The Definitive Guide to Onboarding in 2024
44% of New Hires Regret Their Decision After the First Week
Onboarding for new employees—and for the company—is a critical time, especially during the first seven days. Nearly half (44%) actively regret their decision to join after the first week, and after the first month, 70% of your new hires will have officially made their decision to exit or stay.
This number jumps to 95% after the first two months. And remember, staying doesn’t mean new hires will be engaged in their work, just that they may choose to stay despite harboring regrets.
62% of Employees Say Their First Impressions of a New Company Are Still Accurate
New-hire onboarding is your chance as an organization to solidify the new person’s decision to come on board, commit to your mission, and do what you hired them to do to the best of their ability for as long as possible.
This makes first impressions incredibly important, with 62% of employees saying their first impressions of a new company are still accurate, and 60% agreeing that once made, a first impression is hard to change.
1 in 4 New Hires Will Cry Within Their First Week
To define onboarding as emotional is to acknowledge the universal experience of “first-day jitters.” Our same survey revealed that one in four new employees (23%) will cry within their first week at a new job.
So it’s important to structure those first few weeks of onboarding with a plan that’s specifically designed to convince new hires your company is worth it—the paycheck, the mental load, the time, the effort, and the emotion.
Onboarding is the more comprehensive and long-term process that extends beyond the initial orientation activities. It’s designed to integrate new hires into the company culture, help them understand their roles and responsibilities, and facilitate their successful transition into the organization.
Onboarding may include a mix of short- and long-term activities, including:
- Introductions to key team members
- Mentorship programs
- Job-specific training
- Performance feedback
- Continuous communication to address challenges or concerns
Onboarding can last for weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of the role and the organization. It involves providing ongoing support, training, and resources to new hires to ensure their productivity, engagement, and retention.
- Faster or more predictable time to productivity
- Thorough new-hire training improves quality assurance
- Ensured check-ins and opportunities to socialize for new hires
- Set processes for gathering new-hire paperwork & signatures
- Intentional introduction to company culture, mission, and values
- Less flexible processes can feel rigid and unwelcoming
- Lack of personalization creates a one-size-fits-all approach and feelings of exclusion
- Less room to accommodate employees' specific needs
- Risk of information overload when training occurs within a tight timeframe
Informal onboarding describes a more organic and unstructured approach to integrating new hires, focusing more on learning as you go than facilitating guided interactions or trainings. Startups or small companies may take this approach by default, but sticking to this style of onboarding gets messy quickly.
In our survey, for example, one in five workers (20%) said their company didn’t do anything to facilitate networking or interpersonal support between new hires and their coworkers. This is an example of an informal, sink-or-swim style of onboarding.
- More opportunities for personalization and adaptability in situations where the structure may not be working for an individual
- Ongoing, informal communication around how the new hire is feeling and developing may feel more natural and approachable
- May fit new hires’ individual needs more flexibly and organically
- Knowledge transfer between senior employees and new hires is more custom and directly applicable to their day-to-day
- Important paperwork more likely to fall through the cracks
- Risk of workstations not being set up on time or even addressed
- New hires’ time to productivity may take longer than necessary
- Poor or incomplete training may lead to preventable errors
- Lack of oversight and direction may increase turnover
- No dependable timeline for new hires, managers, or HR
- No specific contact person for new hires may leave them feeling isolated
Virtual vs. In-Person Onboarding
- Office tour
- Introductory team lunch
- Signing physical onboarding paperwork
- Workstation setup and IT support
- Job shadowing and check-ins with a mentor or onboarding buddy
- Welcome video
- Food delivery gift cards and virtual meet-and-greet
- Digital pre-boarding packets with e-signatures
- Equipment delivery in time for first day
- Regular virtual 1:1s and pairing sessions with mentor
How Long Is the Onboarding Process?
An employee onboarding program can extend anywhere from a week to several months. Some companies may even schedule onboarding activities for their employees’ entire first year. Of course, what works best will depend on the role and organization.
In fact, employees themselves are fairly divided on what they like best. 86% of employees prefer having at least some time to ramp up, but more than half (56%) say they need just one or two days to ease into the swing of things.
Similarly, 36% of employees expressed frustration over long onboarding processes, citing boredom or feelings of exclusion—but 30% of employees want a slower, more gradual onboarding process before being expected to perform their full responsibilities.
Before the First Day (1–2 weeks before)
- Craft a job offer.
- Negotiate salary.
- Complete new-hire paperwork.
New Hire Orientation (2–6 weeks)
- Offer a virtual or in-person facility tour.
- Introduce new hires to their teams.
- Introduce new hires to executives.
New Hire Training (1–6 months)
- Educate new hires on company policies, compliance, procedures, and more.
- Introduce company culture and values.
- Complete benefits selections.
- Provide job training.
- Offer guidance on roles and responsibilities, e.g., with an onboarding buddy.
1. Write a Detailed Job Description
This will echo the job posting that brought the new hire to you in the first place but must now include clear, detailed, and immediately applicable descriptions of the role’s expectations and responsibilities. This will also be what managers and supervisors use to evaluate employee performance.
Imagine the new hire referring to this document on a daily basis as they learn the ropes. Leave nothing out they’ll need to know to do the job to your standards and needs.
2. Craft a Compelling Job Offer
Be ready to send the offer immediately after you inform the candidate you’ve decided to hire them. To speed things up while still making sure everyone complies with your standards, start with a template that includes formalities, such as the terms of employment, salary and benefits, and other relevant details.
Make sure you can easily customize your template to include personal, genuine, and specific details from the new hire’s interview process. This will create a truly compelling job offer that results in an emphatic, “Yes!”
3. Create a Pre-Boarding Process
Establishing a pre-boarding process makes the transition smoother for new hires and gets boring paperwork out of the way, so you can focus on creating the best experience for their first day.
4. Make a Good First Impression
At this point, you’ve made a good enough impression to secure an accepted offer, but now’s your chance to plan a welcome that solidifies their decision to join your cause.
Table stakes is equipping your new employees with the practical tools and resources they need to get started, but you have 44 days to do better than that—that’s the average time it takes for a new hire to solidify their first impression of a new company.
5. Establish Your Organization's Culture and Values
If you want to build an exceptional workplace where great work gets done, it’s imperative to cultivate a strong company culture with clear and impactful values. Nearly all (96%) new hires want and expect their onboarding to include an introduction to the company's mission and values.
The best way to drive the message home is to share examples of how the values have guided business decisions in the past and continue to direct day-to-day operations. It’s important to emphasize and demonstrate how everyone is accountable to the values, especially leadership.
As an example of leaders setting the tone for a new hire’s onboarding experience, Tanya recalled watching a welcome video featuring the company’s CEO.
6. Introduce Your New Hire to the Team
Building relationships with colleagues is crucial for new hires to feel connected and supported. Encourage open communication and provide opportunities for new hires to ask questions and get to know their colleagues.
For example, HR can take the lead and organize introductions and meetings (virtual or in-person) with team members, managers, and key stakeholders.
After a decade-long hiatus from retail, Henrietta returned to the industry as an older employee with a lot of questions. Her new employer successfully built connections between Henrietta and her team so she would have all the support she needed.
7. Plan a Training Schedule
A training schedule guarantees no crucial skill or information gets overlooked, which can create unnecessary risk for your company and your new hire, too. This can include both general orientation topics, such as company policies and procedures, as well as job-specific training.
Provide resources, online modules, or assign mentors to guide new hires through the training process. As for the content some of this training should cover, Marcus had some advice:
9. Provide Ongoing Support and Feedback
Setting up a check-in cadence for managers also helps new hires feel valued and supported as you give them opportunities to receive and provide feedback early and often throughout the process.
Having an attentive supervisor who was always available made all the difference in Lyle’s onboarding experience:
10. Re-Board When Necessary
Re-boarding is necessary when employees have been absent for a period of time or are transitioning to a new role within the company. Substantial organizational changes can also call for re-boarding, which can involve revisiting certain trainings, setting new goals, or providing additional resources.
Regularly assessing an employee’s progress and making adjustments as needed ensures their continued engagement and long-term success.
HR pros are experts at spotting poor onboarding practices.
We found that 79% of HR professionals know if a job is going to be a good fit for them within the first month, compared to 65% of other workers. It’s especially unfortunate when a poor onboarding experience repels the very people who'd be tasked with improving it.
So how do you begin improving the onboarding process at your company?
Truly effective onboarding relies on the humans on your team—the recruiters, hiring managers, mentors, and other teammates—who'll welcome, support, and encourage new hires.
But technology can be a powerful assistant to the onboarding process—and new hires expect it to play a role in their onboarding experience. 97% of our survey respondents say it’s important for onboarding to include tools and software the company uses to streamline the process, and 81% call it “crucial.”
Onboarding Process Automation
When you use HR onboarding software for new employees, you'll get access to prebuilt, automated workflows, checklists, and other time-saving features, such as:
- Custom offer letter templates
- Personalized welcome emails
- Total rewards statements
- Pre-assembled digital new-hire packets
- Digital pre-boarding paperwork and e-signatures
- Automated self-boarding checklists
- Post-onboarding new-hire surveys
- Digital document storage and organization
Create better first days.
BambooHR helps you build an effective onboarding process with customizable onboarding checklists, welcome emails, and new hire packets—so every new hire feels welcome on day one.