The saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” never rings truer than when referring to the onboarding process — one of the most important steps a company can take to stay ahead in today’s busy job market. 

Despite popular belief, the hiring process doesn’t end after an employee signs the contract and turns up for their first day of work — in fact, it should continue well into the following months of their tenure. This onboarding period will make all the difference to your new hire’s level of retention, engagement, satisfaction and, most importantly, productivity.  

According to the Harvard Business Review, 22% of companies have no formal onboarding programme, and yet research suggests that onboarding may be the most critical time in the overall experience of working at a company. The most innovative companies understand that building an effective onboarding programme is both an iterative and ongoing process, and extending this process beyond the first month further cements that strong employee experience — from hire to retire. 

Read on to find out what these new-hire blind spots are, and how your organisation can benefit from strategic employee onboarding. 

What are the benefits of the onboarding process? 

Word spreads quickly within professions, so your new hires are likely to share their experiences — both good and bad — with their peers, either via word of mouth or on blogs and social media. If you’ve managed to make a good first impression, their positive accounts of company culture will make it much easier to attract the best talents the profession has to offer. 

Employees who undergo a good onboarding process are also more likely to stay and become long-term employees. Nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job, and that figure is even higher among millennials. However, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with the company for at least three years if they’ve had a positive onboarding experience.

The organisational costs of employee turnover are estimated to range from 100% to 300% of the replaced employee’s salary, which makes it even more valuable to ensure that your talents’ orientation programme is optimised if you’re seeking higher retention rates and lower costs in the long run. 

Being part of a new company can be intimidating, if not stressful and distracting. Research by Glassdoor has shown that organisations with a strong onboarding process can improve productivity by over 70%. Getting new hires up to speed with the company’s culture and job expectations as soon as possible translates into positive attitudes, giving them the motivation to be productive, engaged and efficient.  

What can you do to contribute to the best onboarding experience? 

It’s paramount that you instil new hires with a clear sense of what their position is in the company, and how they can contribute to your mission, values and culture.  

The time between the offer acceptance and start date is crucial. Sharing job-relevant information and documentation, an itinerary for the first week (at least) and background details on some of the assignments they’ll be taking on can be extremely helpful in easing them into their position. Even a simple welcome email from the team can go a long way. 

An employee’s compatibility with their work environment has a major impact on their everyday life, so when day one comes around, take time to introduce your new member to the team, give them a thorough tour of the office or even organise a team lunch to break the ice.  

One of the most effective ways of onboarding, however, is designating a mentor to your new recruit. This buddy system not only creates a more productive working environment, but also provides context around the work that they’re about to undertake, which can help new staff fully understand their job and how best they can contribute to their team.  

According to the Human Capital Institute, 87% of organisations that assign a buddy during the onboarding process agree that it’s effective in speeding up the new staff’s proficiency; however, less than half of companies include this as a strategy. In addition, 56% of new hires who met with their onboarding buddy at least once in their first 90 days also indicated that their buddy quickly helped them to become productive in their role. That number increases exponentially the more often the new hire and their buddy got together for meetings.  

Once that working relationship is established, set and manage expectations, and check back regularly with your new employee to ensure they’re not getting left behind.  

How do you go digital with a new hire? 

Integrating new hires into your company when working remotely — as per the “new normal” — can seem tricky, yet a little creativity and the willingness to adapt are all it takes. You don’t have to overhaul your current onboarding process completely. Instead, evaluate each step to determine which parts can be converted into a virtual set-up.  

Instead of in-person introductions, organise virtual meetings and encourage the use of video so your new hires can put faces to names. Software programmes that offer online training sessions can also be an excellent tool for bringing them up to speed. Organising documents on a cloud-based file-sharing platform means that materials are accessible at all times, making collaborative efforts within the team easier. 

Clear communication, regular check-ins and feedback are key, just as they are in a physical office. Suggesting specific team members to direct questions to, as well as providing contacts for the finance or IT departments, can prevent frustrating lapses in productivity. In a world that’s no longer limited by physical geography or long distances, virtual onboarding can be a highly effective mechanism that gets the right messages across from the start, no matter where you are. 

Making a positive impact on your fresh hire from the day they sign the contract is crucial, and we’re not only talking about motivating them to stay for the long haul. A well-executed onboarding system saves the company valuable time and money, but is also imperative in employer branding and can signal to potential hires that you’re an establishment worth working for. 

Visit Michael Page’s management advice centre for more insights today. 

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