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Onboarding Employee Experience HR Resources

6 Tips for Creating a First-Class Onboarding Experience

July 19, 2022
7 min read
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Step-by-Step Employee Onboarding Process Checklist


You know what they say about first impressions — for better or worse, they’re lasting. We’re human, and we can’t help but form opinions based on first impressions, even if they later turn out to be wrong.  While that can be frustrating, it’s just science, and it’s the reason we strive to make a good impression in situations ranging from the first day of school to a first job interview.

As an HR professional, you’re an integral part of every new employee’s first impression of what it’s really like to work at your company. Your onboarding process can help make it a great one: 70% of employees who would say their onboarding experience was “excellent” said they have the “best possible job.”

Did you know an excellent #onboarding experience leads to higher #EmployeeEngagement, #retention, and productivity? Create a first-class onboarding plan with @ClearCompany’s 6 tips:

But, according to Harvard Business Review, more than one-third of companies don’t have a structured onboarding process in place. If your organization is part of that one-third, or if your onboarding plan needs a refresh, try out our tips to build or improve the onboarding experience.

Onboarding’s Ripple Effect

Onboarding strategy is the foundation of employee experience. It has a ripple effect on employee retention, engagement, productivity, performance, motivation, and more, and the data supports it:

  • After a positive onboarding experience, employees are nearly three times as likely to feel prepared and supported in their role. 
  • Formal onboarding can increase employee retention by up to 50% and productivity by up to 62 percent.
  • 33% of employees would consider leaving their jobs after a bad onboarding experience.

You need to create an awesome onboarding experience to engage employees, help them grow, and encourage long-term retention, so we’ve compiled these six onboarding tips. Our tips are based on data and onboarding best practices from Gallup and HBR to help you create the best possible experience for every new employee. 

Read ClearCompany’s employee onboarding guide to learn more about how to build an onboarding program.

1. Preparation is key.

We’re going to call on another adage here: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” If your company doesn’t prepare an effective onboarding process, it’s unlikely that your new hires will be prepared to succeed in their roles, and your company is unlikely to retain them. A lack of preparation can leave new employees feeling like they’re in the way, unwelcome, and uncertain about their role.

Preparation is the key to avoiding that slippery slope to high employee turnover. Create structure and set standard onboarding procedures so new hires know what to expect and what they should be doing. Standardization also makes onboarding new employees easier for HR and hiring managers —with processes in place, there’s no need to create a plan from scratch every time a new team member starts.

2. Start strong on day one.

We mentioned it’s important to be prepared for onboarding in general, the first day is especially significant. Although their opinions may change as they go through the onboarding process, new hires’ first impression is really formed on their start date. (It’s science, remember?) 

Plan out new hires’ first day — even week — to help them get acclimated without getting overwhelmed. Whether you’re in-office or remote, send a schedule or add events to the new hire’s calendar so they know what to expect. Creating a schedule rather than making it up as you go also shows new hires they’ll get the support they need to be successful at your organization.

Did you know 33% of employees would think about quitting their jobs after a bad #onboarding experience? Try @ClearCompany’s 6 tips for first-class onboarding and #retain more new hires:

3. Use onboarding technology.

The most effective onboarding programs are enabled by technology — it helps human resources teams more easily manage all the moving parts of hiring new employees and stay compliant throughout the process. Onboarding technology has the tools you need to build a seamless, efficient experience:

  • New Hire Portal: A self-service portal where employees can find materials to prepare for their first day, including a video welcome message from the CEO, resources about company culture, and onboarding documents
  • Task Notifications: Automatic notifications to complete onboarding tasks for new hires and internal teams, saving HR time and keeping everyone on task
  • Onboarding Analytics: Interactive reports and dashboards HR can use to evaluate onboarding processes and pinpoint inefficiencies

4. Longer onboarding programs pay off.

The average onboarding program is 90 days, but it can actually take up to 12 months for employees to reach their full potential in their new roles. While the “right” length depends on the role, level of experience, industry, and other factors, don’t underestimate how long the employee will need before they’re productive and proficient, and ensure managers check in frequently to provide feedback, coaching, and motivation.

DYK? Employees whose managers take an active role in onboarding are 3.4 times as likely to feel their onboarding process was successful.

5. Bring in other team members.

This tip is especially important in remote workplaces, but every work environment can benefit from including more employees in the onboarding process. Use onboarding to help new employees make connections with colleagues right away. It can be a large time investment, says HBR, but “facilitating strong team relationships…can help boost employee productivity and performance.”

There are different ways you can include other employees in onboarding:

  • Set up cross-departmental meetings between new hires and employees on other teams during the first few weeks of onboarding. New hires can ask questions and get to know colleagues they may not have met otherwise, especially if your workplace is remote or hybrid.
  • Start a mentorship program, pairing new hires with a mentor who can answer their questions and provide coaching and career advice. Create a schedule for their meetings, which should extend at least the length of your onboarding program. Gallup recommends mentoring to help build “trust and team cohesion” quickly. 
  • Create other chances for connection. Whether it’s happy hours or team-building activities for in-person teams or non-work-related Slack channels for remote workers, give employees the chance to connect on a personal level (if they choose). 

DYK? 91% of employees with mentors are satisfied with their jobs.

6. Ask new hires what they think.

One of the best ways to discover the strengths and weaknesses of your onboarding process? Ask your new employees who just went through it! Send out a survey to employees when they complete onboarding to get their opinions and see your onboarding experience from a new angle. 

Ask questions like these in the survey to determine if you’re meeting new hires’ needs or if they need more guidance to feel fully prepared:

  • Do you feel you understand your job duties for your role?
  • Do you feel it has been easy to communicate with your manager and team about questions and needs that have arisen?
  • Do you feel you received enough training to do your job well?

Successful onboarding means success for everyone: motivated, long-term employees; enthusiastic, engaged new hires; and clients supported by knowledgeable, happy teams. Of course, that translates into business success, too, in the form of low turnover, reduced hiring costs, and high employee satisfaction.

You can achieve that success with new hire feedback that helps improve your employee onboarding experience. Download our Quality of Onboarding Survey template to start collecting valuable feedback, and get two bonus Talent Acquisition surveys:

  • Quality of Hire Survey for Managers
  • Quality of Recruiting Survey for New Hires

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