How to Create a Successful Onboarding Program

Why is a successful onboarding program important?

Onboarding is an essential ingredient of a successful, longevous employment. It is also a key touchpoint of the employee experience (EX). The purpose of onboarding is to introduce a new starter into an organisation, acclimate them to the work environment and socialise them into the team.

The first few weeks of employment are critical. In fact, 22% of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment,[1] so a good onboarding experience is needed to ensure the employer-employee relationship gets off to a good start.

If a new starter is properly onboarded, they are more likely to contribute long-term to the growth of the business. However, if they have a poor onboarding experience, they are likely to leave prematurely, which will cost the organisation time and resources. After all, a poor hire can cost a business in many more ways than just financially.

What your onboarding journey should be providing

Below is what your onboarding program should be providing new starters.

1. Job clarity

An onboarding journey should provide information about pay and benefits and reviewing company rules and procedures, but it should also highlight the expectations around the role. It’s an opportunity to outline expectations, establish milestones and set goals for new employees – even if these are only short-term goals such as completing an eLearning course. New hires also want to see a path for progression.

2. Structure

Onboarding should provide a roadmap for future success in the organisation. That roadmap starts from day one on the job by providing a logical, relevant and personalised onboarding process. Participants will want to know what the onboarding process looks like, and may ask:

  • How long is the onboarding process? (Depending on role complexity, this can range from a couple of days to several weeks.)
  • What training is included and how will this be done – in-person, online or a mix?
  • How will progress be tracked? Will formal and informal “check-ins” be done with management or HR?
  • What other team members are involved in onboarding (e.g. other department heads, HR and learning team members, etc.)?

Rather than an ad-hoc approach, which may include too many elements (resulting in confusion and information overload) or too few elements (resulting in knowledge gaps for key information), a structured onboarding process standardises what every new employee goes through. It will also allow for some degree of personalisation, factoring in unique elements of the role.

3. A taste of culture

By making the onboarding process as personal as possible, new employees will not only understand what the company culture is, but how to thrive in it. If culture is broadly defined as “the way things are done around here” there’s no better way to introduce a culture to a new employee than to assign a mentor to them.

According to the Korn Ferry Futurestep survey,[2] 67% of surveyed executives believe a mentor program for new hires would help them acclimatise, yet just 23% of organisations have such a program in place. A mentor can ease the inevitable awkwardness a new employee will feel in their first days and weeks on the job and provide access to their existing network and social circles, providing a support network for the new employee moving forward.

4. Compliance

Sure, it’s not sexy, but compliance is what keeps organisations and individuals out of trouble. Costly fines and reputational damage can flow from non-compliance, so it’s best to establish from day one how seriously your organisation takes its compliance obligations. Establish if your new employee needs training – or make it mandatory to do baseline compliance training – and know ahead of time if their role requires anything above and beyond the norm. An automated onboarding process can also ensure relevant documentation and information is sent to government and regulatory bodies.

5. Learning

In terms of skills and knowledge, there’s a lot to learn in a new role and it must be covered quickly – for example, rules, regulations, compliance issues, new technical skills, new soft skills (better known as ‘essential’ or ‘human’ skills), etc. It can be overwhelming, so have a structured learning process in place. Below are some tips:

  • Break down the content into digestible chunks
  • Start with the basics that everyone needs to master
  • Emphasise what’s critical to their success, so they know where to focus
  • Repeat key points constantly, as people will forget
  • Provide a written plan, so they can see a beginning and an end, and help them understand exactly what’s being covered and how everything is tied together

6. The right tools

We get it – everyone is busy. But there’s nothing that says “we don’t care about you, you’re an afterthought” than not having the right tools and equipment for a new hire on their first day. From providing computers and laptops and other tools of the trade, ensuring they have security access badges, through to adding their details to email lists, a simple checklist should ensure that everything they need to do their job is in place. And that includes a desk!

How to create a successful onboarding program

Creating a successful onboarding program takes time but is essential for engaging new hires. Below are a few things you should consider when putting together your onboarding program.

  • Create a clear plan

Start by developing a well-thought-out plan of what needs to be done to make a new hire feel welcome in your company. A good way to do this is to map out all the tasks that need to be completed (including preboarding, probation check-ins, etc.), organising them into digestible chunks (to avoid information overload), and creating a step-by-step plan for managers and new starters to follow.

Download: ELMO’s 4-step preboarding checklist.

  • Extend the learning window

Everyone learns at different paces and starting a new job can be an intimidating experience. To make your employee feel welcome and eager about their new role, allow some time for them to get up to speed. Removing time pressure will help them to focus on learning about their role properly, meaning they will reach full productivity quicker.

  • Provide early career support

Whether it’s setting up a mentor system or offering online learning, supporting a new hire can have long-term benefits. It shows that you are invested in their individual progress and achievements. By encouraging them along their career path, you greatly reduce the risk of a new hire leaving the company prematurely.

  • Orientation

Providing an engaging and informative orientation to your company is essential when it comes to retaining new hires. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce them to your culture and educate them on how the company operates. It also is a great way to introduce them to their team and let them start building up a social network within the company.

By creating a strong onboarding program and quickly initiating your new hires into your company, you not only welcome them and make them feel comfortable, you also provide incentives for them to invest in the company and become productive and engaged employees.

ELMO Onboarding helps you easily build great pre-boarding & employee onboarding experiences that eliminate paperwork, while improving the employee experience and productivity from day one.

ELMO Software (ASX:ELO) is a cloud-based solution that helps thousands of organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to effectively manage their people, process and pay. ELMO solutions span the entire employee lifecycle from ‘hire to retire’. They can be used together or stand-alone, and are configurable according to an organisation’s unique processes and workflows. Automate and streamline your operations to reduce costs, increase efficiency and bolster productivity. For further information, contact us.

[1] “Help New Employees Succeed: Beat the Statistics”, SHRM Presentation by The Wynhurst Group, 2017

[2] Korn Ferry Futurestep Survey: “90 Percent of Executives Say New Hire Retention an Issue”

Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.
Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.