10 tips for better employee onboarding

Inefficient onboarding practices can lead to significant financial losses for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK. Many employees either decline job offers or leave their positions within the first six months due to subpar onboarding experiences. This not only incurs recruitment costs but also tarnishes the company's reputation as an employer.

It's imperative to recognise that merely hiring employees is insufficient; they must be welcomed, adequately trained, and made to feel comfortable in their new work environment. Neglecting these aspects can prove costly for SMEs.

Given the typically tight budgets of small businesses, it's essential to maximise efforts to ensure new hires integrate quickly and become productive team members. After all, recruiting and onboarding a new employee represents a substantial investment, and the responsibility for a successful working relationship rests as much on the employer as it does on the employee.

In this guide, we will outline essential steps for onboarding new employees, enabling your future hires to have the best possible chance of thriving.

1. A Simple Yet Engaging Orientation
When a new employee joins, their initial priority is to overcome nerves and settle into their role. Therefore, the orientation process should not overwhelm them with an excessive amount of intricate details. Orientation must be informative but should recognise that mastering a new role is an evolving process. It's more effective to build comprehensive familiarity with the job over the first couple of weeks, rather than overwhelming them in a single exhaustive training session.

Focus the introduction on the core day-to-day responsibilities, and allocate time to make the new employee feel valued, appreciated, and confident in their decision to work with your organisation. Ensure they get to know their colleagues and understand how the office functions.

2. Minimise Paperwork
Many employees who leave during their probationary period cite a complex and burdensome first day as a reason for their departure. Excessive paperwork is often a major contributor to this complexity. Instead of subjecting new hires to a marathon of document-signing, consider spreading the necessary paperwork over their initial days or even transitioning to online document management to streamline the process.

3. Foster Social Integration
While introducing new employees to their colleagues on the first day is essential, true team integration requires social interaction outside the office environment. Organise activities such as office outings, team-building exercises, meals, or casual gatherings at a local pub after work. These social interactions in non-work settings can significantly assist new employees in settling in and building connections with their peers.

4. Seek Feedback
Continuous improvement is key to effective onboarding. Every new employee is unique, and there are always opportunities for refinement. To enhance your onboarding process and maintain a positive reputation as an employer, regularly collect feedback from new and recent hires regarding their initial days and weeks on the job. Understand what they appreciated about their onboarding experience and be open to learning what aspects they found lacking or dissatisfying.

Gathering feedback is an ongoing process that should not be delayed until an employee's annual review. By identifying areas in need of improvement, you can continually enhance your onboarding process, ensuring that new employees are better equipped to succeed and contribute to your organisation's growth.

5. Develop a Structured Onboarding Plan
Create a comprehensive onboarding plan that outlines the specific steps and activities new employees will go through during their initial days, weeks, and months. Having a structured plan ensures consistency and helps employees understand what to expect.

6. Assign a Mentor
If sufficient staff are available, each new employee could be paired with a seasoned colleague who can serve as a mentor or buddy. This individual can offer guidance, answer questions, and provide support as the new employee adapts to their role and the company culture.

7. Customise Onboarding
Recognise that one-size-fits-all onboarding may not be effective for every employee. Tailor the onboarding process to the individual's role, experience level, and needs. This personalisation can make new hires feel valued and understood.

8. Provide Clear Expectations
Clearly communicate the job expectations, performance standards, and key responsibilities to new employees. This clarity ensures they understand their roles and can work towards meeting company objectives.

9. Offer Training and Skill Development
Provide relevant training and opportunities for skill development. This could include technical skills, soft skills, or industry-specific knowledge that will help new employees excel in their roles.

10. Share Company Culture and Values
Help new hires understand the company's culture, values, and mission. Explain how these values align with the organisation's goals and how employees are expected to embody them in their work.