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Employee Onboarding Best Practices to “Wow” Your New Employees

by Jen Dewar

Jul 29, 2019

In today’s competitive talent landscape, companies need to go above and beyond to create an employee experience that can attract, engage, and retain talent. Strong employee onboarding is a crucial part of that experience.

There are many benefits of onboarding employees the right way, from increased productivity and retention to easier talent attraction and a stronger company culture. Take your early employee experience to the next level with these employee onboarding best practices.

Set the tone with a welcome email

Eleven percent of people have changed their minds on an offer after signing. A well-timed welcome email can reinforce your new hire’s decision to join your company, and help them feel comfortable reaching out with any questions. Let them know how excited you are that they’ve decided to join your company, and remind them of the impact they’ll make. You should also outline next steps, such as preboarding or a pre-start email with first day information, so they’re not left wondering when they’ll hear from you again.

Bridge the gap with employee preboarding

Begin acclimating new hires to their new team and company right away, rather than waiting until their first day. Make virtual introductions in a way that makes the most sense at your company. That could include introducing your new hire via a Slack channel, sending a company-wide introduction email, and sharing your internal org chart and people directory. Pair this with information about your company, such as your mission, vision, values, and culture, so new hires can learn important background information. Employee preboarding is also a good opportunity to get new hire paperwork out of the way, so each employee’s first day can be filled with in-person introductions, early learning, and celebration.

Send a pre-start email

Send an email to your new employee prior to their first day so they have all the details they need to ensure it goes smoothly. Offer a later start time, details on where to park and how to get into the building, and some information on your dress code. Also share their itinerary for the first day, or even the first week, so they know what to expect.

Be prepared for your employee’s first day

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation before an employee’s first day, and getting it right is an important step toward creating a positive early employee experience. Make sure they have a desk, as well as the equipment and software they need to do their job. Decorate their desk with a big “welcome” sign, so the rest of your team knows to stop by and say hi. Provision account access for critical systems, like email, Okta, Slack, or anything else your employee will be using daily. Finally, put a reminder with the employee’s start time on their manager’s calendar, so the two can sync once the new employee arrives.

Assign a buddy

Pair your new employee with a more seasoned employee who can help them fully acclimate and assimilate. A buddy is great for all the things a new employee may want to know, but doesn’t want to bother their manager to ask. For instance, how to navigate the communal fridge, which nearby bar has the best happy hour, or the process for ordering a laptop mouse.

A formal buddy program may last for several months, until your new employee feels comfortable at your company. Meetings may start out weekly, and gradually spread out to once or twice a month.

Schedule regular manager check ins

Regular manager check ins are important to ensure the lines of communication are open, so both the employee and their manager are clear on expectations and progress. Aim for check ins on days 1, 7, 14, 30, 60, and 90—at a minimum. The employee and their manager should set goals and a development plan early, and discuss progress, challenges, and additional development opportunities often. This is also a fantastic opportunity for early employee recognition, which can boost engagement and reduce your 90-day turnover rate.

Build onboarding programs for different types of new hires

The beauty of a standardized employee onboarding program is that you can create the same red carpet experience for all employees, regardless of their role or location. However, you may need to make small changes for different types of employees. This may include programs for:

  • Different offices: If your company has several locations, you may have a slightly different employee onboarding process at each. For instance, your headquarters may hire enough people to hold a live, weekly new hire orientation with company leadership, while satellite offices may use video instead.
  • Remote hires: Similarly, remote hires will have a different onboarding process to meet their needs. This may include sending equipment to them, or facilitating virtual introductions with the rest of their team.
  • Specific roles: It’s common to include department-specific training during the onboarding process. Many companies take this a step further by including intensive training for specific, high volume roles, such as customer service or sales.
  • Internal hires: Cross-boarding promoted employees is just as important as onboarding new hires, although they can manage with a pared-down process. You can probably cut out the company information, but keep things like team introductions, social and cultural acclimation, and new goals and development plans.

Final thoughts on employee onboarding best practices

These employee onboarding best practices have worked well for Sapling’s customers, but may not necessarily be useful or necessary for every company. They’re also not inclusive of everything you could be doing to provide a stand out new employee experience. Collect feedback to continually improve the employee onboarding experience at your company. Learn which aspects stand out the most, and where you can improve in the future. At the end of the day, your onboarding program should be unique to your company to really “wow” your new employees.

employee onboarding best practices

Jen Dewar

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in the HR technology space with a focus on developing educational content for HR professionals and recruiters. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, lifelong learning and development, and treating people like people throughout the candidate and employee experiences. Outside of work, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe, enjoying a glass of wine in Sonoma, or hanging out at home with her husband and son.