You probably remember the first day of every job you’ve had. Employee onboarding, also known as new-employee orientation or assimilation, is the process by which an organization integrates its new employees. It is a topic that firms of all size struggle with. Long gone are the days of simply filling out paperwork on the first Monday of employment with the HR department. Now, the orientation of a new employee into an organization is a cultural-imperative. It is easy to get lost in the process and the paperwork, but you only have one chance to make that first impression. The onboarding process is the earliest means for improving productivity and building loyalty and engagement.

Companies take different approaches to onboarding. At a bare minimum, the process requires getting new hires to fill out W-4s and I-9s, introducing them to their team, and preparing their workspaces. A more robust approach involves engaging new employees before they arrive in the workplace, and overseeing their progress throughout the first year.

The Benefits of Successful Onboarding are Numerous:

  • The Cost of Turnover – as much as 20% of staff turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment
  • The ‘Learning Curve Blues’ – it takes new hires 8 to 12 months to gain proficiency compared to their tenured counterparts
  • Improved Employee Performance – organizations with a standard onboarding process experience a much greater rate of new hire productivity
  • Increased Employee Retention – organizations with a formal onboarding process experience a retention rate that far surpasses those that do not

Here are some best practices to setting the right tone from the start:

Before the Start Date

New hires renege on job offers more frequently than anyone wants to admit. Research by IBM has shown that pre-boarding activities can increase first-year retention by as much as 80 percent. Consider developing a strategy that begins the onboarding process after the offer is accepted, but before the actual start date. Your goal is to link new employees to the organization.

Raise their excitement level about joining your organization and reduce their anxiety about leaving their current employer. Add a social dimension to the notice period by inviting them to lunch, providing a tour of the office, and introducing them to colleagues. Use logistics as an excuse to be in touch by sending the new hire package in order to share reading material and benefits information.

First Day

Handle the logistical basics in advance. Have their desk, workspace, and computer ready to go. Ensure your new hire feels welcome by having a mini welcome sign waiting for them or a welcome card signed by their new colleagues. Have those colleagues take your new hire out to lunch on their first day and share information about your new hire in a company newsletter or company bulletin board

First 90 days

Studies have continued to demonstrate that employee engagement is partially determined by the new employee’s treatment and orientation during the first 30–90 days of employment.

During the first week of employment, provide information on the mission, vision and values of the organization and ensure your new employee understands the expectations of their new workplace.

During the first month of employment, continue to reinforce key issues, introducing the new employee to additional staff, and set goals.

There should be a formal review of assimilation progress for each 30 days in the first 90 days and there should be a 90 day plan to ensure successful assimilation. At the end of the 90 days, the leader should formally finalize or extend the probationary period.

Jim Sartori is the Chief Financial and Administration Officer of Riva Precision (a Brooklyn-Based Manufacturer)
Michelle Thompson-Dolberry is the President of EMDO Enterprises (a Management Consulting Firm specializing in Organizational Development)