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Learning & Development

Creating an employee onboarding workflow that works

Leapsome Team
Creating an employee onboarding workflow that works
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Instances of restructuring and layoffs, team member churn, changes in leadership, and a generally turbulent business landscape create a lot of work for managers. Ultimately, they result in a frequent need for companies to onboard and integrate recent new hires, which is one of the most crucial aspects of any manager’s role.

Without an organized, intentional approach to onboarding, this instability is the perfect recipe for a situation where new hires miss targets, misunderstand their role and responsibilities, and ultimately struggle to settle into their new role and reach their full potential.

While a robust onboarding workflow helps new team members align with company values and get up to speed as quickly as possible, it’s also vital for enabling managers to succeed in their role as a guiding force.
With studies showing that 31% of employees quit within the first six months of a new job*, a solid onboarding workflow is a great step in the right direction to increasing employee satisfaction, retaining talent, and making your company a great place to work.

*Zippia, 2023

Set your new hires up for success from the start

Never miss a trick with our downloadable onboarding checklist for a straightforward and stress-free onboarding workflow

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What is an onboarding workflow?

An onboarding workflow is a set of steps that every new hire has to complete during their first few months with a company. In the beginning stages, onboarding involves tasks as straightforward as “set up your email account” or “book a meeting with your manager.” However, as new team members progress, tasks become more high-level, requiring them to gain confidence with all the responsibilities of their new role.

HR teams and managers typically own this process and play an integral role in overseeing onboarding from beginning to end. Throughout the 6 - 12 month period, their goal is to collaborate with the new employee and help them set achievable goals that lay the groundwork for a successful career with the organization.

According to Zippia, highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave, with a smooth onboarding significantly contributing to their engagement. 33% of employees surveyed “quit their job within the first 90 days that they’re employed,” further highlighting the importance of a solid onboarding workflow. 

5 questions to reflect on while designing your onboarding workflow

Understanding the perspective of your new hires can help HR teams create an onboarding workflow that engages, motivates, and prevents employees from feeling overwhelmed. To that end, here’s a quick list of questions to ask yourself when designing the employee onboarding workflow: 

  • What do you wish you had known on your first day? Basic information about internal expectations and processes might feel like second nature to you now, but it won’t be for new team members. You don’t want them to feel confused or flustered on their first day.
  • What feedback have recent hires shared about the onboarding workflow? The most recent additions to your team have onboarding fresh in their memory, making their input invaluable.
  • Do we have onboarding feedback from exit interviews to consider? People who are offboarding may feel free to speak more candidly and offer input that they wouldn’t have shared while they were still an employee. These insights might be surprising or tough to hear, but they will ultimately help you to improve your internal processes and provide better support for your people.
  • Do we need to rethink our onboarding time frame? While a ninety-day process is standard, some people may require more time. That’s especially true for those entering senior roles or more technical positions.
  • How will we track new hire progress? With a learning management system (LMS) or people enablement platform like Leapsome, managers can monitor the progress and performance of new team members during the onboarding workflow process. This better positions them to provide timely guidance and feedback.
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The onboarding workflow in 5 steps

Photo of a manager talking with an employee one-on-one.

Depending on your company and the new hire’s role, the onboarding workflow can last from three months up to a year. The average onboarding program consists of five major stages:

1. Onboarding preparation

At this stage, HR may work with the new hire to get as much paperwork out of the way as possible, including tax forms and benefits information. In addition, operations might ask new team members to set up their accounts for any HR, task management, or communication software the company uses. Managers may also arrange a virtual meeting with the new employee and walk them through any expectations for the first few days.

2. Welcoming the new team member

Some organizations refer to this step as “orientation,” and it can last anywhere from a couple of days to a whole week, depending on the situation. This stage is about making the new employee feel welcome and introducing them to the following:

  • The company and its values
  • Internal policies and procedures
  • Their role 
  • Their team

The goal here is balance — you want to equip the new hire with all the information they need without causing them to feel overwhelmed, so regular 1:1 check-ins with HR and managers are important. Take time to answer their questions and prepare them for the next steps of the onboarding process.

“Onboarding is a window into your company’s values and beliefs. Your actions during the onboarding process help to set the company’s expectations for new hires.” 

LaTonia Dean-Brown, Division Operations HR Leader at Wawa, Inc. for SHRM

3. Training & mentorship

At the training stage, your new employee needs mentorship and managerial support as they become more integrated into the team and get acquainted with their role. Managers should introduce them to as many relevant cross-departmental colleagues as possible so they can better understand how they’ll contribute to the organization as a whole. Weekly or biweekly 1:1s with their manager or any direct reports are also a vital opportunity to offer praise and feedback, as well as coaching.

Many companies approach this stage as a trial period — not to intimidate the new hire but to encourage them to be transparent if they feel the role isn’t what they expected.

4. Feedback & growth

After the three initial months of onboarding, your new team members will have grown in confidence and feel ready to tackle their day-to-day responsibilities more autonomously.

At some point during this stage, managers may want to conduct an initial performance review where they work together with the new employee to determine a set of target metrics and goals to meet over the next quarter. They could be as simple as “become more confident in my role” or “receive positive feedback in my 6-month performance review,” but they give the new hire something to work toward as they continue to get settled.

5. Ongoing development

After the first 6-12 months, your new hire will be an essential part of your team and no longer be considered new. At this point, they’ll feel comfortable working independently and even provide guidance and mentorship to their peers and colleagues. 

However, the learning opportunities are still ongoing. In fact, it’s time to start talking about:

  • Their long-term goals with the company 
  • The training opportunities they’re interested in 
  • How they can make meaningful progress with their career progression framework

The employee onboarding timeline

An infographic displaying the six major phases of the onboarding timeline, complete with action steps.

Providing your new hires with a well-thought-out onboarding experience ensures that nobody falls through the cracks as they adapt to your internal processes and company culture. As part of this, it’s important that every stage of the onboarding workflow has distinct goals and priorities.

Pre-arrival 

The pre-arrival phase is the period between signing an employment contract or offer letter and a new hire’s first day. Depending on when the new team member can start, it may last between one week to several months. 

HR teams, managers and operations may prefer to use this time to get through essential paperwork and technical set up so employees can focus on the rest of their onboarding workflow. 

Typical tasks during the pre-arrival phase include:

  • Signing tax forms
  • Reading employee handbook 
  • Reading benefits information
  • Reviewing company policies and procedures
  • Setting up meetings with HR, people ops, and the new hire’s manager
  • Getting their technical setup and account log-ins in order

First day 

Someone’s first day isn’t just about providing them with orientation. It’s also about introducing them to the onboarding process, which can be overwhelming. It’s also a crucial opportunity to make a welcoming first impression. To make the experience stress-free, HR should create a detailed itinerary for new employees to ensure they use their time effectively. Organizing the first few working days in this manner is especially important for remote team members who may feel unsure of how to spend their time without in-person guidance.

First day tasks should include:

  • A brief overview of the company mission and values
  • Discussing their role and responsibilities
  • Introducing the new hire to teammates and department leaders
  • Reviewing internal policies and procedures

A checklist of all the important tasks that new hires should complete on their first day will help managers run a smooth onboarding workflow and enable employees for success from the get-go.

First week 

Usually, the first week of any new job is particularly demanding, and it’s important to bear this in mind to avoid recent hire overwhelm. This week should be spent on the following tasks:

  • Completing training modules and engaging with onboarding materials
  • Meeting teammates and cross-departmental stakeholders
  • Setting up a coffee chat with the CEO 
  • Scheduling a check-in with the new joiner’s team lead to discuss their first week
“Onboarding done well is a journey, not a checklist you can fly through in the first week.” 

Luck Dookchitra, VP People at Leapsome
A screenshot of Leapsome’s Learning module.
Leapsome Learning lets you assign training paths based on the skills new hires need to learn

First month

As they approach the end of their first month, new employees should focus on transitioning away from administrative tasks like paperwork and start to focus on the business-critical aspects of their role. Any training at this point should directly relate to the day-to-day tasks they’ll be responsible for.

With this in mind, new hires and managers should focus on the following during the first month:

  • Getting acquainted with work-specific tasks
  • Completing the first few assignments
  • Exchanging instant feedback
  • Preparing for the first performance review
  • Continuing to make connections with department leaders and teammates
  • Organizing regular check-ins with HR
  • Filling out an onboarding survey
  • Exchanging asynchronous feedback
“Feedback is essential during the onboarding process because HR can understand what’s going well and what’s going badly. Having open conversations with new hires is important because you’re showing interest in their experiences and needs. For example, I like to send out an onboarding survey to new team members after the first month and have a 1:1 call or coffee after the second month.

— Carolina Braig, HR Manager at
OPmobility
Photo of a manager leading a training activity.

First 90 days

After the first month, managers and their new direct reports should set up an initial performance review to discuss the importance of objectives and key results (OKRs) and collaborate on onboarding goals. 

Explain to your new team member that the OKRs framework is designed for goal-setting and that effective OKRs have one objective with three to five relevant key results.

Here’s a new hire onboarding OKR example:

Objective | Become proficient with my new role and actively contribute to team projects 

Key result 1 | Achieve meets expectations for at least three categories in my next performance review 

Key result 2 | Meet with three department heads during my first 90 days

Key result 3 | Identify a cross-functional initiative to contribute to after attending a cross-departmental team meeting

First 6 months

It’s time for managers to initiate a career development talk with the new employee. This is a great opportunity to discuss their short and long-term professional goals and come up with strategies for achieving them. 

It can take a full year for recent hires to feel completely comfortable in their roles. Regardless, at six months, they should already feel at ease with your team’s processes and workflows and be making valuable contributions to your team.

At this point, new employees should focus on:

  • Setting goals related to work rather than onboarding
  • Attending conferences and role-related training workshops
  • Taking a lead role in an upcoming project
  • Mentoring and supporting a recent, more junior hire
  • Identifying ways to improve team processes and workflows

🔎 Delivering constructive feedback is an essential skill for leadership, long-term employees, and recent hires — but it doesn’t always come naturally. That’s why you should check out our in-depth guide to giving feedback, which includes 27 meaningful examples.

Tips for a streamlined onboarding workflow

A photo of an employee working from home.

A well-organized onboarding workflow prevents new hires from getting frustrated and burnt out, and it helps create confident team members. But there’s always room for improvement, which is where these best practices come in:

  1. Assign an owner to each stage of the onboarding process HR typically takes the lead with onboarding, but managers and stakeholders from other departments also have vital roles to play. Confirm everyone knows what’s required of them ahead of time to avoid any bottlenecks or confusion.
  2. Communicate intentionally before a new hire’s first day Even if they’ve signed an offer letter, you could still lose a new employee to other companies. That’s why it’s important to make them feel welcome and excited about their new opportunity and take the time to connect with them virtually or in person. Answer any questions they have and explain how their first day will go.
  3. Think of your onboarding process as a first impression — The interview may have been your new team member’s first exposure to the company, but they’ll still assess your organization during onboarding. They’ll be curious about how you live out your cultural values and will look to managers to give them the tools to carry out their roles successfully.
  4. Keep your onboarding process up to date — Make a habit of optimizing the onboarding process based on employee feedback. Some individuals may enjoy the automation of a learning management system (LMS), while others might prefer 1:1 meetings and in-person guidance. Consider different learning styles and look for ways to improve current standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  5. Don’t forget about recent hires once they’ve completed their training. New team members who have grown used to more supervision, guidance, and positive feedback may be concerned that there’s been a drop in their performance if input from their manager becomes less consistent. That’s why it’s vital for team leads to maintain a routine of weekly or monthly check-ins with their direct reports.

Onboard new hires with Leapsome

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Learning module.
Use Leapsome Learning to train employees on soft skills like effective communication and hard skills like sales training

Despite how complicated it may seem, building a comprehensive, well-planned onboarding process will save you time and energy. In the long run, you’ll spend fewer hours addressing learning gaps in your workforce and replacing dissatisfied employees.

An effective onboarding can make your relationship with your new employee. Many recent hires are apprehensive in their first few weeks. Making them feel confident in their new role will increase the likelihood that they’ll thrive, and you’ll stand out as a great people manager.  

👋 Personalize the onboarding experience

Monitor progress and provide instant feedback when they’re stuck or need encouragement using our onboarding features.

👉
Request a demo

Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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