4 Steps to a Successful Onboarding Process

onboarding new trainee


Taylor Tobin
Taylor Tobin1.84k

Hiring talented new employees to bolster your team counts among the most rewarding responsibilities held by a manager. However, the process required to get a new hire acclimated to your workflow and company culture can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s placed atop the pile of other tasks on your supervisory checklist. For this reason, it’s helpful to streamline your onboarding procedures, giving new employees the info they need to start off on the right foot and setting your entire team up for success. 

The following four steps can serve as a launchpad, providing a strong basis of necessary intel for new staff additions during their first days and weeks of employment.

Step 1: Before the first day

Connect with HR to ensure that new hire paperwork is prepared.

If you work for a larger company with a human resources department, you as the hiring manager should communicate with your organization's HR team and make sure that your new employees’ requisite paperwork is prepared for their first day on the job. An I-9, a W-4, and a copy of the employee handbook serve as universal examples of this paperwork, but your workplace may also have unique documents that require review, and those too should be delivered as part of a new employee’s orientation.

Additionally, a written “onboarding guide” is a valuable document for hiring managers; an articulated list of training steps will prevent you from forgetting crucial details, and working in tandem with HR to compile this guide will ensure that everyone is on the same page where new-hire orientation is concerned.

Prepare current employees for the incoming new colleagues.

Chances are, you’ll need current employees to assist with the onboarding process, particularly where it involves staff training. Whether you’ve asked a soon-to-be-departing worker to stick around to train her replacement or you’ve chosen to delegate training duties to teammates who will work alongside the new hire, establishing a clear and cogent plan for bringing the newbies up to speed is a crucial imperative that should be completed prior to their first day.

Make sure that the new hire's workstation is ready to go.

When a new employee arrives on her first day of work and a workspace hasn’t been prepared for her, it’s an awkward situation for everyone involved. Luckily, it’s also an easy situation to avoid. Take some time prior to her start date to establish her assigned desk/cubicle/space at a shared station. Also, communicate with your IT department to make sure that her computer will be all set up for her and that she’ll have access to the office printers and WiFi. For an extra hospitality boost, consider stocking your new hire’s workspace with stationery, writing utensils, and a few pieces of company swag (like a mousepad or a tote bag). 

Plan a team event to get everyone acquainted.

The specifics of a “team event” depend on your particular company culture, but hosting a gathering to make your new arrivals feel welcome is a considerate move for both the recent hires and your existing employees. A team lunch, a group happy hour, a bagel buffet — all viable options. 

If possible, have multiple new hires start on the same day.

Joining a new company can be an anxiety-inducing pursuit, and it’s easy to feel isolated and disoriented on your first day in an unfamiliar workspace. Therefore, when it comes to training new hires, there’s strength in numbers. By onboarding multiple employees at the same time, you’ll provide them with an instant community, which can ease first-day jitters and help the newbies acclimate smoothly.

Step 2: On the first day

Facilitate the completion of all necessary paperwork.

Whether you’re prepping the paperwork yourself as the hiring manager or HR is taking the lead here, getting all documents signed and initialed must occur before the first day of employment comes to an end. Rather than allowing the paperwork portion of Day One to happen in a haphazard fashion, schedule a specific window of time for document review.

Allow training to occur in shorter blocks of time.

Instead of subjecting your new hires to marathon training sessions lasting several hours all at once, schedule brief training modules with breaks in between. This structure will keep the hire’s mind fresh and alert and will make it easier to involve more staffers in the training process.

Set the new employees up with passwords, login credentials, calendars, etc.

Don’t leave your new employee wondering about how to sign into her computer or how to log onto the company’s WiFi network. Instead, supply her with all login credentials in writing.

Introduce the new employees to their teammates and make sure that training procedures are in order.

Many hiring managers delegate portions of new-hire training to their direct reports. If you choose to take this path, make sure that your trainers know exactly what they need to teach the new hires, what the desired timeline is for training, and how and when you’d like to be updated on the new hire’s progress. 

Familiarize new employees with the company website and other digital platforms.

Especially if you work in a digital-minded field, it’s important to update new hires on the company’s web presence as soon as possible. On the first day, offer your new employees some time to get acquainted with the company website and social media platforms, and make yourself available to field questions.

Step 3: In the first week

Offer a full tour of the office.

This step generally applies to larger companies with significant office real estate, but regardless of your workplace’s size, new employees should become familiar with the layout. Take a few moments during your trainee’s first week to show her around the office, pointing out important areas like the kitchen, conference rooms, the printer, and (of course) the restrooms. 

Explain PTO policies.

If your company has an HR department, those reps can and should participate in this aspect of training. But if not, it’s your responsibility as the hiring manager to give your new employees a full rundown of the company’s PTO policies. Make sure your hire is fully aware of her complete PTO allowance for the year, whether that time is divided up into sick leave and vacation days, how long it will take her to accrue PTO (if relevant), which federal holidays are observed by the office, and whether unused days can carry over from year to year.

Schedule one-on-one meetings with immediate team members.

The sooner your new employee develops an understanding of your department’s division of labor, the better. To facilitate that process, introduce her to her immediate colleagues as soon as possible and schedule sessions during which those team members can bring the new hire up to speed on their projects and the role she’s expected to play. 

Seek opportunities to personalize the onboarding process.

Of course, certain aspects of onboarding must remain consistent for each new hire. However, a hiring manager should focus the process on the individual, not on a conceptual idea of the role she’ll inhabit. Think about the specific desirable traits that this particular person possesses and craft facets of the onboarding procedure around them. For instance, if your new hire has a strong background in social media, make sure that familiarizing her with the company’s platforms becomes an immediate priority. 

Train new employees on specialized software programs.

Even if your new hire enters your office with plenty of software experience, the particular versions used by your company may differ from those she’s encountered in the past. For the sake of efficiency, you’ll want to schedule a software training seminar as soon as possible.

Step 4: Throughout the first few months

Set clear performance goals.

During the first several months of your new hire’s tenure, you should clearly articulate your expectations and give her easy-to-understand benchmarks for success. By removing the guesswork and ambiguity, you’ll help your employee form her own goals and remain focused on both her immediate tasks and the larger context.

Schedule check-ins to review progress.

A strong manager must maintain consistent and direct lines of communication with her employees, and when a new hire enters the mix, this need for regular dialogue becomes even more critical. Putting weekly or biweekly check-in meetings on your calendars will allow you to carve out time to chat with your employee about her successes and where you’d like to see improvement. Plan to continue these check-in meetings throughout the first 90 days of your hire’s employment, in order to rapidly address questions and concerns.

Encourage new employees to get involved in office activities and traditions.

If your company culture involves extracurricular activities like office happy hours, employee birthday celebrations, and company picnics, encourage your new hires to join in! These gatherings frequently help employees become better acquainted on a social level, which can translate to more harmonious working relationships. New hires sometimes feel hesitant to participate in pre-existing office get-togethers and celebrations, but as the hiring manager, you have the opportunity to clearly express that the recent arrivals are completely invited to come and have a great time. 

Ask your new hires to offer feedback on the onboarding process.

Onboarding procedures should always be works-in-progress, and you as a hiring manager must remain open-minded to improvements and adjustments for the future. An easy way to gather intel on the effectiveness of your onboarding involves asking recent hires to share their perspectives on the process they followed. Did they have any unanswered questions at the end of their training? Should certain policies and operations be added to the curriculum? Encourage your new hires to share their experiences with as much candor as possible.

How long should onboarding last?

The onboarding process should culminate in an employee feeling fully up-to-date on company policies, her manager’s expectations, her daily tasks, and her long-running projects. As you can imagine, this isn’t a chain of events that should be rushed... but plenty of companies opt to hasten through new employee orientations. According to CareerBuilder, a full 36 percent of companies lack a structured onboarding process, choosing instead to train new employees in a piecemeal manner. 

While this training style may initially appear to save time, these hires emerge without a nuanced comprehension of the organization that employs them, which majorly compromises the initial “efficiency.” Instead, companies would be better served by offering thorough training procedures to their employees and by allowing these processes to take place over the course of several months rather than several days. Consider 3-6 months a reasonable timeline for onboarding.


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