April 26, 2022

What is Employee Onboarding? Tips, Checklists and Best Practices for 2022

Melissa Malec

Onboarding is the first impression a company makes on a new joiner beyond the hiring process. 

It’s where they’re going to find out what it’s really like to work for your organisation and it can set the tone for the rest of the employee lifecycle. A good onboarding programme not only welcomes new members to a team but also minimises the time it takes for them to become productive. 

You might already have an onboarding process in place but is it doing what it should?

In this guide, we break down why onboarding is an essential part of the employee lifecycle and how you can create an onboarding process that is effective and will set your new joiners up for success.

Onboarding Process vs Orientation: Defining the Key Differences

Onboarding is any action that helps new hires understand their new work environment.

It’s much more than just passing over a description of duties to a new joiner, it encompasses introducing them to the expectations, behaviours and culture of your company.

Onboarding begins once an offer has been accepted and continues until the new joiner has fully adjusted to their new role and team. 

Depending on the individual and how extensive your onboarding strategy is, this can take anywhere from three months to a year. 

Where Does Employee Orientation Fit In?

Orientation is usually the first step in the onboarding process and takes place during the newcomer’s first day or week on the job. It is a time when new hires learn the basics of their working environment. Think, familiarising themselves with company policies, understanding their new job duties or getting introduced to their colleagues. 

Some companies may even aim to have orientation complete before the new-joiner starts by providing access to tools and materials early. This can speed up the onboarding process and alleviate any pre-first day jitters.

A key goal of orientation is to make the new joiner feel less intimidated about their role and to understand how their contributions fit into the company’s mission and vision.

What Is the Purpose of Onboarding? 

Now that you have a better idea of what employee onboarding is and how it differs from orientation, let’s check out why it’s an important process for the new starter and your company. 

Quicker Adaptation and Productivity 

Many of the administrative tasks involved with starting a new job can stifle a newcomer’s momentum. 

However, if we provide new starters with the tools and resources they need from the get-go, it minimises any time spent trying to make sense of key processes or software. 

This means that newcomers will be able to adapt to their new workplace easier, reach full productivity and start producing value much faster. 

Builds Stronger Workplace Relationships 

At one point or another, we’ve all been the new joiner. So we also all know what it’s like to join a team where everyone already knows one another well. It can feel overwhelming to be thrown into that dynamic.

That’s why you'll want your onboarding process to make new starters feel included and to give them plenty of opportunities to get to know their colleagues. 

It also allows new joiners to connect with more experienced team members who can help them assimilate into their roles faster. 

These interactions facilitate teamwork, which can boost workplace morale, employee engagement and performance. 

Fosters Organisational Alignment 

The onboarding process is the perfect time to introduce new hires to your company’s values and aspirations. 

Right from the start, this ensures that new starters know what the organisations’ mission and vision are, as well as how their role will help achieve those goals. 

This also helps new team members feel a sense of belonging to the company, and that they are working alongside their colleagues towards a common goal.

Creates a Feeling of Preparedness Amongst New Hires

Many people feel intimidated by starting a new job. There can be an assumption that they need to ‘prove themselves’ while still being careful not to step on anyone else's toes.

That’s why companies should use the onboarding process to explain to newcomers what their role entails and what is expected of them within the organisation. You can even bring it forward and send an email before their start date letting them know what they can expect that first week on the job.

This ensures the new starter has clarity about what their new responsibilities are and can help change a daunting prospect into an exciting one. 

Provides Early Career Guidance to New Starters 

52% of surveyed millennials say that the biggest attraction in an employer is having opportunities for career progression. What does that really mean? People who see a future in their role and at your company will stay longer. You should seed these opportunities as early as onboarding.

People managers should take the time during a new joiner's onboarding journey to have conversations about what types of professional growth opportunities exist within the company. 

By doing so, the new starter can take control of their career progression and professional growth from the word go. They’ll also trust that your company is invested in their development.

What Are the Commercial Benefits of Onboarding?

An effective employee onboarding programme will benefit new hires in a number of ways, but what about the company? Good news! This section will take a closer look at how engaging onboardings are good for your business.

Onboarding Reduces Future Hiring Costs

From hiring expenses to administrative costs, recruitment is expensive.

In fact, research shows that recruitment can cost between 20-30% of the new hire’s salary. If we look at the average salary in the UK, this amounts to about £5,000. 

A strategic approach to onboarding is one of the best ways to keep these costs to a minimum. 

By streamlining the onboarding journey and removing unnecessary roadblocks, newcomers will adapt better to their new work environment and be set up for success right from the start. 

The more welcome and prepared a new joiner feels, the less likely they will be to abandon their role early on. 

This will prevent your company from having to spend more money on recruiting new employees for roles you have already paid to fill.

An Engaging Onboarding Experience Improves Retention Rates 

People are more likely to stick around if they feel empowered and prepared for their role. This feeling or lack thereof, all starts with the onboarding process. 

If your company’s onboarding initiative leaves new starters feeling alienated or confused, it will impact your ability to retain them. 

Engaging onboarding programmes have proven to make new starters feel 18 times more committed to their new company. That commitment if nurtured correctly post onboarding can lead to long-term job satisfaction and employee retention.

Greater Engagement and Identification with the Brand 

Many onboarding initiatives focus on encouraging new starters to get involved in the company’s culture and activities. 

Making new hires feel included and accepted results in them feeling more connected to the company, its values and the brand as a whole. 

Onboarding Helps Boost Company Image

Creating an engaging onboarding programme shows new hires that the company is invested in their success from day one. 

This also naturally encourages team members to share your company’s positive and welcoming onboarding experience with others. 

Many companies use these responses to create testimonials about their onboarding experience and company culture. They can then use those on their social media accounts as employer branding and to attract even more talent.

How to Create an Engaging and Successful Onboarding Initiative

Now that you have a better understanding of why onboarding is an important initiative for both new hires and businesses, let’s take a closer look at how to create an effective programme. 

Use the Four Cs to Create a Roadmap

Many people managers use the “Four C’s” to describe the building blocks of an effective and engaging onboarding programme.

The Four C’s will help you create a written or digital roadmap of the key tasks and processes that the newcomer and their manager will need to complete during the onboarding initiative. 

At Learnerbly, we believe that a successful and thorough onboarding experience incorporates all four of these building blocks. 

This ensures that new starters feel comfortable in their new workplace and sufficiently prepared for their new role. 

Compliance 

This stage involves a few administrative tasks, such as gathering the new starter’s personal identification documents, payroll information and tech preferences. 

In the roadmap, you should also define who will collect these forms and how new hires should complete them. 

Clarification 

This process ensures that new starters fully understand what their duties and responsibilities are, as well as how their role contributes to the success of the company. 

In this phase, you should outline all of the expectations for the role so that the new joiner is fully prepared. It’s also helpful to identify tools or resources that they might need to enhance their learning and how they can measure their own performance.

Culture

During this phase of the roadmap, you would outline how the new starter can learn about  the company’s values, culture. rituals and norms. 

This also involves coming up with events or experiences that would allow the new joiner to experience your company’s values first hand. 

We did this with the Winter Wonderblies event we mentioned. 

Not only did this occasion help the new hires meet the whole team, but it also immersed them into our company culture. 

Connection 

The last C, connection is all about building interpersonal and professional relationships between your new hire and your team. 

This involves outlining opportunities for formal and informal social interactions to welcome the new hire to the company, as well as who should be involved in these engagements. 

Wrapping Up The Four C’s

Using these four building blocks will help you create and standardise an onboarding roadmap for your company. 

It will also help new starters and managers to understand what each stage of the onboarding experience will involve and what is required of them. 

Stay Organised with Onboarding Checklists

After you create the roadmap, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many tasks, events and processes that take place during the onboarding process. 

This is where checklists come in handy. 

Develop an Onboarding Timeline 

Once you know everything that will go into your onboarding checklist, you can organise it around a timeline. Some companies like to create a 30, 60 and 90-day onboarding plan for their new hires. 

Learnerbly’s onboarding process usually takes about 12 weeks and is divided into the following stages: 

Pre-boarding

Administrative tasks are best taken care of during the pre-boarding process. 

Not only does this ensure everything is ready for the new starter’s first day, but it can also help them feel less overwhelmed by the onboarding journey. 

Here’s How We Do It at Learnerbly

We try to make the onboarding process as streamlined as possible by using electronic software to manage the new hire’s contracts and payroll information. 

For example:

  • We use PandaDoc to send candidates their contract
  • We check a new hire's references and identity through a programme called Zinc
  • Hofy helps us make sure new starters get the right tech and resources they need

New hires use Hofy to select the laptop that they want and include their address for shipping. 

By getting all of these administrative tasks out the way during pre-boarding, our aim is to ensure that new joiners are able to be productive from the get-go.  

We also like to send our newcomers a first-day agenda on the Friday before they join. This gives new hires a better idea of what to expect on their first day so that they can feel a bit more prepared. 

As a welcome gift, we also give each newcomer a £30 budget to spend on breakfast and lunch during their first day. 

First Day(s) 

The first day or two should focus on helping the new joiner become acclimated to their workplace and their upcoming tasks. 

Many new starters will also use the first few days to wrap up any remaining administrative tasks. 

This could include making sure their Slack and email addresses are set up and accessible. 

The first few days are also a great time to introduce new hires to their fellow team members and the company’s executives. 

If your company is working remotely, encourage your team members to arrange calls with the new joiner to introduce themselves and tell them more about their role at the organisation.

This will help the newcomer feel welcome, as well as facilitate the interpersonal and professional relationship building we discussed earlier in this article. 

First Week(s) 

During the first few weeks at their new jobs, new starters should gradually become more involved with their responsibilities.

However, a more experienced colleague should still check in periodically and be available to help the new hire if necessary. 

At Learnerbly, we use the first week to help our new starters familiarise themselves with our tools and software. 

We like to spread this out over a few days so that the new hire doesn’t feel too overwhelmed or experience an “information overload”. 

In future we are also planning on having our CEO, Rajeeb Dey, deliver an onboarding session that takes newcomers through Learnerbly’s values, mission and vision statements. 

This is to help foster organisational alignment in our new hires and also get them energised about being part of the company. 

First Months

Once the new starter feels a bit more settled into their role, you can begin to show them what performance reviews look like at your company. 

The first few months are also a good time to check in with the newcomer and see if they need any extra support or resources to improve their workflows. 

This is also the perfect time to start asking your new hires for feedback on how they experienced the onboarding initiative. We go into more detail about this in the next section. 

Ask New Hires for Feedback 

Creating opportunities for new hires to give you feedback is one of the best ways to see how effective your onboarding initiative really is. 

You can ask new starters to provide feedback by completing surveys at the end of their onboarding programme or arranging an informal one-on-one check in to ask for feedback and discuss their experience. 

This is a great way to start a conversation about what your company could do to improve its new employee onboarding process, and how to better prepare new hires for their roles. 

At Learnerbly, we like to think of onboarding as a continually evolving initiative. 

We use our newcomers’ feedback to make improvements to our onboarding process based on their suggestions. 

We also let the new hires know that their input is valued and will impact the onboarding of newcomers after them. 

Not only does this help new joiners feel heard, but it also shows them that their input is important to us. 

Onboarding in a Nutshell

Onboarding is so much more than just a stack of paperwork and hours of orientation slideshows. 

Instead, it is a company-wide effort to integrate new hires into an organisation, as well as giving them the tools and resources they need to hit the ground running in their new roles.

When implemented correctly, onboarding leads to higher retention and greater organisational alignment and can boost company image. 

The examples we’ve shared in this article should spark some ideas on how you can create an engaging onboarding programme at your organisation. 

Remember, the sooner you get new hires set up for success, the more engaged and productive they will be for your business. 

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