Onboarding has never been more important than it is right now, as companies emerge from the pandemic and the “great resignation” into what will become the “new normal.” Think of this as a significant time of transition, not just for the employees themselves but also for the organization. Most of all, dare to think in terms that go beyond a six-month period.

Time to build value

Onboarding should be more than a logistic exercise, and more than minimum lip service about setting new employees up for success. Done right, the year-long onboarding process (you read that right: “year-long”) will result in lower turnover and higher productivity, and the right employees in the right places.

Why think in terms of a year? Very few organizations go beyond six months of onboarding, yet most employees who leave do so around the six-month mark. An onboarding process that is built to go beyond six months, one that the employees know delivers value for every one of the six months, can break that barrier. At the end of the year, onboarding can transition into retention and development to the benefit of the organization and the employees.

Onboarding is for everyone

Onboarding as a transition applies to deskless workers, knowledge workers, managers, and executives. The details depend on the level of employee, and on the type of job duties. Most commonly, organizations plan out the first stage (forms, paperwork, “welcome aboard” talks. ) This activity is referred to as "orientation" and may last from one to three weeks.

Then what?

There is compliance training that is required by federal, state, and local law. There is HR training or familiarization with the Employee Handbook. There is safety training and cybersecurity relating to the job. Depending on the state, there is sexual harassment training, non-discrimination and anti-retaliation training for all supervisors and employees, and Fair Labor Standards Act and performance training including performance management for supervisors. These can be stretched out over six months or longer, and all too often, that’s all there is, with annual refresher training. All of it is important, but is transition into retention and development to the benefit of the organization and the employees included?

There has to be more

Where is the “more”? That's the part where new hires learn from example about the company culture, along with specific tools and everything else they need to know in order to become a productive team member.

Critical elements of onboarding begin with the way the new employee is greeted the first day or two. Does it seem that nobody was expecting them? Was their workspace or office set up and ready? Was the new employee given their phone number and logins and passwords for their computer? Was a badge (even if temporary) given to the new employee? Were security requirements explained? Were the first two days a flurry of introductions during a walkthrough of the facility?

Onboarding involves managers, supervisors, and other employees. Making a new hire a welcome part of a team is a strategic process. That includes telling the new employee what their job duties are and making sure that other employees know that information as well. Other elements include introducing the new employee to a "buddy" or mentor who has the responsibility of being available to guide and support the new team member. Even the dress code (if there is one) and working hours should be covered by the mentor, as well as in other documentation.

Some organizations also provide the new employee with access to an online onboarding portal. This portal provides FAQs and other information and may include elements such as a video tour of the facility that guides new employees to the HR office, the lunchroom, security, and other necessary locations. Other information that should be provided through the portal includes when the onboarding starts, when it ends, and the tasks that need to be completed electronically such as W-4 and I-9 forms, benefits, and payroll forms.

HR should check-in with new employees at the end of their first month to make sure the first steps are going smoothly, and that the new employees are engaged. The supervisor should also review the new hire's contributions and provide feedback during the first month. Additional check-ins and feedback during the first six months are important as well.

On-the-job training also starts during the first month, so be careful not to overload new employees with too much information. Pacing is important.

A little help with onboarding

Check the reviews on these sites to find software that will help you organize and manage onboarding