Remember the days when onboarding meant showing up on your first day, giving your banking information and getting to work? Well, it’s definitely not like that anymore for companies focused on onboarding best practices. In fact, HR experts say onboarding should be a year-long strategic process, with special emphasis placed on the first months of a new hire’s experience.
Getting the initial 90 days off to a good start plays a role in employee retention. You’ve spent so much time finding and selecting the right employee—don’t lose them before you even get out of the starting gate.
Onboarding best practices evolve as HR professionals work hard to consistently improve. Here’s what you can do to wow new hires in the first 90 days:
5 Onboarding Best Practices to Integrate
Build out a 90-day checklist that walks an employee from new hire to old hat.
1. Make sure your emails are getting through
It sounds basic, but one of the big problems with onboarding, especially if you’re hiring remote workers, is communication. Email is tricky—it could be that crucial emails you sent at the beginning of the process didn’t make it through because the new hire didn’t have an email inbox set up or activated yet. New hires are also inundated with emails in their first weeks. So there’s a chance your carefully crafted welcome email with all the next steps they’ll need to complete their onboarding process got missed in the shuffle. Here’s how you can make sure your message is getting across:
- Install an email tracker such as Streak for Gmail that shows when emails have been opened. If your new hire hasn’t opened any of your crucial emails, it might be time to follow up via chat or in person.
- Use text message whenever possible. Think about it: people are constantly on their phones and usually open text messages within minutes of receiving them. Your texts probably stand a better chance of getting through than an email, and are especially quick for new hires to respond to. A company that provides text messaging services for business can train you on how to send and reply to text messages on a corporate number, or how to set up auto emails that remind employees to enroll in benefits or take certain trainings.
- Provide employees with a checklist of important emails that they should be receiving. They can review the emails they’ve opened against your checklist to make sure they didn’t miss anything.
2. Have new employees meet each business unit
Have you ever been in that awkward situation where you can’t remember the name of someone you work with, but you’ve been around just long enough that it’d be too embarrassing to ask? Avoid that situation with your new hires. Just getting them to pop in and say “hi” to each cubicle probably isn’t enough for your new employee to really get to know everyone. Here are some strategies to integrate newcomers into your culture quickly.
- Have new hires attend one weekly meeting for each business unit the first week or two that they start. For remote hires, you can simply invite them to the video meeting. For in-office hires you can make sure they have a seat at the table.
- Create a weekly team “happy hour” whether in-person or on video that encourages business unit groups to mingle and spend time knowing each other socially.
- Implement a consistent way people can meet for coffee or lunch. If you use Slack, the coffee roulette widget Donut will randomly pair your team members who don’t know each other every one to four weeks to encourage conversation. They can meet through video conferencing or in person to get to know each other. Donut will remind your employees to meet throughout the week in case they procrastinate!
3. Schedule check-ins every 30 days with upper management
You never want your new employees to fear their superiors or feel disconnected from the decision makers in your business. Even if your new employee is quite junior it’s still important for them to know their work matters. A quick way to do this is by making them feel seen by their superiors with quick 30-minute check-ins at each 30-day mark for the first three months. If you have a small company, this is likely something a Vice President or CEO can join in on. As your company grows this is likely a task that will involve direct reports. Here’s a framework you can customize depending on the size and roles at your company:
- 30-day anniversary: Get new hires to check in with their immediate superior to talk specifically about how onboarding is going.
- 60-day anniversary: Set another meeting for your new hire to check in with their boss’s boss. They can talk about the company culture, vision and how the onboarding process is going so far.
- 90-day anniversary: This final meeting should be with the most senior person available in that division. It’s an opportunity for more senior employees to continue to convey the vision, purpose, and values of the company to the new hire.
4. Survey your new hires regularly
Whether out of fear of reprisal or poor problem-solving skills sometimes employees, especially new hires, won’t bring an issue to your attention until it has festered for quite a while. By then a lot of cultural damage could have already occurred, and new hires are especially sensitive to this. That’s why it’s a good idea to regularly survey new hires with quick polls and questions that give you insight into their experience. Here are some tools, aside from email, that you can use for surveys:
- Officevibe has a variety of polls and open-ended questions you can use to elicit anonymous feedback from your new hires. For ease, they integrate with Slack so your employees are sent poll notifications within a special chat box.
- Send surveys via text message. You should be able to set up an automated text survey that asks your employees for numeric, multiple choice, or open-ended questions. To really draw out feedback you can announce a chance to win a prize to those who complete the survey.
5. Pair new hires with a buddy to guide the way
Starting a new job can be overwhelming, but pairing new hires with a friend at the organization who can answer basic questions and provide moral support cuts down on the stress. Employees who have recently completed their 90-day onboarding are in the best position to help because they will be familiar with your most recent processes and policies. Here are buddy onboarding best practices to follow:
- Get your buddy to check in with their new employee for a 30-minute meeting on the first day, at the end of the first week, and then once every week after that for the first month.
- Provide a list of questions the buddy can use to get the conversation started at each meeting.
- If possible, pair buddies with new hires who are in the same or similar business units.
Don’t undo your hard recruiting work
It takes a lot of time and energy to recruit and hire the right employees. No one wants to see an employee leave prematurely. Implementing strong 90-day onboarding best practices is an important component of employee retention.
About the author:
Matt Baglia, the CEO of SlickText, has grown his company from his apartment into a $20 million company. Along the way he’s hired, onboarded and retained many employees after learning from experience the do’s and don’ts.