When you set out to create a great onboarding experience, you likely have several end goals in mind. Effective leaders want new hires to:
- Understand and feel confident with their roles and responsibilities
- Build connections with their colleagues
- Learn how to use their specific skill set to further the company’s mission
- Finish onboarding with a clear vision of their future with the organization
It may sound like a lot to ask, but all those components are key to fruitful onboarding. They’re also crucial for building strong relationships with your people and supporting their growth.
That’s why taking a collaborative approach to onboarding is essential. By inviting managers and cross-departmental leaders into the process, you can design an exceptional experience that leads to more engaged, empowered team members. With that in mind, let’s explore how to create a dynamic onboarding process tailored to employees at every level of your organization.
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What makes for a good employee onboarding experience?
Effective onboarding fully prepares new team members to thrive in their positions. And yet, Gallup discovered that only 29% of employees emerge from onboarding feeling confident in their roles. With this discrepancy in mind, people ops leaders, managers, and other stakeholders should embrace collaboration as a way to make onboarding more comprehensive and engaging.
But there’s more to onboarding than preparing people for their day-to-day work duties. A top-notch experience also:
- Shows how you embody your company’s values
- Builds trust between coworkers and leaders
- Explores new hires’ strengths and communication styles
- Includes time to discuss professional aspirations and design personalized career path frameworks
The benefits of a good onboarding experience
While every organization — and employee — has different needs during the onboarding process, most companies reap the same benefits when they provide an exceptional experience:
- More robust organizational culture — Showing recent hires how teams and individuals throughout your company embody your values and culture helps make them feel welcome and inspires them to participate in their own way.
- Lower turnover rates — According to Gallup research, professionals with a great onboarding experience are 2.6x more likely to feel satisfied in their jobs and stay longer.
- Improved performance — A positive, hands-on approach to onboarding that includes managers and other stakeholders as coaches and mentors helps instill more confidence in recent hires. Additionally, the more time and opportunities you give new team members to practice and make mistakes, the more ready they’ll be when they start working more independently.
- Higher engagement — An onboarding experience with lots of managerial participation and regular check-ins motivates new employees. This personalized approach also helps build trust and connection between the new hire, their teammates, and leadership.
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How employee onboarding can go wrong
Many organizations lack a structured onboarding process and rely on ad hoc training methods. That often results in confused employees who feel ill-equipped to excel in their new roles. Additionally, some companies make onboarding an HR-only process and fail to include managers and other leaders in the experience. As a result, new hires may miss out on crucial details about their day-to-day duties and the impact their work has on other teams.
But unprepared employees are the best-case scenario of a poor onboarding experience. It can also lead to losing new team members, who, by SHRM’s estimate, could cost as much as US$4,700 to replace. What’s more, too much turnover can have a negative psychological effect on other staff. The possible result? A phenomenon called turnover contagion, which occurs when one person quits and triggers a wave of resignations.
Tailoring the onboarding experience to different audiences
The onboarding process can’t be one-size-fits-all because employees have diverse needs and capacities. New hires also occupy various roles and have different levels of responsibility. Here’s how you can tailor your onboarding program with every individual in mind.
Remote employees rely on more technical tools than their in-office counterparts. They likely use the same software for onboarding, project management, time and attendance, and communication, but they may count on additional apps for quick chats, performance management, and virtual meetings. Knowing this, people ops and managers need to make the technical side of onboarding as smooth as possible so it doesn’t become a frustrating distraction.
Remote workers might also need support with the social aspects of onboarding to avoid the isolation and loneliness that can come with being away from the office. Managers should set up weekly virtual meetings with new hires and help them build connections with teammates and leadership.
When training managers, it’s crucial to facilitate team interaction early on. So, introduce them to their colleagues and reports during the pre-onboarding phase or on the first day of onboarding. They should also talk with leadership about the company’s mission and values rather than learn them from a manual or elearning course. In doing so, they’ll better understand how individuals across the organization live out the culture in practice.
HR teams should also prioritize helping managers build their coaching and leadership skills. One effective way to do that is by assigning them an experienced mentor who can offer real-time guidance and feedback.
People who need accommodations & additional support
Many countries around the world oblige workplaces to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. That said, strive to go beyond what’s required and make it clear from day one that your organization prioritizes accessibility, comfort, and safety for all staff.
Start by informing all team members about your accessibility policy on their first day and let them know who they should get in touch with to request accommodations. HR teams and managers should also collaborate with new hires to design an accommodation plan that works for them.
Employees re-entering the workforce after long absences due to military service, incarceration, parental leave, or medical leave may also need additional support. Sitting down with them in 1:1 meetings and identifying their strengths, skill sets, and communication preferences may help make their transition into a new job less stressful.
Freelancers & contractors
Due to the project-based and often short-term nature of their work, it may not make sense for freelancers or contractors to go through an onboarding process that lasts several months. But if you want to build a solid working relationship with them and establish clear expectations from the get-go, some onboarding is necessary.
Make sure freelancers and contractors understand your policies and processes before they start work. It’s also worthwhile to introduce them to your team and explain which communication channels to use, so they can collaborate more effectively. Additionally, you’ll need to outline your billing and invoicing process at the beginning of your working relationship to avoid frustration and payment delays.
Best practices for creating a great onboarding experience
Treat onboarding as a living process
There is no such thing as a one-and-done onboarding process. Instead, you should constantly gather feedback and optimize it as you go. And employees — especially recent hires — have invaluable perspectives on where your company excels and where it needs to grow:
- Ask about onboarding in your yearly engagement survey. Questions could include:
Did you feel welcomed and supported during the onboarding process?
Did we address all your questions and concerns during the onboarding process?
What was missing from the onboarding process that you would have found helpful?
- Schedule 1:1 meetings with new hires to ask for their feedback directly. Not only does the 1:1 format enhance communication between leaders and direct reports, but it also allows for more in-the-moment brainstorming and problem-solving.
- Address employee onboarding during exit interviews. While unfortunate, staff resignations can be great learning experiences. Be sure to conduct interviews during the offboarding period so you can ask departing team members for their feedback on onboarding and the beginning of their tenure with the company.
“The onboarding process is alive. We’re constantly updating ours based on employee feedback, and it never stays the exact same for long.”
— Carolina Braig, HR manager, Ignion
Address the four Cs
In a 2010 report for SHRM, workplace relationships expert Dr. Talya Bauer laid out the four Cs that have shaped how organizations approach employee onboarding for the last decade. According to Dr. Bauer, an effective onboarding process should have four fundamental components:
- Compliance — This encompasses the administrative aspects of onboarding, including paperwork, policies, procedures, and ensuring new hires have their tech stack and equipment set up.
- Clarification — Managers play a big role in clarifying a new employee’s role by answering questions, checking in, and offering feedback and guidance.
- Culture — This is an often neglected component of onboarding because explaining your company values to a new team member isn’t enough. People ops professionals, managers, and stakeholders need to collaboratively display how they embody the company values daily and share real-life examples. When organizations get this step right, employees will come away from onboarding with a sense of belonging and purpose in their new roles.
- Connection — New hires need to form connections with their teammates, cross-departmental colleagues, and leadership. Doing so not only makes collaboration easier but also enhances engagement and boosts morale, especially in hybrid and remote work settings. Organizations should enrich interpersonal relationships with team-building activities, regular all-hands meetings, and networking events.
Gather stakeholders to strategize
We’ve discussed how important collaboration is for an exceptional onboarding process. Here are some steps to take when including additional stakeholders in your onboarding experience to take it to the next level:
- Identify stakeholders — Managers and HR teams are essential to onboarding, but you should loop in other colleagues for specific process stages, such as IT, project management, and operations leaders.
- Arrange a meeting — Get all relevant stakeholders together so you can strategize, collaborate, and ask questions like:
What goals and expectations do we want to set for our new hires?
Is our current onboarding timeline enough to accomplish those goals?
What has employee feedback revealed about our current onboarding process?
Which stakeholders are most crucial at every step of the process?
- Assign ownership — Ensure every stakeholder knows what tasks they’re responsible for during onboarding. For example, who will be in charge of designing the training plan? And who will oversee new team members’ progress with elearning courses?
- Gather feedback — In addition to employee input, it’s imperative you collect stakeholder insights as well. Investigate what went well during the most recent iteration of your onboarding process and keep an open mind about what can be improved.
Create a 30-60-90-day plan
Lack of clarity and direction are some of the biggest challenges new employees face. But a 30-60-90-day plan can act as a roadmap to reduce stress and increase the effectiveness of onboarding over a three-month period.
The 30-60-90-day framework divides a recent hire’s first three months into phases — the first 30 days, the second 30 days, and the final 30 days. Depending on how managers and people ops teams choose to construct it, every phase consists of distinct learning and performance goals. Here’s an example:
First 30 days
- The organization’s mission and values
- Internal policies, procedures, and processes
- Your role and responsibilities
- Shadow a team member to observe internal processes in action
- Work on at least two small projects to start gaining confidence in your work
Days 31 to 60
Learn more about:
- Our products, services, and the industry overall
- Your team’s goals and objectives
- Our performance management process
- Identify two areas of strength and two areas for improvement
- Work on one team project to practice your collaboration skills
Days 61 to 90
Learn more about:
- How to track your performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Our customers’ top pain points and problems
- Identify one process that needs improvement and reach out to other team members to brainstorm solutions
- Reach out to colleagues to offer assistance with projects or tasks
Provide an exceptional employee experience with Leapsome
Creating a positive, top-notch onboarding experience takes strategy, empathy, and company-wide collaboration. But the most important element? Customization and managerial involvement, especially as remote work becomes the norm.
That’s what Leapsome brings to the table. Our Onboarding features let you customize the onboarding process with personalized courses for new hires that include e-lessons, quizzes, open-ended reflection tasks, and videos to accommodate every learning style.
And we make the process even more tailored to individuals with our Instant Feedback and Meetings modules, allowing managers to offer timely feedback, coaching, and guidance, both asynchronously and in person.
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