Employee onboarding: What you need to know

Thursday 31st March

Employee onboarding: What you need to know

In the world of talent, hiring the right people is only half the job. Or less, depending on who you ask. Because once you’ve found candidates with the potential to thrive, it’s time to make sure they do – with great onboarding.

But what exactly is onboarding?

Defining employee onboarding

Onboarding is the journey you take to embed new hires into your business. That means making sure they fit neatly into their team, their role, and the wider organisational culture. It’s also making sure they’ve got all the tools they need to be productive.

Remember: onboarding ≠ orientation. Orientation mostly refers to giving a new hire their start date, completing the relevant paperwork, and other routine bits and bobs like making sure they know where in the office their desk is. This rarely takes more than a day or two – great onboarding will often take weeks, or even months.


First impressions: why onboarding matters

Productivity

It stands to reason that proper onboarding helps new employees make an impact, faster. And the stats tell the same story:

  • 77% of new hires that accomplish their first performance milestone go through formal onboarding. (LinkedIn)
  • 62% of employers say they see quicker time-to-productivity because of their onboarding programmes. (Aberdeen Group)
  • Standardised onboarding programmes can increase new-hire productivity by up to 70%. (Talent LMS)

But the benefits don’t stop at employee productivity. Because productive employees lead to productive businesses – meaning there’s a direct link between onboarding and organisational success metrics like profit and revenue.  

Engagement

The data also suggests that better onboarding means better employee engagement.

Good onboarding includes bringing new hires up to speed on your organisation’s values, mission and products/services. And once your employees understand and buy into this, they’re more likely to be engaged.

Great onboarding also says to a new hire that you’re committed to them and their early employee experience. And, for that reason, they’re more likely to be committed to you, too. 

This, again, puts your business in position to succeed. But it also contributes to two additional onboarding benefits: 

Advocacy

Referrals from existing employees are a great way to source great candidates for your open roles. But research shows that 20% of those existing employees are unlikely to refer you to their network after a poor onboarding experience.

With proper onboarding, though, you turn your employees into advocates. And that helps create a cycle: 

  1. You source more candidates
  2. It’s easier to make the right hires
  3. Great onboarding of those hires means they are now more likely to refer you to their network.

… and just like that, the cycle continues.

Retention

If you look at the stats on employee retention, you’ll see that up to one fifth of employee turnover happens in their first 45 days. That means first impressions count. Your onboarding could be the difference between retaining great talent, and losing it.

In fact, Bamboo HR found that employees with a good onboarding experience were eighteen times more committed to their employer.

Retaining employees lets you:

  • Keep great teams together
  • Avoid the costs of constant replacement hires
  • Preserve team morale

And much more. Just another reason why great employee onboarding matters.  


Onboarding best practices

So that’s the ‘why’ of employee onboarding. But what about the ‘how’? Here are seven onboarding best practices for you to follow.

Preboard

Make sure everything is set up for their first day – before their first day. That means making sure they’ve got the equipment and systems access they need, their paperwork is done, and that their team is already involved. It sounds obvious, but make sure their team is expecting them!

Avoid information overwhelm

Onboarding can often feel like an information avalanche from all sides. So try to avoid giving new hires too much. Instead, focus on the information that matters at each stage of their journey.

Involve the team

Create a framework for managers to easily check in on their direct reports during the onboarding process. Additionally, consider implementing a buddy system, so new starters can get their questions answered faster. An accommodating buddy will help new hires acclimatise faster.

Plan their ramp to productivity

Make sure the new hire knows what their journey will look like. At Arctic Shores, that means a clear runway of what their first 30, 60, and 90 days will look like. This helps set expectations, and helps you (and the new starter) avoid any awkward surprises. It also leads onto our next best practice…

Set clear targets

New hires should know what they’re working towards from week one. By setting clear goals – whether it’s OKRs, KPIs, or any acronym you prefer – you cut uncertainty out of the onboarding process, and give new starters a clear idea of what good looks like in the role.

Tie everything back to the business

Use your onboarding process to bang the drum for your organisation’s mission, purpose, values and brand. As we’ve seen, onboarding is a vital step towards creating engagement – so there’s no time to waste when it comes to building that connection between new starters and your organisation.

Tell them what makes the business special. Then tell them again. And again. It might sound a bit cheesy, but make their onboarding inspiring. 

Always optimise

Keep an eye out for ways to improve your onboarding process. Standardisation is great – and we’re not suggesting you reinvent the wheel with every new hire. But there will always be ways you can tweak to improve it for the next new starter.

One way to home in on the quick wins is to ask your starters about their experience. What did they like about the process, and what could be improved? 


Measuring onboarding success

So you’ve got an onboarding process. But how do you know if it’s going well? Here are five ways to gauge the success of your onboarding process.

New starter feedback

Perhaps the easiest option – just ask your new starters how their onboarding went. The risk here is that, as they’ve just started a new job, they might be tentative about giving the whole truth. Especially when asked by their line manager. 

But, nevertheless, this is a great way to get anecdotal feedback on how you can improve the process. Don’t rush to act on one person’s feedback – instead, act on the similarities you see between feedback. If there’s a common thread, follow it.

Consistency

A slightly different approach – this focuses on how well your process has embedded across teams. Is everyone singing from the same hymn sheet? Is everyone clear on who ‘owns’ the onboarding process at each stage?

Take a quick survey of different team members, including both people managers and members of HR. This way, you’ll get a sense of how consistently they’re applying the process. Or not. Either way, it’s a handy indicator of whether there’s still room to make your onboarding process more consistent and rigorous.  

New hire turnover (or retention)

Are you seeing high turnover in the first six months? Or, on the flipside, is your turnover dropping radically? In either case, there’s a good chance your onboarding is a factor.

If you’ve got fairly granular data, you can cross reference turnover by team, location, or even individual line managers. This way, you can get a clear sense of whether there are gaps or irregularities in your onboarding process, and get to work on solutions. Or, that data will help you tell the story of your onboarding programme’s success!

Time to productivity

A key reason for having an onboarding programme is to get new hires up to speed, pronto. So, although “productivity” might mean different things in different roles, or to different managers, it’s a good lens to look through when judging your onboarding programme.

To make sure you’re not always comparing apples to oranges, talk to various line managers. Ask them: how long is it taking new hires to get to the point where they require little supervision, or they’ve completed all their training? They can (or should!) monitor this with regular new-hire check-ins.

Engagement

This, like productivity, can be a slippery metric. Often, it’s a combination of absentee rates, turnover, employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), etc. You can also work out engagement through regular employee surveys.

If you’re seeing low engagement around the six month period, this could point to a problem with onboarding. Use these metrics as signposts, and keep pairing them with new hire feedback. This will give you a richer picture of where your onboarding stands.

Integrating Arctic Shores into your onboarding process

Our platform at Arctic Shores doesn’t just show you every candidate’s true potential. It also shines a light on areas where they’ll need support – paving the way for onboarding that’s truly personalised.

With in-depth reports for every candidate, you can arm your people managers with the right insight to get every new hire up to speed, ASAP. This way, they’ll know every new hire’s qualities and development areas – from week one.

Because great onboarding starts when they do.Want a shorter path to new-hire productivity? Let us know, and get the insight you need for truly personalised onboarding. Because their potential won’t fulfil itself…

“We saved £2.4m in just 12 months working with Arctic Shores, so the resounding success has been phenomenal… and I do genuinely use the word phenomenal.”
Head of Talent Acquisition
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