What is onboarding, and how do you approach it properly?

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman

Onboarding is always a hot topic in HR land, and for a good reason. Onboarding is critical to employee engagement and the success of new hires. In the current labor market, finding and keeping the right employees for the right vacancy is a top priority, and the onboarding process is an essential part of that.

Onboarding goes beyond a quick introduction. It’s the red carpet you roll out for your new arrival.

Table of Contents

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is the term used to describe the process in which new employees get introduced and trained during their first weeks at a new job. The onboarding process is crucial for making new hires successful and engaged.

The literal meaning of onboarding is ‘to get on board’. As a brand new employee, you step on board with an employer you don’t know yet, and this can be both very exciting as well as uncomfortable.

That’s exactly why onboarding is so important. It ensures that as a newcomer, you quickly feel at home. It’s the opposite of just getting the job done quickly and practically.

Good onboarding consists of a structured program that spans several months to integrate the employee into the organization effectively. The new colleague must speak the same language, breathe the company vision, and know the way around the new working environment. And above all: the new recruit should feel very welcome and comfortable in the new work environment.

What does good employee onboarding consist of?

Including your new employee in the organization doesn’t happen overnight. What you need is to put together a balanced onboarding program. The 5 Cs of onboarding are a handy guideline for this.

1. Compliance

It may not sound very exciting, but there is some basic information every employee just needs to know. Inform the new hire about all essential rules and procedures that apply within the organization.

Safety instruction, submitting declarations, absenteeism guidance, you name it. Just make sure to share them in a digestible way. Preferably in bite-sized and interactive ways, like via microlearning.

2. Clarification

What are the expectations of the organization towards the employee? What does the position entail and what not, what are the basic requirements? Clarification is all about understanding mutual expectations.

It’s a two-way street. What future plans are there, what facilities and support can an employee count on?

3. Culture

Include the new colleague from the start in the mission, vision, and values of the organization. What goals are pursued, what is considered important and what are ‘our’ ways? Giving clarity about the ‘Why‘ of the company provides guidance and makes a smooth integration a lot easier.

Tip: Before someone starts at your organization, share a video via the employee onboarding app, in which you share everything about the history, mission, vision, and values.

4. Connection

We all realized it during the lockdown period: a good connection with colleagues is essential. It is precisely the informal contacts that make you genuinely feel part of an organization. With a social and collegial relationship, collaboration is much easier and more effective.

Help the new employee build their network, for example, introduce them to a go-to buddy for all their questions about the organization.

Tip: Take a look at the case study of H&M and hear how they ensure that all employees are involved in the organization through fun challenges and activities.

5. Check back

This fifth C is often forgotten when creating an onboarding program, but we think it is too important to skip. Don’t let go of your new employee too quickly. First, ask how they experienced the onboarding and whether they missed something.

You can do this by sending surveys and checking in every now and then. If there is a need for additional information or support, arrange it as soon as possible. Of course, you will then use the results of the check back as valuable feedback material for improving your onboarding program.

What are the essential onboarding documents?

There is no precise list of the information that must be covered in an onboarding program. That differs per organization and per individual needs of each role and employee. What is a piece of cake for one person is new or irrelevant to another.

Nevertheless, a few elements that should be included in every onboarding program are:

  • General information about the organization

Know where you work. History, business objectives, customer information, and an organizational chart: all helpful background information for every starter.

  • Contact List

Who are your colleagues, how can you reach them, and for what purposes? Also, don’t forget to mention the contact information of each location, work, and opening hours. You can easily integrate the contact list into your employee app, so that everyone always has the right information at hand.

  • Digital Information Pack

You can add various things to the digital information package, think of absenteeism procedure, pension scheme, salary scales, or job descriptions. As with everything else, categorize them carefully so that everything is easy to find.

  • Relevant learning packages  

Did you know that your employees want to develop themselves on-the-job? Therefore, it’s a great idea to offer them relevant e-learning or microlearning programs. This gives you an interactive, accessible, and fun way of developing your employees. A win-win situation is guaranteed!

  • Feedback documentation 

Various studies have shown that your employee likes to give feedback during onboarding. This way, you give your employee a voice, and they feel heard.

You can ask them one-on-one to give feedback, but the easiest way is to do this by sending out a survey. For example, consider implementing a structure where you share a survey to evaluate the onboarding after the first 30, 60, and 90 days of employment.

  • Standard documents

Think of registration forms for internal training programs, templates for social media posts, or service transfer forms in your house style: give them a clear place, ready for use.

Not so long ago, on the introduction day, a new employee was handed various books and piles of papers. Of course, there is nothing wrong with some nice promotional material, but it was not really practical. Usually, the book ended up staying at home, gathering dust in a drawer, so it was the information inside.

How nice is it that we are now so rich in digital opportunities! An onboarding app can be used independently of time and place; it is easy to adapt to individual needs, resulting in very insightful and valuable metrics.

Who is responsible for onboarding within the organization?

The answer to this question is simple: everyone! Onboarding is not, by definition, HR’s duty. Nor is it the manager’s solitary task to properly integrate the new employee into the organization. Onboarding is a combination of forces.

First impressions come in intensely at the start of a working relationship. Every department and every colleague has a vital role in giving the new employee a warm welcome. That not only applies to positive things, but the risk of an inappropriate comment or incorrect information is just as significant.

All colleagues must be aware of their role in onboarding because a good first impression is important for all parties.

Therefore, do not let the new employee lean back too much. Emphatically invite them to put forward their wishes and ask questions actively.

What does a good onboarding yield?

With good onboarding, your new employee will quickly become part of the organization and, therefore, be productive sooner. But above all, great onboarding means: committed employees. And this is very important, because the new generation of employees is looking for more than just a good salary.

Work atmosphere, professional development, and career opportunities have become crucial when choosing an employer, if not decisive. Job satisfaction grows when someone feels seen and valued.

Careful onboarding, therefore, makes an organization an attractive employer where people would like to stay longer. You keep knowledge in-house for longer and save on recruitment.

The next step to improve your onboarding process

Digitizing your onboarding process can not only make onboarding a lot easier but also more attractive.

Creating personalized onboarding programs, using gamification, and incorporating personal video messages from colleagues it’s all possible and makes your new employee’s journey much more fun, interactive and ensures that your employee is successful from day 1.

Are you curious to learn how this could look like for your organization? Read all about an employee app with onboarding component, and directly start making your new employees successful and engaged with Oneteam’s onboarding checklist.

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