in small, forward-thinking companies to hire individuals on a trial basis first as independent contractors or on a part-time basis before making the leap to hiring a full employee.

This “getting to know you” period can be a great opportunity, both for your company to experience how your new hire will work with your team, and for your new hire to determine whether the job he or she interviewed for is actually a job they can enjoy doing from day to day.

The truth is, no matter how hard you try to create a transparent culture, both prospective employees and hiring managers can be deceitful in the interview process.

We sugarcoat things. Interviewers “spin” the less-than-desirable parts of a job to sound better than they are, and prospects spin their skills and interests to say what you want to hear. It’s just human nature.

Offering a trial period gives both your company and the prospective hire the opportunity to experience first hand what the day-to-day working relationship will be like, with the option to cut ties with minimal losses if it just doesn’t work out.

Rebekah Hardeson, an experienced operations and human resources manager with Don’t Panic Management, suggests that one month is an ideal time frame to offer a trial.

“During that trial, have your new hire check-in often. Double check every piece of their work, and answer as many questions as you possibly can,” Hardeson says. “Working closely with your new hire during that trial will let you see how they are fitting in with the team and handling the workload they’ve been given.”


5) Conduct a One Month Evaluation

Is a post-onboarding “check in” on your new employee checklist? At the end of your trial period, or after your new team member’s first month of work, set aside time for a “check-in” evaluation. Ask your new hire how he or she is feeling about the position, and offer a constructive evaluation of the employee’s performance thus far.

If the working relationship with your new hire doesn’t seem to be working out, this is the time to be honest with one another, cut your losses, and move forward.

This is also a great time to ask for feedback about your onboarding process, which you can use to grow and change the way you do things in the future. There is always room to make your employee onboarding and training process even better, making for happier and more productive employees for years to come.


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