A successful onboarding process helps make new employees comfortable at the office and in their role. To do this, you need to create an onboarding strategy that reinforces a new hire’s decision to join, makes them feel welcome, and sets that person up for short and long-term success.
While most of the steps in an onboarding process are tactical (setting up email, sending over paperwork), the key to truly getting a new hire on board with your company is through an empathetic approach. It’s important to remember that starting a new job feels different for everyone: exciting, stressful, or both.
By thinking tactically and thoughtfully, you can create a meaningful onboarding strategy that will help new employees feel cared for, heard, and ready to contribute from that crucial day one.
Here are 6 tips to thoughtfully onboard new employees to your company:
1. Onboard for the individual role—and the individual
When a new employee is hired, think about who they are and what position they’re taking on. What are the elements of onboarding that apply to everyone and what aspects could be tailored to the new hire? In other words, what does onboarding look like for a salesperson vs. an HR manager? Maybe the salesperson needs a headset or landline phone while the HR manager could benefit from a stack of Post-its and a privacy screen for their laptop.
Next, think about the individual and who they are as a person. Before they start, seek to understand their medical needs, social preferences, and other considerations. If you’re scheduling a team lunch for the new hire on the first day, ask if they have dietary restrictions. When setting up their desk, ask yourself, “Who will this person sit beside? Where is their desk located in the grander scheme of the office?” Perhaps moving them closer to someone with more sales experience would be advantageous to their success. Or maybe they require physical accommodation and would benefit from being closer to the door. Try to envision the person at your office interacting with people and the space.
2. Highlight what makes your office special
Every company has a different set of values. Ensuring new hires understand yours in detail is important. Take this to the next level by considering when and how the company’s culture, vision, and values can be showcased.
Think of times when a coworker embodied a particular value. What did that look like and how did it impact the team and company as a whole? Talk about employee resource groups, extracurriculars, and office celebrations. Providing real examples and fun anecdotes gives the new hire a chance to see what great culture looks like, in practice.
3. Measure success and failure, then iterate
Onboarding isn’t a task for one person to carry out—it’s everyone’s responsibility to make someone feel welcome. Since this involves so many people and processes, it’s important to retrieve as much information as possible during and after onboarding. You can make this easy by asking the same set of questions, then comparing to see what has changed or stayed the same. Consider asking: “What worked? Where did you get stuck? What would you do differently?”
Gather feedback from new hires and managers after the first week, 30, 60, and 90 days. While that may seem like a lot, remember that the initial months for a new hire are critical. Checking in routinely shows you care about the individual’s life at the company and their success.
4. Be intentional about when a new employee starts
The first day on a job can be overwhelming. Everyone has a different threshold for how much new information (and new people!) they can process at once. Think about what date and day of the week a new person should come in.
Starting a new hire on a day that isn’t Monday gives the person more time to prepare and show up refreshed. If a new hire’s first day is Friday, they can take the entire weekend to think and reflect without feeling pressured. As a bonus, Fridays in an office are often more relaxed and coworkers are more keen to take time to mingle.
5. Keep psychological safety top of mind
A new hire will undoubtedly have a lot of questions. It’s up to you to create a safe space for them to feel open enough to speak what’s on their mind. Being friendly and patient is start. You also want to make sure their manager and teammates are encouraged to be open to questions and conversation—without judgement. Remind the team to go light on events and meetings for the first couple of days, so they can spend time with the new employee.
6. Create an employee handbook
An employee handbook serves as an indispensable reference for new hires and current coworkers. Create a central, easy-to-locate document that includes policies, benefits information, org charts, and even company acronyms.
If possible, send the handbook to new hires before they begin. They’ll read about work from home and vacation policies, if the office allows pets, and other details. This additional context allows them to dive deeper into the policies and processes of the company and answer questions they may have on their minds.