Employee Onboarding Process: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need to Teach, Inspire and Connect
You've hired hungry talent ready to deliver and exceed your sales goals. Congratulations!
However, the relationship could end abruptly if you don't know how to reciprocate their enthusiasm and efforts.
You can't get away with a bad employee onboarding process as an employer. Gone are the days when the honeymoon phase ended the moment your new hires signed their contract.
A solid employee onboarding process ensures your new employees integrate socially and skillfully.
So how do you create a memorable employee onboarding process that makes your new hires stay – and slay expectations?
In this article, you'll learn how to build a new employee onboarding process that will turn new hires into happy and productive team members in no time.
✈️ What is an employee onboarding process?
An employee onboarding process goes beyond routines and tools. A successful employee onboarding process flow is a holistic experience that takes your new employee from outsider to outstanding as efficiently as possible. It includes learning software and systems and proper social integration with a human element – even for remote employees.
How long does the onboarding process take?
It can be tempting to rush through the onboarding process. But that's doing yourself, your company, and your new employee a disservice.
An onboarding process should take at least three months – but in some cases, up to a year is recommended.
As a rule of thumb, more complex tasks require a longer onboarding process.
What does HR do during onboarding?
Traditionally, HR was THE actor involved in the employee onboarding process.
However, a modern onboarding process involves everyone with whom the new hire will regularly interact.
Outsourcing onboarding to the entire team has many advantages: it helps with social integration since it facilitates conversations between the team members and the new hire, frees up time from HR, and makes the team members feel valued when they contribute.
The role of HR is to monitor the onboarding process and make any necessary changes to integrate the new hire as quickly as possible. Further down in this article, we will explain the difference between orientation and onboarding. HR is mainly involved in the orientation.
🔍 Why onboard new employees?
Proper onboarding benefits people and boosts profit.
But a negative onboarding experience could make new hires twice as likely to look out for other jobs.
After the onboarding experience, 20% of new hires are not likely to recommend their workplace to a friend or relative.
So make sure your company enters the 80% that gets the invaluable praise of word of mouth by following onboarding best practices.
🔍 Check out 60+ additional onboarding statistics you cannot disregard in 2023 and beyond.
🤩 What is a good onboarding process?
Ask yourself: does our current employee process
- Inspire trust and confidence?
A good onboarding process can help improve employee retention, engagement, and performance, while also building a strong company culture.
🚀 Check out how Netflix and Zappos onboard their employees for more in-depth discussions of effective onboarding processes.
Our next section will showcase how you can build a good onboarding process for your new joiners.
👷 Build a new employee onboarding process from scratch in 10 steps
Preparation is vital for a successful new employee onboarding process. With automated onboarding software – like Zavvy – you can replicate a positive onboarding experience for each new hire, from preparation to closure a couple of months after the starting date!
Step 1: Job ad creation
Contrary to popular belief, an effective onboarding process doesn't start when signing the contract. It begins when creating the job ad! Few things are as frustrating – and costly – as starting a new job, only to discover it didn't match your expectations.
Your new hire gets a bad impression of the company, and you risk losing them for something more aligned.
Ensuring that the job description paints an accurate picture of the job is thus the first step of a successful onboarding process.
When creating the job ad, don't hesitate to ask for feedback from the person currently in the role or any other team members with insight into the tasks.
Step 2: Offer submission & acceptance
When you've gone through the interviews and found the ideal candidate, and they said yes, there's a sense of celebration.
Now you can finally relax!
Or..? Not really.
It's more common than one might think that people accept job offers – only to withdraw before the starting date.
They may have received an offer from another company in the meantime.
The difference is not always down to salary or compelling benefits.
Often, the company that shows genuine care and anticipation gets the candidate. So it's vital to keep in touch with the successful candidate between signing the contract and the starting date.
A way of doing this is by sharing onboarding videos to start engaging your new hires, reaching out to them regularly, and expressing the excitement from the team to have them onboard.
Preboarding is an organized way of doing this – see the Zavvy way of preboarding in the next step!
Step 3: Before the start date
Plan ahead and start preboarding.
Here, we notice the difference between old-school onboarding and the next-level onboarding process that turns new hires into high-performing talent.
First, determine your new hire's tech, tools, and training needs.
There's often quite some paperwork involved with contracts and company policies – our pro tip is to disperse the signing of contracts over a few days not to overwhelm your new hire.
Different departments of the company are involved in the preboarding. Coordinate with them the various roles and responsibilities expected.
Consider having a social event before day 1 to calm the nerves.
For on-site workers, it can be an office visit.
For remote workers, it can be a virtual coffee meeting.
Prepare the teammates and select an onboarding buddy that will accompany your new hire throughout all the stages of their orientation.
Do you need help identifying the right onboarding buddy? Check out our templates for matching buddies with new hires.
Step 4: Communication close to day 1
Introduce your new employee to their team.
Check out this team introduction guide, including eight practical examples: How to Introduce Your Team to New Hires.
Ensure your employee feels ready for day 1 in all ways: logistics and knowing whom they will talk to and what they will do.
Send the preliminary onboarding plan and the schedule for their first week a few days before their starting day.
🙌 Bonus points for sending over company swag!
Step 5: Welcoming new hires on day 1
It's finally time to welcome your new star player!
You only have one shot at making a first impression – so make sure it's a good one.
It's normal for your new employee to feel slightly overwhelmed and a bit nervous.
However, the positives will outweigh the negatives by creating an open and friendly atmosphere.
Some things to do during their first day:
- Introduce them to their onboarding buddy.
- Post a welcome message on the company social network with a picture and a short introduction. This message should be cheerful and informal – you can include a fun fact unrelated to their job.
- If they work at the office:
- Give them a guided tour of the facilities and introduce them to their coworkers.
- Have lunch together – potentially with the whole team.
- If they work from home:
- Organize short introductory calls to as many team members as possible – 10 minutes is enough. Alternatively, introduce them during a group call.
- Consider sending over a lunch coupon/gift card for lunch at a restaurant close to where they live.
Step 6: Employee orientation
Week 1 should be about their identity and place within the team and the company. Rather than getting your new hire productive immediately, the orientation week should be about connection – so focus on ways of encouraging and facilitating socializing.
If they didn't have the chance to say hi – virtually or in-person – to all team members during day 1, make space for it during their first week. They should also meet their team leader/direct manager as early as possible.
Announce your new hire in the company newsletter.
The first week should also include a meeting with leadership to understand the company's vision and strategic direction.
Plus, consider offering an introduction to company culture.
Tip to get your new hire to understand and live the company values: brainstorm how to show them in real-life situations rather than just talking about them.
🍻 Crown the week with a happy hour, online or in-person.
If you still need to, finalize the onboarding plan to know in which direction you're moving for the coming weeks and months.
Step 7: Learning stage
During the learning stage, it is essential to allow plenty of time for training. Include:
- role-specific training;
- product training;
- industry-specific training (if applicable).
Learning is at the core of the onboarding experience – and a complex and highly individual process.
For best results, combine different formats:
- formal training;
- social learning with job-shadowing/learning on the go;
- sharing learning nudges to encourage knowledge retention;
- scenario-based learning;
- team-building activities.
🏆 Discover 15 best practices for training new employees.
The format is everything – concepts like microlearning and mobile learning contribute to boosting knowledge retention.
📚 For more innovative approaches to learning, check out our article on learning trends.
Employee goal-setting is a central part of this step.
Define short, medium, and long-term goals – preferably with a senior employee in a similar role. You can potentially involve your new hire in the goal-setting process.
You might have heard of the best practice with goals: they should follow the SMART formula:
🎯 Check out our guide on how to apply the SMART framework to employee goals.
Step 8: One-month check-in
At the one-month mark, you'll ideally see your new employee blossom and move from potential to productivity.
Your role is to diversify the tasks and enable the new hire to think for themselves and gain independence.
Monitor their progress following the SMART goals mentioned above. Collect feedback from their new employee, and most important – act on the input if necessary! Our onboarding survey template is perfect for collecting their opinions in a structured way. Identify any challenges and adjust the onboarding plan and goals accordingly. Offer additional support if needed.
Step 9: Ongoing employee engagement & team-building
When your new hire gets increasingly independent, it's important to keep putting in the effort. Schedule regular check-ins with their onboarding buddy and one-on-one meetings with their manager.
The secret to exceeding goals on repeat is having a thriving team with a great social atmosphere.
Getting a tight-knit group doesn't always require lengthy getaways at expensive castles.
An easy and economical way to encourage socializing is having team lunches and coffee meetings.
If your team has a sweet tooth, you can consider a rotating schedule of bringing pastries or sweets to your weekly meetings.
Step 10: The employee's first six months
You can expect your employee to have gained independence and role mastery by now.
So it's time to review the first goals and iterate.
Where did they shine? Where do they need more training? This information is also valuable for you before onboarding your next employee!
Some other points to tick off at the six-month mark:
- Transition into regular feedback: There's a smooth transition from the employee onboarding process to the standard company feedback culture. Invite them to give peer feedback and also ask for it.
- Kick-off self-evaluation: Self-evaluation is a key part of a successful feedback cycle and should ideally be introduced around the six-month mark.
- Create the first growth plan: Where does your (not so) new employee see themselves in six months? In a year?
- Have the end-of-probation period discussion. Collect insights on the onboarding process. What went well? What could have been better?
💡 Want some more hacks to create the perfect employee onboarding program? Then, check out our 29 proven methods to improve employee onboarding experiences!
🤯 What should I do if I'm hiring multiple employees at once?
An elaborate employee onboarding process is a non-negotiable if you care about your people and profit.
That said, as you've seen throughout this article, it requires a lot of resources on your end – time, energy, planning, and coordination.
If you hire multiple employees at once, it's easy to see how the onboarding process gets time-consuming, potentially at the cost of other tasks.
What's the way out of this dilemma?
The answer: automate!
Automation will save you time and keep you from reinventing the wheel whenever you have a new hire.
Some real-life success stories of companies that use automation:
- Storyblok saved 15+ hours per week after introducing automated onboarding.
- Alasco dramatically reduced time to productivity – with an impressive 50%!
- Freeletics use automated onboarding to ensure that employees feel seen and cared for. The results speak for themselves: 100% feel supported in their growth & development from the very beginning!
With Zavvy, an automated onboarding experience does not mean your new hires miss out on the human element.
On the contrary, learning, socializing, and human interactions are crucial parts of the employee onboarding process on Zavvy.
➡️ Build an exceptional employee onboarding process with Zavvy
Our key onboarding features:
- 👬 Onboarding buddies: This feature allows you to automatically guide both new hires and buddies over weeks and months via Slack. It reduces the risk of pointless meetings and untimely check-ins and makes the most of your interactions.
- 🏢 Integrate your HRMS tool for maximum efficiency: Get live import of relevant employee data (and use the sky-high piles of paperwork for folding paper planes instead!).
- ⚙️ Automations: With this intelligent feature, you can automatically assign journeys based on team, location, hiring date, etc. We also call it "zero-touch onboarding": Once a company has integrated its HRMS system, they don't have to do ANYTHING anymore.
To see a real-life implementation, check out Awesomic. They are signing their contract via PandaDoc, which automatically triggers the new hire's invite to Zavvy and the right onboarding journeys for them.
- 💬 Slack/Teams workflows to turn onboarding into a real, guided experience.
- 🏞 Rich content embeds: Use all the tools you love. Embed content from places like YouTube, Google Drive, Typeform, Loom, etc., without maintaining it in yet another place.
- 📅 Automatically schedule relevant calendar invites, e.g., monthly intro sessions with the founders and onboarding by relevant teams.
- 🤩 The guarantee of a great new hire experience – Our client Roadsurfer has seen a 4.8/5 user rating from their new employees after implementing Zavvy. Which, as mentioned above, translates into higher employee retention and revenue!
The best part about Zavvy?
We stay with you and your employees during their entire employment! Once the onboarding is done, you don't just log off from the platform forever.
Zavvy is more than an onboarding platform – it is an employee enablement platform supporting your staff to grow beyond what they thought possible!
- After onboarding, you can automatically add your new hires to 360 feedback and development (like Taktile does).
- Your people can also start working on their career growth right away.
- They can turn the onboarding feedback into action items for their development.
- There is no need for a separate LMS – this is one place for the employees to grow and thrive.
Try our onboarding and growth platform to experience the features for yourself.
→ What are the 4 phases of onboarding?
The 4 phases of onboarding are:
- Preboarding – All interactions and activities from when your new hire signs the contract until their first workday.
- Orientation – Typically, the first work week. The orientation serves as a way of getting your employee acclimatized.
- Role-specific training – Learning the skills and competencies needed for the role. The length of this phase varies depending on the complexity of the position.
- Easing the transition – This step serves as a bridge for a seamless transition from new hire to a top team member.
→ Is there a good new employee onboarding process checklist that I can use?
Orientation refers to a shorter period – usually the first week. It focuses on practicalities and information rather than implementation and integration. Onboarding lasts longer than orientation and refers to the entire experience, from signing the contract to being a fully integrated team member.
→ Is onboarding the same as training?
No. New hire training is a part of onboarding.
Onboarding refers to the whole process. Training is a part of onboarding that focuses on acquiring skills relevant to the role.
→ How do I know if my new onboarding process is effective?
There are a few indicators that you can use to pace the efficiency of your onboarding process:
- Higher employee retention;
- Increased productivity (with whatever KPI you use to measure productivity);
- The attraction of top talent;
- Reduction of stress in employees;
- Connected and coherent company culture;
- Better knowledge retention;
- Understanding of procedures and goals.
→ How do you make an onboarding process fun?
Having fun makes it easier to retain information!
Don't be afraid to use your creativity.
Some quick tips: play games during team meetings, have regular lunches and happy hours, and make the learning process interactive and engaging by role plays and microlearning (included in the onboarding experience with Zavvy!).
To make the onboarding process the funniest and most memorable one your new hires have experienced, check out our article on how to make onboarding fun.
→ What are some onboarding process best practices?
- Onboarding buddies (like Buffer)
- Clear instructions for managers (like Google)
- Focus on culture (like Zappos)
For more applications, check out our article on employee onboarding examples.