04 | Talent Foundations: Onboarding Employees
Updated: Jul 29
New employees experience waves of new people, places, tools, processes, and languages as they acclimate into their new role. Helping new employees onboard into our organization is equally as amazing as it is challenging. This onslaught of new inputs and expectations can be overwhelming for even the most experienced employee.
Employee onboarding done right accelerates engagement and productivity. When employees onboard poorly, they are slow to adapt, leading to slower performance levels and a negative impact on employee engagement. Challenging starts to a new job are disruptive and overwhelming for everyone involved.
This article builds foundations and clear expectations for defining an employee onboarding experience good for new employees, their coworkers, the company, and customers.
The Purpose of Onboarding
Employee onboarding helps new employees understand how to behave within their new organization, team, and role. Effective onboarding establishes clear operational and behavioral expectations that guide and protect all employees.
We look at organizational onboarding through four different phases:
Each phase has different sets of opportunities and functions necessary to help new employees build the skills, perspectives, and abilities needed to do their job. Doing so in a structured manner sets expectations and helps get new hires productive quick. We'll start by looking at the Day One Onboarding.
01 | Day One Onboarding
Where do I log on? What should I wear? Where do I park? What do I need to bring? Who should I ask? All new employees experience some level of anxiety when starting a new job. Impactful day one onboarding clarifies expectations and paths to support a new employee journey through their first day.
Before They Arrive
We can not understate the impact clear and straightforward emails can make on reducing anxiety for a new employee. A couple of template emails can set clear expectations for what a new employee should expect on day one and help get everyone on the same page.
Communication: Congratulations & Expectations
An initial email congratulating the new employee on joining the organization and expressing excitement for them to become a part of the team goes a long way! This email may seem obvious and straightforward, but being welcomed before starting makes a massive impact on the employee.
This email also establishes a point-of-contact for new employees and outlines expectations and actions for their first day at work.
Here are a few topics to consider when sending an initial email:
Day One Experience & Itinerary
The first day of a new employee's experience should be organized, defined & shared with everyone involved. This includes meeting with HR, IT, the manager, and the team.
There are a lot of stops and new experiences on an employee's first day. The better we clarify and align these experiences, the more likely a new employee will have a great first day that sets the tone for a fantastic career at the company.
02 | Organizational Onboarding
Completing a successful day-one onboarding sets the stage for effective organizational onboarding. Organizational onboarding focuses on helping new employees understand the mission, vision, values, products, services, and customers of an organization.
Organizational onboarding then scales based on the size of an organization and often the complexity of the position being hired. Larger organizations may require several days of onboarding, where smaller companies may accomplish onboarding through a few hours of conversation. Further, each team may add additional onboarding processes given the added intricacies of various roles.
Organizational onboarding would then be the aspect that all employees participate in. At the end of our organizational onboarding, an employee can answer the following questions, regardless of the organizations size.
03 | Team or Department Onboarding
Team or departmental onboarding builds on top of the work completed during organizational onboarding to help new employees understand how the department/team supports our mission, vision, values & customers.
Team or departmental onboarding clarifies the operations and expectations for employees. This stage of onboarding will also scale up-or-down based on the size and complexity of the role.
At the end of our team or department onboarding, an employee can answer the following questions, regardless of organizational size.
04 | Role Onboarding
Role onboarding is the last step in the process and helps new employees accelerate into their new responsibilities. Role onboarding is usually spread out over a 3 to 6 month period and contains performance and behavioral milestones. Role onboarding requires the most time, effort, and energy of any of the phases.
Our first step in the process is to ensure that everyone (employee & manager) is in alignment when it comes to roles, goals, and expectations.
Helping new employees onboard into their role is a real journey. But when done right, we can learn as much from them and increment the process to make it better each time. We have provided an onboarding roadmap to help document and define several phases of their experience. Next we'll show some examples to do so effectively.
Roadmap Examples: Week One
Roadmap: 30/60/90 Day Milestones
Consider having the 30/60/90 day milestones defined by the end of a new employee's first week. Know that goals and milestones will shift over time. Better we begin our journey aligned on potential milestones, than being oriented towards nothing!
Roadmap: 6/9/12 Month
Consider having the 6/9/12 month milestones completed by the end of the 90-day milestone. We should expect that goals and performance objectives will be aligned with the full expectations of the role across this final series of milestones.
Getting employees started with the correct perspectives, orientations, and understandings builds healthier companies. Taking the time to define these experiences for new employees increases the odds of success in their new roles.
Keep in mind that managers must commit to helping coach, guide, support, and grow new employees through onboarding and beyond. We hope these tools and perspectives help build employee onboarding experiences that accelerate talent and grow our organizations.