How to Make Employee Onboarding Painless

Last updated 03/31/2019

Effective employee onboarding

Technology malfunctions. Energy drains. Morale fails. And then comes the paperwork.

It’s unbelievable that so many employee onboarding processes end up having the opposite of their desired effect. It should be an exciting day that enthusiastically welcomes new workers and gets them excited about this new chapter of their career. However, often employees leave feeling confused and hesitant about the job they just accepted.

One study showed that nearly 60% of employees at large corporations (those with more than 1,000 people) had broken onboarding processes which hurt morale and productivity. The same study suggested that broken onboarding is one of the top five reasons why employees don’t stick around.

There is a solution, however. We’ve developed the following five-step process to turn onboarding from a top pain point to an asset for our company.

1.) Make a List of Everything that Needs to Get Done

Good employee onboarding needs to strike a balance of comprehensiveness without being needlessly boring. It needs to be educational but also be imbued with company culture. It needs to inform and even entertain to an extent. But before we were able to address how to meet these demands, we knew we needed to better understand what should be included in onboarding.

To get started, we made a list of everything that needed to get done for every new employee.

  • Equipment set-up
  • Technology access
  • Training procedures
  • HR documents
  • Benefits forms
  • Office orientation
  • Networking

To make sure we weren’t missing anything we polled our hiring managers and recent new hires. Once we knew what needed to be accomplished, we worked through each item step-by-step. We focused on comprehensiveness first, and then went back over our materials to make sure they accurately reflected the company culture and were low on the snooze factor.

2.) Identify All Resources an Employee Needs

We realized that every employee in each hiring class needed many of the same resources. Rather than running around and trying to set them up once they’re already in the office, we decided to create a checklist of everything that each employee needs before they arrive. Some of these resources vary by job function but it was extremely helpful to develop these checklists for each of our departments. Here are some key items that should be included in the checklist:

  • Desk
  • Computer (desktop and laptop, if applicable)
  • Chair
  • Phone (desk phone and cell phone, if applicable)
  • Computer login
  • Company email
  • ID badge
  • Security codes or building entrance keys
  • Benefits portal login
  • Department-level accounts and access
  • VPN or other security access

Once we created this checklist, we were able to submit requests for accounts and logins to be created and make sure that everything was set up for our new hires on their first day of work.

3.) Develop Training Procedures

There are two main forms of training procedures – firm-wide and job-specific – and both are important to the onboarding process. Firm-wide procedures will cover important items such as signing up for direct deposit of paychecks, insurance, retirement savings accounts and other employee benefits, as well as learning about and agreeing to the employee code of conduct and other important legal matters. Job-specific procedures may be more difficult to develop and codify, however each department should have a general outline of the new employee’s first week or so.

We realized when HR and the hiring managers collaborated to ensure every new employee had a comprehensive set of onboarding procedures, the employees’ first days and weeks were much easier (for everyone in the company) and more productive. Ramping up employees always takes time. We’ve been tempted to skip over the training and just throw our employees in the line of fire. First, that sounds like an awful way to treat an employee. And second, we’ve seen that spending a few weeks helping employees come up to speed on the firm and their job pays off in the long-run.

4.) Create Comprehensive Onboarding Plan

Instead of scrambling every time we hired a new employee, we realized that items one to three above could be combined into a comprehensive onboarding plan that could be easily repeated and implemented for every new hire. In addition to checklists and training documents, we also created a schedule for the first few weeks of work.

We added in activities for employees to meet with other new hires and other colleagues. We also had multiple presentations from key stakeholders in our organization, including a few executives as well as leaders of our affinity clubs (women’s group, volunteer/philanthropy team, etc.). When possible, we broke up these meetings across a few days. One of the reasons that onboarding is often ineffective is that employees are expected to absorb so much information in one day. Breaking the information up over a few days gives the employees space to actually learn and get used to their new environment.

5.) Institutionalize the Onboarding Process

To take this plan a step further, we decided to put the process into a learning management system (LMS). Putting the plan into a workflow or business process management tool helps us better run the process. It allows employees to work through the steps of the plan at their own pace.

We identified certain elements they could complete on their own at their new desk. This allowed us to reserve the in-person time for getting to know one another and re-enforcing our company culture. Using an LMS also allows HR and hiring managers to easily update documents and procedures to reflect new technologies or other changes. The technology also allows us to send automated requests for feedback, so we can continuously improve our onboarding process.

The Results

By following this simple but thorough process, we found that our new employees were much more engaged and informed from their first days with the company. We had to get the buy-in from both human resources and the department heads, but they had been long annoyed with onboarding and welcomed the changes. One of our biggest learnings was that our employees were eager to share their feedback, especially when they realized that we really listen and take their comments seriously. This continuous learning has been instrumental in refining the onboarding process in our LMS.

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