How To Create a Positive Employee Onboarding Experience (Tips For Office Managers)

Kayla Naab

Most company leaders and managers are aware of the importance of smarter hiring, thoughtful onboarding, and better management. While we all probably agree that employee satisfaction and productivity are integral to the success of any business, most of us are still overlooking a crucial aspect of that: onboarding. 

Onboarding is about so much more than training new employees or giving them a basic orientation. Onboarding is the process of ushering a new hire into your processes, practices, policies, and the flow of your company. In fact, some companies have onboarding processes that span the first year or more of an employee’s run with the company. 

While this larger focus and investment in onboarding is beginning to trend, many companies are still waiting until week two to finally get an employee the basic paperwork and logins she needs. Why the disparity?

Once you can get your leaders past the misconception that onboarding lacks impact, you can start implementing some of our suggestions for better onboarding:

How to Improve Your Onboarding Process

Onboarding procedures should be customized to every unique company. You know better than anybody just what your people need to see, hear, access, and understand to be successful. However, the suggestions below will help you to frame out those processes: 

1. Don’t Wait Until Day One

The most impactful way to remodel your onboarding process is in the name itself - “process.” Develop a plan for how you will introduce new employees to your company, your people, their work, and the context around what you do. Make sure that when a new employee starts, this plan is already polished. Get ahead, too, by emailing documents over for them to sign before day one, setting up any accounts they need before they start, and preparing information or training so there’s no idle time. 

2. Choose an Optimal Start Date 

The start date matters. It might not seem like a big deal to choose the next available Monday or the first of a new month, but that’s not always the optimal date. The best start date for a new employee is not right before or after a holiday. If half of your staff is going to be out on vacation or traveling for an event, it’s best to choose a different week. 

Your new employee should have the chance to meet most of the team right away, especially their manager or direct reports. It can even be smart to batch your new hires and have a group start on the same day. Batching will save your leaders and administrators some time while making your new hires feel less alone or singled-out. 

3. Organize & Document 

You are not ready to recruit a new employee, let alone onboard them, if you do not know how they will begin working, what they need in order to succeed, and who they’ll need to meet. Produce a thoughtful itinerary of the first couple of weeks, document it for yourself and for the new hire, and stick to it. These documents can be saved for future new hires and customized later on.

4. Make Better Introductions

Don’t take your new employee by the arm and introduce them to 50 new people all at once. This too-common approach to introductions can feel overwhelming to your new employee. Instead, give your new hire access to a portal or Wiki that includes your team’s names, faces, and titles. Let them study on their own time. Then, start by crafting more meaningful opportunities for them to meet key colleagues and leaders as they go. 

5. Form an Onboarding Committee 

Onboarding does not simply fall on the shoulders of the new hire’s direct manager; it takes a village. You could form an onboarding committee comprised of chosen representatives from each department or vertical of your company. These people become the welcome chorus, the helpdesk, and the moral support for any questions or confusions your employee might encounter.

6. Keep it Interesting 

One of the worst introductions to a new role or company is to spend the first two weeks signing legal documents, signing into a hundred different accounts, and waiting for someone to talk to you. Brainstorm ways to gamify the onboarding process with tasks, side quests, and checkpoints to cross. Consider varying your input formats so your new hire can switch from watching training videos to writing their own bio or intro page, to socializing with other employees. 

7. Lead with Empathy 

Ultimately, if you want to give your new hire the best possible experience, think like a new hire. If you can put yourself in the shoes of someone who is new to a place, who is the only person in the room who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and who stands out like a sore thumb, you will be able to better intuit what that person would need. 

What to Give Your Employees During the Onboarding Process

Make sure you’re giving your new employees every chance to succeed, feel aligned to your company, and feel welcome. Don’t overlook these six key elements in the early weeks:

1. Access & Exposure

Don’t make your new employee learn things the hard way. Make sure they have access and awareness for all the little perks, office quirks, or secret handshakes that power your workplace. 

2. Impactful & Actionable Training

Don’t force your new employee to dredge through half-baked documents, outdated training videos, or unclear policy jargon. Train them in ways that are applicable and actionable from the start.

3. Structure + Space

Make sure to strike a balance. Provide a structured schedule for your new employee so they’re never left wondering “what’s next?” but allot time in that schedule for them to read, explore, converse, and take a breather, too. 

4. Small, Manageable Tasks

When any person tries something new, early success is key to ongoing encouragement and feeling motivated. Help your new employee find success early by assigning small and manageable things first. 

5. Goals & Expectations

One main factor to whether we connect with our work or we don’t is how clear our objectives are. If you lay out clear goals and set transparent expectations for success and growth, your employee can see the path laid out. Without knowing what’s expected, how could they possibly meet expectations?

6. Something Fun to Do

The First Impression Fallacy indicates that humans perceive situations or experiences by how they start out. If you give your employees reasons to smile, laugh, and connect early on, this could be an indicator of how they view the entirety of their tenure with you. Assign a fun personality test or encourage your new employees to participate in a 30 day work selfie challenge. Avoid giving off the first impression that everything at work is hard and boring. 

The Impact of a Positive Onboarding Experience

Five really magical things happen when you onboard your employees thoughtfully:

1. Quicker Ramp-up 

Don’t waste valuable and productive time. The more prepared you are, the quicker your new employee can begin on meaningful work

2. Early Permanence

When we start something new, we have one foot out the door. We’re testing compatibility and fit. Give your employees a positive onboarding experience to get them to jump in with both feet.

3. Empowered Ideas 

If you want your employees to open up, share their ideas, and voice their feedback, you have to build trust. Don’t wait to do that. 

4. Better Context 

We all want to feel that our work matters and be able to see our impact. Provide that context from the first day on the job, so your employees see why every task matters.

5. Retention

Don’t be fooled by the idea that employees take years to feel disgruntled, unappreciated, bored, and burnt out. 22% of turnover happens within the first 45 days. For some companies, onboarding takes just as long. 

An investment in people, is an investment in business. 

Your workplace is nothing but the culmination of the people who power it. You can strip back the four walls, the equipment, and even the work itself, and you will find that at the core of any business is its people. If you want to develop champions who support what you do, motivate themselves, and deliver excellence every day, this work begins on day one. 

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