Imagine showing up for the first day of work and not knowing what to expect, who to report to, how to get started, or even where to park your car. Even the most experienced job hopper would feel pretty lost — not to mention unwelcome.
And it’s no easier for remote workers. Logging on blind for the first time with no idea what awaits you (provided you even have the right software and technology) is a leap of faith most of us would rather avoid.
A well-designed onboarding process helps make those awkward first few days on the job go smoothly for new hires, which, in turn, helps them quickly become confident and productive employees.
There’s an excellent reason why seven out of 10 employees stay with a company for at least three years if they’ve been properly onboarded. The best onboarding processes foster a sense of belonging that can linger for years.
So, what does a well-designed onboarding process look like? Obviously, every organization’s onboarding priorities will be different based on the type of work, employee population, location, and so on, but here are some of the broad strokes.
The period between receiving a job offer and starting work may be the most crucial (and overlooked) part of the onboarding process. This is when you lay the groundwork for a great first day.
Two Days After Acceptance: Send a Welcome Email
A personal email welcoming them to the team can help make the job seem “real” and reassure nervous new hires that your organization is excited to have them aboard. (Digital Postcards work well for this.) Some employers even send a welcome package with company swag and other fun gifts.
Pro tip: Be clear about the next steps in your welcome email. It might even be a good idea to attach an onboarding timeline or checklist, so new hires know what’s coming.
Two Weeks Before the Start Date: Share Essential Resources
As the start date approaches, employees will want to begin understanding the nitty-gritty details of working for your organization. Their questions may range from “What will my benefits package include, and how do I enroll?” to “What is my boss’ name?” The more of these questions you can answer ahead of time, the less confusion there will be on day one.
Pro tip: Share essential resources like benefits guides, an employee directory, and information about company culture through a new-hire onboarding microsite. Onboarding microsites are centralized, one-stop portals providing all the information a new hire needs to start strong.
A Week Before the Start Date: Share Welcome Videos
The most common question among new hires: “What will my coworkers be like?” The pre-boarding period, before new hires get bogged down in orientation, is the perfect opportunity to introduce the team. You can have team members record short videos and share them via email and/or the onboarding portal.
Pro tip: Consider matching each new hire with an “onboarding buddy” who can answer questions from an employee’s perspective (such as, “What should I wear on a Zoom call?” and “Where does everyone hang out after work?”).
A Few Days Before the Start Date: Get the New Hire Set Up with Technology
This is a critical step if the new hire is working remotely. But, even if the job is on site, getting IT issues out of the way early will help make for a more focused first day.
Pro tip: Include a technology and software section on your onboarding microsite. From there, employees can download essential software, find how-to videos, and schedule meetings with IT personnel.
The First Day
New hires who’ve gone through comprehensive pre-boarding (such as the steps outlined above) should arrive on their first day with very few questions. Still, there is plenty of onboarding to accomplish on day one.
The First Half of the Day: Welcome and Orientation
Formal orientation allows new hires to learn about company policies, review the benefits-enrollment process, and meet HR personnel.
Pro tip: Try not to overload your new hires with long-winded presentations and stacks of documents. If you have an onboarding microsite, emphasize that, should your new hires feel overwhelmed, they can always review the information online at their own pace.
Mid-Day: Lunch with the Team
With the administrative necessities out of the way, it’s time for new hires to meet the team. A group lunch is a low-stress way for new hires to meet their colleagues before getting down to the serious business of learning their roles.
Pro tip: Remote teams can still enjoy lunch together, but eating over video can be a bit awkward. Try meeting up in a virtual chat room instead.
The Rest of the Day: Training and Getting Started
By now, your new hires have set up their workspaces (in person or remote), met the team, filled out all their HR documents, and learned about the company. There’s nothing left to do but to get to work.
Pro tip: Managers should set clear expectations for new employees with specific goals within reasonable timeframes. Document these expectations in writing and review them with new hires on their first work day.
When Is Onboarding Complete?
If you’ve followed the onboarding timeline outlined above, you’ve set up your new hires for success and satisfaction at your company. But proper onboarding is a process, not a one-time event.
Many companies make it a point to check in with employees regularly during the first few months, or even the first year, of employment. These regular check-ins help ensure everything is on track and catch problems before they become too big to manage.
Pro tip: On your new hire’s first day of work, agree to a schedule of short check-ins at regular intervals, such as after the first month, after six months, and at the end of the first year.