In an infographic spotlighting 21 recruitment industry trends for 2021, the team at Toggl found that 60% of surveyed experts cited onboarding employees remotely as the biggest adjustment following the pandemic. For many organizations, gone are the days of a new hire showing up at the office, meeting their colleagues, attending live training sessions, and signing paperwork in- person. And while transitioning from in-person to remote onboarding has undoubtedly been an adjustment, it doesn’t have to be a painful one.
If you’re looking to create the best virtual onboarding experience for your employees, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn about the importance of employee onboarding, what activities should be on your checklist, and use the list we created for you.
Importance of employee onboarding
Employee onboarding might be more important than you think. The employee onboarding experience and checklist of activities help integrate them into their new working world (and successfully, when done correctly). The process is a crucial component of ensuring a new hire can fulfill their role, join the company culture, and become a part of a broader team.
Research suggests that a good employee onboarding experience boosts retention. Harvard Business Review (HBR) indicated that a standardized onboarding process increases productivity and leads to 50% greater new hire retention. CareerBuilder and SilkRoad conducted a study and found that nearly one in ten employees have left a company due to a poor onboarding experience. Onboarding and retention are closely intertwined.
Companies are more likely to retain employees through a positive onboarding experience, but they’re also more likely to see greater commitment from recruits. According to BambooHR, employees who felt their onboarding was highly effective are 18 times more likely to feel highly committed to their new organization and 30 times more likely to have higher job satisfaction. It’s a win-win for employers and employees!
And while there are many benefits to reap from effective employee onboarding, companies with less effective onboarding may experience some not-so-great consequences. Some studies show that nearly 20% of employee turnover occurs within the first 90 days. When employees leave, employers often pay hefty costs and invest more time in finding a replacement.
What should be on an onboarding checklist?
Onboarding checklists should be well thought out, strategic, and comprehensive. Let’s take a look at the Four C’s of onboarding.
According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Four C’s are the building blocks of a successful onboarding program:
- Compliance: Includes legal and policy-related rules and regulations associated with the new role.
- Clarification: Ensures a recruit understands their new job role and expectations in the near and long-term.
- Culture: Includes integrating new team members and teaching them formal and informal cultural norms.
- Connection: Emphasizes building working relationships and building a network with direct team members and other employees.
The activities included in an onboarding checklist generally fall into one or more of these groups. And the best part is that organizations can (and should) customize their onboarding programs and build out each level to the appropriate degree necessary to support new team members.
New hire checklist for the first 6 months
Don’t think that onboarding only lasts a few days during an employee’s first week. SHRM recommends developing a strategic onboarding program that lasts one year. Here are some ideas for structuring your onboarding process from preboarding to six months and beyond.
Preboarding begins before the first day of employment. Think of it as the time between the job offer acceptance and the night before an employee’s start date. There are several activities human resources and hiring managers can do during preboarding, including:
- Congratulate your new team member. Congratulations are in order! Send a welcome email, or better yet, have the hiring manager call their new team member so they can chat and get to know each other. You can also send a handwritten card signed by team members or create a virtual welcome board with a tool like Kudoboard.
- Provide a welcome letter and access to necessary paperwork. Use a welcome letter to give the new team member important information they need to know for their first day, including what time to hop online and their schedule for the first day or week. Consider providing paperwork in advance so an employee can review it. This could include tax forms, direct deposit forms, the employee handbook, and other forms requiring a signature.
- Send a welcome kit filled with company swag. Welcome kits can spur feelings of excitement and set the tone for a positive first day. And they give new team members a chance to brag about their new role on LinkedIn!
- Pre-introduce the new employee to the team. Let your organization know a new team member is joining and when they’re starting. Share a photo and short bio or fun facts to give current team members information to help the recruit feel more comfortable.
- Gather equipment and set up user accounts. Human resources should work with the IT department to provide all the tools and accounts your new team member will need.
The first day on the job can be both exciting and overwhelming. When planning and structuring your day-one onboarding, it’s essential to balance welcoming a new employee and avoiding inundating them with too much information. Day-one activities might include:
- Formally introduce the new team member to the organization. Hopefully, human resources or the hiring manager has already let the team know of the new teammates’ arrival. On the first day, consider sending out an email or posting in Slack to encourage the staff to welcome their new teammate throughout the day.
- Plan casual introductions. Consider a company-sponsored virtual coffee chat with a small handful of team members for a meet-and-greet activity.
- Set your new hire up with a buddy or mentor. Connect your new hire with someone who can help support them through their transition. This could be someone on their team or a tenured employee with the organization. Depending on how you structure training, you might assign a mentor to provide job-specific training and a buddy for general connection.
- Schedule 1:1 time with the hiring manager. New employees should have dedicated time with their new manager to get to know one another and review the job description and responsibilities. (Might we suggest introducing them to Clockwise so they can effectively manage their time from the get-go?) This is also a good time to pave the way for the next few months by letting the new teammate know what to expect.
- Go over policies and norms. Provide your recruit with company policies, working hours expectations, norms for breaks and appointments, and how to request time off. This is a good time to talk through timezone differences for remote environments and how that looks across the organization. And don’t forget to chat through more informal norms, such as if it’s acceptable to take a meeting with cameras off (because no one likes to feel awkward).
- Complete any remaining housekeeping tasks. If there’s any lingering paperwork to complete, try to get this out of the way and wrapped up by day one.
The first week should include connection points to get to know the team and a training plan to dive into their new role. Week one checklist items:
- Conduct short daily check-ins with the hiring manager or buddy. Make sure your new team member has what they need, feels supported, and has a space to ask questions if needed.
- Provide training expectations. Virtual training sessions might consist of live sessions, pre-recorded ones, or online self-paced courses. Don’t forget to build in time for breaks.
- Encourage 1:1s with other team members. Ensure employees continue to set up time with the new team member to get to know them and vice versa.
- Schedule out 30, 90, and 120-day check-ins. Be proactive and get the rest of your check-ins on the calendar, so your new team member knows when to expect them.
Hopefully, the dust is settling, and your not-so-new employee feels like a part of the team!
- Check-in and review performance. Let your team member know how they are doing so far and what progress they’ve made toward their goals.
- Follow up on outstanding training questions. Ask how training is going and set aside time to address any outstanding questions or topics that aren’t sticking.
- Ask for feedback on the process so far. Start gathering feedback on the onboarding process while it’s fresh and top of mind.
- Set goals to review at the 3-month check-in. Agree on some goals, both job-related and perhaps connectivity-driven, so you can measure progress and realign if necessary.
After 3 months
Use the 3-month mark as an opportunity to get ahead of any performance gaps and provide additional support.
- Review all goals. Measure performance and provide feedback on goal attainment. If there are areas of improvement to address, share what the areas are and follow up with a specialized plan to address the gaps.
- Ask if the role is what they were hoping it would be. Sometimes a new hire’s perception of a role doesn’t align with the role expectations. Find out how your team member feels about their new role and if it’s a good fit.
- Encourage positive company reviews and discuss referral programs. If an employee seems to be enjoying their experience, encourage them to share more about it to keep your talent pool flowing. Let them know if they’re eligible for any referral bonuses.
- Set new goals for the next 3-months. Keep the goal-setting process active and top of mind for the next check-in.
After 6 months
Half a year already! At this point, it’s time to review what your employee accomplished and establish what the future looks like.
- Review and celebrate the last six months. Talk through everything your employee accomplished and celebrate their hard work. This is also a great time to find out if your employee is open to serving as a buddy or mentor for future new hires.
- Set new goals and discuss what a one-year performance review looks like. Before you know it, a one-year work anniversary and performance review will be right around the corner. Discuss the performance review process and what goals you will be reviewing as part of it.
- Schedule regular recurring check-ins. The onboarding process doesn’t last forever, but supporting your team members should! Decide on a cadence that works best and schedule recurring 1:1s to stay connected.
- Conduct an onboarding feedback survey. Ask for feedback to understand what parts of your onboarding work well and which areas could use improvement.
How can you measure the success of your onboarding program?
The best way to measure the success of your onboarding program is to ask for feedback and insights from the employees who go through it. Don’t wait until an employee is out of the onboarding experience. Ask for their input and feedback throughout the process so you can better identify hiccups that didn’t work as intended. At the end of onboarding, consider conducting a formalized survey or 1:1 interview to gather feedback.
Other ways to measure the success of your onboarding program include listening for informal comments from recruits and measuring retention rates. Suppose your organization onboards ten employees simultaneously, and eight of those employees ask clarifying questions about the same topic. In that case, there may be an opportunity to improve that section of onboarding. When it comes to measuring retention, pay attention to your overall retention rates and the timing of voluntary exits. If hires leave the company during the onboarding process, it’s important to evaluate and implement changes.
Go forth and onboard great talent
With an effective onboarding process, you’re bound to get your new hires acclimated, trained, and up and running in no time. A good onboarding experience boosts productivity, retention, and commitment, whereas bad onboarding could lead to turnover. The Four C’s — compliance, clarification, culture, and connection — are the foundation of a successful onboarding program. Use the onboarding checklist provided as a starting point, and tailor it accordingly for your organization. Gather feedback and always strive to improve your onboarding program’s weaknesses.
- Congratulate your new team member.
- Provide a welcome letter and access to necessary paperwork.
- Send a welcome kit filled with company swag.
- Pre-introduce the new employee to the team.
- Gather equipment and set up user accounts.
- Formally introduce the new team member to the organization.
- Plan casual introductions.
- Set your new hire up with a buddy or mentor.
- Schedule 1:1 time with the hiring manager.
- Go over policies and norms.
- Complete any remaining housekeeping tasks.
- Conduct short daily check-ins with the hiring manager or buddy.
- Provide training expectations.
- Encourage 1:1s with other team members.
- Schedule out 30, 90, and 120-day check-ins.
- Check-in and review performance.
- Follow up on outstanding training questions.
- Ask for feedback on the process so far.
- Set goals to review at the 3-month check-in.
After 3 months
- Review all goals.
- Ask if the role is what they were hoping it would be.
- Encourage positive company reviews and discuss referral programs.
- Set new goals for the next 3-months.
After 6 months
- Review and celebrate the last six months.
- Set new goals and discuss what a one-year performance review looks like.
- Schedule regular recurring check-ins.
- Conduct an onboarding feedback survey.