I was surprised to see that in a well-respected study that rates the most stressful life events, but it isn’t too hard to imagine. In general, employees want to learn the ropes as quickly as possible so they can become full-fledged contributors and begin to make an impact in their new role. Employers are hoping for the same thing, and want employees that can hit the ground running.

“Drinking from the fire hose” is a phrase often used when describing a new employee’s onboarding experience as they try to absorb as much information as possible. While this analogy might be accurate, it’s definitely not an ideal scenario. Nobody can drink water that fast, and I’m pretty sure that drinking from a fire hose can cause severe injuries or death! Likewise – pushing too much information at an employee all at once can be a key contributor of them leaving the organization. In fact, according to Aberdeen, 86% of new hires make the decision to stay long term or leave, within their first six months.

So how can you set up an onboarding program that helps employees hit the ground running versus running for the door? Here are some key things to consider:

Simplify the process with checklists

The day an employee starts in a new role, they are likely given a variety of tasks to accomplish, documents to review, classes to take, people to connect with, and more. This is good, because the employee has things to work on, but this is where the fire hose begins. Even for the most diligent employee, things are bound to fall through the cracks. A checklist is a great way to tame the chaos, guiding them through what needs to be completed in the first days, weeks and months in a new role.

Note that checklists don’t need to simply be a list of tasks and can be more interactive. For example, one checklist item could be to meet five people outside of the employee’s direct team, and write down one interesting insight learned, facilitating connectivity. Checklists can also be used for on-the-job training, with activities that must be evaluated and marked complete by a manager or expert.

Provide access to a repository of information and expertise

One of the most stressful things about starting a new job is the amount of time and effort spent in trying to find the right information and people needed to get things done. Even if the employee is an expert in their field, this challenge is likely unavoidable. Here, internal communities and groups can be extremely beneficial. Similar to external networks like Facebook or LinkedIn, an internal solution can provide a single place for employees to go to join groups, participate in forums, monitor news in activity feeds, access file repositories, and identify and connect with experts. Importantly, systems like this provide a searchable repository where past answers to questions can be reviewed, alleviating the stress of figuring out where to go or who to ask for key information.

Drive engagement and monitor status through coaching

It is a good practice for managers set up weekly or bi-weekly meetings with their employees (new or not) to prioritize goals, give feedback and advice, monitor progress, and stay in sync. However, there are some key questions that can continuously be asked for new employees to monitor their status, such as “Is this job in line with your expectations when you joined?”, “How do you feel you are progressing?”, and “Are you feeling overwhelmed?” Digging into these key questions can shed light on problems that, if left unchecked, can fester and lead to an unexpected resignation.

Formalize check-ins with 30/60/90 day reviews

In addition to the weekly / bi-weekly meetings above, consider providing more formal check-in reviews for new hires – and don’t simply leave this to an annual review process where an employee might wait eleven months for their first review. Provide a 30, 60, and 90-day review for your new employees, so they know where they stand, how they are being measured, and how they are tracking. These reviews can also benefit the HR team, who can leverage the data to quantify new hire quality and track onboarding effectiveness.

Go beyond the buddy system and enable continuous peer feedback

A general best practice is to assign a buddy to a new employee, which is good for some advice on who’s who, process information, and general questions. But as the new employee engages in tasks and works with others, the buddy is probably not anywhere in sight, leaving the employee to assess on their own whether they are doing things right. Fostering a system where peers can give public feedback and kudos for a job well done can be a huge benefit for the employee. Not only do they learn faster by knowing what they’re doing right, but they become more engaged as they see their actions publicly recognized. Whatever system is used to facilitate this, it should be easy, enabling peers to provide feedback frequently and in the moment so that it doesn’t get forgotten.

These are some ways to help new employees turn that fire hose of information they are facing into a more comfortable and effective fountain. A good onboarding solution can help facilitate this and more – but importantly, if you’re looking to make a change to your onboarding program and not sure where to start, rest assured that not everything needs to be done at once. Pick one of the above that you can try across a single team, assess the results, and expand from there.

What best practices have you implemented to tame the onboarding fire hose? I’d love to hear your experiences with this or any best practices that have worked for your organization!