How to onboard employees successfully

It’s easy to forget how overwhelming it can be to join a new company. From learning new policies and procedures to meeting new team members, the onboarding process is full of important tasks and moments that demand new recruits’ time and attention. It can be an overwhelming experience, and it’s even more challenging now that many employees are onboarding remotely. 

Yet onboarding is your biggest opportunity to activate new recruits and bring the best out in your hard won talent. Without good management, new recruits are automatically set up to fail.

Don’t let your employees succumb to the new recruit cliff—support them from day one and throughout their employee journey.

The secret is to design it from the new recruit’s perspective. That means applying human-centred design principles—i.e., connecting, nudging, and engaging your people in a seamless, human-centric way—to your onboarding strategies. 

To improve the new recruit experience and boost retention, I recommend following a handful of best practices:

  • Create human connection. In a remote and hybrid workplace, human connection is even more important—and at risk. But you can alleviate that risk by encouraging connection from day one. A new recruit’s first day should be one of experience, not learning. Don’t risk overwhelming new recruits, just give them the information they need to get through day one. Then on day two, they’ll be more relaxed and ready to learn, especially in the hybrid and remote work environments.  Ideally, day one should focus on sparking human connection—i.e., getting to know their manager and coworkers. You can foster relationships in the remote and hybrid workforce by matching new recruits with mentors, arranging virtual coffee chats, and sharing intro videos.
  • Personalise the onboarding experience. Here start the day one experience before the new recruit’s first day through highly personalised, exciting, and meaningful content. During pre-onboarding, send out a questionnaire asking the new recruit for their favourite song, food, and perhaps most importantly, their ideal afternoon snack. When a new recruit walks through the door on the first day, they’re welcomed by the team and showered with balloons, with their favourite song playing in the background. For remote workers, try this over Zoom to ensure a personalised and engaging experience. Also like to take the new recruit for lunch to a restaurant that serves their favourite food. If they’re remote,  host a virtual lunch meeting and use a food delivery service to send a meal to their home.
  • Empower their manager. To ensure the success of your new recruits, you need to remember that it’s not just about the employee, but also their manager. The right technology and content will help create a great first impression. But if you want that impression to last, you need a manager who puts in the work for their employees. To activate and engage new recruits, start by activating and engaging your managers. Consistently great onboarding means empowering every manager—whether they’re new or a seasoned manager with years of experience. You need to spend just as much time and effort on training the manager as you do the new recruit. A great manager not only has a well-prepared onboarding plan, but they also encourage their team to rally around new recruits.
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