If Your Manager Isn't Using These 5 Onboarding Hacks, Here's How to Set Yourself Up For Success

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Christina Gialleli10
Director of People Ops at Epignosis
May 25, 2024 at 11:58PM UTC

“You don’t get a second chance to create a first impression.” 

This may be true for job applicants, but it is also true for employers and managers who deal with onboarding new talent — and the new talent who’s hoping to succeed at their new organization.

A new hire’s onboarding is the make-it-or-break-it time: if done successfully, it can play a significant role in the employees’ overall growth and trajectory within the organization. If done poorly, a new hire will be ill-prepared for their duties, will struggle to connect with the rest of the team and ultimately become disengaged. 

So how can managers make an onboarding process successful?

First, managers need to decide on an employee onboarding strategy that will be shared and implemented by different key stakeholders across the organization. It’s important that new hires, no matter which branch of the company they join, all get the same attention — including 1:1 time with managers and senior leaders.

Here are five ways leaders should maximize success when onboarding new employees — and five ways new employees can ensure they’re making the most of their onboarding experience.

1. Focus on making genuine connections.

Onboarding starts, and should start, with the human element. During their first few days and weeks, a new hire should be meeting people, forming social ties and learning from colleagues. But the onus of that should not fall into the new employee, who’s already stressing about mastering the skills and tools needed to do their new job. Leaders should encourage their tenured employees to reach out and connect with the new hire, to get to know their colleagues and establish a work relationship.

This is particularly important to keep in mind for remote and hybrid workplaces. Remote onboarding has gained ground within the past two years, but many employers are still struggling with it. A Toggl survey found that for 60% of HR managers, onboarding employees remotely was the biggest adjustment to the pandemic. Managers need to double down on human interaction for remote hires, otherwise new employees will feel isolated and out of loop.

Managers should consider assigning each new hire a tenured employee as a “mentor.” They can show them the ropes and be their go-to person for the first few weeks or so. 

If you’re a new employee who isn’t meeting other people from your organization, make it a point to connect with at least a few people every week. Remind yourself to set follow-ups to ensure you’re maintaining relationships too, not just meeting people for the sake of it.

2. Prioritize learning.

Employee training should start during onboarding — in fact, it should be a natural extension of the onboarding process. When bringing new employees on board, managers should identify what additional resources and skills they will need to thrive in their new role. Then, managers should have a conversation with them in order to find out what else they want to learn, or which skills they feel like they would like to refresh or revamp. 

Creating a growth plan for new hires may sound like overkill, but it’s actually very important — both for them and for the company. We’re still amid The Great Resignation: the US Labor Department reported a 3% increase rate of employees quitting in November, matching a series high last seen in September. Offering your employees learning and development opportunities from the get-go may be a good way to reduce turnover — and attract new talent. A TalentLMS and Workable survey on tech employees showed that for 58% of job seekers, skills development is the top criterion when selecting a company to work for. 

If your manager isn’t bringing up a learning plan, ask for a meeting to discuss your current skills and what else you’d like to learn. Come prepared with a tentative growth plan that your manager can sculpt based on the organization’s resources and timeline.

3. Customize onboarding.

Of course, a sustainable onboarding strategy means managers need to have a template and a checklist for each hire. But a level of customization for each new employee is necessary as well. Every new hire has different goals and skills that they can apply at work and part of a manager’s job is to make sure they can utilize their employee’s strengths so they can immediately add value to the team.

When onboarding feels personal and well thought-through, employees have a better sense and a more clear plan about how they can grow within your company. A Gallup survey found that employees who strongly agree they have a clear plan for their professional development are 3.5 times more likely to have had an exceptional onboarding process.

As an employee, make sure to ask clarifying questions often — especially if you’re in a remote setting. It can be difficult for managers to understand just how much information you’re absorbing. Help them help you by telling them upfront what you’re still unsure about and having questions ready every time you meet.

4. Have tools and resources ready to go.

New hires are eager to hit the ground running. And they can do so if managers have all the tools and resources already prepared for their first day of work. The process will be slightly different whether onboarding takes place on-site or remotely, but the premise is the same.

Sending (or setting up) laptops and devices should be a priority. If new hires are remote, they should have access to them before Day 1, so that during onboarding, managers can simply send them the setup instructions and codes they need.

Managers can also give your new hires the chance to hit the ground running by sending them part of their orientation beforehand (the part that doesn’t include sensitive information, obviously) via an invite link. That way, they can read up a bit about the company’s values and about the bios of their team members so that they feel more prepared. 

Finally, whether managers are onboarding remote or in-office hires, a welcome kit is highly recommended. It can include company-branded merchandise that will make them feel a part of the team, or even nice extras like coupons or subscriptions to services. 

As a new employee, don’t be afraid to ask for the resources you need, especially on Day 1.

5. Measure success—and adjust as needed.

Planning a thorough, inclusive and personalized onboarding for new hires takes time and resources. So of course managers need to know whether their efforts have the intended impact. The best way to do that is to ask — by sending a survey around to all employees within the first 90 days of their start date. 

Onboarding surveys help managers measure the effectiveness of their onboarding processes, identify potential problem areas and make changes accordingly. There are several ways you can structure an onboarding survey — this article lists 101 questions to ask to get new hire feedback.

If you’re an employee who hasn’t received a survey or any follow-up after your first 90 days, proactively set up a meeting with your manager focused exclusively on your adjustment and success on the team.

Onboarding has become more important than ever. It’s a dynamic process that can help managers connect to, set up for success, and ultimately retain their employees. In this competitive job market, making genuine connections and offering personalized opportunities for growth is the best way to retain top talent. If you’re a manager who wants to lead by example or an employee who’s ready to dive in and ramp up quickly, effective onboarding is the blueprint for success. 

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

As the Director of People Operations at Epignosis since 2018, Christina built the function from the ground up and fuelled the company’s rapid growth from a startup of 35 people to a 150-strong scaleup. She is responsible for all things People Ops from onboarding to offboarding, facilitating the company’s ambitious team growth plans. She has over a decade-long experience in HR functions both in Europe and the United States and holds an MSc in Human Resources Management from Florida International University.

What’s your no. 1 piece of onboarding advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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