Boost retention and productivity: 8 tips to improve your onboarding process

Discover powerful tips and techniques to enhance your onboarding process, leading to increased employee retention rates and improved productivity within the organization.

Inês Pinto

Boost retention and productivity: 8 tips to improve your onboarding process

Table of contents

Effective onboarding is the cornerstone of a successful and sustainable talent retention strategy. It goes beyond providing new hires with a desk and a list of dos and don'ts. A well-designed onboarding process nurtures a positive and lasting impression on new employees, setting the stage for enhanced productivity, engagement, and loyalty within the organization.

In this article, we’ll explore the essential components of a top-notch onboarding experience and provide 8 actionable tips to elevate your onboarding process.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a welcoming and supportive environment that maximizes the potential of your new employees, reduces turnover, and cultivates

a culture of long-term success.

The importance of effective onboarding

An effective onboarding process is crucial for integrating new hires into the organization and setting them up for success in their roles.

Investing the time and resources into onboarding has numerous benefits:

✅ Helps new employees feel welcomed and valued. Starting a new job can be stressful and overwhelming. A thoughtful onboarding experience makes new hires feel supported, boosting engagement and morale from day one. Welcome gifts, meet-and-greets, and onboarding checklists demonstrate the company's commitment to the new employee.


✅ Facilitates faster productivity and engagement. Onboarding accelerates new hire proficiency by providing the tools, resources, and training needed to quickly get up to speed. A study found that when organizations have a standard onboarding process, new hires are 50% more productive. Rather than fumbling through their first weeks, new employees can dive into meaningful work sooner.

✅ Reduces employee turnover and associated costs. Onboarding and retention are directly linked. A study by the Brandon Hall Group found that a strong onboarding process improved new hire retention by 82%.

What a great onboarding experience looks like

A great onboarding experience starts before the employee's first day on the job. This is called preboarding. Advance communication and preparation are key to setting new hires up for success:

  • Send a welcome email with logistics, paperwork, and resources to review
  • Set up their workspace with equipment and access
  • Announce the new hire to existing team members to generate excitement.

This builds important connections and gets everyone ready for the new team member's arrival.  

Once onboarding begins, there are a few things you can do to create an effective and engaging experience:

  • Combine formal training with hands-on learning opportunities
  • Explain company policies and systems through presentations and manuals
  • Pair the new hire with a mentor who can answer questions and provide guidance. 
  • Make sure there's a clear roadmap that outlines the onboarding journey.
  • Provide access to knowledge bases, wikis, and other tools they need to find information themselves.

The onboarding experience should facilitate quick ramp-up to productivity while ensuring new hires feel supported.

8 Tips to improve the onboarding experience

We have 8 effective tips to help you improve your onboarding experience, ensuring that your new hires feel welcomed, supported, and equipped with the necessary tools to excel in their roles.

By implementing these strategies, you can boost retention rates, cultivate a positive work environment, and increase overall productivity across your organization.

1. Start the onboarding process early

A good onboarding program begins with preboarding. One important way to kick off onboarding early is to send new hires a welcome email as soon as they accept the job offer. This email should cover key details like start time, parking information, dress code, and who to ask for when they arrive. Attach or link to any forms they need to complete ahead of time. 

Also provide an overview of what to expect on their first day and week. Giving new hires insight into the onboarding agenda and schedule will help them feel more prepared and at ease. Share links to any resources they can review in advance, like the employee handbook, organizational chart, or product information.

In addition to a welcome email, take time to ensure your new employee's workspace is fully set up before their start date. Make sure they have a working computer and login credentials, a clean desk area with supplies, and any job-specific tools or equipment in place. Having their workstation ready to go on day one contributes to a smooth transition. 

Finally, announce the new hire to the team in advance to generate excitement. Send an email introducing the new employee with some background on their experience. Or consider scheduling a virtual welcome party via video conference so they can meet some teammates early on. Getting a head start on introductions and relationship building will help the new hire feel welcomed right away.

2. Plan an engaging first day

The first day is critical for setting the tone and getting new hires excited about their new role. A thoughtful orientation agenda is key to making a great first impression.

Start by clearly communicating company culture, values, and expectations:

  • Devote time to explaining the organization's purpose, mission, history, and competitive advantage
  • Highlight what makes your workplace special and share any traditions that define your working culture
  • Clarify responsibilities, workplace norms, and performance standards

Next, introduce key team members and stakeholders from across the organization. This helps put names to faces and provides an overview of each person's role. Consider organizing creative icebreakers or team-building activities to help spark connections between your new hire and their new teammates. 

Finally, map out the broader onboarding journey:

  • Provide an overview of the training program, milestones, and resources that will set new hires up for success in their first few months
  • Ensure they understand who to reach out to for help and how to track progress
  • Leave them energized and equipped to start their new roles

With an engaging orientation agenda focused on culture, connections, and the road ahead, new hires will start off on the right foot.

3. Assign a peer mentor or buddy

Assigning a peer mentor or buddy to new hires is a great way to help them feel supported and build connections during onboarding. Select an experienced employee who can serve as a go-to resource to answer questions, provide guidance, and facilitate knowledge sharing.  

The mentor should check in regularly with the new hire, especially during the first few weeks, to see if the new hires have any questions or need help navigating processes.

Having a peer mentor gives new hires someone to turn to beyond their direct manager. The mentor can walk them through day-to-day activities, introduce them to key contacts, and share institutional knowledge. This facilitates a faster ramp-up and helps new employees avoid feeling lost or overwhelmed.

The mentor also helps the new hire expand their network across the organization. They can connect them with colleagues in other departments for job shadowing, cross-training, or social events. Building connections across the company is key for engagement, culture fit, and long-term retention. 

4. Curate a comprehensive resource library

Having an onboarding resource library means giving your new hires a go-to reference for policies, procedures, training materials, and points of contact. This centralized repository ensures employees can easily find the information they need without getting lost in company servers or guessing where to look.

The library should include:

📖 Employee handbook: This outlines company policies, code of conduct, benefits, time off procedures, and more. Ensure the handbook is up to date.

💼 Department/team overview: Provide org charts, team mandates, and key stakeholder lists. Help new hires understand how their role connects with the wider organization.

📄 Process documentation: Document step-by-step instructions for key systems, tools, and workflows. Include screenshots and videos where helpful.

🎓 Training materials: Compile useful presentations, manuals, e-learning courses, and job aids that support skill development.

📎 Forms and templates: Samples of properly formatted documents new employees may need to complete.

💻 IT setup guides: Instructions for setting up hardware, email, network access, and standard tools.

📱 Contact lists: Include details for support resources like IT, HR, facilities, and subject matter experts.

Having all critical information in one place reduces redundancy and frustration for new hires. It also enables consistency as all employees access the same centralized resources. Maintain the library up to date by adding new materials and archiving outdated ones.

5. Educate managers on their role

Managers play a critical role in ensuring a positive onboarding experience for new employees. However, managers often don't receive formal training on how to effectively onboard new team members.

Here are some best practices for educating managers:

→ Set clear expectations for manager involvement

Managers should understand their responsibilities in the onboarding process, like conducting regular check-ins, providing feedback, and facilitating introductions. Make it clear that onboarding is a priority, not an afterthought.

→ Provide training on effective onboarding practices

Offer workshops or resources to teach managers best practices for welcoming new hires, making them feel included, assigning meaningful work, and setting them up for success. Cover things like providing context, giving constructive feedback, and being accessible. 

→ Encourage regular 1:1s and feedback sessions

Managers shouldn't just wait for scheduled reviews to provide feedback. Frequent, informal check-ins allow managers to assess how things are going, offer guidance, and develop the relationship. New hires need feedback to quickly ramp up.

6. Facilitate meaningful connections

Onboarding is not just about training and information transfer – it's also crucial to help new employees build meaningful connections within the organization. Facilitating opportunities for team building, collaboration, and relationship development can dramatically improve engagement, productivity, and retention.

Here are a few ways to get that started:

  • Schedule team-building activities like lunches, happy hours, or outings for the new hire to get to know their coworkers in an informal setting. These social events allow connections to form more naturally through casual conversation. Consider including spouses or partners for some of these events to make your new hire's family feel welcomed too.  

  • Set up cross-functional introductions by organizing job shadowing days, allowing the new employee to learn roles similar to and connected with their own. Schedule coffee chats for them to meet stakeholders in other departments. This cross-pollination builds understanding of the broader organization and how each role contributes to success.

  • Encourage collaboration by assigning group projects, brainstorms, or presentations that allow the new hire to work closely with team members. Facilitate knowledge sharing by having them document processes and best practices to share across the company. The more opportunities for meaningful cooperation, the faster they will feel like part of the team.

7. Offer hands-on learning opportunities

Rather than just having new employes sit through presentations and read manuals, give them chances to actively develop job-specific skills and make an impact right away:

→ Organize job shadowing opportunities so new employees can learn directly from more experienced team members. Let them observe day-to-day workflows and ask questions.

→ Develop onboarding training modules focused on the core skills needed for their specific role. Mix presentations with interactive exercises, activities, and simulations.

→ Assign new hires small, manageable projects to work on independently or collaboratively. Provide support and guidance, but let them take ownership.

→ Encourage brainstorming sessions where new employees can share innovative ideas and perspectives. Act on their input whenever possible.

→ Set clear goals and milestones for the initial training period. Define success metrics and check progress regularly.

→ Allow gradual ramp-up time for new hires to fully handle a full workload. This also helps prevent early burnout.

→ Celebrate wins and achievements, both big and small. Highlight specific contributions made by new team members.

8. Gather feedback and continuously improve 

Soliciting feedback from new employees during and after the onboarding process is one of the best ways to be able to continuously improve the experience for future hires.

Here are a few ways to check in with new employees and get valuable feedback:

1. Conduct pulse surveys after the first week, first month, and first 90 days to gather feedback on the new hire's experience. Ask pointed questions to understand what's going well and what could be better.

2. Host focus groups or one-on-one interviews at key milestones to get qualitative insights. Dig deeper into challenges and gather suggestions.

3. Encourage managers and mentors to regularly check in with new hires and surface any pain points or blockers. Empower them to make real-time improvements.

4. Leverage collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to create an open channel for giving anonymous feedback. Reduce barriers.

5. Track key onboarding metrics around productivity, engagement, and retention. Identify positive trends to replicate and negative patterns to address. 

6. Celebrate onboarding wins and share best practices across the organization. Publicize success stories to showcase value and build momentum.

7. Use insights gathered to iterate on every aspect of the onboarding journey - from pre-boarding communication to training programs and manager enablement. 

8. Continually refine and enhance the experience to meet the evolving needs of new hires. Onboarding should never be static.

By taking a feedback-driven approach and consistently improving, companies can ensure their onboarding process delivers maximum value over time. The best onboarding is a living program that adapts based on real experience.


Create a comprehensive onboarding experience with Oneteam

With Oneteam, you have an all-in-one platform to build a comprehensive onboarding program for your workforce.

  • Onboarding: With our Onboarding features, you can create micro-learning modules and test your new hires’ knowledge with quizzes. Plus, get the data you need to analyze completion rates and progress reports.

  • Surveys: Check in with your new employees with surveys that can be scheduled out or sent after a specific trigger (e.g., completing the onboarding training).

  • Forms and checklists: Get your new hires up to speed quickly with standardized forms and checklists such as incident reports, uniform requests, and more.

  • Doc management: Create a comprehensive knowledge base for your new hires by uploading all relevant files and documents into one unified platform that your employees can access right from their smartphones.
Inês Pinto

Inês Pinto

Inês is the Head of Content at Oneteam. She mainly writes about employee experience and other HR topics. Fun fact about Inês: she is originally from Portugal, grew up in Canada and the US, and now lives in the Netherlands with her husband and 3 daughters!

Stay ahead

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on blog posts around the topic of employee experience.