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4 Onboarding Best Practices to Speed Up Your Process

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As a talent management professional, you’ve made the hire and now it’s time to have your new employee come in to meet the team. You want to give them the easiest transition you possibly can so they can get acclimated as quickly as possible, both for their sake and because time is money.

Do you remember your first day in your current job? Was it ages ago? Or does it feel like just yesterday? (Maybe it was just yesterday—congratulations on your new position!)

However long it’s been, it probably felt like a blur. A day full of confusion and hustle, lots of new faces and names to remember, tons of rules and guidelines to learn, that feeling of never being quite sure what your goals were, and you might have gotten lost on the way to the bathroom a couple times. Hopefully it was a wonderful experience nonetheless, but still, chaos reigned.

If you follow these four best practices, your onboarding process can dodge some of the chaos. Compared to your experience, it will be quick, effective, and efficient. Let’s hope your new hire is the same!

1. Reach out before the first day

If the first time you’re contacting your hire is on their first day, you are way, way behind schedule for onboarding them.

Make your employee feel welcome before they arrive though welcoming, personalized emails. A chance to visit the office and prepare their desk or work space before that first day is also a good idea, especially for small companies where business and social often overlap. This is a move that also helps avoid distraction on the first day.

So much can be accomplished before your employee begins, it’s foolish to waste that time. Ask yourself: what can be done to make the first few days easier on you and the employee? Can any of the paperwork they’ll need be sent via email and scanned back in? Can the employee handbook be offered as a PDF so your employee can study it before arriving?

Links to help:

Welcoming your employees is part of a great candidate experience, always keep that in mind.

It’s amazing how much training can be completed at home before your employees ever set foot in the door. An LMS might be your ticket.

2. Structure, structure, structure

The idea of hitting the ground running gets a lot of praise in onboarding, but I disagree with it. Unless your new hire has worked in a given job for years, they won’t know enough to hit the ground running. Even if they do have decades of experience, they don’t have that experience in your company. The culture will always be different, and you should not expect or even want your new hires to try and fit in seamlessly right away.

This means being understanding to your employees as they find or create their niche in the company. It also means offering your hires as much help as possible to find and develop that niche.

How can you help? Structure. Providing as much of a scaffolding for your hires’ first days as possible may feel like you’re doing too much, but few people would prefer to flail blindly rather than know what to expect.

Links to help:

Check out this article for ways to make the first day go just a bit more smoothly.

Add to the structure with a mentorship program, so the work isn’t all on you.

3. Emphasize the “why”

I’m terrible at hard math. Give me an equation and it will take me ages to figure it out. However, if you give me a word problem with the exact same technical math, I can solve it without a problem. What that comes down to is visualization, context, and purpose.

A pure number sentence doesn’t help me visualize anything, I can’t figure out why we’re bothering with it, it seems to have no reason. The word problem on the other hand gives me an easy visualization and a good reason to do the math.

When you give your employees a rule or a guideline with little or no context, you hobble their understanding. Any time you provide your hire with a rule, give a reason or an example. This goes, largely, for onboarding lessons, but any office rules would also benefit from these explanations, since they help acclimate an employee to company culture faster.

Links to help:

Introduce your hires to their new company’s culture through training, example, guidance, and incentive. Or break it down into pieces.

4. Take feedback

How do you give your employees feedback? A performance review of course! But where’s your performance review? How do you know how good of a job you’re doing in preparing your hires for their career?

Set goals for yourself before your new employees arrive. Perhaps you want to be more welcoming, perhaps you want less confusion on the part of your employees. Perhaps you want to see if a mentorship is of use. Come up with metrics to measure yourself with since they may not know enough about the position and company to know where you need feedback. Knowing what you’re looking for will help you ask the questions you need to get better.

Links to help:

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to collect feedback, try some feedback software. (A lot of them are free!)

What are your onboarding best practices?

Have you encountered these tips or do you have some of your own? Tell me about it in the comments.

If you want more about onboarding and training, check out these awesome articles:

Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.

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About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen writes about HR and eLearning at Capterra. She’s a graduate of Agnes Scott College and a TEDx presenter. You can follow her on Twitter @CapterraHalden, just don’t get her started about her zombie survival plan.

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