Steps to building an onboarding process for new employees

October 2021

Many business owners have an ad-hoc onboarding process for new hires. As your company grows, it’s important to formalise the steps taken to introduce someone to the company.

The first day of a new job is always nerve-wracking but imagine this scenario.

You show up, but you don’t know where to park or the access code for the building. After waiting in reception for an hour, you’re handed an out-of-date welcome pack – then left alone for the rest of the day to plough through company paperwork.

The result? You’ll probably decide the company’s not for you and choose the other job you were offered.

Why is onboarding important?

First impressions matter.

A supportive and informative first day can help emotionally connect a new employee to your business; a disorganised one could be enough to convince them they made the wrong choice.

Providing people with the information and tools they need helps get them up to speed quicker, improving your return on investment.

Your onboarding process is an essential part of welcoming and retaining your employees. It should cover basic organisational aspects, like company policies and benefits. It should also give new employees a better sense of your company’s values and what the job entails.

Growing businesses need systems

While small business owners often welcome new hires personally, the need to formalise the approach increases as you grow; eventually you won’t be able to induct or even meet every new hire.

This article shares the best practices for onboarding new staff and the steps you can follow to engage new hires with your business.

Steps to include in your onboarding process

To develop a successful onboarding process, it’s a good idea to outline each of the actions you will take. Rather than writing “welcome new employee”, think about what this entails.

Identifying individual steps will keep your onboarding process consistent and establish best practice. This means that other people can pick up the process if you aren’t around.

Your onboarding plan should start at the hiring stage and cover your new employee’s first three months. Here’s a template to get you started.

Step 1: Onboard from the hiring stage

Most businesses will start thinking about onboarding when their employee walks through the door. But the hiring stage is the first impression your employee has of your company. There are a number of things you can do to make sure it’s a positive one.

  • Write a clear job description that outlines the responsibilities and skills needed for the role

  • Regularly communicate with candidates and try to be transparent about how long each stage of the process takes

  • When making an offer, call your candidate rather than email. It’s more personal and your enthusiasm will come across

  • Most new employees are anxious to learn about the people they will be working with before they start. An additional welcome message from their line manager or future colleague can help to foster relationships early on

Step 2: Get your employee set up in advance

The next step is to make sure your new employee is well-equipped for their first day. If you aren’t sure what your new employee will need, get one of their colleagues to walk you through their day. You might come across equipment or logins that you didn’t expect.

  • Set up their email address and ensure they can log into any communication or productivity software

  • Set up their office phone number

  • Make sure their desk has the proper cables and adaptors

If there are specific access codes, parking restrictions or dress codes, let your new employee know in advance. You’d be surprised how much people worry about making a mistake on their first day.

Step 3: Schedule meetings for your employee’s first day

The meetings on your employee’s first day should help to introduce them to the company and their team.

You want to provide enough information without overwhelming them, which can be hard to get right. Even if you’re keen for them to hit the ground running, try to avoid getting into the fundamentals on day one.

  • Make sure someone’s around to welcome them when they arrive. Show them to their desk and get the housekeeping out of the way (“Where are the kitchen and toilets?” “Who should they speak to if they have a question?” etc.)

  • Provide them with details of relevant health and safety requirements / protocols, such as evacuation procedures, meeting points etc.

  • Set up a meeting with the HR manager who can run through company policies, including benefits and holidays

  • Schedule a one-to-one meeting with the employee’s manager, who can explain the role and how they contribute to the bigger picture

  • Encourage team members to take the new employee out for lunch

  • Give your employee some downtime to set up their desk and log into their accounts. There’s a lot of information to digest, so this downtime is important.

Step 4: Create a three-month roadmap

In your employee’s first week, have them sit down with their line manager to plan out what they want to achieve in the next three months. The goals set should be meaningful, but still allow them time to adjust to the role.

Try breaking down the goals into steps. A 30, 60 and 90-day plan can feel more manageable than one distant goal. For example, if your new employee is a developer, the goals might look like this:

  • 30 days: Familiarise yourself with the platform

  • 60 days: Write your first software documentation

  • 90 days: Get a feature you’ve worked on live

Make sure their line manager schedules in regular one-to-ones to check on progress and provide support.

It can help to have an open-door policy for your employees. You want new and existing staff to feel comfortable enough to discuss any problems or skills gaps, rather than faking success.

Improving the onboarding experience

Onboarding processes are rarely perfect the first time, because it can be hard to put yourself into the shoes of someone who knows nothing about the business. As a result, the steps in your onboarding process might initially overlook basic facts about how the business works.

Get feedback from employees after the training has finished and once, they’ve worked in the job for six months. This gives them time to really think about what was valuable and anything they wish they had known.

Use this feedback to improve your onboarding process in future. Here are a couple of examples of common problems and the solutions you could use:

“I got stuck on something, but my line manager was really busy.”

New employees often worry about asking too many questions, particularly if their manager looks occupied. Think about using a buddy system, where another team member acts as a mentor in their first few weeks. It gives your new employee someone else to talk to, plus you’ll give an existing employee the chance to step up and lead.

“I didn’t understand the workplace acronyms but felt too embarrassed to ask.”

Try including a glossary of common workplace terms or acronyms in your onboarding welcome pack.

“I had to work with other teams but hadn’t met any of them before.”

A Friday snack trolley is a great way to encourage conversation in an informal environment. Get a new employee to partner up with one of their team members and walk around the office offering snacks or drinks. They’ll get to know people they wouldn’t have spoken to otherwise. Plus, you have the benefit of boosting workplace morale.

An effective employee onboarding process can help you to build a workforce that’s engaged and productive. Many of the steps simply involve better communication.

Next time you hire, try to put yourself in your new employee’s shoes. What experience would you look for in a new job?

Everything you need to know about onboarding a new member of staff

Your onboarding process is an essential part of welcoming and retaining employees.

  • First impressions matter – make yours count

  • Onboarding should engage new hires with your business

  • A step-by-step process allows you to delegate to other leaders

Your onboarding checklist

At the hiring stage:

  • Write a clear job description

  • Let candidates know how long each stage of the process should take

  • Call your chosen candidate to make the offer

  • Send an additional welcome email from their line manager or a team member

Preparations for the first day:

  • Set up their email address and check that they can log into company software

  • Set up their phone number, desk, and monitor. Provide necessary cables or adaptors

  • Email over relevant information like access codes, parking, and dress code

Your employee’s first day:

  • A HR meeting should cover company policies and housekeeping

  • A one-to-one meeting with their line manager should explain the role in more detail

  • Set up a team lunch

  • Avoid overloading them with too much information

Creating a three-month roadmap:

  • Have your employee create a plan of what they want to achieve in the first three months

  • Break down the goals into a 30, 60 and 90-day plan

  • Schedule weekly one-to-ones to check on progress

It takes time to perfect a process

Nothing’s perfect the first time. Get feedback from employees who have been through your onboarding process and look for ways you can improve in future.



This article was written and originally published by The Productivity Group (trading as Be the Business). Be the Business is an independent, not for profit organisation set up to help business owners and leaders improve the performance of their business. © Copyright 2021 The Productivity Group.  All rights reserved.

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