How Long Does Onboarding Take? 10 Ways to Improve Employee Experience

How long does onboarding take?

Most human resource experts agree that onboarding should take at least three months for new hires. However, by extending onboarding throughout the employee’s first year, you can positively impact and increase employee retention and engagement.

While onboarding processes vary from business to business and even between industries, there are several general guidelines that can help improve employee engagement, retention, and the success of onboarding.

A standardized onboarding process increases new hire retention by at least 50%. And when a business provides a great onboarding experience, 69% of employees are more likely to stay for at least three years.

But despite the benefits of an employee-focused onboarding process, many businesses fail to deliver a good experience. Most new hires expect to complete more than 50 tasks in their onboarding process—with a focus on new hire paperwork and administrative hurdles. This aligns with what 58% of organizations report—their onboarding programs are focused on processes and paperwork. And the length of most onboarding programs? Only 37% of businesses say their programs last for more than 30 days.

Developing an effective onboarding strategy and onboarding timeline takes time and effort. But retaining new hires and high-performing employees on your team is worth it. Read on to learn how long onboarding should take and ten tips for making it count.

» Jump To: On-demand Onboarding | The First Six Months | After Six Months

Expert Tip: Offer On-Demand Support With Employee Self-Service Tools

Even the best onboarding plan can't anticipate every question. That's why more businesses are embracing self-service tools that allow new hires to find the answers they need any time, any day.

Employee self-service tools provide a modern alternative to printed handbooks and time-consuming meetings. Instead, you can collect e-signatures, distribute new hire welcome packets, and build personalized onboarding plans, all within an app new hires can navigate independently.

If you're looking for ways to improve onboarding, BambooHR can help. Our award-winning software empowers HR professionals and hiring managers to customize onboarding templates that provide a best in case onboarding experience—no advanced tech skills required. You'll spend less time on orientation and more time on the meaningful training new hires crave.

Streamline Steps With Onboarding Technology

Onboarding technology can help your business streamline the onboarding process.

Automated software tutorials and onboarding prompts are great ways to use onboarding technology. These digital options can help new hires move through the onboarding process faster and get acquainted with more areas of the business and specific software in a shorter amount of time. Companies like WalkMe create digital adoption platforms (DAP) that give employees step-by-step guidance on how to use new software employees will be required to use.

Technology can also be used to reduce the amount of time spent with transactional onboarding procedures such as paperwork, granting permissions, opening accounts, and more.

But don’t mistake software as a replacement for in-person or human-led onboarding. By automating repetitive tasks, you'll free up time that's better spent on teambuilding or one-on-one, role-specific training.

Spend Less Time on Paperwork and More Time on People

Companies that switch to e-signatures can save 30 hours and $300 per new employee.

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Share Company Policies

Your onboarding program should always include information about specific company policies.

Self-service platforms create a great opportunity for new hires to access your employee handbook, PTO information, dress code, and other essential documents—in a resource center that’s easy to access during onboarding and throughout the employee’s time at your company.

Offer On-Demand Onboarding Videos

Videos can help streamline the onboarding process and provide a more engaging employee experience.

Onboarding videos also promote social and formal learning. Plus, they're a cost-effective way for companies to onboard employees. A one to many approach works for many of the topics you need to discuss during onboarding including health insurance, PTO, dress code, employee benefits, and more.

During the First Six Months

Create Cohorts of New Hires

An effective onboarding process connects several new hires together, ensuring that new hires can share the onboarding experience together from the beginning.

Collaborative learning provides an immersive experience that encourages new employees to bond with their colleagues, share experiences, and better understand their role in the company. Employees glean the majority of their work-related knowledge from colleagues, so collaborative learning gives them the opportunity to learn from others who have more experience and improve their skills as a result.

You can create collaborative learning opportunities by onboarding batches of new employees together and including current employees from various departments in the onboarding process.

Help New Hires Build Relationships

The onboarding experience should prioritize an onboarding buddy and onboarding mentor for each new hire.

Relational onboarding means nurturing and welcoming new employees so they can perform their best. Along with this, your onboarding program should provide new employees with support, clearly defined responsibilities, and set expectations for their new position. Assisting new employees in building solid relationships with their coworkers and managers can help new employees more quickly adapt to your organization’s culture and speed up their learning process.

When a new hire is assigned a mentor during their onboarding process, you can ensure that the new hire will get additional information and training you can’t account for in a standardized onboarding process. Mentors can help network with other employees in the business and learn about the company culture by shadowing their mentors during working hours.

Onboarding buddies are more casual connections. An onboarding buddy can help create opportunities for new hires to ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking their manager, or the many random questions that fall outside the scope of orientation or training.

Complete the Core Onboarding Process

Employee retention increases when the onboarding process extends throughout the first year of the new hire’s time at your business. Still, your onboarding process should frontload the core essentials, bringing new hires up to speed within the first six months.

Creating a more robust onboarding program helps employees become more productive, feel comfortable in their work environment, learn where to go when they have questions, adapt to the company culture, and build better employee relationships.

Even though pushing new hires through paperwork and training quickly sounds like they can start work sooner, it isn’t the right path to employee productivity and contribution. Strike the right balance between an onboarding program that integrates new hires so they can quickly start contributing, while also providing opportunities for continued training.

After the First Six Months

Repurpose Onboarding Checklists for Reboarding

Onboarding isn’t just for new hires. Transitioning internal employees into a new role within the company is just as important as onboarding a brand new employee.

Depending on your company, the culture of one department may be significantly different than that of another. Transferred employees don’t want to feel like a newbie in an organization they’ve worked at for years.

Instead, look for ways to adapt your new hire onboarding process into a reboarding process that gives internal hires the training, feedback, and socialization they need to be successful.

Conduct Regular Surveys to Measure Employee Engagement

Companies that see onboarding as a transactional process and fail to connect employees to the business won’t engage their hearts and minds.

When employees feel fully engaged with their organization they enjoy their jobs, are committed to their company, and put greater effort into their work. Enthusiastic employees are more productive and create a positive work environment for everyone involved.

How do your employees REALLY feel?

BambooHR makes it simple to gather anonymous feedback with research-backed surveys.

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Offer Advanced Learning Opportunities

Additional time in the onboarding process also allows for higher-level learning.

Because employees have more time to absorb basic information, there are greater opportunities to help them build more advanced skills throughout their first year. Don’t stop training them once they seem proficient with the bare minimum.

Providing continuing education throughout the first year of employment allows employees to advance their skills and better benefit your organization. Focused training on both soft and technical skills gives employees more advancement opportunities and provides them with a career path and a vision for the future.

Monitor Employee Retention

The length of your onboarding program can significantly impact how long your employees stay with your company.

When new employees experience a positive onboarding program, they’re 18x more committed to their employer. This is critical when you consider how much disengaged employees cost businesses every year—between $450 and $500 billion. Consider engaging new hires throughout their first year to ensure an increase in engagement and retention.

Employee Wellness = Employee Retention

If you know how your employees feel, you can make the right changes to improve culture, increase retention, and premature turnover.

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How long does onboarding take?
While your onboarding process will be unique to your business, onboarding programs that extend beyond the first 30 days and up to the first 12 months of a new hire's time with your business increase engagement and employee retention. Explore 10 expert tips for creating an effective onboarding process.

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is typically a set of processes that a business creates to integrate a new hire into the company. Employee onboarding can cover training on software an employee will be using on the job, company policies, company culture, payroll information, employee benefits, and more. Learn how onboarding technology can help you create a standard, streamlined onboarding experience.