Congratulations! You’ve found a stellar employee who will add tremendous value to the growth of your business. But even though the ink is dry on your offer letter, you’re not done yet.

It’s time to onboard your new hire. How you welcome them into the fold will determine if the new employee you just spent months recruiting will stay for the long haul or bolt after a few short months or even weeks.

Here’s how to build an employee onboarding program that will effectively train new staff members and keep them happily employed for the long run.

Invest in the Future (Yours and Theirs)

Let’s start with some numbers. A recent study by BambooHR found that 31% of people quit their job in the first six months because:

  • they either didn’t like the work, or it wasn’t as expected
  • there wasn’t enough training 
  • they didn’t like the environment or their boss

Notice that the primary reasons for quitting are not about how they performed in the job, but how they were treated while on the job.

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Glassdoor calculated that the average cost-per-hire is $4,000 when you add up all internal and external recruiting costs such as job sourcing and job boards, background checks and drug testing, recruitment technology and time to hire. Don’t forget to add in the soft costs post hire like administrative, management and training time which can range between 10-20% of their salary.

A new hire represents a hefty investment that you can’t afford to lose.

Beyond cost, it’s important to remember that your new employee views this gig as an investment in their future too and during the first few weeks, they’re evaluating whether they should stick around.

Entry level and intermediate level employees have the highest early turnover rates at 43% and 38% respectively. Therefore, it is imperative that you get your new hire off to a good start, create a positive first impression and showcase the benefits of being part of your organization, so you can increase retention and recoup your investment.

Make a Plan for Their Arrival

A new employee’s first day is nerve-racking, and while you may want them to hit the ground running, it won’t happen on their first day. In fact, your onboarding process faces two key challenges: time and culture. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your new Marketing Manager will become a subject matter expert in two weeks. The truth is that it could take as long as 90 days for them to start demonstrating value, even if it’s an internal hire. Therefore, you must have a plan in place to help them transition. Otherwise, they might not last that long.

Your primary goal on day one is to make them feel welcomed. Your secondary goal is to help them learn your business and their new role within it. Rest assured, this is not a one-sided relationship. They want to prove their value as much as you want them to—maybe even more. The faster they get acclimated, the faster they’ll become confident in their new job and start to deliver. Use the two weeks’ notice they are likely giving their former employer to plan for their arrival. Here’s a step-by-step guide for their first week on the job.

  1. Set up communications: What equipment and tools will they need to become connected to your organization? Setup their email and have invitations waiting in their new inbox for your project management software, shared drives or other tools required for their job. Figure out what resources, documentation, and access will be needed to complete their projects and galvanize the troops.
  2. Build a training schedule: Set up introductory calls with the personnel critical to their role. These 1:1 or small group meetings will help your new hire get up to speed and serve as critical training ground for getting to know your business and culture. If appropriate, arrange for them to shadow a few employees. This helps them learn the lay of the land, understand the lingo and get a feel for you internal processes using a hands-on approach.
  3. Assign a mentor: Select one or two ambassadors to be the welcome wagon. They can answer questions, make introductions, and help get them acclimated to the office. They can also take on the critical task of taking them lunch on the first day. Don’t forget to lighten the workload for your ambassadors so they can build in this social time. This strategy also works well for remote workers. You can post a video tour of your offices and leverage video conferencing to build connections.
  4. Provide an organizational chart: Knowing who’s who in the company is key to getting things done and an org chart provides an easy point of reference. Be sure to outline their “go-to” people for something as simple as mailing a package to more complex tasks like securing approval for vendor contracts. An org chart is especially useful for remote employees if you add photos to help connect a voice to a face.
  5. Finalize HR requirements: Review the employee handbook, company policies, and full benefits package. Make sure your new hire knows how to take advantage of perks and benefits including vacation requests, health care registration, and direct deposits. Also, make good use of videos, podcasts, and webinars to deliver training that will help communicate company culture, learn the various technologies associated with your business or fulfill compliance requirements.
  6. Inform the entire staff: Send an email introducing your new hire in advance of their arrival to lay the groundwork for a welcoming environment on day one. Provide the who, what and where and add some interesting tidbits to spark conversations. Here’s a sample.

On Monday, please welcome Jane Smith to the CDM fold. Jane will be joining the marketing team as our new Social Media Manager in the Denver office on Monday, September 18th. Jane previously worked at Mondelēz Global – the makers of Oreo Cookies. Remember that tweet during the 2013 Superbowl blackout that won the internet? Yep – that was her.  

In addition to live tweeting, Jane loves surfing and rock climbing. After moving from San Diego to Denver, I think it’s safe to say that she’ll be spending a lot more time on the “scattered peaks” of the Rockies than hanging ten off Sunset Cliffs. Please be sure to give Jane a warm welcome by joining us in the lounge at 4:30 pm on Monday for a quick bite of milk and cookies.  

Create a Feedback Loop

A critical factor in creating a good onboarding experience is setting the right expectations.

Your first meeting with your new hire is an important time to review responsibilities, prioritize projects and develop a plan. Determine what you would like them to achieve in the first 90 days and how their success will be measured.

Be specific about who can help them reach their goals and set up a regular meeting time to review progress. This is key to ensure they stay on task and have the opportunity to ask questions or course correct as they learn the business and their role in it.

Keep expectations reasonable. Don’t expect them to produce the same level of work as a seasoned employee.

After thirty days, ask for feedback on your onboarding process. By then your new hire has formed some key relationships and are knee deep in their first project. At that point, they’ll be better equipped to provide constructive feedback that will help you improve their experience as well as your overall onboarding process for future employees.

The end goal of onboarding is retention. A survey by SHRM Foundation and Right Management revealed that proper onboarding leads to lower turnover, increased performance, and greater commitment from new hires.

These are critical factors in growing your small business. Therefore, you must dedicate the time and energy to build repeatable and effective processes that involve the whole company. In the end, you’ll reap the rewards and ROI of that awesome new employee you selected from hundreds of resumes and will have the tools in place to keep them happily motivated to deliver the value you need to grow.

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Karen McFarlane

Karen McFarlane

Karen McFarlane is Founder & CMO of Kaye Media Partners, a strategic marketing practice that helps startups and high-growth businesses drive the demand they need to grow. When she's not helping founders cause tons of disruption, you can find her touring local restaurants, hanging out at soccer games or binge-watching anything fantasy or Sci-Fi related on TV.

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