Human Resources

Ensuring New Hires' Success with Onboarding Best Practices

Imagine it's your first day at a new job. You arrive at an office where no one seems to expect you. After locating your workstation, you realize that no one has shown you how to log into your computer or even where the bathroom is located. You do not have a clear idea of what you are expected to do first in your new job. Your supervisor is nowhere to be found, and you are starting to question your decision to accept this position.

An organization never gets a second chance to make a first impression with its new hires. Onboarding can make or break a new hire's experience, and it should be designed to set up the new employee for success. While every organization conducts onboarding, the quality of the onboarding process can make all the difference when it comes to retaining employees. Investing in a high-quality employee onboarding process ensures that an organization is prepared for and committed to positioning its new hires for success in their new roles.

Onboarding should focus on integrating new employees into the organization while teaching them about the structure, culture, vision, mission, and values of the organization. Effective onboarding sets the new employees up for success and supports them throughout the first several months of employment. This article explores effective practices that program directors and supervisors can use to ensure a new hire's success and retention.

Effective employee onboarding ensures that new hires feel welcome, comfortable, and supported. This boosts their ability to be productive, engaged, and successful early on in their career. When employee success leads to satisfaction and retention, the organization can continue to meet its mission.

Positioning new hires for success takes preparation and continued support throughout the first several months and beyond. Onboarding goes further than orientation paperwork; it serves as a comprehensive process of engaging the employee.

Before the First Day

Goal: Create a welcoming work environment with informed colleagues and a fully equipped workspace.

Preparing for a new hire's start date is the first step. Make sure you and your team are ready and that the new hire has clear information on things like:

  • Arrival time
  • Meeting place
  • Attire
  • Documents or paperwork to bring
  • A brief overview of what to expect on the first day

Next, create an agenda for the employee's first week on the job. Schedule times for the new hire to meet with key staff members. Share the new hire's job description with staff members. Staff should share their own job description, how their roles interact with that of the new hire, and how they could work together in the future.

This is also a good time to assign a buddy, a fellow employee (other than the manager) who provides advice and guidance on the different aspects of working in the organization. This person should be committed to this aspect of the onboarding process and fully understand the organization's culture and environment.

Then, create a comfortable workstation for the new hire. The new hire's workstation should have all the tools needed to hit the ground running, such as a notepad, pens, computer, phone, keys, and business cards if applicable. This includes setting up voice mail and e-mail accounts. Ensure the staff handbook, organizational chart, staff list, and phone directory are accessible to the new hire.

Finally, make sure all administrative forms such as employment, direct deposit, and benefits are ready to be completed on day one during orientation.

To really impress someone on their first day, add any branded gear you can spare, such as a logo backpack, hat, T-shirt, or mug.

The First Day

Goal: The new hire feels welcome, is prepared to start working, and begins to understand the position and performance expectations.

Schedule a staff member, such as the assigned buddy, to greet the new hire and give an office tour. During the office tour, introduce the new employee to all staff members and point out areas where they may need access, including the copy machine, mail room, employee mailboxes, lunchroom, and restrooms.

New hires absorb a lot of information in a short amount of time, so they will likely have questions about these things later. Balance the first day's schedule between orientation, meetings, and less formal gatherings. Arrange for a group of staff members to treat the new hire to lunch on the first day, when possible.

Schedule a meeting with the employee's supervisor for the first afternoon. During this meeting, the supervisor should clarify the first week's schedule and confirm required and recommended training. In addition, the supervisor should provide an overview of the position and how it connects to the organization's purpose, structure, and goals. Explain key personnel policies and procedures (e.g., hours of work, vacation and sick time, holidays).

During the First Week

Goal: The new hire builds knowledge of internal processes and performance expectations, and they begin to feel settled into the new work environment.

After learning a good deal of information on the first day, the new hire shifts their focus during the first week to interactions with other staff members — primarily between the new staffer's supervisor and/or direct reports.

During the first week, the supervisor and new hire should meet to discuss desired management and communication styles. They should also talk about typical management processes, such as how decisions are made. This is also the time to agree on expectations and create a timeline for deliverables.

If the new hire has a supervisory role, ensure that they meet with any direct reports, one on one and as a group, within the first week. These meetings help make the team feel more connected, provide context and orientation toward the department/team, and allow the new hire to get a sense of each team member's work style.

It is also important for the new hire to interact with other staff that may not be on their immediate team. Schedule at least one meeting per day with staff members outside the employee's team or department. These meetings give the new hire a way to learn about the whole organization from many different perspectives and create new relationships with key staff members.

If it is appropriate for their role, ensure that the new hire meets with partners, funders, board members, or other constituents within the first month, preferably in person.

Three Months and Beyond

Goal: The employee is aware of how their performance compares to expectations, and they continue to develop, learn about the organization, and build relationships.

Throughout the first three months, look for opportunities to integrate new hires into work groups and the organization as a whole.

After 90 days, the new hire's supervisor should provide formal performance feedback and ask for feedback from the employee. Depending on the organization's culture and policies, this meeting could involve a representative of the human resources department. During this meeting, address any concerns and note accomplishments to instill confidence in all parties that the new hire is well-positioned for success in their role.

By the end of the first year, the new hire should be fully engaged in their new role and be acclimated to the environment, both functionally and socially. They should be able to apply skills and knowledge, make sound decisions, and contribute to the team's goals. They should also develop effective working relationships and have a strong understanding of the organization's mission and culture.

Finally, remember to build opportunities for feedback into the onboarding process. Encourage new hires to note any ideas that they have for improving the operations, strategy, or culture of the organization. The new hire may not feel comfortable sharing these suggestions immediately, but it's important that the organization be open to feedback from someone with fresh eyes. Allow employee onboarding to be an iterative process — one that evolves with your organization's growth.

These steps require an investment of time and resources, but it will pay enormous dividends to your organization for years to come.