Finding the best employees for your small business is only part of the process of building a great team. After you’ve hired a new worker, it is critical to create an excellent onboarding experience to introduce them to their position and work environment.
Onboarding is how new hires learn the necessary skills, knowledge, and behaviors to become productive and engaged members of your small business team. It includes filling out essential paperwork, participating in hands-on training, socializing with co-workers and learning the company culture. Onboarding should extend past the employee’s first week. It can last anywhere from a month to a year.
In many businesses, onboarding is often confused with orientation – the employee watches some videos, fills out paperwork and is told to get to work. Onboarding, however, is a chance for your new hire to connect emotionally with your company’s vision and culture. It should give them all the tools and resources they need to become a productive member of your team as quickly as possible. At the same time, it should give them a great impression of your company, so they want to stick around long-term.
The three primary goals of onboarding are to
- Acclimate your employee with your company’s processes, culture, norms and goals
- Engage the employee by fostering supportive relationships between the new worker, their co-workers and management
- Retain the employee so you can increase productivity and morale throughout your company
Because onboarding is your new worker’s first impression of their role within your company, make it count by following these 11 best practices.
1. Understand why onboarding is important.
An employee’s onboarding experience can influence how likely they are to stay with your company. According to the Society of HR Management (SHRM), 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they had a great onboarding experience. Furthermore, companies with a standard onboarding process see 50% higher productivity from new hires than other companies.
Conversely, if an employee has a bad onboarding experience, they might decide that the organization is poorly managed and that they made a mistake accepting the job in the first place.
2. Your onboarding efforts should start before the employee’s first day.
The onboarding process should begin before your new hire ever steps into the office to start working. To help ensure you’re covering everything, create a checklist that includes what needs to be done before they start work, during the first week, and beyond.
As soon as they’ve accepted the job, send them any required paperwork so they don’t have to spend their first day filling it out. This might include a Form W-4, Form I-9 and an employee information form. Also, send them your employee handbook so you can address any of their concerns in advance. You can easily automate this process with a digital onboarding system, like Workful. Digital onboarding can increase accuracy and help you create a more personal experience because you’ll be spending more time with your new hire, instead of waiting for them to fill out forms.
A few days before they start work, send them a friendly note sharing how excited you are to have them join your team. Let them know when they need to arrive on their first day, where to park, who to ask for and what the dress code is. To further alleviate any first-day jitters, send them an agenda for their first week so they know what to expect.
3. Announce your new hire to your current staff.
It can be unnerving to walk into a new job if no one knows who you are or what your role is. To prevent this from happening, send an email to your current staff introducing their new co-worker a day or two in advance. Share what the person’s role will be, so everyone knows how they’ll fit into the existing dynamics. You might also include a headshot and a brief bio so your team can enthusiastically and genuinely welcome your new hire on their first day.
4. Ask your team for input.
Your current staff is a fantastic resource for helping you build a thorough and exciting onboarding process, so use them. Ask them about their own experience – what they liked and didn’t like. Then, ask them if there’s any training they wish they had had during their first several months of work. This can help ensure you’re building a program that teaches your new hire the things they need to be productive.
5. Set up their workstation before they arrive.
Make sure your new hire has someplace to land on their first day by getting their workstation set up. If you’ve been using their desk or locker as an extra storage space, make sure all the clutter is gone. You might also consider leaving something to make them feel welcome, like notes from their co-workers, notepads with the company logo or a coffee mug. You should also make sure any equipment they’ll be using is set up and working, including their phone and email. Setting their workstation up in advance shows them that you already see them as part of the team.
6. Set expectations early.
On the employee’s first day, discuss what you need from them and what they’ll get from the company to help them achieve their goals.
Provide them with a detailed job description and a comprehensive list of their responsibilities. This might be the same information you posted in the job ad, but it will give you the chance to talk about each key task to avoid misunderstandings. Then, talk about how their job fits into the bigger picture and helps the business meet its goals.
Finally, discuss how the company will support the new employee and what resources it will provide to ensure your new worker can excel at their job.
7. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with their direct supervisor
If the new employee will be reporting to someone other than you, make sure they have a scheduled one-on-one meeting with the person who will be their supervisor. Not only will this help build a great relationship between the employee and their boss, but it will also give them a chance to start talking about goals. The employee’s supervisor can share where they expect the new hire to be at the end of their first month, first three months and six months. They can also start setting goals for the upcoming year.
This will also give the employee a chance to discuss their career plans. It might seem odd to discuss career development at the beginning of the employee’s tenure, but it can increase their likelihood to stay with you. In fact, 87% of millennial workers say that professional development is a vital part of their job-related decision-making. Let your new employee know that you’re committed to them by giving them a chance to talk about where they want to be in the next couple of years. This will provide you with an opportunity to determine how they can advance in your company and what skills you need to help them learn to meet their goals.
8. Share your company history, vision and values.
To ensure your new hire becomes fully engaged at work, it’s crucial they understand your company culture from the beginning. Start by sharing a little bit about your business’s history and vision, so the employee understands where you came from and where you’re headed.
Then, talk about your mission statement and values. Try to find out what they care about personally, so you can relate it to what’s important to your company. For example, if one of your core values is generosity and your new hire regularly volunteers with a local nonprofit, discuss ways your business could become more involved with that organization. If you can help the employee connect with your purpose initially, they’ll be more likely to stay with you.
9. Assign an office buddy.
Pair your new hire up with a mentor within your company. Pick someone who is a good role model and will be happy to take on this new responsibility. Throughout the onboarding process, they can help your new hire become more acclimated to their work environment. On the new hire’s first day, their buddy can be the one to give them a tour of the office and introduce them to the rest of the team. They can also explain any unspoken norms around your office – like the first person to the office always makes the coffee or everyone meets up for happy hour on Thursdays.
10. Treat the team to lunch.
To help your new hire begin to socialize and build relationships with their co-workers, ensure that they’re not eating alone on their first day. You might consider catering lunch or going out as a department or company. This will give your new hire a chance to get to know their new peers outside of work. If that’s too much, have their mentor take them out or – at the very least – dine with them in the breakroom.
You could also ask a different member of your team to eat lunch with your new hire each day of their first week. This will help them get to know their co-workers one-on-one, which can be less stressful than meeting everyone at once.
11. Check-in regularly
Although a lot of the onboarding process will take place during the new hire’s first week, it will be ongoing for quite some time after that.
At the end of your employee’s first month, sit down with them to make sure they’re comfortable, happy and engaged. Acknowledge their early contributions, so they know that they’re already helping the company succeed. Ask them if their training has prepared them to become autonomous in their role, or if they would like any additional training. Talk to them about any projects they’ve taken on and find out how you can help them excel.
Check in again between their third and sixth months with the company. By then, your employee will have a solid understanding of your culture and their role in the company. This is a crucial time to touch base, so you can be sure they are satisfied and not seeking an early exit strategy. If they’re ready to take on new challenges at that point, steer them in the right direction so they can continue adding value to your company. If they have any concerns, make sure they know that you will carefully consider their comments.
Ultimately, you want to do everything in your power to ensure that your new hire transitions well in their position and becomes a long-term employee. By simply keeping your finger on the pulse, you are signaling to them that they are supported and valued as a member of your team.