| 26 October, 2021 | 13 Min Read

Employee onboarding matters: Steps to success

Congratulations! You’ve finally ended your long search for that perfect candidate to fill that critical role. Now it’s time to make sure you properly welcome your new hire, create a great first impression, and set them up for success.

That’s where effective employee onboarding comes into play. This involves thinking and planning. And it’s a long-term initiative that starts well before your new hire’s first day on the job and continues well after that.

How effectively you onboard new team members signals to your new hires – and the talent market at large – about how invested you are in your people. Indeed, it’s regarded as a primary indicator of the nature and strength of your company culture.

What is employee onboarding?

First, let’s define what we mean by employee onboarding:

Employee onboarding is the process through which new hires are introduced to both the performance and social aspects of their new roles.

The objectives of employee onboarding include ensuring that new hires adjust swiftly to their work environment and quickly become productive and engaged. The onboarding process should be deemed a strategic one that lasts for at least 3-6 months. 

Failure to do so will leave new hires feeling vulnerable, apprehensive, and, at worst, disillusioned. It will also likely extend the period it takes for them to feel secure that they’ve made the right decision by accepting your job offer.

Who is involved in onboarding?

Who should design and drive your company’s onboarding program? You may be surprised at the answer, so keep reading!

HR teams and representatives

Of course, this is the most obvious group. In most organizations, the HR team will oversee the employee onboarding process from end to end. They’ll work with the employee and other stakeholders (we’ll get to them shortly) to ensure all the moving parts work in unison.

HR teams will also generally be responsible for scheduling the relevant meetings and completing the necessary paperwork.  

The hiring manager

The new hire’s manager has a huge level of influence over the effectiveness of the onboarding process.

Here are a few of the roles and responsibilities of line managers:

  • Hiring managers should ensure that they are physically – and where necessary – virtually present and available to the new hire during their first few weeks on the job. This might include answering any role-related or administrative questions the employee has or just being around to check in on them informally from time to time.
  • Your new hire will have a reasonable understanding of the company during the interviewing and hiring process. However, it’s the manager's role to step their new report through the company’s overarching corporate objectives, culture, values, norms, and ethics.
  • To succeed, new employees need access to the correct information, resources, and people. Managers should point their new hires in the right direction and ensure all the stakeholders are willing and able to avail their time.
  • Good managers also focus on starting to build up a personal rapport and relationship with their new employee during the onboarding process. After all, this is the start of what both parties hope will be a long and fruitful relationship, so it’s best to begin as you mean to go on.

The “buddy”

Many high-performing organizations see value in assigning each new hire their personal “buddy.” This gives the new employee a sounding board and allows them to start integrating socially into the organization's fabric.

New hires might also feel more comfortable asking their buddy questions that they are too shy to ask their manager or fear might make them look silly.

Ideally, buddies should not work in the same department or team as the new hire.  

So, a buddy system sounds great, but how easy and practical is it to establish and maintain? Here are a few tips if you’re getting started:

  • Buddy roles should be voluntary, not prescriptive.
  • Set a policy regarding the minimum duration of employment that a person has to have under their belt before qualifying to act as a buddy.
  • To ensure there’s an element of structure to the process, assign buddies a set of tasks to undertake with the new hire, for example, taking them to lunch, scheduling weekly coffee catch-ups, or taking a walking tour of the office grounds. 
  • Use common sense when selecting buddies: avoid characters who have a reputation for being divisive or frequently indulge in office gossip and political games.

Your onboarding step-by-step guide

Now that you understand what employee onboarding is, why it matters, and who needs to be involved, let’s plan out what your onboarding program should look like.

Before the first day

Grove HR - Employee onboarding - Pre onboarding

Step 1: Prepare your paperwork

Paperwork is a painful but necessary undertaking when onboarding a new employee. It’s a good idea to get these formalities out of the way as early and quickly as possible to prepare everything in advance. The nature and volume of the paperwork you need to collate, share, and have your new hire sign will depend on your business, but a few common examples include:

  • Use common sense when selecting buddies: avoid characters who have a reputation for being divisive or frequently indulge in office gossip and political games.
  • Employment agreement
  • Non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
  • Code of Ethics policy
  • Tax documentation
  • Banking/direct deposit forms

Step 2: Assemble productivity tools and set up online systems

Productivity starts with the correct technology tools and accessories. So, make sure that the following have been procured and will be available to your new hire on day one. These items may include some or all of the following:

  • A laptop, monitor, and power cables
  • Telephone
  • Mouse
  • Headset

You’ll also need to set up and activate your new employee’s online accounts. These could include but are not limited to the following:

  • Email
  • Company instant messaging platform
  • HR information systems
  • Password management software
  • Productivity software (e.g., Microsoft Teams)

There are other miscellaneous items to remember, such as the new hire’s identity/access card, business cards, desk nameplate, and parking access (if applicable).

Step 3: Schedule meetings in advance

Before your new hire starts, it’s a good idea to schedule a few in-person and online meetings to give them and some of their key stakeholders a chance to get acquainted with one another. 

However, don’t set up back-to-back meetings. You don’t want your new hire to feel overwhelmed! One of these meetings should be with the relevant HR representative/partner. Also, be proactive about booking and scheduling any necessary training sessions (internal and external).

Step 4: Plan your new hire’s first assignment

Give some thought to what you think would be the most appropriate project to assign your new hire. Prepare a comprehensive brief and assemble the necessary background and reading material in advance. 

Alert any internal stakeholders or colleagues with whom your new hire will be engaging to complete their first task. All these steps will ensure that your new hire is set up for success in their first assignment. 

Step 5: Contact your new hire ahead of their start date

Send your new hire a welcome email in which you share information about where to go (including a map), which building to arrive at on their first day and how they’ll need to sign in.

Step 6: Set up your new hire’s workstation and welcome pack

To ensure that your new hire feels welcomed on their first day and has a positive first impression, invest some time clearing their workspace and compiling a welcome kit to leave on their desk. 

This welcome kit could include items such as a company notebook, a branded T-shirt, mug, notebook, and pens. Other ideas include an office map, company org chart,  instruction manuals for laptops, printers, etc.

Step 7: Other actions to consider

Remind the rest of your team that their new colleague will shortly be arriving and their start date. Add your new employee to your team/departmental organogram and any email distribution lists.

With the pre-onboarding process done, the next steps are to prepare for the first period new employees work with your team. We take a look at three important time periods:

Grove HR - Employee onboarding - 1st day, 1st week, and 1st month

The first day

Step 1: Welcome your new hire

Ideally, a representative from the HR team should welcome the new hire at reception. They should walk them to their department and workstation, where their hiring manager should greet them.

It’s a good idea to give your new hire a little time to settle in and set up their laptop, etc. Then, give your new hire an office tour and allow them to have an informal meet and greet session with their new colleagues.

Step 2: Conduct your first 1-on-1 meeting

Next, the manager should invite the new hire into a quiet office for an informal chat where they share details of what’s in their welcome pack and outline the plan for the day ahead.  Other agenda items for this meeting should include an outline of the new hire’s schedule for their first few days. 

Use this time to advise the employee of when their formal induction session will be taking place and spend some time going through the paperwork you’ve prepared. During this meeting, you can also assign your new employee their first task, making sure that they understand the requirements, brief, and timelines.

Step 3: Go for lunch

Once the formalities are out of the way, take your new hire out for lunch with a few close team members.

The first week

During their first week, it’s perfectly natural for new hires to feel a little uneasy and vulnerable. After all, they’ll still be at the stage where they’re forgetting people’s names and getting lost on their way to the restroom!

Step 1: Bring in the buddy

The first week in a new job can be lonely, so it helps to have the buddy system we mentioned earlier in place. Knowing that they have a go-to person to contact for advice and support will go a long way to calming your new hire’s nerves.

Step 2: Keep your new hire busy

That said, ensure that your new employee isn’t left at a loose end. Give them just enough work to make them feel engaged and productive without feeling unduly overwhelmed. Be sure to give timely and constructive feedback about the initial tasks that they have been assigned and have completed. This will help build their confidence and momentum.

Intersperse their tasks with 1-on-1 meetings with their key stakeholders and other members of your team and the wider department.

Step 3: Check-in regularly

Finally, be sure to check in with your new hire from time to time to see if there’s anything you can help them with or specific questions they need to be answered. 

The first month

Step 1: Allow your new hire to settle and integrate

As your new hire settles into their new role and their working environment, they should begin to spread their wings on two levels: First, after having completed a few initial tasks, they’ll start to add value to the role that they’ve been hired to fill, and you’ll start to see them becoming more proactive and efficient in completing tasks.

Secondly, the employee will integrate into the larger team and strike up a few close friendships and alliances.

Step 2: Monitor your employee’s mood and performance

Of course, you also need to be on the lookout for any signs that your new hire is struggling – whether that be with their work or on an interpersonal/social level. Don't hesitate to take action if you notice any red flags (such as the employee becoming withdrawn or absent or the quality of their work starting to slip).

The sensible first step is to invite the employee to an informal meeting in which you share your observations and concerns and ask how you can assist them in overcoming whatever challenges they may be facing.

Onboarding is a complicated process with the involvement of many different parties. A misstep can lead to a poor experience for the new hires. That’s why having a tool to keep track and automate these steps is proven to make the process efficient and effortless.

Grove HR - Employee Onboarding

Track all new hires' onboarding progress at a glance 


How these companies rule at employee onboarding

For a bit of fun, we’ve selected a handful of well-known brands that have developed unique and impactful onboarding programs from which to draw some inspiration:

Employee onboarding at Salesforce

Salesforce is the most significant SaaS company in the world and is a global market leader in CRM systems. 

First, let’s start with a rather poor example of employee onboarding that the company publicly shared a few years ago:

Back in 2014, Salesforce was having problems with their onboarding experience. Many new hires weren’t getting their desk, equipment, and access on day one, because 36% of hiring managers weren’t requesting them in time.

They were getting a 3 out of 5 score on the day-one experience, and only 76% of new hires considered themselves successfully onboarded by day 90.

One new hire had such a frustrating first day trying to get into the company systems that he just quit. His story went around the whole executive Board. Right then, Salesforce knew they had to reimagine their entire onboarding experience.

They’ve clearly succeeded on this front. Today, Salesforce’s welcome kit includes books, stickers, a name tag, a gift certificate, and, very importantly, a toy gun. 

Yes, you read that correctly. A toy gun. But why? Salesforce has a unique and longstanding tradition of organizing “nerf gun wars.” It involves setting up informal inter-departmental competitions – all just in the name of fun.

Employee onboarding at PepsiCo

PepsiCo gets their new hires engaged straight away by inviting them to sample a range of its products.

Not great for the waistline, one might argue.

But never fear; apart from crisps and soda, new hires also receive a complimentary fitness tracker.

Employee onboarding at Facebook

Within 45 minutes of setting foot in the building on their first day, new hires have begun their first projects, thanks to the intense preparation Facebook undertakes before they start.

Grove HR - Facebook Onboarding - Mark Zuckerberg's quote

Employee onboarding at Quora

Quora values productivity so much that they push new hires to make meaningful contributions and tackle a manageable project by the end of their very first week!

Employee onboarding at Twitter

Before the employee sits down, they have a T-shirt and a bottle of wine waiting. On their first day, new hires have breakfast with the CEO, followed by a tour of the company office.

Employee onboarding at Google

Rather than letting the HR team shoulder the lion’s share of the responsibility for all-things onboarding, Google deliberately chooses to decentralize and delegate this function.  

Employee onboarding at LinkedIn

On their first day, all new hires are gathered together and are asked to grab sticky notes. On these, they must write their name and a tagline that describes them as a professional along with an interesting fact about themselves.

Resources to tap into

At Grove HR, we’re in the business of empowering organizations of all sizes to take their employee experience to the next level. We provide them with insights and guidance as they navigate the many challenges.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to create a winning employee onboarding experience, why not browse through these resources?

All aboard!

People have a range of choices about where they work. If you want to attract and retain the best talent, you need to make sure that your employee onboarding approach and process are up to scratch.

If employees don’t get the information and support they expect and deserve after they’ve accepted your offer, there’s a good chance they’ll regret their decision.

It could take a great deal of time and effort to win that enthusiasm back.

As you’ll have gathered by reading this guide, employee onboarding isn’t just a “box-ticking” exercise. It needs to be thoughtfully approached and diligently executed. 

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