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3 critical components of an effective employee onboarding plan

3 critical components of an effective employee onboarding plan Blog Feature

Natalie Davis

VP of Talent & Admin, Co-Creator of IMPACT's Core Values, Vision, and Culture Code

October 13th, 2020 min read

At IMPACT, we take employee onboarding very seriously.

Not only do we genuinely want our new hires to be happy and set up for success, but the stats around onboarding are pretty compelling.

According to Sapling, “a negative onboarding experience results in new hires being 2X more likely to look for other opportunities.” On the flip side, “Great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82%.”

In turn, a lot of time goes into preparing an onboarding plan, executing an onboarding plan, and collecting feedback throughout every step of the way.

Considering all of the time that goes into recruiting, interviewing, and hiring a new employee, slacking on the onboarding plan to potentially have to start all over again just simply isn’t worth it.

By taking the time to build a thorough onboarding plan and updating it regularly, we’ve been told by new employees that it’s the best onboarding plan they’ve ever experienced. In addition, new team member happiness scores have steadily increased, boosting our retention scores as well.

Although we have an extensive pre-onboarding plan, I’m going to focus on the piece of the onboarding process that starts on an employee’s first day, and the three areas we decided to focus on when structuring and improving our onboarding program.

We didn’t originally plan on these to be our focus areas, they just naturally became themes when building out our plans and getting feedback from new employees.

1. Getting to know the team

Even before our team went fully remote because of COVID-19, we focused on facilitating ways for people to meet each other and form relationships.

(Now that we’re fully remote due to the pandemic, it’s even more important and challenging to keep the team connections so we still feel like one big unit, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Why are work relationships important? Well, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to work with people you have solid relationships with, you know it can transform your whole experience with that company.

In fact, as stated by Industrial Personnel LTD “the development of good relationships in the workplace has the potential to improve the mood of employees, making them subsequently more productive.” Sounds like a solid case for encouraging those “water cooler chats.”

Facilitating relationship building during onboarding

To take the pressure off the new person and encourage the building of these important relationships, consider having a new employee do a few things:

  • Sit in on department/team meetings:
  • Join and schedule casual meet and greets:
  • Attend a team “happy hour”:
  • Choose which “optional” events to attend:
  • Keep track of who they’ve met

By facilitating and encouraging these team interactions with new employees, we set them up to be happier and more successful in their new professional environment.

2. Getting to know the company culture

In addition to getting to know other employees, a new team member should get to know more about the company and culture they’re joining.

According to Sapling, “there’s no doubt that employees are more likely to invest themselves personally in a company’s success if they feel aligned with the organization, and that starts by understanding it.”

Assuming we all want employees to be fully invested in the company’s success (and why wouldn’t we?), it’s important to provide the proper education and experiences for a new employee to connect with the company’s past, current state, and future plans.

Educating new employees on the company  

Expecting your new employees to learn everything there is to know about your company in their first week is unrealistic, but there are a few key places you can start and then build from there.

Company history: New employees can learn about company history through interviewing other employees, recorded videos, past versions of the culture code, or other documents. The key is to show the story of where the company has been in relation to where it is now.

Current company state:

  • Company owners and shareholders: Use a document or video to outline any relevant information about owners/shareholders. For instance, how did they get involved in the company? What is their current role? Employees should have an understanding of the ownership of the company so when decisions get pushed to the employees it’s not coming from some ambiguous “team above them” (also feeling very “corporate-y”), but rather people who they actually know something about.
  • Core values: Instead of just writing out your core values, make sure employees really understand how they work into your organization’s culture. At IMPACT, we use our values for hiring, awards, recognition, employee reviews, and more. Outline where your values show up in the course of an employee’s experience so they see that they aren’t just words/phrases, but really ingrained into the culture. .
  • Mission or purpose: If you want employees to care about the success of the company, they need to understand why the company exists in the first place. Explain how the mission or purpose was developed, how you go about achieving it, examples and case studies of this in action, and explain how what they do ties back to this.
  • Core product or service: Employees should all have a thorough understanding of your core product or service. Why do you sell this? How do you sell this? And who do you sell this to? (see “core customer” below). This could potentially be learned by doing a session or “boot camp” with the sales team, sitting in on sales calls, talking with members of the internal marketing team, etc.
  • Core customer: Everyone in the company should have a thorough understanding of your core customer and the way each person’s role ties back to serving that core customer, even if it’s indirectly. This helps them feel a deeper connection to the company and the meaning behind what they do.

Company vision: If you want employees to get excited about staying with your company, show them what they have to look forward to. This could be a vision statement, video overview, or even a conversation with the company visionary to see the plan for where the company is going and how they fit into that plan. This helps employees find meaning in their work and better understand where they fit into the company long term.

As you develop a base of materials to educate new employees on the areas above, you’ll likely think of other sections to add, and additional materials to help supplement each section. For instance, your vision will need to be updated as time goes on, and you can recap how you did with hitting previous milestones.

3. Getting to know their role

The third piece of onboarding that we focus on is educating and training the new person on their role. A lot of companies jump right to this step without stopping to focus on the first two, which can be pretty overwhelming and abrupt when they don’t know anyone or fully “get” the company.

This is why at IMPACT, we use the first four to five days of a person’s onboarding to focus on meeting people and learning about the company, as we slowly work in more and more education and training on their role.

This gives them time to settle in, retain information, and really enjoy starting a new job and joining a new company.

Planning out a role onboarding

Before a new employee starts, their manager should prepare a detailed plan with objectives, resources, and a timeline for getting up to speed in that role. Otherwise, the new employee will waste a lot of time searching for answers and training materials, or making up their own way of doing things.

Some suggested action items include:

  • Interviewing other people in similar roles to get advice
  • Shadowing successful people in similar roles
  • Reviewing and talking through specific goals and expectations for the role
  • Watching any previously recorded training
  • Reading all role-related processes and making a list of ones they  would like to see
  • Running roleplays (if applicable) to get scored and coached on main parts of their position
  • Reading books that shaped the way your company does certain processes
  • Watch video trainings on platforms used for that role, with a follow-up meeting(s) for additional questions
  • Attending regular feedback meetings with their manager and someone in HR to talk about their overall experience with the company

Even after the base of a role-onboarding plan is built out, there should be someone accountable for building it out and updating content as needed. It’s easy to fall behind and let things get outdated if it isn’t someone’s responsibility, so make sure it’s clear who will be doing that within your team.

How does your onboarding plan stack up?

Using employee-provided data, Sapling found that “88% of organizations don’t onboard well” with employee onboarding.

Odds are, if you don’t have a strong focus on your onboarding plans, your company falls into that 88%.

However, rather than letting that statistic discourage you, allow it to motivate you to track and improve this crucial part to an employee’s experience and success.

Don’t miss out on encouraging new employees to help with improving and building your onboarding plan(s). Not only is it exciting for a new employee to be part of creating something so important for the company, but they can provide the unique perspective of someone actually going through it.  

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