Most recruitment plans focus on the hiring and employee assessment phases (after all, you need to know you’re getting the right person). From there though, helping them complete onboarding often falls on the teams they join. It’s common for new hires to walk into a new company on the first day only to be handed a printed employee manual because IT hasn’t finished setting up their account.

Onboarding is a major component of the employee experience, whether you have in-office or remote workers. In the latter case, it’s even more important because it’s where you establish expectations about company culture, behavior, and communication. It’s also your chance to show new hires they’re part of a team, give them the tools and resources they need to do their job well, and tell them where to seek help.

A good employee onboarding program is the foundation of your relationship with employees, and investing in it can improve employee retention. In fact, one Brandon Hall Group study found that a quality program improves new hire engagement, time-to-proficiency, and retention by over 20% in each category.

A standardized process

Although your onboarding should follow the same general process, you don’t have to include the exact same elements for each session. Creating a standardized process involves assigning someone responsibility for the onboarding, and crafting a checklist for traceability and to show the onboarding steps are completed.

An effective onboarding process might look something like the following:

  • Implement a DISC Assessment to match the person to a team (if they haven’t already been hired for a specific one)
  • Create accounts and set up logins BEFORE the employee’s first day
  • Assign the new hire to a coach or mentor (or two) on their team
  • Ensure the new hire has the information they need for their role
  • Make sure the necessary equipment is in place (if they work at home, this could include printers, desks, chairs, screens, etc.)
  • Have someone introduce the new hire to the team
  • Set up lunch dates over the first week so the new hire can have a one-on-one talk with every member of their team
  • Schedule time for feedback
  • Set up check-ins to ensure the employee is doing well

Validate any steps you do take, make sure they’re feasible, and set up best practices. For example, if compliance requires you to wait to set up employee accounts until a new hire is officially in the organization, you’ll probably want them to spend their first few days meeting people and observing operations. The goal is to create a process that works inside your organization and then assign someone to be accountable for each step so you know they’re completed.

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring is crucial at every level in a company. Coaches and mentors help new hires feel welcome and engaged, and ensure they have what they need to be successful at the company. Often, it’s a good idea to pair a new hire with different members of the team over the first few weeks or even months of their onboarding. This familiarizes them with specific team functions and exposes them to skills from more senior members of their team. They get to see process, practice, and how things work firsthand.

Of course, you want to avoid too much hand-holding. People need to feel they have autonomy to make their own decisions, and that they’re responsible for their work. However, a coach should be available at least a few days a week or on-demand for the initial adjustment period.

Immediate feedback

It’s a given you’ll have 30-, 60-, and 90-day check-ins. Most organizations schedule these as soon as the employee onboards. But it’s also important to check in immediately on the first day. HR should set up bookend meetings for the first week to provide guidance, offer feedback, and hear feedback in turn.

It’s important that dialogue goes both ways. If someone feels they can’t contribute to a discussion, they gain as much from it. If you have criticism to offer, phrase it clearly and professionally. Criticism should include actionable steps that people can take to correct the issue. This likely will be unnecessary in the first week, but if it comes up, offering timely and well-structured feedback can fix the problem while staying on good terms with the new hire.

Staff engagement

Brief your staff on the new employee and ask to make time for them, especially the team that’s taking on an additional member. It’s crucial that everyone set aside time for a one-on-one with the new hire. That might look like daily lunch meetings for the first week, or taking 30-60 minutes to greet and get to know the new employee over drinks or a meal after the first day. Additionally, team members can show the new person their own roles, how they work, and how it integrates with what the new employee will be doing.

The more involved with the team the new person feels, the quicker they’ll adapt to the team, which eases the adjustment to their role in the organization.


Leaders and HR have to stay available over the course of the hire to ensure their questions are answered. This helps a new hire feel welcome, onboard well, and get up to speed more quickly This applies to both internal movement within an organization as well as external hires. Having someone available on the first day can prevent people from wasting time not knowing what to do. If something goes wrong, they should also know who to go to. From passwords not working to interpersonal conflicts with the team or even a personal emergency, employees should be informed of the appropriate contacts for each situation.

Wrapping up — Use onboarding to build better connections

Onboarding is your new hire’s first real contact with the company; it provides the foundation of their work. This process familiarizes them with the operations and requirements of their job as well as the roles of those around them. Implementing a standardized process can help you streamline and improve the onboarding experience, and as a result, you’ll see employees learning their roles faster, as well as increased new hire retention.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick