Employee Onboarding: How To Get It Right

In Onboarding by Mark Stewart

Welcome to the second part of our employee onboarding series. In our last blog, we discussed the benefits of onboarding. Employee onboarding provides new hires with the tools, resources, and knowledge to become successful and productive from day one. You don’t want to offer boring and mediocre onboarding because the employee will eventually run for the hills. Read on to learn how you can get it right.

What’s the difference between Orientation and Onboarding?

Onboarding is more than just a new hire orientation. While an orientation agenda can be boiled down to a checklist, onboarding is a more strategic plan for your new hires first 30-90 days. This plan conveys your organizational brand and values, explains your people and professional culture, aligns institutional expectations and performance expectations. It also provides the tools needed to successfully assimilate into a new position and speed up time to productivity.

As you can see, orientation and onboarding are not interchangeable. You need an orientation to get new employees immediately familiar with their job. You need an onboarding process to get them to make connections between company-wide goals and their day-to-day duties.

How are companies managing onboarding today?

Every company is unique with different values and priorities that are reflected in their onboarding. While many companies can stumble in making the investment in employee onboarding, there are a few companies that stand out.

Twitter’s employee onboarding program focuses on making the ‘Yes to Desk’ period as productive and welcoming as possible. This period is from when a new hire says ‘Yes’ to an offer, all the way through to arriving at their ‘Desk’. Before the employee sits down, they have their email address, a T-shirt, and a bottle of wine waiting. Not a bad first impression, right? Perhaps most importantly, the onboarding process at Twitter is always a work in progress. It’s updated often.

Within 45 minutes of day one on the floor, new employees at Facebook are underway with their first project, thanks to the intensive preparation undergone before they start. This shows that the company trusts in new hires and leaves them the autonomy to create their own work early. Tom Campos, Facebook’s CIO, says that “you need to get all systems and devices calibrated before new hires even report for their first day.” For Facebook, it’s clear preboarding is synonymous with productivity.

Before new hires arrive at Pinterest, they receive an introductory email with their schedule and other details and are given the opportunity to introduce themselves to the company. Everyone in the new hire class meets on day one for breakfast followed by some brief icebreakers. This approach is more culture-focused than productivity orientated. The onboarding process differs for different roles. For example, the engineers move on to technical bootcamp.

For a quick ramp-up time, Quora concentrates on mentorship by allocating a personal mentor to each new hire. In a fast-paced startup environment, Quora values productivity. They choose to push new hires towards making meaningful contributions and tackling a manageable project by the end of week one. Simplifying first day activities and focusing on tasks communicates their startup culture and values. This onboarding process is a great mix of productivity and culture.

Getting it Right

All onboarding programmes share common themes that contribute to employee experience success.

  • Preboarding: Make sure everything is ready before the employee starts their first day so they can hit the ground running.
  •  Company Culture: Getting your new hire acclimatised to the company’s unique culture gives you the best chance of retention. The onboarding process should make new employees feel welcome and aligned with company values.
  • Clear Roadmap: Giving new employees a clear and structured path for their integration into the company supports them to be productive and successful in their new role.
What happens when you get it wrong?

The onboarding process can become really frustrating due to the combination of job understanding, HR paperwork, the initial welcome, and so much more. If handled poorly, your onboarding process can increase your staff turnover rate. Retention statistics from other organizations, including the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), show that turnover can be as much as 50% in the first 18 months of employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of replacing an employee is over 25% of their annual salary, so it is very costly when you don’t get it right.

So how exactly do you create a fantastic employee onboarding programme? Read the last blog in our employee onboarding series on “how to use eLearning for onboarding” to find out.