How to Design Powerful Onboarding Workflows
Onboarding new employees requires you to think about a new hire’s orientation to the company and the role-based training they’ll need to reach productivity quickly.
With so many requirements spanning departments, teams, and roles, it’s easy for onboarding tasks to slip through the cracks. That’s where an onboarding workflow comes in.
When you develop an onboarding workflow, you create a cohesive view of every task a new hire needs to complete in their first six months to a year on the job. From preboarding paperwork to their first annual review, you’ll have a structured and consistent onboarding process for all of your new joiners.
Read on to learn more about how an onboarding workflow can improve productivity for your organization and how to build an onboarding workflow yourself.
🚀 What is employee onboarding?
Employee onboarding is acclimating new hires to the company and their role.
Effective onboarding lasts at least three months and up to a year. During this time, new joiners undergo company orientation, role-based training, and more before transitioning into ongoing development.
📶 What is the onboarding process?
The onboarding process refers to everything your new hire will go through in their first six to twelve months at your company.
Most organizations divide their onboarding process into distinct stages, with specific goals assigned to each stage. As your new hire moves through onboarding, they’ll meet the necessary milestones for each phase.
You can customize the phases of the onboarding process to your company’s needs. Many organizations divide their onboarding process by the period of time post-hire. The list below offers a brief overview of the main phases of onboarding and the goals for each section.
- Preboarding: Complete new hire paperwork and welcome the employee to the company.
- First day: Introduce the new hire to coworkers and show them around the office. Begin company onboarding or orientation.
- First week: Set goals for the first 90 days with a 30-60-90 day plan. Begin role-based training.
- 30-60-90 days: Check in on the new hire’s goal setting. Offer feedback and role-related assignments for early success.
- Six month check-in: Assess the employee’s ability to work independently in their role. Provide additional training or resources to support any areas of weakness.
Customize your onboarding process according to the needs of your business and its departments. For instance, you might choose to emphasize role-based training earlier for sales onboarding, while customer service reps might spend longer developing their product knowledge.
Onboarding process vs onboarding workflow
A process and a workflow seem very similar because they organize complex needs into digestible tasks, but the two terms are not interchangeable.
An onboarding process brings together all of the pieces of your onboarding puzzle. It covers everything from preboarding paperwork to social integration for your new hire down the line.
An onboarding workflow distills your onboarding process into a series of concrete tasks for each new hire to complete. It’s more like a checklist of action items, while the onboarding process offers a higher-level view of this time.
Put another way, an onboarding workflow is designed to complete specific actions or tasks. The onboarding process outlines the larger goals of onboarding in general.
❓ Why use a process flow for onboarding?
A process flow is a detailed visualization of everything involved in the process at hand. It goes beyond action items to include stakeholders, resource lists, and materials, among other things.
Take a look at this example onboarding process flow based on Zavvy’s new employee onboarding checklist:
Developing your onboarding process flow at first might be a big project. You’ll need to think through everything a new hire needs to succeed with your company.
Don’t get intimidated, though. Creating an onboarding process for your organization is well worth the effort. Once you’ve created the baseline for your process, you can update and expand it as your business grows.
Building your onboarding workflow will be a breeze with a thorough onboarding process flow in hand. It’s essentially a single source of truth for your onboarding workflow.
⚒️ How to create an onboarding workflow in 5 steps
Ready to build your onboarding workflow? Follow these steps and tips to outline your onboarding process and convert it into a powerful onboarding workflow for your business.
1. Start with a checklist
First things first: find or create a list of everything a new hire should do or experience as part of onboarding.
You can use Zavvy’s new employee onboarding checklist to brainstorm your own process.
Be sure to consider onboarding tasks you’ll need to take care of prior to the new hire’s first day as well as social tasks like introductions.
At this point, your checklist doesn’t have to be particularly organized. That said, the more detail you can add to each item, the easier time you’ll have turning a simple checklist into a full-fledged onboarding process and workflow.
Remember that your preliminary onboarding checklist is just a starting point. The next steps will help you organize your checklist into a workflow.
2. Visualize the checklist with a tool
Divide your checklist tasks by time frame. If you used the downloadable checklist linked above, you’ll already have a sense of when each item should take place during onboarding.
Look at each task on your list and consider the following:
- Who is responsible for getting it done
- The materials or resources needed to complete the task
- Whether the task is dependent on any others
Then, use a visualization tool to build a cohesive view of your entire onboarding process. Your process flow should visually denote the time frame for each task and who is responsible for completing it.
A process flow tool like Miro is incredibly helpful here. With one of these, you can more easily draw relationships and dependencies between tasks. Use arrows to denote the order of tasks, especially when they move between departments.
3. Collect onboarding materials
Even if you haven’t had a formal onboarding process until this point, you probably have important information for new hires in a few different places around your workspace.
With your onboarding process built out in your visualization tool, it’s time to gather these materials and correlate them to the correct part of your onboarding workflow.
Here are a few types of onboarding materials to look for:
- Company orientation presentations
- Email and business tool guides
- Role-based training materials
- 30-60-90-day plan template
- Six month or annual review forms
It’s easy to see why onboarding materials get lost among different departments or supervisors. The onboarding process is multi-faceted and often requires several people to fully acclimate the new hire.
Compiling these resources gives you a single view of your entire onboarding process. Once you have these materials organized in your process flow, you’re just about ready to build your onboarding workflow.
4. Acquire supplemental tools
Your onboarding software will have tons of features to improve your workflow, but you may be able to integrate supplemental tools to enhance your onboarding as well.
For instance, Zavvy offers integrations with messaging tools like Slack and people ops platforms like BambooHR. The Zapier API allows you to build even more connections with the tools you already use.
Choose integrations that will truly enhance the onboarding experience for new hires. Otherwise, you’re just adding one more tool everyone has to set up for no real reason.
Messaging tools like Slack are particularly powerful. They bring the onboarding workflow to the platform where your team spends the most time. Other tools can help you build automations or save time by importing data.
5. Build the workflow in onboarding software
Use your onboarding process flow as your reference point for creating the workflow in your software. If you’ve developed a thorough process flow, you can create your onboarding workflow quickly and easily by following that plan.
Start with the preboarding phase as you build the workflow chronologically. Remember to include tasks not just for the new hire, but for their direct supervisor and coworkers as well.
Each step of the onboarding workflow should include:
- Tasks to be completed
- Materials needed to complete the task
- Person responsible
- When the step should be sent out
You can make steps dependent on a previous one, or send them out based on the new hire’s day of employment (i.e. Day 1, Day 30).
Once a new hire has completed the onboarding journey, you can automatically assign ongoing training and development journeys too.
⚙️ How onboarding workflow software automates your process
When you build your onboarding workflow in a dedicated software, you’re creating a cohesive view of everything in the process. Since it’s all in a single platform, it’s easy to build connections between the once-separate parts of the onboarding process.
With workflow automation features in a platform like Zavvy, you can create an onboarding workflow that practically runs itself. Here are just a few things you can do with onboarding automation:
- Invite new hires to the onboarding platform
- Assign training journeys based on location or role
- Send reminders at intervals to complete onboarding tasks
- Pair new hires with each other or their onboarding buddy via Slack
- Create and send calendar invites for introductory calls
Check out this view of some automation options in Zavvy’s onboarding workflow software:
Onboarding workflow automation helps you scale the process as your company grows. You also get useful data and insights into how new hires are faring in the onboarding process.
➡️ Automate your onboarding workflow with Zavvy
New employee onboarding can be a complex process, but it can become one of the smoothest parts of your organization with an onboarding workflow.
Taking a systematic approach to onboarding by building a process flow helps you build a birds-eye view of all things onboarding. With everything in one place, it’s easier to create the comprehensive onboarding workflow that will actually get results.
Onboarding workflow software like Zavvy adds even more benefits. You can automate the onboarding process to keep things moving even as you scale. Tool integrations speed up your work even more, delivering the right part of the onboarding journey in the right medium at the right time.