Onboarding is the journey an employee takes to connect to the culture, processes, and expectations of the organization. This journey involves multiple transitions throughout their time at the company. It begins from the moment a candidate accepts a job offer, to an employee's first day, and through the movements and promotions during their career, to the time they leave.
The goal of modern onboarding is to create an individualized, consistent experience that enables employees to be supported in preparation for and throughout the transition. This is the time in an employee’s experience to affirm their decision to make the change - whether it be to join the organization, assume a new role, or move to a different company.
We have found there to be 6 core areas in modern onboarding programs that should be addressed to support a positive outcome during each of an employee’s transitions: Compliance, Day 1 Ready, Culturalization, Training, Socialization, and Retention.
1. Administrative and Compliance
Compliance is the non-negotiable of any onboarding program. It exists to protect both the worker and the business. The “must-do” of all onboarding programs includes new hire forms and processes such as tax forms, I-9, payroll set-up, notifications, policies, and regulatory training. While these check-the-box items are required, that doesn’t mean they have to be tedious. Companies who do this well utilize technology to ensure the candidate experience is maintained in all aspects of the program.
Compliance considerations as part of the onboarding process:
- There are compliance guidelines needed for your W2 employees as well as the often forgot about freelancers, and consultants that may work with you.
- Where work is done also affects compliance requirements. As a more significant percentage of workers live across state lines from the central business site, smaller and smaller companies have to understand unique state and local regulations for each worker.
- Crossboarding employees may be changing types of work that brings additional safety requirements or training.
- Offboarding often requires unemployment insurance notifications, benefit notices, and final pay specifications.
2. Day 1 Ready
Day 1 Ready is making sure the company, department, and leader is ready for the new hire on “day 1”. Many companies use some combination of emails, checklists, and excel spreadsheets, combined with an employee self-service case, to get this completed. When you create a strategic process around all of the things that have to be planned and executed prior to a new hire starting - laptop, security logins, software access, business cards - even a desk to sit at - not to mention the swag, t-shirts, branded coffee mugs or other personal touches to make them feel welcomed - you reduce the costs, time and risk of it not being completed. You also make it easier on your internal teams and provide analytics and insights about where bottlenecks or issues are occurring to help improve processes.
This is where onboarding really becomes more about the new hire in that role. It is connecting them to the business - who you are, how you do things different and why what you do matters. It is helping them understand the story of your company, mission, vision, goals, and what it is really like to be a part of the team. There may be some shared language, history or even brand colors you all wear certain days. Culturalization is letting them “in” to things they may not have known as a consumer or just researching your company and makes them feel part of something bigger. Companies are doing this step in one on one online sessions as well as in group sessions both in person or through co-hort training programs that feel very personalized to the participant and create a real sense of connection.
In nearly every role there will be some level of training needed - a CEO will need to better understand the details of the customers they service, a sales person will need to understand the product, a waitress has to learn the menu and flow to the kitchen. Training during onboarding is about getting that person up to speed and productive as quickly as possible, while continuing to support the employee experience and confirm their decision to come work for you. The training we are seeing today as part of the onboarding process includes some of the core “hard” skills to do the job right, but has had a much bigger focus on the soft skills. A particular focus for many companies has been around inclusion, customer success and team dynamics. This is different than the sharing of the companies inclusion or customer focus - and really helps the individual test and develop their skills individually.
Socialization is how well the individual feels they fit at a personal level. Employees need to feel personally connected with people at work, and comfortable with their day-to-day - who is on my team, where is the closest grocery store, where do we go for lunch near work, etc. This includes that informal level of details and connection to their team as well as more formal programs like mentors or a pre-scheduled series of meetings with co-workers both in and outside of your team over your first few months. More recently, we are seeing hybrid approaches emerging - especially at organizations with a high number of remote workers - that creates cohort and group-guided conversations covering culturalization, some training, and this socialization process all in one over a series of months.
The final step in onboarding is retention. This is really ensuring you have a strategic approach to each of the other components and they all tie into your employee experience strategies. Modern onboarding programs today run 4-12 months, with many organizations wrapping up around month 6.. As part of this stage, there is ongoing feedback and conversations with the new hire ensuring their needs are being met, questions are being addressed and they feel individually valued. A generic onboarding survey isn’t ideal as a touchpoint for their day 3, 7, or even 14 check in when someone they know should be who reaches out (coordinator, recruiter, etc) - but may be fine at day 60, 90, and 120 for a soft check-in.