global hiring

6 Employee Onboarding Best Practices: Your Essentials Guide

Effective employee onboarding is the key to talent retention and better performance. Keep reading to learn six non-obvious employee onboarding best practices.

Jemima Owen-Jones
Written by Jemima Owen-Jones
January 24, 2023
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Key takeaways

  1. Effective onboarding helps employees settle into an organization that values their work and provides them with development opportunities.
  2. Fostering meaningful relationships is just as important as training employees on processes and tasks. 
  3. Using an onboarding platform integrated with your existing software will enhance your employee experience and give direct managers a clear view of their progress.

Following onboarding best practices can significantly influence how effectively new hires are introduced to the company and team. While onboarding can be a make-it-or-break-it moment for all organizations, remote work adds a new layer of complexity. Since new hires often don’t meet their manager and teammates in person, remote training and onboarding require new ways to communicate clearly and create a welcoming experience for remote employees. 

Below, we share six non-obvious onboarding best practices to help you create more welcoming, productive, and effective onboarding. Get inspired to improve and adapt your own onboarding activities and boost the success of your new hires.

1. Distinguish ''onboarding'' from ''ramp-up''

Onboarding and ramp-up go hand-in-hand and often even happen simultaneously. The terms are often used interchangeably by companies and HR professionals. However, there are two distinct elements of a new hire’s journey with different outcomes:

  • Onboarding is a shorter period during which an employee fills out new hire paperwork and receives training on the company and team processes 
  • Ramp-up is a longer period during which an employee slowly builds skills and speed to perform their new role at a high level

Onboarding: official welcoming of the new employee

The onboarding experience begins once the new hire signs their job offer but before the first day at the company. Some call this period preboarding

Here’s a quick preboarding checklist:

  • Send a welcome email or letter to the new hire to express excitement about them joining
  • Share an employee handbook with basic policies like the dress code or working schedule
  • Ask the new employee to sign the necessary payroll forms and documents before the starting date
  • Encourage the new employee to follow company social media accounts
  • Send new hires a questionnaire to discover their hobbies and interests
  • Send equipment and company swag (coffee mugs, stickers, t-shirts, etc.)
  • Prepare managers and employees for the new hire’s arrival
  • Give the new hire access to company tools and software
  • Ask for feedback about the hiring process

For a more comprehensive checklist, check out How to Onboard Remote Employees: Checklist and Tips for Managers

After the new hire’s first day, they should have introduction calls and meet:

  • Coworkers, to say hello and break the ice
  • Managers, to discuss team processes and tools
  • Human resources, to attend the new-hire orientation and discuss company policies, company values, mission, and goals

Ramp-up: providing training and support 

According to a report by SHRM, new team members need about 90 days to prove themselves in the new job and become effective. This period is no longer onboarding—it’s the ramp-up. 90 days should be considered a minimum for the ramp-up period: new hires should continue gaining skills and proficiency through (and beyond) their first year. 

The ramp-up phase is all about training and practice. Unlike onboarding, which relies on your HR team, ramp-up depends on a new hire’s manager. Managers should support new hires while they ramp up, checking in frequently (which we’ll discuss below), and assigning more tasks and challenges. 

The ramp-up period is crucial for a company and its employees’ success. The workforce is hungry for professional development: companies that immediately invest in employee training and skill development are more likely to keep top talent in the long run.

2. Eliminate non-essential tools from the employee onboarding process

Onboarding can be an avalanche of forms and tools, including some of the most intimidating legal aspects of employment, so keeping things simple is vital. Many companies use additional onboarding software to manage and perform onboarding, never to be used again once the process is over.

Instead, use an onboarding platform integrated with your existing software to provide a better new employee experience. For example, Deel has an onboarding plugin for Slack that consolidates new-hire tasks and paperwork within an environment most people are already familiar with. 

The plugin isn’t just helpful for new hires. Direct managers can oversee onboarding progress within a Slack dashboard and create onboarding checklists based on the location and status of the worker.

💡 See also: How to Streamline Employee Onboarding and Offboarding with Deel

3. Encourage new employees to meet extended team members at their own pace

One way onboarding and ramp-up contribute to employee retention are by making employees feel welcome and part of the team. Getting to know coworkers increases employee productivity and overall employee satisfaction in the long term. That said, keep in mind that too many meetings during day one can be overwhelming.

Make a list of coworkers a new hire should meet and let them make their meeting schedules independently. This approach will allow them to go through the list at their own pace, without the pressure to know everyone by the end of the first month. 

Assign an onboarding buddy for additional support

Many companies assign onboarding buddies to new hires for additional support. On top of helping new employees acclimate to the new work environment, welcoming them to a direct team, and answering company-related questions, they can also provide practical and networking support.

Enhance a new hire’s sense of belonging with activities

A new team member will benefit from a variety of interactions to strengthen coworker bonds, even ones that are not directly related to processes, metrics, and tasks. Some of the activities that foster coworker bonding are:

  • Monthly team-building activities
  • Bi-weekly team celebrations to recognize team members or achievements
  • Monthly games or unstructured group social activities

4. Separate check-ins and training

The employee’s first few months in a company require a lot of work to learn the job and processes and build meaningful relationships. Develop a program that will allow new hires to focus on each segment separately. If you try to do both simultaneously, you risk de-prioritizing training or supportive check-ins.

Training is for learning

Training is essential to onboarding as it introduces a new hire to your company’s operations. It should be well-structured and prepare your employees to complete their assigned tasks.

Training usually includes segments about products or services, including the problems they solve and the target customer they address. It should also introduce new hires to work tools and processes, the team’s goals, and key performance indicators.

Check-ins are for bonding

Check-ins go hand in hand with training but should be organized separately. Flexible check-in meetings serve to share feedback with new team members and learn about the challenges they face. Employees should also use these encounters to ask questions, deliver manager feedback, and learn how to improve. 

5. Implement tiered check-ins

Tiered check-ins are meetings with new hires during the onboarding/ramp-up period. These can be in person, via email, or through other channels like Slack. 

Tiered check-ins facilitate feedback and support between management and a new hire. They allow a new team member to share their first impressions, give suggestions, and discuss their contribution after a specific period (first week, first month, first quarter) in the company. 

First day check-in

A first-day check-in serves for an employee to share their first impressions. Therefore, schedule it for the end of the new hire’s first day at the company.

  • Go through the new hire’s paperwork and confirm everything is filled out and signed properly
  • Provide information about your company culture and policies
  • Talk about goals you want to achieve together 
  • Enable them to ask additional questions

First week check-in

If necessary, conduct daily check-ins during the first week, but schedule at least one meeting at the end of the week. 

This check-in helps you determine:

  • Whether an employee’s first impressions changed
  • What their communication with their buddy/rest of the team is like
  • Whether they have all the tools to effectively work and communicate
  • Whether training sessions, if they began, are helpful

First month check-in

From week two until the end of the month, organize check-ins at the beginning and end of every workweek.

  • Confirm you and the new hire are on the same page with that week’s schedule 
  • Discuss the tasks they are assigned and see whether they need additional assistance
  • Evaluate the results achieved during the week 
  • Praise achievements and provide guidance wherever improvement is needed

First three months check-in

Although onboarding/ramp-up can last up to a year, the first quarter is crucial. Check-ins at the end of this period should show that a new employee is: 

  • Ready to take part in more extensive projects
  • Confident in taking the initiative and sharing ideas
  • Effectively communicating with a direct and extended team
  • Open to sharing feedback with their team members and superiors

6. Leverage new hire onboarding in cohorts

When possible, consider onboarding multiple people together. By onboarding cohorts of new employees, you’ll save time on training and share company-related information more consistently and effectively. You will also make onboarding easier for new hires, letting them bond and confide with someone in the same position as them.

Even though your goal is to make new hires feel like a part of the team from day one, they will feel like outsiders for a while. It’s better to foster a sense of camaraderie from the start. 

Supercharge your onboarding with Deel

Effective onboarding helps employees settle into an organization that values their work and provides them with development opportunities. It also ensures that all the legal paperwork and compliance requirements are handled correctly. 

Onboarding by Deel helps teams of all sizes organize and simplify onboarding from within Slack. We build tools that streamline HR processes, giving you more time to build a strong company culture and teams that drive your organization’s growth. 

Learn more about Deel HR, or book a demo today to get started.

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