The expert guide to employee onboarding in 6 steps

A quick summary:

Onboarding new employees can make or break how somebody performs in the long term at your company. As they say, first impressions can only be made once.

it's clear that a proper onboarding process, which caters for the needs of the employee while giving them all the information you need them to know, is vital for any business. And as most seasoned HR professionals know, onboarding and retention go hand-in-hand.  

Below, we’ve compiled a short 6 step expert guide to employee onboarding, from making memorable impressions, communicating effectively, and building a sense of team from the very first day for a new starter.

It’s in these 6 steps where HR professionals can take back control, and steer the sailing ship of recruitment and employee retention into the shimmering horizon.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to onboarding. Every company has its own characteristics and culture; some of these ideas might fit the bill, others simply won’t. 

Communicate before their first day

Have you ever started a new job and felt totally uneasy about starting your first day? Well, of course, this is normal. 

However, that’s only because companies lack communication prior to an employee's start day. This silent treatment often fills people with worry about starting a new job, when it can be completely avoidable. 

Whether it’s a quick email to introduce yourself, or a quick video call to discuss the itinerary of their first day, it doesn’t take much to build relationships and improve your employee onboarding.  

Quick tip: Provide your new employee with some reading materials prior to them joining the team, this way, you can build rapport over something you both have in common.

Memorable Impressions 

Second on our list to improve your employee onboarding process for employee retention strategies is making a memorable impression. 

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but smile! It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to make a meaningful and memorable first impression.

Alternatively, there are a few other ways to make a memorable impression. Firstly, have everything your new employee could possibly need to have the best first day; ID cards, login details, desk essentials etc. 

Why not go the extra mile and get the whole team to chip in for a small welcome card and gift? Perhaps bizarre, but it’s these small acts and gestures that make the difference between an okay impression, and an unforgettable one. 

For example, the social media application Buffer, has a “three-buddy system” by which new hires are introduced to three colleagues prior to their first day. 

These three include a ‘leader buddy’, ‘role buddy’ and ‘culture buddy’. These colleagues will make regular check-ins with the new starter before day one. 
While more elaborate than most companies, it’s an onboarding process that makes all the difference to employee retention. 

Include the whole team

It’s always a little daunting entering an office (or video call if you’re onboarding remotely) and seeing so many unfamiliar faces. 

In most cases, people are just too busy to properly introduce themselves and have a conversation with new starters. 

However, any onboarding process should include meeting the whole team, and as a HR leader it’s your responsibility to make this happen. 

Without introductions to other team members, it’s likely employees will remain uncomfortable and lack of communication will become apparent amongst your team as it grows. 

This particular step will help you build relationships between your new starter and the rest of the team. It will also help them settle in much quicker than they would if they weren’t formally introduced to everyone. 

You may be thinking “Yes, but they’ll eventually meet or chat with one another while making a coffee or something”.

However, you’ll be surprised how little interaction can have a lasting impact on the communication amongst your team - so start off on the right foot!

If you’re looking to transform your employee retention rate through a better employee onboard process consider this… 

Build a small team of team members from each department. Use this 3, 4, 5 or however-many-person team as your onboarding group. 

This way, new employees will have the opportunity to meet a wide range of people from different departments. 

Even better still, if they are senior-level employees, new starters will have a point of contact if they ever need to discuss marketing, sales, or design.

Make organisational culture clear from the beginning

It’s hard to settle in if your new employees don’t know what to expect from the culture you’re bringing them into. 

This isn’t to say you should hand them a 300-page policy handbook, outlining strict dos and don’ts, but you should make them clear on the company culture from the get-go. 

Referring back to a point made previously, one of the best ways to do this is by introducing the entire team and the different departments. 

If anyone can showcase the current company culture, it’s existing employees. Let them carry out meetings and do the talking, and your new starter will soon get a feel for the environment they’re joining. 

One of the reasons you should also make company culture clear from the beginning is to avoid any misunderstanding or confusion around some of the policies your company has. 

For example, if you have a remote work policy, some employees may not adhere if they’re unaware of what’s expected from them. This is usually in the form of working times and taking breaks. Some employees may believe they can work unusual hours, or take too much time away from their duties if they aren’t aware of expectations. 

Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more on the culture and expectations of your new employees. 

As you’ve offered the position, it isn’t likely you’ve hired the wrong person, but potentially, you’ve not communicated the kind of culture your company upholds that could steer them away early on in the probation period. 

Remember, be transparent and honest about your company culture, because eventually new employees will get a feel for the culture, and it’s then that they will decide whether it’s a match or not.

Don’t expect too much from new employees

While we talk a lot about making organisational culture clear, we should highlight one thing in particular when doing this… 

Don’t set expectations too high - this is a recipe for disaster for two reasons. Firstly, you’ll drive dissatisfaction, and a sense of failure early on in your new employees. Not because they aren’t capable in their role, but we’re all prone to mistakes and problems when we’re learning or trying anything new. 

Secondly, and as touched on above, people generally do not hit the ground running from the beginning.  And so, by giving new team members the space to learn, practice and thrive is the best way to onboard employees. 

Ultimately, this is about being empathetic and understanding of how people feel in their first couple of weeks. 

This also leads us on to our next point about understanding the stress, anxiety, and nervousness of new hires…

Understand the stress, anxiety, and nervousness of new hires

Finally, as an empathetic HR leader, you must recognise that any new starter will be experiencing stress, anxiety and nervousness about their first day, and week. 

It’s critical that, as part of your onboarding process that you welcome new employees with as much support as possible. 

In fact, just under 17.5% of employees leave their jobs after the first month. This is such a large statistic considering the vast amount of time and resources that go into hiring an applicant. 

Of course, this can be due to a wide range of factors, but we must be considerate of the emotional wellbeing of new employees, so as not to drive them away. 

Ensuring employees aren’t feeling the stress, anxiety and nervousness of a new job starts with all the points above, along with simply asking “How’s your day going?” It may sound unnecessary or pointless, but it can go a long way, especially with new employees. 

Incorporate this into your employee onboarding process, and you’ll be sure to make the right impression on new team members.

How can Heka help with employee retention? 

As you’ve seen from the above, employee retention starts with employee onboarding. With so many people leaving new jobs in the first week (16.45%) or month (17.5%), it’s important to build a robust onboarding process. 

After all, no HR leader wants to hire an amazingly talented person, just to see them leave once they’re introduced to the company culture, or left with a bad first impression. 

Business is built by people, so employee retention should be at the forefront of any onboarding process. 

Here’s at Heka, we provide thousands of employees throughout the UK. with access to health, fitness and wellbeing benefits. 

This includes on-site and virtual experiences, products delivered straight to your door and services for the likes of life coaching, therapy sessions and nutrition consultations. 

There’s something for everyone and anyone in your team, and we pride ourselves on helping businesses create healthier, happier teams. 

If you’d like to find out more about our employee benefits platform, take a look around. Alternatively, to speak to one of our wellbeing experts, simply book a demo today!