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Critical First Step: Crafting an Impactful New Employee Onboarding Experience

Bringing new employees onboard is crucial for setting them up for success and aligning them with the company’s goals and culture. However, many organizations fail to onboard effectively. All too often, new hires are left confused, frustrated, and disengaged because they lack clear expectations and an understanding of the culture. This results in poor performance, job dissatisfaction, and quick turnover.

The most critical parts of new employee onboarding are establishing clear expectations and integrating new hires into the organizational culture. When done right, onboarding goes beyond paperwork and orientation to instil the mindsets, behaviours, and skills that lead to retention and high performance. This article explores best practices for setting expectations and cultural integration during onboarding. Follow these and watch new employees become aligned, engaged, and equipped to thrive in their roles.

What is New Employee Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into an organization and preparing them to succeed in their new roles. This process is much more than just orientation or training. Effective onboarding sets up the employee for long-term job satisfaction, high performance, and cultural alignment.

The onboarding process starts from the hiring process and can last up to a year after the hire date. It is a strategic initiative, not just a checklist of tasks. The goals of great onboarding include:

  • Providing necessary information and resources
  • Establishing clear expectations
  • Creating connections with team members
  • Aligning with company culture and values
  • Boosting engagement and job satisfaction
  • Reducing turnover rates

Studies show that robust onboarding leads to better employee retention, higher productivity, and increased job commitment. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), new hires who go through structured onboarding are over 50% more likely to be with the organization after 3 years.

The brands that win are the ones that make their people their top priority through effective onboarding.

Airbnb Co-Founder, Brian Chesky

The most critical parts of new employee onboarding are setting clear expectations and integrating new hires into the company culture. However, onboarding should utilize strategies across the employee lifecycle. Common activities include:

  • Pre-boarding communication and logistics
  • Orientation for company information and resources
  • Training for role skills and development
  • Mentorship programs for guidance and support
  • Feedback for encouragement and course correction
  • Social events for relationship building

Effective onboarding is not a one-time orientation but an immersive, ongoing experience. The focus should be on aligning new hires with company values, goals, and culture for long-term retention and success.

The Importance of New Employee Onboarding

Proper onboarding leads to more productive, satisfied, and engaged employees. Here are some key points on the importance of new employee onboarding:

  • Boosts Retention: Companies with strong onboarding retain 82% of new hires for more than 3 years. Those with poor onboarding have a retention rate of just 17% after that time.
  • Accelerates Productivity: Proper onboarding shortens the time for new employees to reach full productivity by up to 2 months. This allows them to contribute meaningfully faster.
  • Improves Engagement: Employees who go through structured onboarding report higher job satisfaction and engagement scores for the first 3 years.
  • Builds Company Culture: Onboarding establishes company values and behaviours from day one. Effective cultural integration leads to stronger organizational alignment.
  • Reduces HR Costs: Turnover is expensive, costing upwards of twice an employee’s salary to replace them. Onboarding reduces turnover rates through better assimilation.
  • Enhances Employer Brand: How a company welcomes new hires shapes its external reputation. Positive onboarding experiences lead new employees to refer friends.

A successful onboarding process is critical for integrating new hires into an organization. While orientation and training are important, clearly setting expectations and aligning new employees with company culture are the most vital steps.

Setting Clear Expectations for New Employees

The most critical part of onboarding new employees is setting clear expectations from day one. Unclear expectations are one of the main reasons new hires underperform or leave the company quickly.

New employees want to know

  • What are their exact responsibilities are
  • How their performance will be evaluated
  • Who they report to and work with
  • What the company culture and values are

Without explicit expectations, new hires feel frustrated and directionless. They may make incorrect assumptions about their role, leading to misalignments with the team. Expectation setting is essential for new employees to understand their duties, integrate into the company, and ramp up quickly.

Techniques managers can use to set clear expectations for new hires

  • Provide a detailed job description explaining day-to-day responsibilities, key objectives, and performance metrics. Review this frequently.
  • Schedule weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings to give feedback about performance, answer questions, and discuss struggles.
  • Connect new hires with mentors who can offer guidance and clarify expectations.
  • Share examples of quality work and explain what excellent performance looks like.
  • Set up a 30/60/90-day plan with specific goals and milestones for each timeframe.
  • Establish a formal or informal training program to build capabilities.
  • Explain the company mission, values, and culture and discuss how the employee’s role ladders up.

Ongoing communication, feedback, and clarity around objectives are essential. Checking in frequently prevents new hires from feeling lost. Onboarding is the ideal time to instil expectations that set employees up for success.

Integrating New Hires into Company Culture

In addition to setting expectations, integrating new employees into the company culture is critical for onboarding success.

Culture consists of the shared assumptions, values, norms, and behaviours within an organization. It deeply influences how employees think, communicate, and collaborate. New hires need to understand and align with the culture to feel engaged and satisfied.

Steps for integrating new hires include

  • Evaluating culture fit during the hiring process through interviews and assessments
  • Providing an overview of the company’s history, values, and norms during orientation
  • Encouraging connections through team events, mentors, networking groups
  • Explaining culture in one-on-one meetings and giving feedback on fit
  • Role modelling desired behaviours and attitudes top-down
  • Celebrating cultural traits like collaboration or transparency publicly
  • Tracking employee engagement and satisfaction to identify cultural disconnects
  • Onboarding tactics like “lunch roulette” to meet diverse employees

With an intentional focus on cultural integration during onboarding, new hires feel welcomed, understood, and aligned with organizational goals. They are more likely to adopt company values as their own. This leads to greater engagement, performance, and retention.

Signs that culture integration is succeeding

  • New hires using company values language accurately
  • Adopting the company dress code and collaboration norms
  • Building social connections across teams
  • Achieving milestones due to cross-department support
  • Feeling comfortable speaking up about issues
  • Demonstrating beliefs consistent with company culture

Continual assessment and support ensure new employees represent the company culture positively as brand ambassadors. A culture-focused onboarding improves the employee experience and talent retention.

The Key to New Employee Onboarding

An effective onboarding process is crucial for bringing new hires into an organization and setting them up for long-term success. While orientation, training, and paperwork are necessary, they are not sufficient.

The most critical components of onboarding are establishing expectations and integrating new employees into the company culture.

By setting clear expectations through regular communication, feedback, and examples of quality work, new hires understand their exact responsibilities and performance goals. This prevents role confusion and frustration.

When done right, onboarding goes beyond checking tasks off a list. It is a strategic initiative to establish expectations, instil culture, and align new hires for the long run. Proper onboarding leads to more satisfied, productive, and engaged employees who feel connected to the company’s vision.

Article you might be interested in: How Does Pre-employment Screening Software Improve Hiring?

The Takeaway

Focus onboarding on clarifying expectations and incorporating new hires into the culture. This leads to greater employee retention, performance, and alignment. Invest time and resources into onboarding for an immense return through your people.

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