5 Employee Onboarding Best Practices to Boost Employee Retention and Productivity

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Employee onboarding is the process of integrating and assimilating new employees into a company. The goal for any onboarding process is to provide new employees with the information, tools, and structures they need to become a productive member of staff. Onboarding can last a number of months and involves a number of activities including orientation, training, and learning about the company’s culture, values, and mission.

Effective onboarding is key and research from the Brandon Hall Group has shown that strong onboarding processes can boost employee retention by 82% and increase productivity by 70%. Unfortunately for many companies, successfully onboarding new hires is proving quite difficult and a Gallup study found that only 12% of employees feel their organization does a great job onboarding new employees.

In this post we will outline 5 employee onboarding best practices to help boost productivity and employee retention at your company.


1 – Start with Pre-onboarding

Pre-onboarding is the period of time that takes place between the new hire signing an acceptance letter and the new hire starting their first day of employment. There is a window of opportunity here for companies to make new hires feel part of the team before they even start. Pre-onboarding can also help to alleviate some of the pre-first-day nerves. Some best practices when it comes to pre-onboarding worth bearing in mind include:

  • Sending welcome emails which should be written in a positive, welcoming tone and include details such as official start date and other helpful resources.
  • Sending a welcome pack. Welcome packs might include some company swag such as mugs, t-shirts, mousepad, etc. In today’s increasingly digital world, it is often the physical touch that can make all the difference.
  • Build connections on social media. Encourage the team to connect with their future teammate on LinkedIn to help establish an early rapport.
  • Send an informational email close to the start date. This email should include the small, often-overlooked details like parking spots, dress code, lunch options, etc. Providing the new hire with the answers to all these niggly questions will help to make them feel welcome.

2 – Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

When it comes to onboarding it is certainly a case of “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. New hires will arrive ready to onboard with their own expectations of how the process should go. From the employer’s side, basics like workstations, laptop, phone etc. should all be set up and ready to go. Preparation also includes liaising with the managers and teams who will be involved in the employee onboarding process, outlining their role and responsibilities in onboarding the new hire.


3 – Build Flexibility into your Onboarding Process

The employee onboarding process should be flexible especially when you consider the changing times we are living in. Technology continues to advance as do the onboarding tools companies have available to them — meaning there are more opportunities to mix digital elements into the onboarding process. Furthermore, COVID-19 was a wake-up call for companies to embrace remote work and, indeed, remote onboarding. Onboarding plans should have the flexibility to cater for a quick switch situation where a new employee must be onboarded remotely.


4 – Stop Using Email for Employee Onboarding

To clarify, using email for welcome emails etc. is still recommended but, when it comes to collecting documents and personal information for new employees, email is not the answer. Sending emails over and back to new employees requesting documents and personal information creates a number of issues:

  • Cyber Security: Attachments represent a software security risk. Research found that email is used in 90% of cyber attacks.
  • GDPR: Collecting personal information and documents via email can open the door to potential GDPR non-compliance. It is important to factor GDPR into your employee onboarding process and ensure the way you process and store their data is compliant.
  • Time: Using manual processes like email and physical files for collecting employee information is very time-consuming for HR teams and often results in documents being misplaced.
  • Professionalism: Providing your new hire with a smooth and professional onboarding experience is key. If you are still using email to manually collect documents in an ad-hoc manner, then you are not putting your best foot forward and new hires might start to have doubts about their new company.

The best way to overcome these potential onboarding issues is to stop using email for data and document collection. Consider incorporating onboarding tools into your process that can automate document collection, eliminate GDPR issues, and give HR teams valuable time back into their week.


5 – Place Culture at the Center of Employee Onboarding

During the onboarding process, it is worth bearing in mind the famous Peter Drucker quote that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Company culture is considered by many to be the most important factor in a company’s success or otherwise. Onboarding is an important part of building and maintaining company culture. Think about ways to get the ethos and company values across to new hires during the onboarding process. Activities such as welcome lunches, one-to-one meetings, and an introduction to any social responsibility initiatives underway in the company can all help the new hire to adapt, and ultimately, buy-in to company culture.


Why Is Employee Onboarding Important?

  1. Maximizes productivity – Employee onboarding paints a clear picture of what to expect and how success is measured in the company. The employee can work towards that.
  2. Enhances belonging and inclusion – During the employee onboarding process, the new employee is introduced to the culture of the company and other employees as well. Onboarding can make the new employee feel a sense of inclusion and belonging.
  3. It reduces the cost of turnover and minimizes business risk – Contracts, payroll forms, company policies, and procedure reviews are all put in place to protect both the employee and the company. According to SHRM’s Human Capital Benchmarking Report, the average cost-per-hire in the United States is $4,129, and it took an average of 42 days to fill a position. An excellent onboarding process helps retain new employees.
  4. Attracts top talent – The world is a global village, and word spreads fast online about an organization with a good onboarding process and one that does not have a good one.
  5. Maximizes retention and loyalty – According to a study conducted recently, 69 percent of employees committed 3 years in an organization after a good onboarding experience.

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