Employee Onboarding Process: Your Ultimate Guide to Best Practices and Automation

By Toni Buffa Posted November 10, 2022

 

In this ultra-competitive and turbulent labor market, the employee onboarding process should be top of mind for every company's human resources (HR) teams. 

With the Great Resignation still ongoing, “quiet quitting” now part of our general lexicon, and remote work presenting many unexpected challenges, it’s now critical for companies to improve their onboarding programs to give employees vastly better onboarding experiences. 

Today's HR managers face a myriad of challenges. Simply doing the bare minimum by filling out paperwork, handing out dull employee handbooks, and sending new hires on their merry way just won't cut it anymore.

HR is tasked with attracting, retaining, and delighting some of the highest levels of talent in their respective industries while contending with much bigger and better-funded competitors at every step. They also need to deliver on the promises of perks, benefits, and opportunities made during the recruitment phase. 

That's why the employee onboarding process is often seen as one of the best opportunities to set the tone and expectations for an employee's career with a company. It's a great way to make a first impression, stand out, and wow new recruits at the very start of the employee lifecycle.

By following best practices and adopting advanced automation technologies, companies can not only reduce employee churn and boost retention rates, they can also increase employee engagement and improve the employee experience—thereby setting up new recruits for long-term career success. 

What is the employee onboarding process?

Employee onboarding covers the entire process of getting new hires integrated into an organization. Its purpose is to set up new hires for success and decrease the time it takes for them to get comfortable in their new roles. 

During the employee onboarding, new hires learn about the company's organization, culture, mission, and values. It covers the initial orientation of employees but also involves the hiring, equipping, and training of staff as well.

Employee onboarding processes vary widely and depend on the company and the industry. Average onboarding programs generally last 90 days, but some can last much longer. Gallup has found that new employees typically take around 12 months to reach their full performance potential within a role, which is why some programs can last up to a year. 

Why employee onboarding best practices matter

According to the Harvard Business Review, companies implementing a formal onboarding program see 50% greater employee retention among new recruits and 62% greater productivity within the same group. 

A study by HR consultancy Cognology also found that companies with an effective onboarding capability generated 2.5x more revenue growth and 1.9x more profit margin than companies that were less capable.

However, research has found that more than one-third of companies still lack a structured onboarding process. It’s partly why Gallup found that only 12% of employees feel their company does a good job onboarding new hires, meaning that 88% have poor onboarding experiences.

Employee Onboarding Process: 10 Best Practices For Long-Term Success

No two employee onboarding processes are exactly alike. However, these universal best practices in this onboarding guide can be applied across nearly every industry and help increase your new hires' productivity and retention rates.

1. Set clearly defined goals 

Any employee onboarding program should have predefined goals of what it should accomplish. Onboarding should cover what's known as the four C’s, which can help save time and reduce costs. According to Dr. Talya Bauer from the SHRM Foundation, the four C’s include compliance, clarification, culture, and connection.

  • Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.

  • Clarification ensures that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations.

  • Culture is a broad category that provides employees with a sense of formal and informal organizational norms.

  • Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

2. Establish KPIs

To measure if the goals of employee onboarding are being met, a company also needs to define its key performance indicators (KPIs).

KPIs should measure things like employee performance, productivity, satisfaction, retention, and engagement. One useful measurement is the employee net promoter score (eNPS), which is an employee experience metric that allows you to measure how loyal and engaged your employees are.The eNPS asks a simple question: 

“On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend our company to friends and family?”

Your respondents (employees) are then sorted into three categories, depending on the score they give:

9-10: These employees are your Promoters

7-8: These employees are your Passives

0-6: These employees are your Detractors

The formula to calculate eNPS = No. of Promoters – No. of Detractors/Total No. of Respondents x 100

If the employee onboarding experience triggers a higher eNPS, you’re likely on the right track. However, if it generates a lower eNPS, it could shed some light on some of the areas of the organization you may want to improve.

3. Extend the onboarding experience to team members and touchpoints

The onboarding HR team is only one stakeholder that an employee will interact with during onboarding. The rest of the time, they interact with direct managers, team members, other departments and teams, and leadership. 

Initial introductions to all of these stakeholders can go a long way in making employees feel comfortable and confident in their new positions so they can hit the ground running when they begin their work.

Managers

Direct managers play a vital role in facilitating business critical introductions and conversations. Direct managers may have been involved in the hiring process, making them natural candidates for initiating connections between team members and helping build relationships. 

Regular check-ins can ensure that the networking process is running smoothly. The goal is to forge strong team relationships from the get go, which can be a larger time investment initially. However, the payoff will be improved employee productivity and performance over the long term. 

Team members

Team members also play a large role in shaping the employee experience. Assigning a mentor or buddy can help ease the transition into the new position and answer any questions along the way. Team members can help explain what they do and should be encouraged to include the new hire in formal and informal activities, such as group lunches with coworkers.

Leadership

Perhaps one of the most important and effective best practices to follow is the introduction of the new employee to your company’s CEO and executive team. For smaller organizations, this may take the form of a one-on-one conversation or a small group meeting with all the new hires. 

If the organization is large or if there are issues like location or time constraints, organizing a larger group meeting like a town hall or a group zoom call may be the best way to facilitate an introduction. Including the CEO and senior leadership as part of the onboarding experience, where they can articulate the company’s culture and vision and can help answer questions, gives a sense of inclusion and can help to motivate new hires at the start of their employee journey.

4. Support the entire onboarding journey (90 days to 1 year)

The onboarding employee process should involve all the process from when an offer letter is signed to when a new hire becomes a productive member of the team. For most companies, the onboarding journey averages 90 days, but for some businesses and industries, it can also stretch to up to a year.

One of the best practices that companies should follow is to incorporate job shadowing throughout the entire onboarding process. According to Gartner:

Job shadowing is a type of on-the-job training that allows an interested employee to follow and closely observe another employee performing the role. This type of learning is usually used to onboard new employees into an organization or into a new role. Job shadowing may also be used as a learning opportunity for interns or students to understand the role requirements and the job tasks.

Job shadowing is a great way to ensure onboarding best practices are followed in real time. Feedback can also be used to identify areas of improvement and take corrective action.

5. Develop a stellar pre-boarding program

The stakes are especially high when it comes to new hires. According to a survey by Indeed, a whopping 19% of applicants who accept verbal offers never go on to sign the paperwork, while a staggering 22% accept offers and don’t show up to work on their first day.

That’s why a critical best practice in HR is to have a pre-boarding plan and protocol in place that will drum up some excitement, initiate strong company/employee relationships, and prepare new hires for their first day on the job. 

Welcome kits can be as elaborate as a huge welcome basket or as simple as a handwritten note. It’s really the thought that counts, so a gesture that shows the new employee that you value them and are excited about them joining the team, will definitely be worth the investment that you put in.

Pre-boarding is also a great way to get some of the necessary paperwork done and out of the way so the new hire isn’t bogged down with administrative tasks on their first day. The main documents that need to be read or signed include:

  • W-4 Form

  • I-9 Form

  • Employment Offer Letter

  • Employment Contract

  • Emergency Contact Information

  • Employee Handbook

  • Organizational Chart

  • Payroll and Benefits

Finally, pre-boarding is a great opportunity for HR to answer any burning questions leading up to an employee’s first day. This can take the form of an FAQ, which may include common questions and answers about how to find the office, where to park, what’s the dress code, what to bring on your first day, what do most people do for lunch, etc…

6. Develop a winning orientation program

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Generally, the employee orientation is a one-time event that welcomes new hires to the organization and teaches them about the company, its culture, and the new hire’s job responsibilities.

An orientation program may include:

  • A short introductory meeting that goes over what they need to know

  • A tour of the office

  • The distribution of equipment, such as a laptop or phone

  • Instructions or a walkthrough on how to set up company accounts, such as emails, Slack, or others.

  • If appropriate, a simple assignment or project to get started on.

Employee orientation is also when the new hire will likely be assigned a buddy or a mentor, who can help answer questions, give the tour of the office, guide them through their onboarding, and provide encouragement. The buddy may also double for job shadowing duty, or this task may be assigned to a different person that works near the new employee. 

However, what you don’t want to do is overwhelm a new hire as soon as they walk in the front door. The first day at work should be exciting and motivating, and it should help the employee feel welcomed, appreciated, and productive. As always, this is a great opportunity to gather feedback to find out if there are areas that could be improved during the orientation process. 

7. Develop an industry-leading training plan

An employee’s productivity is directly tied to the employee training program, which is why it is one of the most important pieces of the new employee onboarding process. Not only has research shown that proper training can increase profit margins by about 24%, but employees also cite their training as the #1 factor in recruitment and retention.

Steps to creating a strong employee training program should include:

  • Assessing needs

  • Setting goals and objectives

  • Designing training programs

  • Implementing or delivering the training program

  • Evaluating and revising as needed

Unfortunately, when teaching new skills, many corporations only organize one-time training events that are largely ineffective. In fact, many capability building programs have been deemed ineffective and do not lead to tangible business results.

To address these issues, companies need to combine formal training, ongoing coaching, and peer learning to help employees master critical new skills. Because employees are gravitating toward employers that offer learning opportunities, even a modest investment in training can boost productivity and even improve top and bottom lines. 

8. Create a feedback loop

Engaged teams are more profitable teams. According to Gallup:

“Engaged employees make it a point to show up to work and do more work -- highly engaged business units realize an 81% difference in absenteeism and a 14% difference in productivity. 

They’re also more attuned to the needs of customers; and they are more observant of processes, standards and systems. When taken together, the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in a 23% difference in profitability.”

In short, fostering employee engagement is critical for any organization that wants to retain workers, and the employee onboarding process is a perfect opportunity for companies to kick off engagement early on. 

Employee onboarding feedback questions are a great way to get instant feedback on how new hires feel about their onboarding. Questions may cover the:

  • Onboarding process

  • Onboarding experience

  • Company culture

  • Recruitment process

  • Hiring process

  • Training program, and more. 

The results of these surveys can be used in a feedback loop to inform, enhance, and modify existing systems so they can constantly be improved for future hires. Corrective action can also be taken quickly if there are any issues with your onboarding process.

9. Use an employee onboarding checklist

Processes and standards are critical for an organization to run smoothly. While you may already have an outstanding onboarding process, an onboarding checklist can be instrumental in keeping the process consistent and organized so new hires get the same experience every single time. 

Generally, the contents are divided into pre-hire, during-hire, and post-hire categories. With an onboarding checklist, you can ensure that each stage of the new hire onboarding process is completed within the correct time frames.

However, while manual checklists may work well for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that don't deal with a lot of hiring and only onboard a few new employees a month, their usefulness begins to falter when companies grow past a certain size. 

For mid-market or enterprise companies that need to onboard tens or even hundreds of employees globally each month, automating onboarding processes and workflows becomes critical for maintaining standards and following best practices. 

10. Automate, automate, automate

Workflow automation uses software to automate and streamline repetitive and laborious manual tasks. For HR teams in particular, they can completely streamline and simplify the employee onboarding process flow, freeing up time and resources to work on more important tasks, such as strategizing, decision-making, and improving and personalizing the employee experience.

Employee onboarding software creates a standardized, consistent, and company-approved approach to onboarding. Designing dynamic forms can automatically collect information, ensure accuracy, and trigger workflows, while automating processes can automatically route documents and information, apply business rules, and integrate with existing systems. Modern software can solve many HR pain points and help businesses work more efficiently.

In fact, workflow automation can be used to manage the entire onboarding process from pre-hire to post-hire, creating a fully optimized and efficient workflow. Here are some examples of how you can use new hire onboarding automation:

Pre-hire  

  • Position request form

  • Recruitment and application process

  • Internal referrals

  • Interview feedback and tracking

  • Offer tracking

  • Background checks

  • Security badge request

During Hire  

  • Business card ordering

  • New hire information gathering

  • IT Setup form (hardware, software, network/app access)

  • Policy/mission review and acknowledgment

Post-Hire  

  • A survey of their onboarding

  • Employee information change

  • Personnel action

  • Hardware and software requests

  • Leave requests

  • Expense and travel requests

  • Performance reviews and acknowledgment

  • Goals tracking

  • Peer and team recognitions and awards

Integrify Can Vastly Simplify the Employee Onboarding Process with Workflow Automation

Integrify's low-code, cloud-based workflow automation platform allows our customers to replace manual, repetitive tasks with intelligent automation and integration.

It provides the most advanced features and tools for HR managers to build completely automated onboarding processes for new employees. Our user-friendly cloud-based portal allows you to customize the user experience, track tasks and progress, and review and approve requests, while our rapid form designer allows you to quickly build smart and user-friendly forms for any part of the onboarding process. 

Furthermore, you can create and connect tasks to build a custom workflow that streamlines your business process while replacing manual steps with powerful automation. And you can get complete visibility into performance, KPIs, and bottlenecks for every stage of the onboarding process. 
If you want to learn more about how Integrify can help automate and streamline your employee onboarding process, request a demo here.

Toni Buffa

Toni is a member of the Integrify marketing team and writes for the Integrify blog. Toni lives in Colorado and loves animals of all stripes.

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