How Businesses Can Optimize Their Onboarding Strategy

Stay Updated May 19, 2023


How Businesses Can Optimize Their Onboarding Strategy

We’ve all been there: started a new job only to spend the first few hours – or days – sitting at your allocated space twiddling your thumbs and wondering what you should be doing. Thankfully, those days are – mostly – past, and every organization will have some form of onboarding strategy. How effective their onboarding strategy is can vary greatly, however, and depend on those who have implemented it. 

A good onboarding strategy should allow new employees to hit the ground running, quickly begin contributing to your business’s productivity, and become part of their assigned team. What is an onboarding strategy? What should you include in your strategy to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for new employees? 

What is an onboarding strategy? 

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An onboarding strategy is a plan companies use to help new employees settle into their new role. It can cover all aspects of what is expected of them – and you – so they can quickly adjust to working for you. Those aspects can range from basic activities such as being introduced to their team and workmates to any training they may need to undertake. Following the Paylocity guide to onboarding can be a huge aid.

There can be many reasons why a new hire might fail, although you may be surprised to learn that 89% of such failures are driven by attitudes while only 11% can be put down to a lack of technical skills (or the new company offering training in those skills). So, if we assume you have either no onboarding strategy or a basic one, what factors should you be including in a new strategy?

7 tips to make a better onboarding strategy

Of course, a good onboarding strategy may vary from company to company. There may be particular new skills that your employee needs or you may have a particular way of working that you need to train them in. However, there will always be common factors that should be included in every onboarding plan. 

1. Hiring 

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A good onboarding strategy often starts before the person has even signed a contract. That may sound strange but everything from the job description to how you communicate with them to the interview process all play a part in your onboarding strategy. Just as their application gives you a first impression of them – and is worth remembering that some 25% of hiring managers see cover letters as very important – so your onboarding reflects on you. 

It can help to clearly define what your expectations are and can also help give them an impression of your company’s efficiency and way of working. 

Using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can also be helpful in streamlining the hiring process and ensuring that all relevant information about the candidate is organized and easily accessible.

2. Job offer

This is where most organizations will see the onboarding strategy beginning. Again, a core part of this stage is efficient communication. That usually means a phone call so that you can make the offer, they can accept it, congratulate them, and agree on a starting date. You can then send a follow-up email (or even a hard copy letter) that lays out the details of the job including hours and salary. 

Include any necessary pre-start documentation at this stage. This might be their actual contract but can also include company policies and forms that they need to complete before the agreed starting date. You can also discuss account security and the danger of sharing passwords, etc. 

3. Interim communication 

It’s essential to remember that there may be a ‘waiting period’ between the verbal offer/acceptance and actual signing of the contract. You may also be waiting for any relevant background checks to be completed. 

If they have not signed any contract, then it’s important to note that they may well receive a better offer. Once again, communication can play a crucial role in your onboarding strategy; keep in touch with the person, engage with them, and ask if they have any questions and/or reservations regarding starting work with you. 

4. On your marks, get set…

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It may not be the employee’s first rodeo but there could still be some nervousness about their first day. One important thing to remember is not to overload the hire on that first day. Have a plan for their first day (or days) that can include an office tour, introductions to teammates, a meeting with HR, and a welcome meeting with their supervisor or manager. Let them get settled in their allocated space and have an info pack, if relevant, with all their accounts and other needs as well as any security requirements and common phishing scams to avoid.  

You could also consider including an employee onboarding kit with resources to help them better understand the company culture, values, and mission.

In addition to introducing new hires to their team and workmates, consider including personalized new employee welcome notes or gifts in their allocated space to help them feel valued and appreciated from day one.

5. Teams 

Communication has been mentioned already and a regular bedmate of that is collaboration. Your new staff member will have to both communicate and collaborate with their teammates and other employees within the organization. But this is a two-way street, so you should be sure that all relevant people are notified of the new employee’s start date.

This can mean constructing a ‘family tree’ that identifies the hierarchy of the people the new hire will be working with. Depending on the size of your business – or even the team the new start will be working in – you could also arrange an informal meet and greet, even at break or lunchtime. One thing to remember is that the hire’s manager should be taking the lead role in this process and their actions – or inactions – will leave an indelible impression on the person. 

6. Training 

This can be a crucial stage of your onboarding strategy. While your new hire will likely have the skills you want for their role, you may have different ways of doing things or need them to learn new skills or new technology, equipment, or tools for productivity. You should discuss any possible training needs prior to their start date so that you can schedule them as needed. 

For example, if your team uses task management software, you can provide training on how to use it effectively. Additionally, it’s important to create a training plan that outlines what they need to learn and how it will be delivered.

Be sure to identify all training needs and have realistic expectations as to when they will be up to speed. Depending on their role, ensuring they have a mentor to ease them into your working practices can be a useful and efficient move.

7. Feedback

It cannot be emphasized enough how important communication can be to an efficient onboarding strategy. It starts with the hiring process and continues during and after the onboarding process itself. Getting feedback at every significant stage of the onboarding and after the process is completed can help to improve future onboarding or can validate the strategy you have already implemented. 

It’s just not about ensuring every stage of your onboarding strategy is working well, however, it’s also about demonstrating good management skills and checking that your new hire is settling in and hasn’t encountered any issues. How often you check in with them depends on the complexity of their role and also the onboarding process. It’s worth having a feedback meeting after a month or so to get their general impressions and to note suggestions. 

Why is it important to get your onboarding strategy right? 

Efficient onboarding can mean your new hire gets a great first impression and is more likely to stay with your organization. Employee retention is crucial for any type of business and can save you a lot of money over the years. Depending on your business type and the employee’s role, it can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000 to hire a new staff member, and those figures do not include any salaries or other benefits. 

When you have a good onboarding strategy, then the hire better understands their role and can also feel very supported in those initial days and weeks. Communication will always be the foundation for an efficient strategy. Without it, your new staff member may feel disoriented and confused and may form a negative view of your company and your management. If that is the case, then you may find your staff retention rates will suffer. 

The takeaway

They say that first impressions count and your onboarding strategy is central to how a new employee will view your organization. You want to be viewed as a forward-thinking and efficient business, and that view starts the moment the hiring process begins (or once a job offer has been made, depending on your perspective). 

As with any process or strategy, yours should not be set in stone. Use the feedback part of your strategy to identify weaknesses and highlight strengths. Be flexible in making adjustments if and when needed. Optimizing your onboarding strategy – and being prepared to continually examine and tweak it – is the sign of an efficient organization and one that employees will want to be part of.