by Caitlin Gibson
A great onboarding experience sets the tone for new employees. It can validate a new hire’s decision to join the company, set them up to make meaningful contributions right away, and help them feel like they belong. As a result, effective onboarding programs can increase new hire retention by 82%.
Only 12% of employees, however, think that their employer does a good job onboarding new hires. That means a lot of employees are having negative onboarding experiences, making them twice as likely to look for a job elsewhere. Given how costly turnover can be, it pays to invest in the development of a great onboarding experience that’ll boost employee engagement, productivity, and, ultimately, retention.
How to Craft a Great Onboarding Experience
Here are three ways to craft an onboarding experience that’ll drive new hire retention, whether you’re returning to work or adopting a hybrid work model:
1) Deliver experiences instead of events.
Most companies treat onboarding as a one-week event, but the best onboarding programs last for at least the first 90 days. Crafting a multi-month experience allows you to tailor your onboarding program to different employee groups and roles. For example, you can cater one onboarding experience to entry-level employees and another to senior leadership team members. This allows you to connect every new hire with the information, training, and resources they need to be successful in their specific role. That means they’ll be set up to make meaningful contributions right away.
A multi-month onboarding experience also allows new employees to learn their role and responsibilities gradually at their own pace. By giving employees more time to get up to speed, you’ll help them retain and apply everything they’re learning. To help new hires stay on track, establish development goals for the 30, 60, and 90-day marks. That way, new employees know what learning milestones they’ll be expected to reach and when.
Effective onboarding programs also make use of a buddy system. When new hires are paired with an experienced colleague during onboarding, they benefit from organic knowledge transfers and peer mentorship. That includes learning the unwritten rules of the company, like whether or not meetings start on time, what kinds of behaviors are rewarded, and how often people work remotely. By providing access to this peer support, you can help new employees integrate into the company’s culture, boost new hire proficiency by 87%, and make new employees more efficient overall.
2) Support your remote and distributed workforce.
To ensure your multi-month onboarding experience serves remote new hires and those from different locations, adapt it to create a virtual onboarding experience. First and foremost, make sure all IT needs are taken care of, so remote new hires have the technology, software, and tools they need to do their job and fully participate in the onboarding process.
On top of that, leverage multiple communication channels to reach and engage these employees wherever they are, including email, platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and even SMS messaging. When it comes to the training sessions themselves, use a multi-format training experience to keep remote and distributed new hires engaged. That means leveraging live training sessions over Zoom, short-form videos, and brief documents that can be easily referenced later.
Additionally, it’s especially important to incorporate virtual meet-and-greets that help remote hires create meaningful connections with their colleagues across the organization. These connections can help remote and distributed new hires feel more tethered to the organization, build trust, and establish a sense of community. To help remote employees feel even more seen and valued, consider featuring them in an internal newsletter or have one of their peers write up an informal bio about them that’s shared with the team. These social opportunities can prevent remote new hires from feeling isolated and disconnected from the rest of the company while learning their new job.
3) Automate and scale your onboarding experience.
To ensure your onboarding experience runs smoothly every time, use software tools that take the guesswork out of managing multiple, overlapping onboarding campaigns. For example, internal communications software can help you automate all of your onboarding communications, so the right messages reach the right people at the right time. This type of software can also track engagement data, like email open rates and clickthrough rates, so you can ensure all new hires are engaging with the onboarding content specifically developed for them.
You can also use this software to gather feedback throughout the onboarding process, which is especially important. Collecting feedback allows you to make changes to the program as needed, so it remains effective and useful from start to finish. You can use the same software to embed feedback checkpoints throughout the onboarding experience, so new hires can share their thoughts in real time. This can include quick polls that measure sentiment or open-ended survey questions that capture what new hires have learned, what’s been missed, and what could’ve been better about the experience overall. Internal communications software can automate the collection of this feedback by sending out polls and surveys at important points in the onboarding process, like at the end of week one, month one, and month three.
By utilizing these three best practices, you can craft an onboarding experience that drives employee retention and accelerates productivity. It’s all about developing an experience rather than just a one-week event, accounting for the needs of remote and distributed workers, and automating the process, so it’s easy to manage every time. By reimagining the onboarding experience in this way, you’ll be able to set up every new hire for long-term success.