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5 Ways to Streamline Onboarding and Boost Employee Retention

Actionable tips for HR managers

By: RAECHEL CONOVER
Updated: April 6, 2023

Employees who say they had a great onboarding experience are 2.6 times more likely to be happy with their company.

However, only around 12% of employees feel they had a good onboarding experience – and only 29% of employees felt fully prepared and supported for their new role by the end of their onboarding experience, according to a report from Gallup.

“If the onboarding process is clunky and broken, it speaks to the lack of communication and even siloization of internal teams,” said Kirk Coleman, Talent Acquisition Manager. “If there is no immersion plan or focus on inclusive onboarding activities, the new employee will feel lost and confused and may even start looking for a new role.”

So, how can you make onboarding successful to retain your best talent? We spoke with HR veterans to come up with these five ways to help you build a successful process and increase retention rates.

1. Define your onboarding goals

Your onboarding goals should be clear, concise, and measurable.

“An organized, insightful, and inclusive onboarding experience is critical for a successful first impression,” says Coleman. “It is important that HR, the hiring leader, and any other parties are aligned on expectations and agree on which group handles what tasks.”

Common goals for onboarding new employees include:

  • Collecting all necessary documentation
  • Identifying company policies, procedures, and regulations
  • Defining the expectations of the job, success metrics, and time commitments
  • Creating a detailed onboarding schedule with check-ins, milestones, and a “final exam”
  • Introducing new hires to the company culture, managers, and team members so they can succeed
  • Utilizing an ambassador, peer, or work buddy as a clear point of contact throughout the process
  • Maintaining a connection beyond the onboarding process by scheduling recurring one-on-one meetings after training is complete

“Onboarding also goes beyond initial checklist of company items, assigning an ambassador or “work buddy” to the new employee helps them feel more comfortable,” Coleman says.

A significant aspect of onboarding is introducing new hires to key peers, managers, and stakeholders.

Consider lining up several managers and team members that the new hire can get to know, which will help them succeed.

2. Showcase your company culture

The onboarding period is an imperative time to teach new hires about your company and its culture.

The onboarding period is an imperative time to teach new hires about your company and its culture.

The values, traditions, and beliefs shared by members of your organization are what makes your team unique, and should be emphasized throughout the onboarding experience.

“The onboarding experience is an extension of that “first impression” a candidate has of the company,” says Coleman.

One way to introduce company culture is by using learning management software to create an interactive course about what it’s like to work at your company, the company’s history, and important policies and procedures.

You can use learning management software as part of the training program for new hires and to outline their continued learning and future growth plan within your company.

“The onboarding experience is an extension of that ‘first impression’ a candidate has of the company,”

3. Teach employees how to use the tech

Your new hire needs a lot of upfront support during onboarding, and several software tools can help with this. It’s important to “teach them how to fish” by ensuring they know how to access and utilize these tools.

“Technology plays a large part in successful onboarding. Whether it is a virtual meeting platform for remote hires or even a centralized HR system, tech can either be a burden or enabler to the onboarding process,” Coleman says.

An HR software provider like BambooHR can go a long way in helping you support and retain top talent, starting with the onboarding process.

“BambooHR brings together an applicant tracking system and key employee experience tools to help organizations create a thriving workplace where people want to join and stay,” says Kenny Latimer, Group Product Marketing Manager, BambooHR.

remote worker on the phone

Having an employee portal is essential to a successful onboarding process. It gives the new hire control over when they turn in and review documents and automates things that can easily take up the hiring manager’s time.

“Employees that log into BambooHR can quickly see their most important tasks and information right on the home screen and then can jump into their profile to review their data, pay information, and view available documents. They also can have access to view the company directory and org chart to help them stay informed about their organization,” says Latimer. “The great news for both admins and employees is that we also offer a mobile app that contains many of the options that exist in the desktop version.”

4. Set clear expectations and identify key metrics

It’s essential to be clear about your expectations of the employee and establish key metrics for their role.

Aligning those metrics to other goals throughout the organization helps the employee see how their work impacts the bigger picture.

“The onboarding timeline is a critical period to set expectations and lay the foundation for a productive and positive employee/employer relationship,” Coleman says.

According to Robert Half Talent Solutions, the three turnoffs when starting a new job are:

  • Vague and unreasonable position responsibilities
  • Poor communication between the new hire and management
  • Misaligned company culture and values

Failure to meet these needs could result in high turnover and cause employees to start looking elsewhere for a job.

5. Connect on a personal level

Not only is it important for the employee to learn about the company, but for you to learn about the employee.

What are their strengths? What do they need to work on? Where do they want to grow?

A great onboarding process leaves room to assess and plan for these areas too. Having a discussion about future growth makes an employee feel heard and respected.

The Bottom Line

In the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, HR has undergone many changes and advancements, a lot in part to accommodate a new era of remote and hybrid work.

This new way of working has also caused us to reevaluate HR best practices, outdating some methods and bringing forth new ones. When teams can’t be together in person, many companies rely on HR software and the use of cloud-based systems to help with things like employee onboarding.

Onboarding a new employee to your company, whether remote or in-person, is about making them feel comfortable and confident and providing the tools needed for them to be successful.

And, as the HR manager, you need to do everything in your power using all the in your arsenal to provide an exceptional onboarding experience.