The Many Purposes of the Onboarding Process

Imagine boarding a plane, buckling your seatbelt, and listening to the in-flight announcements, only to hear a flight attendant go on and on about the food options onboard. No mention of emergency exits, bathrooms, safety rules and regulations, in-flight entertainment—just long ramblings on the chicken and fish dinner options, drink menu items, and types of peanuts. This would obviously be a failed onboarding, wouldn’t it?

It’s the same with the employee onboarding process. You can’t onboard by just, say, showing new people to their desk and wishing them well. No, effective onboarding always serves many purposes.

Onboarding is the process of transitioning new hires into their job, their team and the company. The two key parts to onboarding are: transitioning employees into the company culture, helping them become familiar with its values, goals and expectations; and familiarizing them with the tools and resources they need to be productive.

Orientation, Onboarding, and Training

Getting new hires up to speed and ready to run is a process that is often broken into three separate parts: orientation, onboarding, and work training. However, a comprehensive onboarding process encompasses orientation and work training.

Onboarding helps new hires integrate with other employees, management, and the corporate culture. Ultimately, the onboarding process helps people understand how to be successful in their new job.

Orientation is a one-time event that welcomes new hires to your company and is typically held on the first day or first week of employment. It officially introduces your organization’s culture, mission, and values. An orientation often brings together new employees across departments and includes the following:

Work training helps new employees know how to actually do their job. According to a recent survey, training is the number one factor millennials consider when starting a new job, and is important to employee satisfaction. Onboarding and training should go hand in hand to best equip new employees to be successful.

Work training can include:

The onboarding process is a series of events that begins when an offer is accepted, goes through orientation and training, and may not end for several months. More and more, it is also key to engaging and retaining your workforce.

With that in mind, here are five purposes to plan for as you onboard your new hires.

Onboarding Process Purpose #1 – Validate New Hire’s Decision

Your new hires want to feel like they made the right decision when they accepted your job offer, and if they don’t, they may leave. So, your onboarding process needs to give them confidence in your organization. One easy way to do that is to keep in contact with new hires during the gap between accepting the offer and their first day.

By using self-onboarding software, you can keep incoming employees connected to your organization (without taking you away from your other work). Effective self-onboardings allow new hires to get the majority of their paperwork done before they come in and introduce them to their work team, mitigating the amount of stress they feel on their first day. Less stress leads to more confidence.

If your self-onboarding includes questionnaires, new hires can share their hobbies and other interests, so that when they come in, they’ll quickly make connections with coworkers who share the same interests. And since their paperwork is already completed before their first day, you’ll be able to focus on more important matters—like ensuring they have a spectacular first day. Good first days help an employee know they’re in the right place.

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Onboarding Process Purpose #2 – Immerse New Hire Into Organization

Your onboarding process should familiarize new hires with their new organization and coworkers. If they’ve done their homework, they’ll know a lot about your organization and their team. As soon as possible, take the time to fill in the gaps of their knowledge, and give them the full story. Help them understand your organization’s unique DNA.

Educate new hires on the organization’s beginnings and acquaint them with its major milestones from that time until now. Discuss your mission, vision, and values, and explain why each is important to you. You may even want to take the time to fill them in on any inside jokes and other anecdotes they’ll need to fit in. In short, give them the details that, without, will make them feel like outsiders.

Onboarding Process Purpose #3 – Provide Clear Expectations

New hires want to know exactly what is expected of them. Without those expectations, they’ll feel uneasy, and they’re far less likely to perform at a high level. So, your onboarding process needs to be replete with clear communications centered around expectations. When communicating expectations to new hires, consider the two different types: cultural and work responsibilities.

When somebody applies for a job, they don’t always fully consider culture—sometimes they just want a particular job. So, it’s particularly important that your onboarding covers cultural expectations. When you discuss your organization’s mission, vision, and values (as discussed in Purpose #2), help new hires understand where they fit in the big picture and how their work helps the organization reach its goals. Demonstrate how they can apply the values on a daily basis, and explain what behaviors are encouraged and discouraged within your culture so that there is no ambiguity.

When communicating expectations to new hires, consider the two different types: cultural and work responsibilities.

Ideally, when a candidate accepts a job offer, they would know exactly what their work responsibilities entail. However, that’s not always the case. Whatever they know about the job on their first day, you’ll need to fill in the gaps. And make sure they get a perspective on what they’ll be doing from somebody who has a similar role. The more complete the picture they have on their day-to-day responsibilities, the better off everybody will be.

As much as possible, you should also educate new hires on what their career growth opportunities look like. Their career path may not be crystal clear yet, but give them something to build towards or, at the very least, hope for.

Onboarding Process Purpose #4 – Provide Work Training

There’s a direct link between the quality of onboardings and employee retention: 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay at an organization longer than three years when they have a positive onboarding experience.

One clear factor in an employee’s experience is the quality of your onboarding training program. In fact, 76 percent of new hires say on-the-job training is the most important thing for them to become productive quickly.

Different roles will require different types—and lengths—of training. What matters most is that organized onboarding training programs are in place and designed in a way that matches your organization’s culture. Department heads should lead these efforts, and HR can fit them into a broader onboarding process.

Keep in mind that longer training programs can be a good thing. Employees in longer onboarding programs gain full proficiency 34 percent faster than those in shorter programs.

HR professionals can help managers by both encouraging them to get these training programs in place and by following up with new hires to get feedback on their training experiences. Try using simple follow-up surveys at the end of training to gather feedback. As you sift through responses, you’ll discover ways to improve training programs going forward, and get new hires to full production sooner.

Onboarding Process Purpose #5 – Provide Resources

It’s literally in the title of human resources, but it’s still worth mentioning that one main purpose of onboarding is to make sure new employees (aka humans) have all the resources they need to do their job well.

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Ideally, you would build a list of employee resources by department, and then customize it by role as new hires join the team. These lists could include physical resources, like computers and workspace materials, as well as knowledge resources, like training programs, online company directories, and lists of helpful work-related websites. New hires should get these lists on their first day so whenever they’re on their own, and all the people they usually ask for help aren’t available, they can still do their work effectively.

Mentors can also be a resource for new hires. You’ll want to choose somebody who has full knowledge of the new hire’s work responsibilities, enough time to act as a mentor, and a personality that will mesh with the new hire. Also, don’t forget that internal hires need onboarding as well, so make sure to provide them with the same resources as an outside hire.

Without a comprehensive onboarding process, employees can feel lost, like they’re drifting on to no place in particular. With a comprehensive onboarding process, employees get off to good starts and feel empowered to accomplish great things.