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8 ways to build the best employee onboarding experience
Hiring and Recruitment

8 ways to build the best employee onboarding experience

Pronoy Roy
February 16, 2024

Every organization has tumbled around the question, what does the best onboarding experience for employees actually comprises of?

Onboarding is the process by which a new employee is assimilated into the work culture, get’s the training required to do their task, and can function independently in the new atmosphere. Half of all hourly workers leave their job within the first 120 days and half of all senior outside hires fail within 18 months. When surveyed, organizations perceive employee onboarding experience as improving retention rates, time to productivity and overall customer satisfaction.

This is proof that onboarding is vital to the functioning of any organisation. Especially those that are growing rapidly.

So how does one go about making the employee onboarding process as smooth as possible while keeping the cost-to-company as low as possible? There are multiple solutions to this challenge. 

The first step is to perfecting an employee onboarding experience is to focus on the 4 Cs - Compliance, Clarification, Culture, and Connection. An explanation for each of these is below:

The 4Cs of the best employee onboarding experience

1. Compliance

It is standard procedure to share policies and compliance standards with newly hired employees. Employees have access to legal policies. All of this falls under the compliance category. This sets the tone for how the company functions and what the company culture may look like.

2. Clarification

Making sure that an employee understands their role in the company is very important and can impact the retention rates of the company. In a study applicants got a chance to receive a realistic job preview (RJP) before hiring them and as expected the applicants were more likely to reject the job offer. But, those who accepted the job, had a 50% lesser turnover rate. This is a very important step that companies should pay attention to.

3. Culture

Both informal and formal contexts are applicable to the word culture. This introduces the new hire to the present norms that people follow at the company. If there are certain practices that can confuse the new employee, it is best to get that cleared out during the onboarding process.

4. Connection

Introducing the new hire to the people they would be interacting with will help the employee feel more settled. This is also an important step for the current employees as they will be well-informed about the change and will be encouraged to help the new hire.

Types of employee onboarding programs

The 4 C’s form the basis of any good employee onboarding experience. Depending upon when and how these elements are implemented, the impact of onboarding varies. The Society of Human Resource Management has defined three levels of onboarding - Passive Onboarding, High Potential Onboarding, and Proactive Onboarding. Every company has adopted some form of onboarding that resembles these since most of them inherently make use of the 4 C’s. Following are the types of employee onboarding programs.

1. Passive onboarding program

This form of onboarding is level 1 of onboarding. Most firms have some form of compliance training or teaching. This is one ‘C’ that you can be sure exists in some form or other in a company. (unless they are illegal, in which case compliance is out the window). Partial role clarification is provided to the new hire but there is still some uncertainty about the employee’s role. 

Culture and Connection are completely ignored and this kind can be compared to teaching someone how to swim by throwing them in the water. The person may learn how to swim but it is a really harsh experience that can backfire very easily.

Must Read:
The Great Employee Onboarding of 2023

2. High potential onboarding program

This is level 2 of onboarding. This level is reached by defining the compliance and clarifying the role completely and formally. Although the first two are completely defined, only some of the culture and connection have been formally defined. Meeting these requirements is the basic definition of reaching level 2 for onboarding. 

The partial definition of culture and connection usually defines the formal aspects of the company like the procedure for breaks, responsibilities of team members etc. The study suggests that about 50% of all organisations are at a high potential onboarding level. This kind of process helps with the transitioning of employees into their new responsibilities by giving the new hire a point to start in the firm.

3. Proactive onboarding program

This is level 3 of onboarding and the final level of onboarding.  All the four C’s are formally addressed in this level of onboarding. This uses formal documentation that allows the new hire to get a good grasp of how the company functions. This uses a strategic approach along with Human Capital Management concepts. Only about 20% of all organisations are at this level.

There is another step to this which involves a check-in with the new employee. It’s the 30-60-90 day check-in where the senior employee has one-on-ones with the employee after the completion of one, two and three months with the firm.

Although this method uses a bit more time to get an employee settled in the company environment, it also reduces the turnover rate drastically. This allows for the employee to get settled better and feel welcomed in the company. In the swimming comparison, this would be the equivalent of taking swimming classes and having practice under supervision before you swim on your own.

Does this mean all firms should have a proactive onboarding approach? Not necessarily. Level 3 onboarding is only applicable when the integration of the new employee into the work culture is extremely vital to the success of the company. Of course, having all employees integrated into the environment can boost productivity, but the balance between the cost of increasing that productivity and the benefit of that productivity would have to be created.

So let’s talk about creating an employee onboarding experience that can best work for your company and contribute to creating a motivated and committed workforce. 

4. The onboarding checklist method

One of the most commonly used methods is the checklist method. As the name suggests, it relies on a checklist for virtual onboarding that gives a step-by-step onboarding process. Depending on how intensive the checklist is, the outcome of onboarding can vary.

The pros of this form of onboarding are:

  • You have a sense of certainty while following this procedure
  • Everyone involved in the onboarding process has an understanding of what steps are taking place.
  • It is easy to track how far the applicant is in the onboarding process.
  • It would be standardised for all which creates very few opportunities for confusion.

The cons of this form of onboarding are:

  • It can feel very impersonal since this process follows processes on paper.
  • The employee becomes uncertain because of the quantity of information deployed.
  • This system can resemble a school-like structure that can undermine the importance of the task.

5. The buddy system

Workplaces that require a lot of communication and have a unique culture, often use this method. In this method, the new hire is assigned a ‘buddy’ or a peer who is responsible for teaching all the informal norms of the office along with helping make connections across the board. This is a kind of mentorship program that concentrates on clarification, connection, and culture. 

This method helps give a quick overview of how the company functions but it also needs time so that the peers can form a connection. This can take varying times depending on the company culture and the compatibility of the peers.

There are many benefits to this system as it helps build trust within the company and create bonds that can reduce the turnover rate. It helps the new hire feel settled, safe and seen. 

Like every process, there are drawbacks to the buddy system as well. This process can take a lot of time to yield results. The time spent usually would require the buddy to shift away from pending work, reducing productivity for a while. If the two peers are not compatible, it can easily demoralize the new employee from working in the company and there is also a chance that compliance as an element is not entirely covered by the peer.

6. The 30-60-90 Observation

The 30-60-90 observation relies on the quality of feedback provided by the team that helps onboard the new employee. On completion of the initial steps, the observation period starts. The method depends on hands-on learning as well. On the 30th, 60th, and 90th day of work, the new employee will have the opportunity to give and receive feedback from and to the supervisor.  This allows for the employee to grow in a learning environment with the help of the supervisor. 

The feedback will help the employee to grow into the role while they feel safe to explore the many aspects of their role. There will be a lot of self-learning involved which can lead to very important findings in the job. It inspires innovation and develops hard-working individuals. Since this is an extremely intensive form of onboarding, the turnover rate may be very high with this process.

Now, to answer what the best employee onboarding experience looks like, I have created the 8-step employee onboarding process that covers all C’s and brings advantages from all the onboarding methods.

8 ways to build the best employee onboarding experience

1. Document of compliance

Create an official document of compliance. This will include all legal elements to consider as well as the policies of the company. One can reuse the sheet if there question about company policies or regulations.

2. Asset management

Each new employee is assigned assets like laptops and stationery. Making an inventory of all these assets before assigning them to the employee can be very beneficial to the company.

3. Contact information

Providing the contact information to all the people the employee would need to connect within their job would be an invaluable tool. This would allow the employee to find the right person at the right time during their entire career.

4. Mentorship

This process would involve assigning a person who does the same or a similar task to the new employee. Permitting the employees to get connected to the firm easily. This is the best way to impart company culture to the employee. It also helps improve leadership skills in the assigned employee which is always beneficial for a company.

5. Informal tour

An informal tour would be more than just showing them around the office and introducing people. This kind of tour would involve showing the common hang-out spots outside the office, showing where the best food is kept or where the air conditioning is best. My suggestion would be to ask the peer mentor to give this tour.

6. Initial report

Putting learning onto a paper is the best way to make sure that the learnt material sticks to a person. After the previous steps, asking for a report on what they have understood so far, what their questions are, what they believe their job profile is etc. is a phenomenal method to make sure that the employee is on the same page as the employer.

7. Feedback

I have combined these two steps since they happen simultaneously but have different goals. 30-60-90 day observation is the source for this step. The goal is to incorporate feedback into the onboarding process. After the end of 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, the employee will have the chance to give feedback as well as receive it from their supervisor.

8. JD writing

During this time, another exercise to follow would be to ask the employee to write their own job description. This will help the supervisor to analyse what the expected role of the employee is vs. the role that the employee is actually taking on. 

This concludes the 8-step employee onboarding process that takes into account all the 4 C’s of successful employee onboarding experience and uses the earlier mentioned methods to create the best onboarding experience for fresh hires.

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