How to Improve Your Onboarding Process For New Hires

Engage new employees by making good use of that otherwise awkward silence between job acceptance and the first day on the job

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It’s not unusual for people to accept a new job, then experience the employment equivalent of buyer’s remorse during the ensuing weeks that typically transpire before they first set foot inside their new workplace. Radio silence from the employer during that time period only promotes second-guessing that can quickly supplant a new hire’s sense of excitement and enthusiasm.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, a growing number of organizations are implementing pre-onboarding — or preboarding — programs. These efforts fill that time gap between acceptance and attendance with activities and events aimed at quelling those inevitable nagging doubts in new employees’ minds, experts say.

This is no small thing, as workplace research indicates that nearly 90 percent of new hires decide in the first six months of employment whether or not they plan to stay long term. Moreover, other studies indicate that onboarding programs are instrumental in helping new hires decide to stay and increase productivity right out of the gate. As such, preboarding should help even more. After all, you rarely get a second chance to make that critical first impression.

“It’s really important to remember to provide a touch point between a candidate’s (job) acceptance and the first day on the job that’s both powerful and meaningful,” says Bek Chee, the head of global talent at Atlassian, a software-development company. “So we try to intentionally design that experience. That means looking at a candidate’s journey beyond just the interviewing and the acceptance … talking to them throughout because it’s an anxiety-inducing time.

“What we want to do is maintain that excitement and reduce their anxiety — (make them) feel really bought-in on the decision they made to come to our company.”

Preboarding can take many forms. For starters, consider sending out an introductory companywide email to announce the new hire. Managers could also send a personal email, encouraging new hires to contact them if any questions arise. They can ease first-day jitters by providing information about the myriad of nerve-wracking details that most new employees want to know before they arrive — things such as parking and transportation options, what time work starts and ends, workspace and restroom locations, places to eat lunch, and any documents they’ll need to bring with them on that all-important first day. This could even be done in a frequently-asked-questions format.

Managers who are inclined to provide a deeper dive could also provide a detailed job description and summary of expectations, a company and department organizational chart (including photos of people, if possible), a workplace map, and a summary of the company’s culture, mission, and short- and long-term goals.

Managers also might want to invite new hires to come to work for a tour or have lunch with members of their new team. If incoming employees are moving from out of town, managers could ask them if they need help with apartment or house hunting. They could also assign someone from the new hire’s team to serve as a local ambassador of sorts to help them acclimate to their new surroundings outside of work.

To help new employees quickly get up to speed on their first day at work, think about sending paperwork ahead of time; filling out and signing forms for hours on the first day at work is a total buzzkill. Plus, it runs counter to the primary goal of those first few days at work: Put employees in a position to maximize their production and contributions as quickly as possible, which makes them feel more comfortable and engaged.

Another effective tool is a personalized welcome gift. Here are some things to consider:

  • A work calendar, perhaps company-branded, that includes team-member milestones like work anniversaries and birthdays.
  • A book or two that managers feel would be great reads because their messages fit well with the company’s culture and goals. Website links to relevant webinars presented by industry leaders or motivational speakers or even pertinent TED Talks can also offer an innovative touch point.
  • A personalized memento, such as a coffee mug, mouse pad, or portfolio.   

One more thing: Don’t forget to monitor your preboarding program’s effectiveness by having new employees critique it. A few weeks after they start, sit down and ask them about their experience and if there’s anything that could make it better.

Of course, there are many other things companies can do to make preboarding a meaningful experience; anything is better than the silent treatment after job acceptance. And different companies certainly will employ different approaches and strategies to fit their cultures and goals.

But if there’s any uncertainty about where to start, try viewing things through a new employee’s eyes; much of it falls under the category of common courtesy. At the very least, consider what essential information a newbie needs to know about things such as company culture, as well as what tools and information they’ll need to work most effectively. And think about what would make you feel welcome and enthused — what would help validate your decision to accept a job and get you excited to hit the ground running.



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