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The Importance of an Employee Onboarding Process

  • HCM
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 03/29/2024

a manager walking her new hire through the employee onboarding process

Table of Contents

Implementing a formal onboarding process is a key part of enhancing employee retention and productivity. Onboarding can help new hires adjust to their jobs more quickly, acquire many of the skills and the knowledge needed to contribute to the organization, and get up to speed on the social and performance elements of their new positions. Read on to learn more about the importance of onboarding and what it takes to implement a solid employee onboarding process at your business.

The First Six Months: Establishing a Formal Employee Onboarding Process

The first six months can be critical for a new employee as they form impressions that can impact retention and performance. Establishing a clear, formal onboarding process can set each new employee up for success by helping them navigate the company environment and understand what it takes to succeed in their new position. A formal onboarding and orientation process may include written materials, orientation courses and presentations from HR and managers, meetings with internal stakeholders, shadowing and training, and ongoing mentorship.

Why Is Onboarding Important?

In a competitive hiring landscape, it's important to take steps to make a great first impression and focus on how the business welcomes new hires. From the time an offer is extended until the day the new hire becomes fully productive, the employee onboarding experience can lay the foundation for long-term success.

Here's a closer look at some reasons why having a formal employee onboarding process is important.

Helps Communicate Cultural Norms

Each business has its own organizational culture. The earlier an employee understands what is expected of them and what it takes to succeed within the organization, the more likely they are to become a productive and satisfied employee. Communicating cultural norms can include sharing written, formal policies, and explaining why they are important and how they're enforced. It may also involve explaining the organizational structure, outlining internal processes and communications protocols, and ensuring that the employee understands what steps they can take to approach specific challenges. Finally, successful onboarding also requires communicating the intangible factors of the work environment.

Shortens the Time to Productivity

Conventional wisdom suggests that it takes weeks or months for an employee to get up to speed in a new position. But thorough onboarding programs can drastically reduce the time to productivity. One of the most important aspects of this is communicating the responsibilities of the position, the expectations and metrics for success, the reporting lines, and processes associated with the position. One-on-one time with the employee's manager to answer questions can help the employee understand their role as part of the big picture, and providing necessary training can also help increase productivity earlier in employment. Spending time explaining team dynamics, team processes, and norms of communication is another way to underscore employee success.

Fulfills Brand Promise and Differentiation

Your onboarding process should help give employees the tools and knowledge needed to represent the business. Best practices would include communicating these values and unique selling points. Provide clear examples of how each position would represent these values as part of their role, from a vice president of sales interacting with key clients to an assistant representing the brand on the phone. Finally, site visits or themed presentations that show successful examples of company branding can reinforce these points.

Supports Training, Development, and Performance

As your company develops an onboarding program, it should include both standardized components and specialized adaptations for individual employees and positions. Your onboarding process should have the flexibility to provide specialized training to help each employee succeed in their specific position. In addition, consider building in support that provides a development plan incorporating mentorship, future training opportunities, and growth assignments.

48% of new hires describe their post-onboarding training as somewhat inadequate, and a further 11% say it was significantly inadequate.1 By using employee feedback from their onboarding experience, managers, mentors, and HR staff can then create a specific post-onboarding plan and ensure consistent communication that may help employees grow.

Reduces New Employee Turnover

With quit rates reaching record levels, many businesses continue to struggle to provide a positive employee experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that the nationwide quit rate was 2.6 percent or about 4 million individuals in February 2023, one of the highest rates since 2000 when BLS first collected this data. Nearly 3 in 10 new hires who are unhappy with their onboarding experience plan to begin the job hunt again within just three months.1

These statistics support the idea that the risk of employee turnover can be present even during a new hire's first days and months. Many HR leaders understand this and have identified the importance of having a new-hire onboarding process. According to the 2022 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, 35 percent of HR leaders said focusing on the onboarding process to help new hires feel engaged and be productive as soon as possible works best when it comes to fostering overall employee engagement.

Acclimates New Hires

Part of a successful onboarding process includes providing new hires with information about your industry, business history, and big-picture strategy. They should also become acclimated to your culture, values, and the people they'll be working with. As part of this introduction process, allow employees to reflect on their own background, values and strengths, and career aspirations. Then empower them to contribute to their role and place in the company, identify potential growth opportunities, and provide them with the resources and information they need to be successful.

Encourages Employee Engagement

Taking a concerted approach to acclimating new hires also aids in employee engagement. Consider establishing onboarding programs that account for factors such as the unique ways each new hire may like to learn. Successful onboarding programs embrace a variety of learning methods and resources (video, interactive elements, webinars, apps, animation, etc.) that promote greater interest and engagement. Shadowing team members or establishing mentoring programs can also offer real-life information that you can't capture in new-hire materials. When new employees can take what they've learned and apply it to the actual workspace, it increases their sense of comfort and builds confidence in their ability to contribute to a new work environment.

Assists With Recruiting

A positive onboarding experience can increase word of mouth to future candidates and boost an employer’s reputation as a great place to work. During onboarding, allocate time for new hires to begin forming a solid relationship with their manager, create opportunities for new hires to meet colleagues from around the business, and build on the interactions they had during the recruiting process.

Begin or Improve Your Employee Onboarding Process Today

When you take the time to recruit and hire high-quality talent, it's important that you also acclimate them to their jobs and the business in engaging and effective ways. Learn more about how you can streamline the onboarding process to help new hires get up and running more efficiently with Paychex.

12024 Pulse of HR: The Future of First Impressions


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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