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5 Of The Best Practices For Employee Onboarding

Nikki VanRy
5 min read

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of U.S. workers leave their new job within the first 45 days after hire. For hourly workers, up to 50% may leave within the first four months. Providing an effective onboarding process can and will improve your employee retention. Onboarding encompasses those things that occur after an employee’s hire and beyond signing a packet of papers from HR. It can include workspace set-up, team intros, on-the-job training, and ongoing mentorship programs. Here’s why it’s so important to do it right.

Benefits of onboarding new employees, the right way

According to some estimates, the cost of replacing employees who make $30,000 a year or less is 16% of their annual salary. But for higher-level employees, those making over $75,000, that number can be 20% of their annual salary or higher. So, once you find the best employees for your team, you want to keep them there. And, following some best practices for employee onboarding is one of the most effective ways to do so. TinyPulse reports that:

  • 91% of employees stick around for at least a year when organizations have efficient onboarding processes
  • 69% of them stick around for at least three years when companies have well-structured onboarding programs

When 50% of hourly workers leave a job within the first four months—due to frustration or unclear duties—an effective onboarding process can significantly reduce those numbers and your organization’s overall costs.

5 best practices for employee onboarding

While your exact onboarding tasks may differ, these best practices for employee onboarding help you get your employees up-to-speed, whether they’re hourly, C-suite, or anywhere in between. And, they’re just as useful for in-office and remote employees.

  1. Use an employee onboarding checklist
  2. Start onboarding before day one
  3. Make their first day memorable and valuable
  4. Provide microlearning opportunities—for training and later reference
  5. Always encourage questions and schedule time for open dialogue

Use an employee onboarding checklist

Communicate with your team leads to make sure they’re all following the same basic onboarding procedures, with variations based on job role and duties. A checklist can be an invaluable tool in a process that can take months. As Atul Gawande explains in The Checklist Manifesto:

“Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success.”

The best employee onboarding checklists start before an employee walks in on their first day and can continue for up to six month or a year after they start. Your team may already have a checklist in place, or you can find inspiration in some online employee onboarding checklist templates from:

Start onboarding before day one

Think about your first new day at your job. You were likely nervous—unsure of where to park, when to show up, how to dress, where to eat, or who to talk to.

Best-in-class companies like Google know how important it is to begin the onboarding process even before an employee comes in for their first day. According to the Aberdeen Group, 83% of the highest-performing organizations began onboarding before the new hire’s first day. Instead of letting new hires flounder on that first morning, send an email before they even show up. Consider including:

  • Start-time and location
  • Instructions for parking
  • A quick overview of what you’ll cover that first day
  • What will be ready for them, such as laptops or headphones
  • The supervisor’s direct line
  • Office culture and dress code
  • Links to nearby coffee or lunch places
  • Any scheduled meals, meetings, training, or orientations

HelpScout provides a great email template that they use for all new employees. Make it an easy experience right from the start and you’ll reduce a lot of the frustration new hires experience.

Make their first day memorable and valuable

Many high-performing organizations make it a point to create a memorable first day. (And we’re talking beyond filling out HR paperwork, which is memorable for an entirely different read: boring reason.)

Of course new hires should be introduced to the team, but think beyond that. You could:

  • Pair new hires with a peer mentor who can show them around the workspace and be a point of contact beyond their manager for the first few months
  • Schedule a lunch-out with new employees and the team they’ll be working with
  • Have your company CEO or other executive spend a few minutes explaining your company’s mission and history
  • Provide small, useful gifts like a company t-shirt or branded office equipment
  • Help them set up their first week or two of meetings and tasks so they know what’s expected of them right from the start

Provide value from the start to show employees that you value them and their contribution to your company.

Provide microlearning opportunities—for training and later reference

Your new hires will have plenty of training courses to attend in those first few weeks—both in-person and digitally. Most of that will be forgotten in the haze of the information onslaught.

Instead, provide just-in-time, or microlearning, training that employees can access before they perform a task for the first time and as-needed as they start to practice these new tasks.

Microlearning training allows new employees to review training on a smartphone on their own time. It can also result in a 17% improvement in knowledge transfer and take 300% less time and 50% less cost to produce on your end, in addition to other benefits.

Benefits of Microlearning

Always encourage questions and schedule time for open dialogue

Finally, one of the best practices for employee onboarding is to show a continued commitment to their growth. For many employees, they won’t really settle into a new job until six months or more have passed. Many employees won’t feel comfortable coming to you or their supervisor to ask questions. Because of this, be highly available for those six months, scheduling monthly time specifically for in-person check-ins, emailing the employees weekly about any questions they may have, and providing them with any resources they need.

Start your employees off on the right foot

Provide highly-engaging and just-in-time training to all of your new hires, for a fraction of the cost in time and money. Click the button below to learn more about how EdgePoint creates learner-centered training that can be used for every step in your employee’s career.

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To read more about employee training, check out our related posts on the topic:

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