What Is Onboarding?

Onboarding integrates and assimilates new employees into the organization and provides them with the tools, resources, and knowledge to become successful and productive.  What onboarding is not is that one or two day “fill out these forms and watch these videos” event that many companies use.  That event, while mostly necessary, is not focused on providing your new hires with the “tools, resources, and knowledge to become successful and productive.”

Now that you know what it is and is not, the obvious question is “What is the process for Onboarding?”

The onboarding process:

  • Involves business leaders from many departments, not just HR
  • Takes place over as much as a year, not just a day
  • Is designed based on a set of specific objectives
  • Involves many people in the organization, including people who play specific roles
  • Is evaluated and measured to assure continuous improvement and positive outcomes
  • Is delivered to all new employees
  • Can be tailored for employees in specific job roles/positions/locations/etc.

Objectives of an Onboarding Program

So that you can have an effective onboarding program, including the following goals and objectives can help you accomplish that:

  • Help the new employee learn the company’s mission, vision, strategic goals, and priorities
  • Help the new employee understand performance expectations for the new job
  • Help the new employee achieve those performance expectations
  • Help the new employee understand, navigate, and comply with the company’s culture, expectations, organization structure, interpersonal relationships, and networking
  • Make the new employee feel valued by the company and excited to work for the company

What is a Critical Role in the Onboarding Process

Managers and Supervisors will play a key and essential role in your onboarding process as they will interact with the employee the most.  A typical agenda for Managers and Supervisors to use includes:

  • Welcoming the new employee
  • Meeting with the new employee as soon as first-day orientation is complete
  • Explaining the new employee’s job responsibilities
  • Beginning to explain and set cultural expectations at work (how and when to communicate, what decisions the worker can make without manager approval, etc.)
  • Explaining the company’s system for performance management and performance reviews
  • Working with the employee to create a performance plan for the employee
  • Assigning relevant training to the worker (possibly in concert with the Training Department)
  • Assigning meaningful, real work to the employee during the first week (and after)
  • Monitoring the new employee’s performance and offering constructive feedback throughout the first day, month, year, and onward

First Ninety Days

Most Onboarding Programs last 90-days. After the first week, the employee should begin accepting additional work responsibilities and moving toward full productivity.

Here are some things to focus on during this phase:

  • Have the new employee complete any remaining “new employee” training
  • Move the new employee up to a level of fully productive employee (or as close as possible depending on their demonstrated performance)
  • Begin providing training for advanced job skills/knowledge/needs
  • Continue to monitor the employee’s performance, provide regular and timely feedback, and answer questions

Measurements of an Effective Onboarding Program

Use quantifiable standards and measurements. You should take and evaluate measurements on key performance indicators (KPIs) or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to see if your onboarding program has the desired effect. Never assume it is effective or that the new employee understands.

But what should you measure?

Consider measuring and tracking things like:

  • The number of employees who successfully complete training.
  • The pass/fail rate of knowledge assessments.
  • How well training solutions map to job functions.
  • The rate of behavior change as a result of training.
  • The impact of training solutions on KPIs/OKRs.
  • Reduction of waste/error.
  • Increased revenue per employee based on time or output.

Additional considerations may be given to those metrics which focus on the day-to-day management of training, its cost, and time.  For example:

  • Number of employees trained
  • Number of employees who successfully complete training
  • Training dollars expended per employee
  • Learning hours per employee
  • Cost per learning hour received

Treating your new hire onboarding plan like a living process will ensure that it remains fresh, relevant, and value-adding.  Effective onboarding processes improve both recruiting and retention by attracting the most qualified candidates and retaining your best producers.