onboarding

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Onboarding

By Jen Dewar
August 7, 2020
Employee onboarding is the key transitional period of acclimating a new hire to the organization's values, culture, systems, and processes. Ideally, it begins when a job candidate signs their offer letter, and ends when they’ve become a fully ramped and productive employee. But too many organizations fall short, only focusing on the administrative tasks, and never realize the full benefits of strategic employee onboarding.

Strategic employee onboarding goes beyond the administrative new hire paperwork and account provisioning, to also include social and cultural acclimation and accelerate the time to peak performance. If that sounds interesting to you, read on.

Sapling’s Ultimate Guide to Employee Onboarding will Cover:

1.

the benefits of
employee onboarding

Job growth is strong, and there’s a lot of competition for skilled talent. Your employees have many choices about where they want to work, and it’s critical that you do everything in your power to provide a thoughtful employee experience, so you can engage and retain your talent. A structured onboarding program is an important piece of that puzzle, as it allows you to maintain a positive first impression as your job candidates transition into team members.
In fact, a Human Capital Institute report stated that teams invested in onboarding are more likely to see:
  • Decreased turnover
  • Increased engagement levels
  • Decreased time to proficiency
  • Reduced costs
  • Continuation of a positive candidate experience
  • Easier assimilation into the corporate culture
  • Clear understanding of performance expectations
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Increased hiring manager satisfaction
  • Identification of skill gaps
Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82percent, whereas employees who had a negative onboarding experience are twice as likely to look for new opportunities in the near future. When the average United States employer spends $4000 and 24 days to hire a new worker, there’s a very strong case for investing in structured employee onboarding program.

A strong employee onboarding process also improves productivity by over 70 percent. When employees are better acclimated to their company and role, understand their responsibilities and goals, and communicate with managers regularly, they can reach productivity faster.

the roi of employee onboarding

With so many benefits that affect the top and bottom lines, the ROI of employee onboarding is an estimated $6,044 - $11,799 per new employee. The biggest impacts are in productivity, culture, and retention, but there’s also a benefit in supported compliance and automating tasks via employee onboarding software.

2.

Employee onboarding
best practices

The goal of employee onboarding is to get your new hire socialized to their team, manager, and role. You’ll know onboarding is complete when your new hire is productive and feels like an insider. Here are some best practices to accomplish that:

1 Make it memorable
in a good way

After the new hire onboarding experience, 1 in 5 new hires is unlikely to recommend an employer to a friend or family member. That’s no surprise, given that 58 percent of organizations say their onboarding program is focused on processes and paperwork. It’s also no surprise that 30 percent of job seekers have left a job within 90 days of starting.

Employee onboarding is your organization’s opportunity to reinforce a candidate’s decision to join your company, welcome them, and set them up for long-term success. The best programs are structured and strategic, rather than administrative, with a focus on people, not paperwork. Innovative companies are offering online new hire orientation prior to the employee’s start date, so the first day can be about meaningful introductions, early learning, and celebration.

2 Bridge the gap with employee
preboarding of organizations

The time between offer acceptance and an employee’s first day is critical—but often forgotten. Candidates are probably still being contacted by other companies, and wondering if they’ve made the right decision to join yours. Radio silence during this time can mean you lose the talent you’ve worked so hard to recruit.

Employee preboarding bridges the gap between a new hire’s offer acceptance and first day, building off their excitement from the job offer and kickstarting employee engagement.
Programs vary to meet each organization’s unique needs, but may include:
  • A personalized, warm welcome email from the People team and the new hire’s manager, ensuring the new hire feels comfortable reaching out with any questions.
  • Details around the new hire’s first day schedule, so that they feel prepared and can get excited.
  • A virtual introduction to the rest of the team, perhaps via email, Slack, or an online org chart and people directory.
  • Information about the company’s mission, vision, values, and culture.
  • An invitation to complete new hire paperwork.

3 Introduce new
hires to a buddy

Eighty seven percent of organizations that assign an ambassador or buddy during the onboarding process say that it’s an effective way to speed up new hire proficiency. A buddy serves as a new hire’s point of contact outside of their manager or the People Ops team, to help them better acclimate to their new organization and role. This is particularly useful for questions a new hire is curious about, but which are not necessarily worth bothering their manager.

Kickstart your buddy program by asking for volunteers, and pairing seasoned employees up with new hires.
The buddy will:
  • Help welcome the new hire to the team.
  • Introduce the new hire to other employees.
  • Help the new hire find their way around the office.
  • Help the new hire learn company-wide tools and processes.
  • Check in with the new hire once a week for the first month, and 1-2x per month thereafter, to make sure they’re acclimating to their new environment.
  • Share their favorite coffee shops, lunch spots, and after-work happy hours.

4 Cross-board internal hires

Eighty one percent of people agree onboarding internal hires is equally as important as onboarding external hires, but only 27 percent believe they do this effectively. A new role within your organization likely means a new team and manager, and a change in work culture. A strategic cross-boarding plan will ensure your internal hires have a smooth transition and can reach productivity faster:

5 Close the loop with employee offboarding

Some turnover is inevitable—and can even be a good thing, making room for fresh perspectives and ideas in your organization. When the time comes, it’s important to be prepared with a smooth employee offboarding process. Not only do you need to be compliant with employment laws, you also want to ensure a positive transition for your employee so it feeds favorably back into your employer brand. Your former employees can easily share their experiences online, either helping or hurting your future talent acquisition efforts.

6 Build a streamlined repeatable process

A great employee onboarding process should be extended to all employees, and a new hire checklist can ensure you don’t miss critical steps. If you’re only making one or two hires each month, a spreadsheet or your project management software may suffice. If you’re scaling your team, or you have various onboarding programs to accommodate different roles, office locations, or remote employees, you will need a more robust solution.
Employee onboarding software can automate many of the tasks and processes in your onboarding process, including account provisioning and task reminders. This drastically reduces time spent on data entry, and ensures nothing slips through the cracks, so you can focus on building an exceptional employee experience from the start.

7 Extend your employee onboarding program

In most organizations, onboarding activities stop after the first week, which is hardly enough time for a new hire to become acclimated to their company, culture, and role. The best employee onboarding programs extend throughout the employee’s first 90 days—and may even extend out for a full year—to ensure new hires are fully supported as they ramp to full productivity. 

An extended employee onboarding program also ensures employees can learn new information at a reasonable pace, and retain more of it. This often includes company, product, and role-specific knowledge.

3.

Sample employee
onboarding process

The goal of employee onboarding is to get your new hire socialized to their team, manager, and role. You’ll know onboarding is complete when your new hire is productive and feels like an insider. Here are some best practices to accomplish that:The employee onboarding process will vary from organization to organization, depending on needs, goals, resources, and other factors. It’s important to take the time to determine what a meaningful employee onboarding process should look like at your company, and build a plan around that.

Benchmarking from a sample of Sapling customers, found that the average structured onboarding program has 54 activities per new hire, with the complexity of onboarding programs increasing as organizations grow.
That breaks down to:
  • 3 documents signed, uploaded, or acknowledged by new hires
  • 41 tasks and administrative items completed, such as desk set up, hardware, and calendars
  • 10 outcomes, including achieved learning goals around company culture, market knowledge, and role alignment

BEFORE
THE FIRST
DAY
Before
the first day:

  • Send a welcome email: Once an offer is signed, send a welcome email to your new hire, sharing your excitement to have them on the team, and providing some details around next steps.
  • Share first day details: Let your new hire know what to expect during their first day (or week), including when to arrive, how to get into the building, and what is on their itinerary.
  • Make introductions: Introduce the employee to their team and buddy so that early relationships can be formed. Encourage employees to reach out to new hires via email, Slack, or LinkedIn to say hello and welcome.
  • Share company information: Help employees acclimate to your company by sharing key information around your company’s history, mission, vision, values, team, and culture.
  • Get paperwork out of the way: Invite your new hires to complete administrative paperwork before their start date.
  • Send new hire questionnaire: Learn more about your new hires, such as interests outside of work, food preferences, and t-shirt size.
  • Request equipment preferences: Make employees more comfortable by accommodating their computer, mouse, and desk preferences.
  • Provision account access: Provision access to company and team accounts, including email, Slack, and any other software you use, so it’s ready to go on the employee’s first day.
  • Remind managers to prepare for the new hire’s arrival: A solid onboarding process requires alignment between People Ops and managers. Send managers a gentle reminder to complete all of their onboarding tasks, and prepare for their new hire’s first day.
  • Remind managers to prepare for the new hire’s arrival: A solid onboarding process requires alignment between People Ops and managers. Send managers a gentle reminder to complete all of their onboarding tasks, and prepare for their new hire’s first day.
That breaks down to:
  • Offer a late arrival time: Allow your new hires to have a leisurely morning, and give your team time to prepare for their arrival, with a late morning start time
  • Schedule coffee or tea: Ease into the new hire’s first day by setting up coffee, tea, and perhaps a light breakfast, with the hiring manager, buddy, team, or company leadership.
  • Take an office tour: Show your new hire around the office, making sure they can find their team members, kitchen, bathroom, printer room, office supplies, and anything else they’d need.
  • Host a team lunch: Invite your new hire to lunch with their immediate team, or the leadership team, to celebrate their first day.
  • Schedule new hire orientation: Orientation can range from a full-blown program with a sizeable new hire class at large organizations, to a one-on-one with HR in smaller companies. This is a great time to review any materials sent during preboarding, and to answer any questions the new hire may have.
  • Schedule the first day check in: The new hire should meet with their manager on the first day to see how it went. They may also review role responsibilities and goals, start thinking about a development plan and career path, and learn how to best work together.

FIRST
DAY
first
day:

FIRST
30 DAYS
first
30 days:

Your new hire’s first month at your organization should be focused on connecting, learning, and setting goals.
  • Building connections: Meeting a lot of people in a short amount of time can be overwhelming. Continue building connections between your new hire and other employees throughout their first month. The new hire’s buddy can be instrumental in this regard.
  • Set a development plan and career path: Everyone has room for development. Work with your new hire to learn where they could improve, how they prefer to learn, and what you can do to support them—not just for their current role, but for the roles they’d eventually like to move into.
  • Set goals and communicate progress: New hires should know exactly what’s expected of them, and when it’s expected. Set clear, achievable goals, and use regular manager check ins to communicate progress and recognize the new hire for a job well done.
Strong employee onboarding programs extend out 90 days to help new hires fully ramp. Within that time, your new hire should begin making meaningful contributions to your team, and continue to be supported by their manager and buddy.
  • Increase responsibility: Encourage new employees to contribute ideas and take the lead on bigger, long-term projects. With the training and support they’ve been receiving, they should be ready to carry out of the all responsibilities their role entails.
  • Continue regular manager check ins: Set day 30, 60, and 90 check-ins to recognize successes and identify areas where the new hire may need some additional help.
  • Continue buddy check-ins: Continue the buddy system with one or two check ins per month, to provide new hires with a resource to answer any questions that come up.
  • Request additional onboarding feedback: Let your new hires know how important feedback is to your program, and assure them it will be put to good use.

FIRST
90 DAYS
first
90 days:

4.

How to Evaluate Employee
Onboarding Software

A great employee onboarding process often includes many tasks, and require many different people to complete them. While a spreadsheet or project management tool may help you manage all of these tasks early on, you may eventually want to evaluate employee onboarding software to streamline and scale your process.
Here are some tips to get started:
  • Build your evaluation taskforce: Gather potential users and key decision makers, such as hiring managers, recent hires, your CFO, CTO, and COO, to gain different perspectives around what to look for in an onboarding solution.
  • Set goals: Define what you want to get out of an employee onboarding solution. Do you want to scale your onboarding program, improve your new hire experience, or save time for your HR team and hiring managers? What would you like your onboarding workflow to look like, and how could the right technology enable that?

Common features and functionality TO CONSIDER INCLUDE:

  • Integrations: Does the onboarding solution integrate with your ATS, HRIS, payroll solution, and benefits provider?
  • Intelligent workflows: Can the onboarding platform assign tasks and trigger personalized emails?
  • Automated notifications: Will the system automatically send reminders when tasks are not completed?
  • Email Templates: Can you create custom email templates to streamline communications and save time?
  • Calendar integrations: Can you sync relevant information to your calendar, such as new hire start dates, activity due dates, birthdays, and anniversaries?
  • Pre-boarding: Does the solution include provide a red-carpet first impression to your company, showcasing your team, culture and history with interactive videos and images.
  • eSignaturing: Is a legally compliant eSignaturing feature included for government forms and company documents?
  • Account provisioning: Can the platform you automate key system setup, such as G-Suite, Slack, Okta, and Onelogin?
  • Dashboards: How easy is it to get visibility on employee and manager progress?
  • Permission settings: Can you assign different permission levels for different people?
  • GDPR compliance: If you have employees in the European Union, does the system maintain compliance with GDPR?

Final thoughts on
employee onboarding

Employee onboarding is the key transitional period of acclimating a new hire to the organization's values, culture, systems, and processes. Ideally, it begins when a job candidate signs their offer letter, and ends when they’ve become a fully ramped and productive employee. But too many organizations fall short, only focusing on the administrative tasks, and never realize the full benefits of strategic employee onboarding.

Strategic employee onboarding goes beyond the administrative new hire paperwork and account provisioning, to also include social and cultural acclimation and accelerate the time to peak performance. If that sounds interesting to you, read on.
"
The depth of connectivity of Sapling into OneLogin, Greenhouse, ADP and Zapier has significantly reduced administrative busywork - allowing us to focus on the more strategic parts of our role.
"
Hannah DiBruno, People & Culture Associate

How Sapling helped Compass onboard 1,500 hires in 12 months

By partnering with Sapling and OneLogin, Compass’ IT team saved over 15,000 fields of data entry, streamlining handoffs, driving automation and protecting employee data.

By avoiding 750 hours in lost productivity, they saved $37,500 in people costs

Onboarding

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