Onboarding isn’t simply another way to say orientation or training. It’s a key part of our people flywheel with both hard and soft benefits for organizations. Hard benefits include increased productivity and retention, while soft benefits include improved workplace culture and engagement.

Statistically, effective onboarding makes “cents.” The costs associated with finding, hiring, and onboarding a new employee include advertising, interviewing and screening time, onboarding and training time, lower productivity and customer service while they ramp up, as well as impacts on employee morale when someone leaves.

And the statistics are startling:

Onboarding sets the stage for every future employee’s experience with a company, and providing new employees with context is a key success factor throughout the onboarding experience. Two people are key for making this happen in a timely and organized way.

First, the employee’s immediate manager is responsible for championing, customizing, and ensuring that all the necessary steps of onboarding happen in a timely way. And second, every new employee needs an onboarding buddy, a friendly and compassionate representative from the company who feels comfortable answering random questions and making introductions.


What to Do Prior to the Formal Start Date

For maximum success, onboarding should include a regular cadence of communications from the moment an offer is signed. Leaving a job can be hard, so experiencing a warm welcome into a new company at the same time someone is leaving their previous company can help reinforce that they’ve made a great career decision. And, they’ll be able to transition into their new work more quickly as they’ve already gained a feel for the people, and the company culture and values prior to their arrival.

  • Introductions: The hiring contact should send an initial email/message that introduces the new employee to their manager and their buddy. The manager can then share helpful information about dress codes, hours, team events, and lunch traditions, and explain what will happen on the first day including a schedule of their meetings. Similarly, the buddy can then become the new employee’s first work friend who can answer casual questions and participate in conversation before their start date. In return, the new employee can be asked to share a few hobbies and interests that can be communicated with the rest of the current team.
  • Social events: Invite new employees to participate in any social events taking place prior to their start date, such as live or virtual Thirsty Thursdays.
  • Physical space: If the new employee will work in a physical office, ensure their desk, computer and tech supplies, and door passes are set up and working prior to arrival. And, prepare an updated seating chart with the name and photo of every employee on their floor, as well as other floors where they may need to work. If they’ll be working virtually, send them a personalized package of supplies specific to their needs.

Don’t forget your current team. Send a message to the entire team to introduce them to their new colleague. Share a few personal details such as favourite hobbies or TV shows so those with common interests can connect more quickly.


What to Do During the First Week

  • Meet & greet: On the first day, the new employee’s buddy should schedule time to take the new employee around the office for a casual meet and greet. Include everyone, not just the people who will work most closely with them. This walk should also include showing them where all the facilities are such as the lunch room, restroom, supply closet, meditation room, and any lesser used or hidden places. For a remote first day, set up a video meeting during which each person can take a minute to introduce themselves. The purpose is not to create a name memory game, but rather to allow everyone to welcome the new employee in a personal way.
  • Formal welcome: Though executives may not work directly with every new employee, at least one senior executive should make the time to meet and greet each new employee on their first day. Ten minutes will go far to help new team members get a feel for the company culture and know that they are a valued member of their new team.
  • Human Resources: Set up a meeting with the human resources team to share expectations around time sheets, payroll, bonuses, hours, sick leave, benefits, fitness allowances, etc.
  • Lunch: Especially for quiet people, figuring out how to handle lunch on the first day can be stressful. Managers can make things easier by letting new employees know they will take their lunch together whether in the common lunchroom, at a restaurant, or as part of an online video group chat.
  • Task list: Managers should provide a detailed checklist with a rough timeline of all the tasks new employees will be asked to complete during their onboarding days and weeks. Not only will this help both of you ensure that all the essential components are being covered, it will also give you the opportunity to formally recognize their progress and motivate them to keep going.
  • Roles: Managers should discuss the new employee’s role and responsibilities, who their team members are, and the roles of other employees and teams they will be interacting with.
  • Clients: New employees need in-depth knowledge about their clients – the type of people they are, how they work, the business they’re in, their projects. Where appropriate, managers should schedule time to formally introduce new employees to their clients to ease the transition period for both.
  • Training: Managers should discuss any training that will take place including context, scheduling, any self-study requirements, why that training is important, and when it will take place. This training could include job-specific skills as well as proprietary tools, technology, health and safety, wellness, diversity and inclusion, and more.


What to Do During Subsequent Weeks

While week one laid out the plan for onboarding, subsequent weeks are important for actioning that plan. This is when much of the more detailed training will take place. In addition, be sure to schedule time for new employees to meet and gather more detailed information about the company from various teams.

  • Champion onboarding: Managers should continue to monitor training progress to ensure each necessary step happens in a timely fashion.
  • Meet an executive: Arrange a lunch with at least one of the senior executives.
  • Company history: Share more personal details about the mission, purpose, and values of the company, and where those originated. This has become one of the most popular components of SW&A’s onboarding process.
  • Departments: Identify a key person in each department to show them the work they do, as well as when and how new employees might want to interact with them.


What to Do When Onboarding is Complete

Once onboarding is complete, managers should gather feedback from the new employee, as well as others involved in the process, so that future onboarding experiences can be improved. Any weak or insufficient components should be improved, and any missing components should be templated and added to the process.

In the end, your goal as a new employee’s manager is to make the transition period as helpful, easy, and welcoming as possible. By following these steps, you’ll be certain to increase productivity, retention, and engagement. It will make “cents” for you!