Onboarding Best Practices for Building a Strong Workforce

A new hire's onboarding experience is critical, and should provide the training and knowledge they need to thrive in their position. Here are some ways to set new hires up for success.
onboarding new hires

Using onboarding best practices can be key in your efforts to retain new hires from their first day on the job. To be effective, onboarding should be viewed as a strategic process, designed to provide the training and knowledge a new employee needs to be successful in their position.

In fact, says Paychex HR generalist Jessica Totman, successful onboarding should start before day one.

"Start communicating with the employee as soon as possible on what to expect on the first day," she says. A preliminary email could include:

  • A warm welcome ("We're excited for your first day and the team looks forward to meeting you")
  • Where to go (company's address) and where to park, if the employee will be located at a job site
  • Who to ask for/who they will meet on the first day
  • A short description of what to expect in terms of paperwork, a tour of the workplace, introduction to team members, etc.

Many businesses supplement a pre-first-day email with a welcome package and onboarding schedule that may include branded company gear and in-depth materials about the company and its culture. It's also a good idea for the new hire's manager or another senior team member to reach out by phone or email and formally welcome them to the team. Armed with fresh knowledge, a new employee could more easily assimilate on his or her first day at work.

On day 1

On the first day, Jessica Totman says, a new email should be waiting for the employee, which includes information such as:

  • Congratulations and starter information ("We understand that starting at a new company can be an exciting and nervous experience, so we've included a few things to help get you started")
  • Electronic version of the employee handbook
  • Contact list of people and departments

"Something as simple as sending these types of emails can help make the new hire feel welcome and supported before they even make it through the first day," Totman says.

Understanding the big picture

In addition to all the required paperwork that must be completed, onboarding best practices may include communicating job responsibilities, expectations and metrics for success, and any processes associated with the position. The new employee's manager should take time to answer questions and help that employee understand their role in the big picture, and start the training process to help productivity early on in their employment.

Other big-picture elements to share with the new hire (not necessarily on day 1, but within the first week or so) may include:

  • Outline of internal processes
  • Copies of your employee newsletter
  • Links to your online training program

Training is key to help make new employees feel like they're part of the team. Set up individual sessions or modules, each with a specific goal, and the resources needed to complete them. Keep things as simple as possible. Don't bombard the new hire with lengthy text or in-house jargon they won't necessarily understand. Content rich in bullet points and graphics is much easier to absorb and comprehend.

Effective employee onboarding is more critical than ever, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that millions of people leave their jobs each month. It's in everyone's best interest for new employees to hit the ground running, with enthusiasm about their jobs and confidence that they're contributing from their first day on the job.

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