Eight steps to build an onboarding program from scratch

It is essential to know what you want to achieve from your onboarding program.

Often taken lightly, employee onboarding is one of any organization’s most critical and crucial processes. Giving a new employee one of the best onboarding experiences is essential since it creates that first impression in the employee’s mind about their new employer. It can make or break the relationship between the new incoming employees and their employer. Despite knowing the significance of the employee onboarding process still, companies still need somewhere.

Only 12% of employees strongly agree that their companies did an excellent job with their employee onboarding.

Employee Onboarding Program

What is employee onboarding?

The onboarding process is about preparing a new employee for the new role. A successful employee onboarding focuses on holistically preparing the employee for the new position. It includes training and development, cultural assimilation, and equipping employees with the right tools to kickstart their work. HR should design an onboarding plan to help the employees settle into their new roles as quickly as possible.

Benefits of employee onboarding

It is very crucial to have a robust employee onboarding program. The most common issue that most companies face today is the rising infant attrition rate. Infant attrition refers to the phenomenon where an employee leaves the organization within six months of his joining. This year-on-year increase in infant attrition results from a bad employee onboarding experience. As per industry research by TeamLease, almost half of the employees (49%) leave their companies within the first six months of joining.

Moreover, Nishant Pitti, CEO & Co-founder, EaseMyTrip.com, tweeted last year about the issue of early dropouts in the corporate and how it creates problems for the organization. Pitti revealed that the rate of early dropouts in his company stood at 42%, with no difference in junior or senior-level joining. A good onboarding process can help organizations to avoid such instances. We all know that hiring a new employee is costly and time-consuming, and it is frustrating for HR when an employee drops out early.

Apart from reducing the infant attrition rate, a good employee onboarding program can help employees settle quickly into the role and increase their productivity of employees. It enables the employee to have clear expectations that the organization will have from him and assimilate into its culture quickly.

What should companies ideally aim to achieve with their employee onboarding program?

Every HR would want to have some aims or goals with their employee onboarding program. When designing the onboarding process, one should remember what they want to achieve with the same. Having these goals helps us to further evaluate our onboarding process at the end of the program.

The critical challenges that an onboarding program should tackle are employee engagement, employee retention, job readiness, level of productivity, and the ability to compete for and attract critical talent. These are some crucial areas, if taken seriously, can give an edge to the organization. These aspects impact the talent quotient of the company.

Step-by-Step design for a robust employee onboarding process

As standard guidelines, HR professionals must remember certain things necessary for a successful employee onboarding process. Assessing the needs and requirements of the organization, one needs to design orientation and training sessions to equip the employees with the proper set of tools and skills. Moreover, an overview of the organizational structure will help the employees get to know some key leaders in the company and further build an internal network of stakeholders. At last, cultural assimilation is also significant, which will help the employees to succeed in the organization.  

Step 1: Assess the needs of the organization

Every organization has its own unique needs as per their nature of business and offerings. For instance, a company that works in the banking sector will have very different requirements regarding skills and behavior compared to a heavy manufacturing company. It is crucial to map the skills and behaviors the company needs and train new employees. These skills will also differ as per the role of the individual. Also, ensure employees’ alignment with the organization’s values, culture, and mission.

Step 2 : Pre-boarding orientation

Experts often say an employee’s onboarding process should start when they accept the job offer. The pre-boarding period is between accepting the job offer and joining the office on its first day. The HR team can utilize this time to prepare all the paperwork, documentation and completion of all important information. HR can send online forms to the employee to complete the necessary documentation requirements such as employment contracts, tax forms, and benefits enrolment.

Employers can also share necessary resources with the employee before they join. Some important resources will include company policies, employee handbooks, and help to familiarize the new employee with the organization. It is also recommended to conduct regular check-ins with the new employee during the pre-boarding period to build a better bond.

Step 3 : First day of work

The HR team needs to prepare the schedule for the first day of the job well in advance. Sharing the schedule with the employee at least a week before his joining date is also recommended. This way, he will be well-prepared and informed about what to expect.

These days, many companies have started a buddy program where it assigns an individual from within the new joinee’s team. The designated buddy will be the employee’s first point of contact regarding any queries he might have about the organization. The buddy can help the new employee learn how things are done in the organization.

Apart from this, another essential part of the first day’s schedule is the orientation of the new joiners. The HR team can prepare a presentation about the company’s mission, culture, and values. Moreover, it is also recommended that the new employee meet all his key stakeholders, the team members, and manager.

Step 4 : Training the employee for the new role

Designing a training program for the new employee is essential. For example, in a product-based company, all employees generally undergo product training, where they are told about the product and how it adds value to people’s lives. For freshers, certain client or customer-facing roles need prior mock training to prepare the new employee before they hit the ground running. Even IT services firms train incoming freshers on specific coding languages and systems before they are deployed in their role. Depending upon the complexity of the given role, the training period can last from one week to three months.

The employees should get access to relevant resources, shadowing opportunities, and on-the-job learning to prepare for the role.

Step 5 : Culture integration

The HRs must train employees on the company culture, its values, and expected behaviors through various workshops. Companies can introduce the new employees to cultural leaders who illuminate the true spirit of the organization’s culture. This will help the employee understand the appropriate behaviors that align with the company’s values.   

Step 6 : Constant support and ongoing development

Onboarding is a continuous process. Every employee will take his own time to settle in the organization. There is a need to create mechanisms where one can keep a constant check on the employee. This is where the buddy comes into play. The companion or buddy assigned will constantly check on the new employee and can act as a mentor. Moreover, the HR team will also need to establish a robust talent development process that helps employees continuously upskill and improve at what they do.

Step 7 : Reviewing the onboarding process

After the onboarding is completed, always take a feedback from the employee. Feedback can be taken through interviews or forms. It will help us to evaluate our onboarding program based on the goals that you aim to achieve through your onboarding program. After taking employee feedback, incorporate the relevant ones to enhance your onboarding program.

Step 8 : Documentation

Documenting all the processes, checklists, and steps in an onboarding handbook is better. The HR team can refer to this handbook to prepare prospective new joiners. Also, ensure updating the onboarding handbook regularly with the help of employee feedback.

Why should we digitize the onboarding process?

It was after the pandemic that many companies digitized their HR processes. Many players have been offering automation technologies for a long time, but it is now that companies have started to see value in the same.

Digitizing the onboarding process comes with great benefits. First, it reduces paperwork and manual processes as part of the employee onboarding program. This will help to save a lot of time and money on paper-based processes. One study claims that organizations can save up to 25% on paper-based processes.

Moreover, as the employee onboarding program gets automated, all the stages or steps involved in onboarding a new employee are saved online. This streamlines the onboarding experience, with fewer chances of human error during the process. In addition, streamlining the employee onboarding process enhances the employee experience, and the rate of retention and productivity improves.

We are moving towards a much richer technology that has the potential to give a high-tech yet an experience with a human touch. Companies like Accenture have started using metaverse technology, which uses virtual and augmented reality technology to enhance employee experience. Companies can create a virtual world where employees can enter using virtual headsets from multiple locations. For instance, Accenture built a replica of its head office and training centers where employees could complete their orientation and training virtually. Metaverse technology can be beneficial since many organizations have moved to the hybrid work model.