Employee Onboarding 101: What, Why, and How

Jul 11, 2023
Applicant Tracking, ApplicantStack, Blog, Employee Onboarding

Bringing a new employee onboard is an exciting time for an organization, whether to fill a newly created position or to replace someone who has moved on. But it also comes with some important steps to ensure a positive experience for the new hire. Explore our detailed guide to onboarding that outlines the what, why, and how behind this crucial process.

What is Employee Onboarding?

Let’s start with the what: employee onboarding refers to the process of familiarizing a new hire with the company culture, policies and other details. The purpose behind onboarding is to help an employee feel more comfortable with their role within the company and encourage them to become an effective member of their team.

Boarding a plane can provide a framework for the process. Upon arrival, you typically receive a greeting from a flight attendant or even the pilot, who welcomes you aboard and provides a positive first experience. The flight attendant can direct you to your seat and answer any questions you might have about the upcoming flight.

A new hire should have a similar experience, with someone greeting them upon arrival and serving as their point of contact for questions and concerns. Starting a new job is overwhelming, but proper support goes a long way in alleviating feelings of stress.

Your organization’s onboarding process should seek to achieve the following aims:

  • Provide guidance about the new hire’s role and responsibilities
  • Allow the new employee to get comfortable in their work setting, whether in-person or remote
  • Create opportunities to get to know teammates and each person’s role within the team
  • Offer insights into the company protocols and policies

Why is Employee Onboarding Vital for Your Business?

The main purpose of onboarding is to create familiarity in new roles while helping newly hired individuals to feel supported, valued and welcomed. Investing in your onboarding process brings many benefits, including reducing the time to productivity, or the amount of time it takes for someone to become familiar enough with their duties to perform them efficiently.

A positive first experience also sets the tone with your company, which can play a role in employee retention and loyalty rates. Employee engagement is another factor impacted by onboarding practices. Failing to onboard someone properly can cause them to feel confused or uncertain about how to perform in their role, resulting in a decline in engagement and productivity.

When your company delivers a smooth and consistent onboarding experience, each new hire gets helpful information they need to do their job. By contrast, a poor experience can encourage an individual to look elsewhere for employment or struggle to become an effective contributor to the company’s goals.

The Benefits of a Great Onboarding Process

As mentioned, a great onboarding process brings many benefits. Review some of the most common ones below.

Increase employee satisfaction and retention

Here’s a statistic that might surprise you: Great onboarding can boost employee retention by 82 percent. According to research performed by the Brandon Hall Group, companies with strong onboarding processes have significantly higher retention and productivity rates. Since turnover is expensive and time-consuming, it’s worth figuring out how to keep your team members.

Employees who are happy in their roles tend to stick around, so this simple process can lead to an increase in both employee satisfaction and retention.

Enhance and instill your organizational culture

The culture of your business influences the atmosphere in the workplace and how team members interact with one another. But if you don’t take the time to educate on the culture when bringing on new hires, they won’t know what to expect. Make sure to include discussions around the organizational culture in your onboarding process. By doing so, you can make sure new employees understand what’s expected and how to collaborate with their teams.

Improve training time and productivity

A strong onboarding process should include plenty of opportunities for training to help each new hire understand their role. According to Glassdoor, newly hired employees need close to 12 months to achieve their full productivity levels. But improving onboarding can decrease the time from hire to full productivity by up to 70 percent.

It makes sense to get your new team members up to speed faster, and doing so can help your bottom line.

Gather feedback for improved processes

The best source of feedback for the success of your onboarding process is the people who are going through it. But without a consistent process in place, you won’t be able to glean much from your new hires. When every employee goes through the same onboarding practices, you can ask what worked and what didn’t, using the information to improve the way you bring on new hires.

The Consequences of Poor Employee Onboarding

Failing to onboard new hires in a consistent and positive way comes with real consequences for your organization. Explore some of the most common drawbacks associated with poor onboarding practices.

Higher employee turnover

High employee turnover is a serious problem that impacts businesses of all sizes and across all industries. Poor retention is expensive and time-consuming, and it can cause employee morale to decline across all teams. When certain employees are constantly left picking up the pieces of high turnover rates, they may look for employment elsewhere. It’s not worth the risk – invest in onboarding and watch retention rates go up.

Confusion and lack of collaboration

When starting a new job, it’s easy for an individual to feel overwhelmed and confused. The goal of onboarding is to mitigate those feelings as much as possible, providing a firm grasp on the person’s role within their department and the company overall. By improving your onboarding process, you can reduce confusion while providing opportunities for collaboration from the start.

Costly mistakes and potential legal issues

Another purpose of onboarding is to demonstrate and outline the company’s commitment to a respectful and positive culture. But failing to do so can cause a drop in the overall culture, potentially leading to employees who don’t understand what’s appropriate. This can create legal issues for your organization, particularly in situations where discrimination or harassment are permitted to go unchecked.

Depending on the industry you operate in, a poor onboarding process can also lead to costly mistakes that impact the company’s standing. For example, financial organizations are subject to strict legal requirements. But if an employee doesn’t understand those requirements and how they pertain to their role, they could make errors that cost your company a lot of money in penalties and fees.

Longer training and lower productivity

A longer and less consistent training process comes with a cost. New employees will take longer to reach peak productivity, which has a direct negative impact on your company’s bottom line.

What Should Your Employee Onboarding Process Look Like?

We have a full onboarding guide with steps and a checklist on our blog, but here’s a look at what a great process should include.

Employee Onboarding Begins Before the Hire

Your process should begin before you bring on the new hire. Identify what steps you want to take when onboarding and create a detailed list for your hiring managers and supervisors to follow.

Pay and benefits

Make sure to assess the pay scale for each position you’re filling and offer transparency about how an employee can move up. You should also consider which benefits a new hire will be eligible for and when they can sign up, covering this information when they come onboard.

Consider interviewing and hiring practices

Before you hire a new employee, you should conduct interviews to determine which applicant is the best fit for the role. Decide whether you’ll host interviews in person or virtually. If the position is remote, a virtual interview probably makes more sense (and saves a lot of money).

Another aspect to think about is how you’ll make the chosen candidate an offer of employment. Do you have an offer letter template that’s ready to go? What about an acceptance letter or form?

Preparing for a New Employee’s First Day

After you have an accepted offer in hand, it’s time to start planning for the new hire’s first day at work. Create a detailed schedule for at least the first week. You can build in short periods of downtime during which the employee can review what was covered in the previous training sessions. Make sure they are meeting with someone throughout most of each day, so they know who to go to for each session.

Figure out what supplies and equipment the new hire needs to do their job and prepare each item. If they need access to shared drives or logins established, take care of these steps before they start. Scrambling to get someone access to a drive or file can make your onboarding process more stressful and impact the person’s feeling about the company overall.

New Hire Orientation

Make sure you orient your new employee to their team and other employees with whom they’ll interact. Complete all necessary documents, ideally online before they start, and go through the policies and procedures outlined in the employee handbook. Take some time to provide equipment training and show your employee how to get into their accounts.

Things to consider:

It’s valuable to put yourself in the new hire’s shoes and consider how they might feel during the first few days of a new job. It’s always overwhelming to begin in a new role, but proper onboarding can lessen those feelings and provide a more positive experience overall.

Assign a buddy to each employee, preferably someone on their team. This person can be the go-to for questions that come up and serve as a source of support during the first few weeks or months.

Ongoing Onboarding

While your formal onboarding process may only last for a few weeks, a new hire should have regular check-ins to make sure they feel confident in their role throughout the first year. Offer ongoing training opportunities and check in on how collaboration is going with their team. Ask for feedback so you can improve the onboarding process for future new hires.

How the Right Software Can Improve Your Onboarding Process

Managing all aspects of the onboarding process manually is a waste of time and resources, especially in today’s digital age. It’s worthwhile to invest in software that makes it easier to find and bring on new hires.

What is Employee Onboarding Software?

Employee onboarding software is designed to improve efficiencies throughout the process of bringing on a new employee. It often has tools that allow applicants to complete their employment paperwork online, as well as a centralized source for finding resources and information.

The Benefits of Employee Onboarding Software

ApplicantStack is a powerful applicant-tracking system that includes robust onboarding tools. These include:

  • Automated checklists: Assign tasks to users and new hires to create checklists and track progress
  • Electronic documentation: Allow for the completion of Form I-9, I-4, and other crucial documents electronically
  • Document storage: Keep all your company’s critical documents, including employee handbooks and signed forms, in a centralized location
  • Templates: Use existing templates or create your own to keep everyone on the same page
  • Reporting: Standard and custom reports make it easy to keep tabs on the onboarding metrics
  • Hire import: Applicant data flows throughout the system, eliminating the need for duplicate data entry on those you choose to hire
  • Reminders: Automatic reminders keep managers and new hires in sync, reducing the risk of tasks falling through the cracks

When you’re ready to amp up your onboarding process, try ApplicantStack to make sure it goes as smoothly and consistently as possible. You can try it for free, with no strings attached.

Make Recruiting and Onboarding Easy

See for yourself! Fill out the form to start a trial today and see how ApplicantStack can improve your hiring and onboarding processes.