The 4 Best Steps for Onboarding Employees

Onboarding Employees done right

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Onboarding employees is crucial for your company’s success. When you hire someone, you want them to be productive as quickly as possible, integrated with other colleagues, and not wanting to leave for a couple of years at least. If you are onboarding employees right, you address all those concerns and ensure you will have terrific employees from day 1 and in the long-term.

In this guide on onboarding employees, we specifically focus on productivity, integration, and sense of belonging to the company. Once we uncover those three pillars, we will see how to build the perfect onboarding plan.

The 3 Pillars of Onboarding Employees

Productivity When Onboarding Employee

What is the difference between a “new hire” and a normal employee? Most may think that it is the tenure, but we like to take a broader view. The difference is that a normal employee is independent and can get things done, while new hires are not fully functional on their own. The new hire will have to ask other people how to do things, who knows what, and what tools to use.

As a rule of thumb, the complex the role you hired for, the longer it will take for the employee to be independent. That path toward independence (and thus, productivity) is the onboarding process. As we will see, onboarding employees is not just about productivity, but that is a good deal of it, and it is the traditional way of approaching onboarding.

Independence means productivity because you pay the salary to the employee and expect results from him. If he has to rely on other colleagues (which are paid to do other things), you are not squeezing the best value out of your money. So, as an employer, you want your employees to be productive as soon as possible.

You should do a few things to accomplish that:

  • Define an onboarding buddy, a peer of the new hire that can answer all his questions. Don’t let it be a passive role, but have this buddy actively seek for the new hire periodically to see how things are going.
  • Set 1:1 meetings with the manager, as the new hire should frequently align with his manager to see if he is prioritizing what the manager would like to prioritize. Those meetings should happen at least weekly.
  • Have a document with bookmarks and links to digital tools, so that the new employee can quickly access whatever he needs. Prepare this in advance, you can re-use it for all employees in the same role. Better yet, if you have an internal website for your company, consider publishing it there
  • Prepare equipment in advance, so that on the first day (or before of that) the new employee has everything he needs to do his job. That includes physical tools, a computer, all permissions set right to access all the proper tools, and so on.

Employee Onboarding and Integration

You are hiring people, not machines like ChatGPT. So, treat them like people, with respect, kindness, and care.  And this means integrating them in all the processes of the company and of the team where they need to be for their role. And do that immediately, do not wait for a proverbial “you are not ready yet”.

Integration is a crucial them when onboarding employees
Integration is important to make sure your team works with cohesion.

This is important to make the employee feel they can contribute to the company at their 100%, and are not limited by a “I did not know that” or “I did not have this meeting”.

When onboarding employees, integrate them in the company with the following steps:

  • Forward recurring meetings but with clear expectations, that is, tell the new hire explicitly you are not expecting them to start taking on work until they are ready. However, you want them in the meeting so that if they feel they can add something, they can do that immediately.
  • Define an onboarding buddy, once again having a go-to person for all queries is crucial
  • Talk about goals and how you measure success, have continuous manager-employee talks about what success should look like

Develop a Sense of Belonging When Onboarding Employees

Finally, and this continues along the lines of integration, you should consider the sense of belonging when onboarding employees. You want them to feel valued, you want them to feel they are in the right place, and that the team and company is welcoming them.

This goes beyond just work, and it is not a part of employee onboarding that you can take care of with company policies and procedures. Quite the opposite, it is something that grows organically from how the team behaves. You want to have a team that have a welcoming culture, and thus spend time explaining to them about diversity and inclusion, how to fight bias, how to respect other people’s point of view, how to disagree politely, and so on.

Additionally, you want to create opportunities for people to bond outside simple work. Create some offsites, and they do not have to be expensive, a quick dinner can do, or even a walk in the park, but do make them. Those are particularly effective when the team is under pressure, and they can act as a stress-relief valve. When people feel they are sharing a struggle, they tend to bond closer together.

Building Your Employee Onboarding Plan

Building an employee onboarding plan means you create a path, you define the steps that will lead to productivity, integration, and belonging. Such a plan is normally a document with a set of milestones and things to do. Here is my advice on what to include in it.

Welcome Message from the Manager

First things first. You should start with a personalized welcome message that the manager creates for the new hire. And here I truly mean personalized, not something where you can simply replace names and reuse it for various employees.

Try to add something specific about the employee that is coming, why you are glad they are coming, and what kind of contribution you are expecting from them. Mention some of the skills that became apparent in the interview process, and show how they will be crucial for the team.

Welcoming the new hire warmly is something you want to do when onboarding employees
Welcome your new hires warmly.

If possible, this message should be a handwritten note. This shows you are really taking the time to put this together, and you are serious about making the employee feel welcome. It sets the conversation; it starts the employee onboarding with the right foot.

In that letter, mention explicitly that you (the manager) are available to help them succeed in the role, and they should come back to you anytime if they need some help, support, information, or if they would like to do things differently in some regard.

People to Meet

Produce a list of people the new hire should meet, and pair each person with role, a description of why it is important that the new hire meets with them, contact details, and a timeline by which you expect them to have met.

This step is probably the most crucial. It sets the new hire up for success. This is because it helps them build the network they need to do their job. This will help them answer the question “who knows what” and move forward through ambiguity and unclear goals or expectations.

Meetings are a great way to build the network of the new hire
Use meetings to build the network of the new hire.

Have the new hire start to own this: he should be the one to set the meetings, the meetings should not be already set for him. Of course, to make this possible if you set in your company one expectation right. That is, if someone has a person to meet in his onboarding plan, that person must make room to ensure the meeting can happen. The “I am too busy, let’s talk about this in a couple of weeks” does not work in this case.

Links to Resources

This is also important, because you want your new hire to be independent in fetching information and accessing whatever he needs to. Nowadays, most of company apps and tools are online and accessible through a browser. So, even creating a small bookmark page is enough.

But do create it. In this way, the new hire is free to explore the tools on his own, and he will not be blocked waiting on people to give him access to things.

Projects and Tasks for the first 90 days

People tend to feel guilty when they get paid for doing nothing productive, even if doing nothing is what they need to (not) do at a given time. Onboarding employees feels a lot like that, most company have a lot of training that is mandatory, and as a new hire you are meeting people, listening, but not really contributing. People want to contribute, and you need to enable them.

The best way to do so is to assign them some “quick wins” they can accomplish early in their onboarding process. As you can imagine, those are projects and initiative when you don’t need deep knowledge about the context. Ideally, you should pair the new hire with a more tenured employee for larger initiative, so that they can work together and the new hire does not feel thrown into the front lines without proper equipment.

Onboarding Employees in Summary

Onboarding employees is about making people productive, feel integrated and belonging to the company as quickly as possible. You should approach any employee onboarding with proper structure, defining who are the people to meet, the resources to use, and the projects to do.

Onboarding is part of a wider HR area that is the recruitment process. You should learn more about it with the definitive guide on recruitment, this will tell you how to get the best talent for your company.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio