This article appeared in the November/December, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.

“Pay attention to your culture and your hires from the very beginning.”
Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of LinkedIn

One of the most important keys to the success of any organization or team is to have a strong onboarding process in place. New employee onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee with a company and its culture, as well as getting a new hire the tools and information necessary to become a productive member of the team. Why is onboarding so important? Effective onboarding has a measurable return on investment (ROI) not only through decreased turnover costs but by increasing employee productivity and improving customer satisfaction. Furthermore, studies have shown that companies that invest in onboarding experience 2.5 times the revenue growth and 1.9 times the profit margin of companies that don’t.

Studies have also shown that 22% of employee turnover occurs during the first 45 days on the job, and approximately 70% of new hires decide whether to stay or leave within the first six months of joining! Given the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, Baby Boomers retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day, and the willingness of Millennials to leave organizations if not treated well, we need effective onboarding programs! The importance of effective onboarding is further evidenced by Bureau of Labor stats that show nearly six million hires are being made every month (mostly to replace people leaving, but also due to an increase in overall jobs). This begs the question, what are the best practices for effective onboarding programs?

Suggested Best Practices for Effective Onboarding

A very important principle is to make our new employees feel valued! Maya Angelou wisely said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel." Here are some suggestions that will help new employees feel valued and appreciated.

Have a structured onboarding program defined in advance. The reality is that a lot of onboarding is done inconsistently and on the fly, versus following a thoughtful pre-planned program. One suggested best practice is to have a structured program with goals, assigned roles (i.e., roles for HR, direct manager, co-workers), checklists, and procedures that cover the key elements listed next. Also, we should periodically review and refine our onboarding program. How? One way is to survey new hires after they have become established and ask them what they thought were strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement with the onboarding process.

2) Reach out to new hires before their first day.
If new hires are getting the silent treatment between accepting our offer and starting the job, we're already sending the wrong message. Our onboarding program should be welcoming and clarifying process prior to first day — whether it's an email from HR walking through what to expect on the first day or a phone call from their new manager welcoming them to the team. Whatever the method, we should reach out to new hires before they begin, so they're not going in completely blind. They need to know we value them!

Also, Kathryn Minshew, CEO of career advice resource The Muse, advises, "Sending them [new hires] benefits information and your employee handbook ahead of the first day gives them a chance to get acquainted with the culture before they step in the door."

3) Have the new employee "set up" before they arrive. New hires should arrive with their new workplace and necessary tools and equipment ready to go. They should be set up ahead of time as much as possible on all relevant security, HR, payroll, IT, and other relevant systems. Consider touches like name plates and business cards (or a form to order business cards). Not all jobs require having business cards, but for many, they are a status symbol and are a sign of being appreciated and honored.

4) Make their first day memorable.
We only get one chance to make a first impression, so we want to ensure their first day is a positive experience. Ideas for the first day include taking the new employee around for introductions to all relevant co-workers on the team and others the team engages with. Have some team members take out the new person to lunch (and have the entire lunch paid for by management). Consider a welcome package that could include some gifts and/or messages from team members and management. Have a welcome banner or other decorations to show they are special.

5) Set expectations early and check in regularly.
Spend time with the new employee giving them direction and attainable action items from the beginning. Consider working with them on developing a 90-day plan that outlines key goals and an action plan to help them learn and become an integrated and productive team member. Check in with them regularly, both informally and in regular one-on-ones, to ensure they are feeling comfortable and engaged.

6) Assign a team mentor (i.e., a buddy).
One best practice is to assign an experienced team member as a mentor to help show the new person the ropes and serve as a go-to resource person. The mentor can help the new person with simple questions like various lunch options in the area, and they can also help with more difficult tasks, like navigating the corporate culture and expected norms. The mentor can also play a key role in the training process.

7) Create an employee "play book."
This is a creative idea that few have done, but it's worth doing. Develop a "play book" that can include a simple overview of your organization or team and show any vision and mission statements, values, and key strategies and initiatives. This can include a copy of your team's latest scorecard and related performance reports. Another idea is to include pictures of all team members, perhaps with a fun fact for each person, to help the new hire become acquainted with the folks he or she will be spending much of his or her time with. Also, consider developing a FAQ list that they can easily refer to.

8) Don't overwhelm them early on.
The first few weeks at a new job can be an overwhelming adjustment for an employee (we should remember that we were once the newbies on a team!). "You don't want to overload them with too much work before they are ready," counsels Deb LaMere, Vice President of Employee Experience at Ceridian. You can't expect an employee to pick up on all nuances, buzzwords, and procedures after one quick run through. Jack Hill, Director of Talent Acquisition at People Fluent, reminds employers that even new hires with industry experience should be given a chance to digest all the information they have been given.

Our employees are truly our most valuable resource and are the key to success for any team. Hiring good people and onboarding them well sets them
— and us — up for success! Mary Kay Ash sums it up well, "People are definitely a company's greatest asset. It doesn't make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps."

Wes Friesen is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award-winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management and team building training.

His book, Your Team Can Soar! has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you and give you practical pointers to help you — and your team — soar to new heights of performance. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from or (under Book) or an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Wes can be contacted at or at 971.806.0812.