How to Proactively Onboard New Employees

As with many things in life, there is a passive way and a proactive way to onboard new employees. If you are under the same persuasion as I am — which I’m assuming you are since you’re reading this 🙂 — then you know that proactive onboarding is better than passive.

The numbers speak for themselves in favour of being proactive too. According to a 2015 study by Glassdoor, organizations with a robust onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

Those are vast improvements! But what makes for a strong onboarding process? How can such a process be sustained for the long-term? Let’s jump in and find out!

What’s the difference anyway?

To really take a look at what makes for a good onboarding process, let’s first look at what isn’t. 

A passive onboarding process is pretty much as hands-off as you can get and still call it a “process.” The first day is all about paperwork and protocol. A limited, if any, welcome on the first day. The new hire is expected to introduce themselves to the rest of the company as the opportunity arises. 

I could go on, but I’m sure we all have had our own lousy onboarding experiences, so it probably won’t be too hard to imagine. No matter how you slice it, an onboarding process like this isn’t engaging, and it doesn’t encourage people to stay.

After all, people stay at a company because of the relationships they forge there. 

As such, a proactive onboarding process is more of a guided experience that takes someone from a stranger to a valuable teammate. It makes the first-day fun by having several welcoming activities. It involves pre-boarding to ensure that any tension or fears are addressed before they walk in. It is an on-going commitment. 

Digging Deeper

A strong onboarding program has a lot of moving parts, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and, most importantly, it’s not the sole responsibility of HR.

It does take a little planning and getting the hiring managers onboard. An excellent way to plan out a strong onboarding strategy is thinking about the 4 C’s.

If you’re not familiar, the 4 C’s are Compliance, Clarification, Culture, and Connection. SHRM has a great article about them, but mostly they are a kind of range of engagement that new hires go through — compliance being the lowest and connection the highest. 

Let’s go through each C and plan out some ideas of how to do each to ensure a proactive onboarding plan.

Compliance: Compliance is the lowest in terms of engagement and for a good reason. It is actually making sure that your new employee knows critical company policies and protocols. Important stuff to know, but terribly dull. 

It’s best to either send a summary of key policies to your new hires before their first day, giving them a chance to flip through it or wait for a day or two after they arrive to explain things to them. This is a first-day engagement killer if you hand them the policy book as soon as they walk in the door.

Clarification: This step is all about ensuring your new hire knows what they’ll be doing. Sure, they read the job posting and have a rough idea, but giving them additional knowledge on what are some big projects their team is currently working on or what is expected of them the first week is super important. 

Try to knock this out of the park before the first day. By doing some basic pre-boarding and sending a summary of the role and department, you can get clarification down and also have a better prepared new hire right off the bat. It’s a win-win to get this done as soon as possible.

Culture: This is where things start to get a little harder to get right, but it is imperative to do. This is the step of letting the new hire know about organizational norms.

There is no real easy way to do this. Culture is something that is learned over time, but you can help speed up the process by giving them some heads up on any formal aspects. For example, if the team does team lunches every Friday, invite them. Anything that they can be a part of, or exposes them to it, will help in making your new employee feel adjusted. 

Connection: The most crucial stage is the connection stage. This is where new hires feel like they actually have a bond with people at the company. If you can achieve this, then you are guaranteed a robust onboarding process.

"The most crucial stage is the connection stage. This is where new hires feel like they actually have a bond with people at the company." Click To Tweet

But achieving it is easier said than done. Similar to the culture step, connections are formed over time but can be sped up the right programs. One way to do this is to use a buddy or a mentor program. By assigning your new employee a buddy to help them meet people, they can start fostering connections faster.

The 4 C’s provide a vital road map that can be utilized to make a great onboarding. If you can nail these down, you’re setting yourself — and your new employees — up for success! We have a helpful infographic with even more info on the 4 C’s that you can get here.

The Power of Connections

During the onboarding process, connections serve as the difference between if someone stays or if someone goes. As such, I want us to focus on how to grow and foster these connections.

A big part of fostering connections is not on the HR department’s shoulders. Instead, the new hire’s managers need to be fully invested and engaged in the onboarding process. Their managers are the ones who will see them the most, interact with them the most, and have a better idea of how they are adjusting to their new workplace.

But how can we engage with managers? The best way to help the manager plan out the first day, week, and month. Checklists are convenient and keep everything consistent between hires. To make things even easier for you, go check out our pre-made checklist.

After the managers have a solid plan for the first few weeks, encourage them to also engage their entire team with onboarding. The more people who go out of their way to say hi or strike up a conversation will make the new employee feel more welcomed.

A good way of getting everyone out of the office is a lunch out with the team. Not only does this provide the opportunity for everyone in the team to welcome the new employee, but it also gets them away from the formal office and into a more relaxed atmosphere where people can share their interests and hobbies a little easier. These are the opportunities that forge friendships.

The Finishing Touch

A good onboarding program is only good as long as it stays relevant to the new employees. Doing anonymous surveys on whether someone enjoyed or found value in their onboarding experience will help you adjust the program. With every tweak and test, you’ll create a more robust and stronger program by making it employee-centric.

Get manager in on the process too. How do they enjoy taking more ownership of onboarding? What would make a more effective process for them? Be sure to show them any results and improvements you find after implementing a more robust onboarding plan. This will help them feel invested and engaged with new hires’ onboarding. If you want some quick ideas, make sure to head over to our Dos and Don’ts of Onboarding article!

In the end, the most important metric to measure onboarding success is how many people enjoy their job and if they feel like they’re a part of the team. If they don’t feel a connection with the team and company, then something broke down somewhere.

Remember to take a hard look at the 4 C’s. Use them as a guide when making your onboarding plan and ensure you have a way to hit on each of them. If you want a little extra assistance, feel free to sign-up for AllOnboard. We’re a relationship-first onboarding platform that helps you engage managers and improve the employee experience for new hires!