Onboarding Process in 3 Steps

Employee Onboarding Process in 3 Easy Steps

In all articles by Lisa Debatin

Successful onboarding processes are crucial for integrating new employees quickly and retaining them in the company. But there are several pitfalls along the way, especially when working from home is increasingly becoming the norm. How do you make the onboarding journey successful – on-site and remote – and why should human resources departments standardize the process across three phases?

Why is an onboarding process important?
What are the objectives of onboarding?
What makes a good onboarding process?
Who is responsible for ensuring optimal onboarding processes?
Onboarding process checklist: 6 typical mistakes
What are the three phases of onboarding?
Onboarding while working from home

Why is an onboarding process important?

If a new employee is integrated quickly and familiarizes himself nimbly with his tasks, this often means more than half the battle for long-term employee retention. Employees also meet their goals quicker. Nevertheless, there can also be some pitfalls during the process. For example, every fifth employment relationship fails during the probationary period. In some cases, the new colleague doesn’t even start the job. This is energy-sapping for the company and the colleagues who have to take on additional work. Consequently, it is also costly given high recruiting costs. Such negative scenarios can be prevented by a structured onboarding process.

What are the objectives of onboarding?

The objective of onboarding is not only to prepare employees for their daily tasks but also to provide them with the necessary resources. Furthermore, onboarding new employees ideally integrates them into the company culture. This interpersonal “feel-good” aspect should not be neglected under any circumstances. According to Haufe, one in four employees quits within the first year because they cannot identify with the corporate culture. A good onboarding process can prevent this.

What makes a good onboarding process?

It is important to have a comprehensive and structured approach that makes it easier for the new employee to arrive. After all, the onboarding journey encompasses the induction process and the integration of the new colleague into the company and its corporate culture.

When does the onboarding process begin?

The onboarding of new colleagues officially begins with signing the employment contract and ends with the probationary period. This is usually six months. In order not to put new employees under pressure, the onboarding period should be officially agreed on. An onboarding plan is beneficial for both sides here, as it provides a clear structure and overview for the company and new colleagues.

Who is responsible for ensuring optimal onboarding processes?

As with all HR and talent management issues, the Human Resources department is in charge. It is responsible for ensuring that each new employee is optimally onboarded. Additionally, it is also responsible for developing appropriate concepts and launching structures within the talent management framework.

During operational implementation, close cooperation between specialist departments and the HR department is essential: Tasks between functional supervisors and the supervisor in HR must be clearly assigned concerning each new employee.

Onboarding process checklist: 6 typical mistakes

  • Delayed processing of contract modalities: New colleagues do not receive their employment contract or other important documents at all or not in time. In case of doubt, they do not accept any target-oriented information even when asked. Accordingly, it is no wonder that they lose confidence in their new employer after only a short time.
  • No communication: Employees feel left alone in terms of preparation for the new job before starting. Or they do not receive an adequate introduction at the beginning of the job. They may not even know precisely who their contact persons are for specific questions. Under certain circumstances, an inevitable resignation spreads after a short time.  
  • Little contact with colleagues: Good touchpoints with colleagues are one of the things new employees value the most. If these are missing – especially when working remotely – it can have an immense impact on motivation. But not only that: without the exchange with others, important information is missing that would be important for the work. And necessary for the new employees to be able to perform their tasks.
  • Missing structure: If the induction process is unstructured, there is a high risk that important topics and learnings will be forgotten.
  • No clear goals: If new employees don’t know what is expected of them, there will be two negative effects: On the one hand, they can hardly achieve the goals. Secondly, they will be treading water and quickly lose interest in the new job.
  • Lack of feedback: Regular feedback provides orientation – in both directions. If it is missing, the feeling of not being in the right place quickly arises. Therefore, it is advisable to obtain regular feedback from the new employee and give it to them.

What are the three phases of onboarding?
And what does the onboarding process for new colleagues look like?

Phase 1: Preboarding – Before the first day

Sending the employment contract and other important documents promptly should be a given. But Human Resources departments can do even more in conjunction with the specialist department.

The new employees should have a personal contact person in HR whom they can contact anytime.
Direct colleagues can offer to go to lunch with the employee.
If meetings are held digitally, it’s good to get to know your colleagues in a “virtual coffee kitchen.” Especially while working from home. In this way, new hires get a chance to network before their first day at work.

Furthermore, it is helpful to make materials about the company, and the job are available in advance to support preparation. Guides, information about processes, topics, and projects help the new employee start with prior knowledge. The feeling of a well-prepared first day is consequently given.
Communicating the corporate culture and the company’s values already starts during the application phase. This must be continued here through appropriate communication.
Before the official start, the employer should set up the workplace for the new employee so that they can get started right away on the first day.


Phase 2: Start-up phase – the first days at the new workplace

The first few days, in particular, often determine the long-term success of the collaboration. There are several things the employer can do:
To ensure that the new colleague gets a good feeling right away, the boss should take time to talk about the most important key points. This includes clarifying mutual expectations.

An official welcome within the team is of great importance. This helps the new employee to integrate quickly. Also important: getting to know other colleagues at the site. This includes a tour through the whole company.
Furthermore, a welcome package is helpful, containing: 

  • Documents about the company
  • Key and/or employee ID card
  • Business cards
  • Information on employee amenities such as a canteen
  • Logistical instructions, e.g. for parking and work equipment
  • Structured induction plan

Virtual meetings are a good way of facilitating networking beyond the site itself. Internal social networks can also help establish contacts, as can platforms for randomized networking (“blind dates between colleagues”).

Our tip: With Mystery Coffee, new colleagues network with “long-term employees” at the virtual watercooler. Employees are matched to each other randomly. Thus, the onboarding process and experience are enhanced: www.mysterycoffee.com


Phase 3: Introduction – the first six months

The new employee should gradually become better acquainted with the company and grow into their tasks.
The induction plan should be structured in detail and implemented in practice.
Introductory events, training courses, and seminars make an essential contribution.

An initial feedback meeting is held in the first few weeks. Others follow at regular intervals, for example, monthly, in both directions. Any issues should be addressed openly to find solutions. Both technical issues and the well-being of the colleague are on the agenda.
Medium- to long-term development steps and career prospects should already be discussed. Hence, it is ensured that the new colleague knows how to achieve their goals right away.
Team events support the further integration of the new employee. Digital elements can also be a part of the process.

Even after the probationary period, onboarding is often not yet complete. It is precisely the corresponding communicative initiatives that continue to make sense. The specialist department is in charge here – but it is continuously supported by HR.

Checklist: The three phases of onboarding

Onboarding while working from home

More and more employees are working from home or in a hybrid work model. It can be assumed that this trend will continue in the long term. The physical distance also has consequences for the onboarding process. But digital communication channels help to overcome this:

Digital meetings help to ensure ongoing exchange within teams and across departmental boundaries. These are crucial to establishing permanently intensive contact with colleagues.
Virtual 1:1 conversations between colleagues make it possible to improve the internal flow of information across locations, countries, and continents. Additionally, this has a positive impact on the integration of new employees. Sharing a coffee can have many positive effects.

File hosting services and cloud storage give employees direct access to information and documents. A quick overview of available files should be ensured.
Nevertheless, personal contact should not be neglected. For example, the company should always check whether it is possible to spend the first few days on-site at the office. Presence days should also be scheduled for employees who usually work from home.

The bottom line

Create a structure for new colleagues, communicate information on an ongoing basis, and provide a personal contact person both at HR and in the specialist department: If companies keep this close to heart, they create a good foundation for a smooth onboarding. Connected with this: An optimal work base of new people. And excellent chances of long-term employee loyalty to the company.

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