How to onboard an employee: 3 crucial steps

Correctly onboarding an employee is vital to the success of that individual and the company. Here's how to make sure a new hire feels welcomed.

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When most people think of onboarding, they think of paperwork, mandatory training sessions, and small talk. However, the onboarding process is much more than a formality for a new hire—it's a first impression of the company.

In May, the proportion of workers quitting their jobs reached its highest level since 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And poor onboarding practices is often a huge reason employees quit their jobs, said Cheryl Hyatt, partner at recruiting firm Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search.

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"I can't impress upon my clients or organizations about how important that process is to make them feel welcome from not just on day one, but even once they've been hired and have agreed to become part of that organization," said Hyatt. "I think it sets the tone for the rest of their career path within that organization."

Entering a new position is an intimidating experience, especially if the new hire is also new to the area or doesn't know anybody at the company. "I've been doing this a long time, and I have seen and heard from many new candidates who have only been in positions a very short amount of time," said Hyatt. "And it's because they didn't have the right onboarding."

If an employee isn't shown the ropes, given information, or properly welcomed, then they won't feel a reason to stay. Nobody wants to feel clueless or unintelligent in a job position, nor does anybody want to feel unwelcome. Instead, they'd rather leave, said Hyatt.

Weak onboarding not only hurts the employee, but also the company. Losing employees affects the longevity of the company, Hyatt said. If an employee ends up leaving their position because of bad onboarding procedures, then the organization just wasted a lot of time going through the hiring process and bringing on someone new, said Hyatt. Unless companies fix the way they onboard, then they will just keep unproductively cycling through employees.

Here are Hyatt's three steps for onboarding success:

1. Send a welcome message

You should want the new hire to feel welcome right off the bat. "There needs to be some type of a welcome message, depending on what the organization typically does," said Hyatt. "It could be an email blast that goes out to all the employees that says, 'We'd like to welcome our newest employee. As you see them in the hall, please make them feel welcome,' something along those lines."

For the company as a whole, a quick email is a great option. However, the employee's individual team or department should do something a little more personal. "Maybe stop in their office and assure the fact that they are comfortable," said Hyatt. If you were involved in the employee's interview process, maybe single out a trait they displayed that could serve them well in the position.

Current employees and managers should also show the employee around the office. Make sure they know where everything is, from bathrooms to vending machines, said Hyatt. By establishing that the team is friendly and accessible, the employee will feel less nervous, and most importantly, cared about, said Hyatt.

2. Provide resources

Starting a new job can lead to information overload. While they are getting their feet wet, act as a guide. Point the new hire to formal and informal resources. For example, "If they're new to the area, find out from them, 'Are you new to the area? Let me tell you what doctors we use. Where we get our hair done.' Everything that would make them feel comfortable, and kind of inculcate them into the company, as well as the area," said Hyatt.

If the employee is starting a position you are familiar with, consider offering advice based on your experiences, or establishing someone as a good reference point to for the position. "Even if it's a link to a website or an actual physical book to say, 'Hey, this is something that really helped me when I first started in that role.' Or, 'This is a project that we're looking to undertake in the next three to six months. Thought you might be interested in reading what others have done in this regard,'" said Hyatt. Any sort of useful tool to help an employee feel more prepared is worth sharing.

Employees should also share the company's mission with the new hire, so they are exposed to the goals of the office. "We all want somebody who can hit the ground running," said Hyatt. "Well, how do they do that if they don't know enough about the organization?"

3. Be available

Transitioning to a new company is a process. Just because someone has filled out the paperwork and is sitting at a desk doesn't mean they feel at ease. Make it clear that you care about them and their success, said Hyatt. Check back in periodically to make sure they are doing alright.

"I really think it does filter down," said Hyatt. "As long as those at the top are making those within their realm feel comfortable and feel welcome, then I think it continues downward."

A good onboarding process very much reflects the nature of the organization itself, added Hyatt.

"You should treat the new employee as you would want to be treated yourself," said Hyatt. "So based upon your previous experience—what you liked and what you didn't like—that's how you need to treat a new employee who's coming into the organization alongside of you. Whether they're a peer or whether they're a supervisor, or whether they're a direct report of yours, you need to treat them like you would want to be treated."

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