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An effective onboarding process can have a tremendous impact on a company’s success. Companies with solid employee onboarding programs and retention strategies tend to be much more profitable than those that approach onboarding and retention without much of a plan. Since about 20 percent of turnover occurs within the first 45 days, having an effective onboarding process is a crucial aspect of retaining top talent. In fact, a well-structured program makes employees significantly more likely to remain with the company for at least three years.

Given the importance of getting off on the right foot with new hires, here are a few tips for developing a more effective onboarding program.

Start Immediately

The interview and hiring process often takes several weeks, or sometimes even months, to complete. In many cases, though, the new hire may not be able to begin work right away. Companies often delay employee onboarding until the person is physically in the workplace, but there’s no reason why they can’t begin engaging as soon as the job offer is accepted. New hires generally want to know as much as possible about their new employer as well as the people they’ll be working with once they get started. With all of the technological tools at an organization’s disposal (e-learning programs, task management software, virtual communication tools, etc), new hires can begin learning this information right away.

This phase of the onboarding schedule can also be seen as preparation for the employee’s first day. Aside from knowing logistical details (such as where to park, what to wear, or what to bring), companies can get a lot of paperwork out of the way quickly by providing work-related documentation through an online portal. A personal welcome from current employees in the form of a short video or greeting card can also help get the onboarding process off to an effective start.

Cover the Basics and Set Goals

When the new hire turns up for their first day, it’s important to provide them with all the tools they will need to fulfill their role. Taking on a new position in an unfamiliar organization can be overwhelming at first, and new employees are often less likely to ask their coworkers questions when they need assistance because they haven’t had the time to build up relationships. An effective onboarding process can help overcome these challenges by explaining how tasks and workflow are managed on a regular basis.

But while employee onboarding should be comprehensive, it also shouldn’t be a pure information dump. Training should be broken up into a series of specific goals that can be pursued individually. This allows new hires to tackle onboarding resources in a more manageable fashion, easing them into their new role and giving them something to continually work toward. By structuring the onboarding process to reflect the organization’s typical workflow, the very act of completing training can help prepare the employee to transition into their new role.

Involve Leadership

In addition to getting to know their coworkers, new employees typically want to know a bit more about their leaders. Involving senior leadership in the onboarding process can have a positive impact on the new hires’ perception of the company and make them more likely to be engaged in their initial training. An organization’s leaders set the tone in terms of workplace culture, behavior, and accountability, so it is tremendously beneficial for new hires to receive these expectations from leadership itself rather than reading about it in an employee handbook of some kind.

In addition to one-on-one meetings or social interactions like taking a new hire out to lunch, leaders may also consider incorporating direct coaching or mentoring into the onboarding process. This can provide employees with valuable feedback as they learn more about their position and ensures that they’ll have the support they need should they encounter any early obstacles.

Keep Engaged

Many organizations make the mistake of wrapping up employee onboarding as quickly as possible. Conventional wisdom among HR professionals holds that the process should last for 90-100 days. A recent CareerBuilder survey of businesses, however, found that three-quarters of them devoted less than a month to training new employees, with a staggering 25 percent spending less than a week orienting new hires. Unsurprisingly, most of these organizations went on to struggle with low productivity, reduced morale, and high turnover rates.

By extending the onboarding process, companies can nurture new hires beyond their initial training and help them to truly integrate into the organization over time. Longer, more structured onboarding programs generally result in improved employee engagement, more trust in leadership, and higher retention rates. In 2007, cosmetics maker L’Oreal developed a training program for new hires in response to high turnover. The new program, which lasted between 18 to 24 months and incorporated a variety of engagement strategies to acclimate hires to the company’s unique culture, ultimately cut its turnover rates in half.

The onboarding process is a unique opportunity for companies to welcome newcomers into the fold and provide them with the tools they need to be successful. More than just training employees, an effective onboarding program should also make new hires feel welcomed and valued within the organization, encouraging them to become engaged in their work and identify development opportunities for the future.