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The term “onboarding” is often tossed around in the HR realm, but not everyone knows what it is or how to do it. In basic terms, onboarding is the process of getting new hires acclimated to their new roles. It includes setting clear guidelines for performance and company culture, and sharing the knowledge necessary for success within an organization. Onboarding takes training and orientation to the next level. Unlike traditional employee orientation, onboarding is a systematic process that extends well beyond the first day of employment. The goal of the process is to cultivate a long-term relationship between the employer and the employee while fostering a feeling of belonging and of making the right career choice.

Onboarding helps develop your brand and can build a positive reputation for your company among talented job seekers. A study of 264 new employees, published in the Academy of Management Journal, found that the first 90 days of employment (often called the probationary period) is pivotal for building rapport with the company, management and co-workers. Furthermore, according to a study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years. When you share your company’s goals and values with your employees while simultaneously showing them how to do their jobs, everyone benefits.

Simply offering training courses to new hires will not be sufficient for onboarding. You must consider all the smaller aspects that create an efficient and painless transition into the company. This means working with stakeholders well before new hires start. Establishing a strong onboarding foundation prior to day one is key for long-term success. Here are a few simple ways that you can get started with onboarding.

Preboard New Hires

Everyone remembers how stressful the first day of a job can be. Help alleviate some of that stress by preboarding. Sending the following information beforehand can help reduce new employees’ stress and prepare them for a busy first day:

  • A welcome letter or email
  • Information about the company and the industry
  • Helpful first-day resources, including a schedule and information about who their manager or mentor will be
  • Essential HR and tax forms
Include Everyone

When deciding whom to include in the onboarding process, do not just think about the people who are involved in the new hires’ day-to-day operations. Include other stakeholders like HR managers, executives and anyone else who may be important in the company as a whole. Have these people introduce themselves, along with their roles, and encourage them to extend an open line of communication. Do not be afraid to introduce new hires to important clients either. Doing so can help new employees by providing a glimpse of whom they will be working with on a regular basis—plus, it reassures clients that they will continue to be taken care of.

Formalize the Process

Make sure the onboarding process is formalized, including your training and orientation. This does not mean the process has to be boring—merely that training should not be adlibbed by staff at the last minute when the new hires arrive. A formalized onboarding process can go on for days, weeks or even months. Make the most of this opportunity and get new hires up to speed on everything going on within the organization. Explain the company’s structure, its place in the industry and its management hierarchy. Above all, make sure new hires are getting the same training as everyone else in their departments. Formalizing the onboarding process will ease the tensions of starting in new roles.

Onboarding employees the right way can improve retention and save money, while building upon your company’s culture and brand. Use the information in this toolkit to think about how you onboard and whether there is room for improvement. The resources here can help take your process to the next level. Open communication about roles, career paths, impact and personal goals can spread from the initial onboarding process to new employees’ entire tenure at the company. Take advantage of the information above and in the appendix below to get a jump-start on making onboarding your own.

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