The 9 Habits of Highly Effective New Employee Onboarding

The 9 Habits of Highly Effective New Employee Onboarding

Starting a new job is a critical moment in the life of your employees. They are excited to learn about the company, meet new people, and contribute. Unfortunately, many companies waste that potential because they have a poor onboarding process. What exactly does that experience look like for new hires? Consider the following story inspired by true events.

A Day in the Life of a New Hire: When Onboarding Fails

Jane is looking forward to starting her first day as a business analyst at a bank. It’s her first professional job after finishing graduate school. She knows when and where to show up and her manager’s name and phone number. But aside from an office tour and meeting a few colleagues, the first day was a disappointment. Her computer didn’t arrive until late in the day. Even worse, identity management had not been completed, so she couldn’t access the network. She went home, shoulders slumped, and hoped the rest of the week would be better.

Don’t let this happen to your new hires! Employees expect to be able to access systems and software on day one. Improving the employee onboarding experience is an important factor to consider in the business case for identity management.

Ways to Streamline New Employee Onboarding

Use these tips to streamline your new employee onboarding processes. While these tips are based on the large company context, they can also be applied to smaller companies.

1. Think through the systems, software, and hardware they need

As a manager, you may manage a large team of staff. As a result, you may not be familiar with every detail of your new hire’s responsibilities, including what systems and software they need. To prepare for their first day, ask two other people doing similar work as the new hire to prepare a list of needed systems. With that information in hand, you can carry out the needed identity management activities well in advance of your new employee’s first day.

2. Schedule time for new hire administration and orientation

Nobody looks forward to completing paperwork, but it has to be done. Set aside time for your new hire to meet with human resources so that they get paid and receive their benefits. Likewise, make sure they sign for access cards, keys, and other physical items they are assigned. If you are reassigning keys and access cards from other staff, make sure you update your records accordingly.

Tip: Are you implementing an identity management solution? Add “reducing administration time for onboarding new hires” to your identity management business case.

3. Explain the annual review process

It’s impossible to win at work if you don’t know what is measured. For the first week, focus on the most important measures of success. For an IT professional, that might be responding to help desk tickets within a certain timeframe. Sales staff may carry a specific dollar amount quota. Whatever measures you use, your new hire needs to know about them.

4. Kick-start the new hire’s internal network

You know the saying “your network is your net worth?” It also applies to your employees, especially if you are based at a giant Fortune 500 company. To help your new hire, introduce them to others at the company and tell them about events. Cross-functional committees involving different offices and departments are particularly valuable for network building.

5. Plan onboarding activities for up to a year

So far, we have focused on designing the first few days for a new hire. That’s table stakes for effective onboarding. Take note of the following observation from the Harvard Business Review:

It used to be that onboarding was a process of just a few days, but new research shows that spending as much as a year helping new employees get up to speed in the workplace is necessary to capitalize on the skills, knowledge, and excitement they bring to the organization. What’s more, companies with successful onboarding programs are not just more likely to retain their new hires but even report measurable profit growth.

Longer term onboarding methods are particularly important for professional and manager roles. A manager without support is likely to waste their time and give poor direction to their team.

6. Encourage questions and respond to them

Speaking up consistently and asking questions is positive behavior during employee onboarding. Unfortunately, telling your employees to ask questions is not enough. A new hire doesn’t want to sound ignorant among their new colleagues. To encourage questions, use inquiries such as “Has anybody explained that acronym to you?” and “Would you like IT to show you this new tool?”

7. Assign “quick wins” tasks during onboarding

Sitting around all day reading training materials day after day gets old after a while. That’s why we recommend giving your new hire some “quick wins” so they can feel a sense of accomplishment. We won’t lie — this requires a thoughtful manager. Ask yourself “What are this person’s strengths?” and “What have they accomplished in the past?” For instance, you may ask a research oriented professional to conduct an industry review.

8. Avoid micromanaging, but do give them more attention than others

It’s a judgement call — how much management attention is too much? As a general rule of thumb, use the amount of attention you give to other employees as a baseline and then add on top of it. If you typically meet with each team member for 30 minutes each week, plan to spend 30-90 minutes for your new hires. Above all, be patient with their questions about your management approach and the organization.

9. Ask about their training and development needs

During a job interview, few candidates like to hear the dreaded question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Once the person is hired, such questions become relevant. For a new hire, there are two reasons to discuss career goals. First, it is a way to show you care about the person beyond what they can do for you today. Second, it will inform the training and development opportunities you can offer them.


Getting New Employees Off to a Good Start (New York Times)

The Power Of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath

Your New Hires Won’t Succeed Unless You Onboard Them Properly (Harvard Business Review)

Written by Nelson Cicchitto