6 Non-Obvious Employee Onboarding Best Practices
Onboarding is a make-or-break period of introducing new hires to an organization. An effective employee onboarding process introduces new hires to the company and team and provides a clear ramp-up plan. According to research by Brandon Hall Group, robust onboarding enhances employee productivity by around 70% and retention by 82%.
Remote work adds a new layer of complexity. Since new hires can’t meet their manager and teammates in person, remote onboarding requires new ways to communicate clearly and create a welcoming experience for remote employees.
Below, we share six non-obvious onboarding best practices to help you create more welcoming, productive, and effective onboarding.
1. Distinguish ''onboarding'' from ''ramp up''
Onboarding and ramp-up go hand-in-hand and even happen simultaneously. But they are two distinct elements of a new hire's journey:
- Onboarding is a shorter period during which employees fill out new hire paperwork and receive training on company and team processes
- Ramp-up is a longer period during which employees slowly build skills and speed to perform their new role at a high level
Onboarding: officially welcome new employees
The onboarding experience begins once the new hire signs their job offer but before the employee's first day at your company. Some call this period preboarding.
Here’s a quick preboarding template:
- Send a welcome letter to a new hire to express excitement about them joining
- Share an employee handbook with basic policies like dress code
- Ask a new employee to sign necessary payroll forms and documents before the starting date
- Encourage new employees to follow company social media accounts
- Send a new hire questionnaire to discover their hobbies and interests
- Send equipment and company swag (coffee mugs, stickers, t-shirts, etc.)
- Prepare managers and employees for a new hire's arrival
- Give the new hire access to company tools and software
- Ask for feedback about the hiring process
After the new hire's first day, the new hire should meet with:
- Coworkers to say hello and break the ice
- Manager to discuss team processes and tools
- Human resources to perform new-hire orientation and discuss company policies, company values, mission, and goals
Ramp-up: provide training and support
According to a report by SHRM, a new team member needs about 90 days to prove themselves in the new job and become an effective team member. This period is no longer onboarding—it’s the ramp-up period. 90 days is aggressive for a ramp-up period: new hires should continue gaining skills and proficiency through (and beyond) their first year.
The ramp-up phase is all about training and practice. Unlike onboarding, which relies on your HR team, ramp up depends on a new hire’s manager. Managers should support new hires while they ramp up, checking in frequently (which we’ll discuss below) and progressively providing more tasks and challenges.
This period is arguably more important than onboarding, which focuses on paperwork and hellos. The workforce is desperate for professional development: companies that invest in employee training and skill development from the jump are more likely to keep top talent in the long run. SHRM claims employees who have a strong ramp-up are 58% more likely to stay with an organization for more than three years.
2. Eliminate non-essential tools from the onboarding process
Onboarding is an avalanche of forms and tools, including some of the most intimidating legal aspects of employment. Many companies use additional HR software to organize and perform onboarding, never to be used again once onboarding is over. This is an extra step that you should cut out, if possible.
Instead, a better new employee experience is to use an onboarding platform integrated with software you already use. Enter Roots Onboarding, a plug-in for Slack that consolidates new-hire tasks and paperwork within a tool you already use.
The plug-in isn’t just helpful for new hires. Direct managers can oversee onboarding progress in a dashboard within Slack. You can also create onboarding checklists based on location and status (full-time vs. part-time). You can then send an automated checklist of tasks to new hires in that group with one click, from within Slack.
3. Encourage new employees to meet extended team members on their own time
One way onboarding and ramp-up contribute to employee retention is by making employees feel welcome and part of the team.
Getting to know coworkers increases new employee productivity and overall employee satisfaction in the long term, but too many hellos on day one can become overwhelming. Employees should have space to build relationships with extended team members on their own time.
Make a list of secondary coworkers a new hire should meet and let your new team member create meeting schedules independently. Such an approach will streamline the process and allow them to go through it at their own pace, not feeling pressured that they must know everyone until the end of the first month.
Assign an onboarding buddy for additional support
Many companies assign onboarding buddies to new hires for additional support. On top of helping new employees acclimate to the new work environment, welcoming them to a direct team, and answering company-related questions, a buddy can also provide support and guidelines for meeting extended team members.
Enhance a new hire's sense of belonging with activities
A new team member will also benefit from a variety of interactions to strengthen coworker bonds. Future Forum’s Remote Employee Experience Index shows the most helpful activities for coworker bonding are:
- Monthly team-building activities
- Biweekly team celebrations to recognize team members or achievements
- Monthly games or unstructured group social activities
4. Create separate meetings for check-ins and training
The employee's first few months in a company require constant getting comfortable and learning. Develop a program that will allow them to focus on each segment separately. If you try to do both simultaneously, you risk de-prioritizing training or supportive check-ins.
While training serves employees to learn about your product, services, tools, and processes, check-ins are for new hires to learn about the company and team on a cultural level. Check-ins also allow managers and co-workers to get to know a new team member personally.
Training is for learning
Training is an essential part of onboarding as they introduce a new hire to your company's operations. It should be well-structured and prepare your employees to complete their assigned tasks.
Training usually includes segments about products or services, including the problems they solve and the target customer they address. They should also introduce new hires to work tools and processes, and the team’s goals and key performance indicators.
Finally, familiarize them with the operational side of the business, and the processes you incorporate do deliver results.
Check-ins are for bonding
Check-ins go hand in hand with training, but they should be a separate meeting. These should not be so rigid, as they serve to share feedback with new team members and learn about the challenges they face.
Employees should also use these encounters to ask questions, deliver manager feedback, and learn how they can improve.
5. Implement tiered check-ins
Tiered check-ins are meetings organized with new hires during the onboarding/ramp-up period. These can be in person, via email, or through other channels, such as Slack.
Tiered check-ins facilitate feedback and support between the management and a new hire. They allow a new team member to share their first impressions, give suggestions, and discuss their contribution after a specific period (first week, first month, first quarter) in the company.
In addition, these meetings enable an employer to determine how a new hire is adapting to the work environment/team and workflow/load and provide support where necessary.
A first-day check-in serves for an employee to share their first impressions. Therefore, schedule it for the end of the new hire's first day at the company. You (a manager) and HR should use this meeting to:
- Go through the new hire's paperwork and confirm everything is filled out and signed properly
- Provide information about your company culture and policies
- Talk about goals you want to achieve together
- Enable them to ask additional questions
If you find it necessary, conduct daily check-ins during the first week or, at least, schedule a single meeting at the end of the week.
This check-in helps you determine:
- Whether an employee's first impressions changed
- What their communication with a buddy/rest of the team is like
- Whether they have all the tools for communication and work
- Whether training sessions, if they began, are helpful
From week two until the end of the month, organize check-ins at the beginning and end of every workweek.
- Confirm you and the new hire are on the same page with that week's schedule
- Discuss the tasks they are assigned and see whether they need additional assistance
- Evaluate the results achieved in a particular week
- Praise achievements and provide guidance for areas they need to improve
First three months
Although onboarding/ramp-up can last from a couple of months to a year, the first quarter is high stakes. At the end of the first quarter, check-ins should show that a new employee is:
- Ready to take part in more extensive projects
- Confident in taking the initiative and sharing ideas
- Effectively communicating with a direct and extended team
- Open to sharing feedback with their team members and superiors
6. Leverage onboarding cohorts if possible
If you are a startup scaling a traditional or remote team, you will probably need to hire people for several roles. Consider onboarding them at the same time.
You'll save time on training and sharing company-related information repeatedly. You will also make onboarding easier for new hires, letting them bond and confide with someone in the same position.
Even though your goal is to make new hires feel like part of the team practically from day one, they will feel like outsiders for a while. It's better to have a sense of camaraderie during that time.
Onboard your new hires with ease with Roots
A poor onboarding process is a deal-breaker for many newcomers, whether they join a traditional or remote team. Onboarding helps employees feel settled in an organization that provides their employees with opportunities to grow professionally. It also handles all the legal paperwork required to get a new hire up and running.
Roots’ onboarding helps teams of all sizes organize and simplify onboarding from within Slack. We’re a company on a mission to help companies build stronger company culture, increase team collaboration, and reduce burnout through seamless Slack plugins designed for distributed teams.
Interested in learning more? Book a demo to see us in action.