Onboarding Series Part 1: Why It Matters, A Master-Checklist Resource

Onboarding is about telling the employee:

  • Who were are as an organization
  • What we do and why we do it
  • Their role 
  • How you’ll work together to help them succeed in the role

The onboarding period begins when the candidate signs the offer letter and ends when they have become fully ramped up and productive. It’s the transitional period during which employees become comfortable with the organization’s values, culture, systems, and processes.

How long should this last? Ramp-up time varies from three weeks to one year, depending on the role, the maturity of the organization,  and the individual’s comfort and skill level. 

It is common for young startups to have a shorter onboarding process due to being short-staffed and needing faster outcomes. The more mature your company is, the more time you can dedicate to onboarding due to your team’s size, specialized roles, and access to resources.

Onboarding processes go beyond the paperwork; these include social and cultural acclimation to accelerate the time to peak performance. Let’s dive in.

A strong onboarding will increase the likelihood of employees staying three years or longer by 58% and improves productivity by 70% *Source: Brandan Hall Group.

Why is that?

A well-structured onboarding process tackles three factors that prevent great employee retention and productivity:

  • Fear
  • Ambiguity
  • Isolation

A successful onboarding design and roll-out process must address these three emotions. You can quickly ramp up your new hires and retain them by addressing these factors head-on. 

When new employees join a new organization, no matter their experience, they face uncertainty. Think back to your first days of trying to understand the complexities of the role, policies, culture, team and systems.

Any sources of uncertainty can create a sense of fear that can replace excitement with dreadfulness. A structured onboarding process could minimize, if not eliminate, sources of fear.

The same goes for ambiguity.

Being comfortable with ambiguity is one of the most desirable traits in an employee. Creating unnecessary ambiguity will be detrimental regardless of how good it may be. Unnecessary ambiguity includes a lack of being straightforward with a new hire’s first tasks or a lack of communication around expectations of a project a new hire is undertaking. Assigning clear, doable, early tasks signifies a well-structured onboarding. 

Lastly, the dreaded isolation! One of the most critical factors in new hires’ retention is creating an immediate sense of belonging. If your onboarding process fails to do so (and to do so rapidly), you may experience higher turnover. 

Fear triggered by uncertainty and ambiguity, which results from a lack of clarity and isolation stemming from the lack of sense of belonging, is the ultimate recipe for onboarding disaster. 

While onboarding processes vary in length and format, there is no doubt that all organizations across all sectors need to establish an intentional process.

A successful onboarding process helps you:

  1. Build confidence by showing your organization is organized
  2. Reassure your new hire in joining your organization
  3. Reduced time for your new hire to reach full productivity 
  4. Lower costs of hiring by improving retention 
  5. Clarify the role and performance expectations

Most onboarding experiences fail due to six main mistakes. Avoid: 

  • Too much information
  • Too little or no information
  • Unclear or absent goals
  • No context
  • No team introductions
  • Making it all about paperwork

Most onboarding experiences fail due to these six mistakes.

How do you avoid these? For example, when you share information such as your mission, vision, product, organization structure and company policies, make sure that content is spaced out. You want to provide folks with time to digest the information and allocate time for questions about the content.

On the other hand, having too little or non-essential information available is also a hazard. Find a balance. Failure to identify the first immediate tasks, actions or even projects that the new hire must undertake to set up in their role, make those early wins and begin assimilating to your team by getting things done.

A fourth common mistake: you lack providing context for your processes, decisions, projects or product features. Research tells us that the lack of context is why new hires feel lost, confused and doubtful about their role in your organization.

Don’t forget the introductions; a mass email or Slack does not suffice. Ensure everyone on the immediate team sets aside one-on-one time with the new hire.

A trivial yet relevant mistake we see is that onboarding becomes all about paperwork…contracts, tax forms, and power points. We’ve said it before; the onboarding process must create clarity about the role and organization and establish a sense of belonging. We cover how to create a great onboarding process in the next article in the series. Leverage the tools and resources we’ve designed to address these common mistakes!

No matter how young your organization is or how small your team is, you will project confidence and reassure your new hire in their decision to join your team. 

The consequences of poor onboarding:

  • It takes longer for new hires to reach peak productivity.
  • New hire’s trust is lost due to a lack of a first good impression
  • Hinder future recruitment
  • Increased likelihood turnover rate and cost of hiring

During the recruitment process, your team has spent hours thinking about, discussing and drafting the job description of your new hire, reviewing applications and conducting interviews. Don’t let all that work live in vain. 

Poor onboarding = high cost of time, energy, resources and money.

We aim to help your managers support their new employees in reaching their peak productivity and start contributing to your team faster.

The onboarding process is your opportunity to reinforce the decision they need to make to remain with you and comfort them in their choice that your team was the right one to pick.

First impressions matters on both ends; make a lasting one leveraging our publically available resources.