Why Is Employee Onboarding Important?

When it comes to discussions about employees, there’s a tendency to focus on the latter part of their journey with a company. Particularly surrounding efforts to improve retention, businesses are often more concerned about mitigating turnover when employee relationships have already started to wane. As such, the early experiences workers have with businesses are too often overlooked.

Yet, the onboarding process can be a powerful tool for all aspects of your employees’ experience. When approached with solid insights and pursued with a strategy in place, all an organization’s stakeholders stand to benefit. That’s not to say it’s always easy, though. Before taking the plunge and investing in adjusting your onboarding, it’s wise to understand more about it.

Let’s take a closer look at why employee onboarding is important.

Setting Expectations

One of the clear advantages of onboarding is that it sets clear expectations for both the employee and the company. This informs workers’ understanding of their place within the company and removes any sense of ambiguity. This is an important tool to help workers to feel more secure, particularly in a new environment in which they’re likely to experience a great deal of uncertainty.

Expectations are also set about the values of the company during this time. This isn’t just about issuing a document with the company mission statement. One of the key differences between onboarding and orientation is the former is a much longer process, designed to take place usually over the employees first months and years. A solid onboarding process clearly outlines what the values are in a practical sense and guides employees in their demonstration and application across that vital early period. They get to see how their colleagues, management, and executives use the values in all actions. This sets expectations for employees’ productivity, ethical behavior, and interactions.

Another key component of expectation setting relates to the level of support being offered by the organization. A poor onboarding process provides new hires with the minimum of guidance, often leaving workers to have to discover resources and protocols on their own. This sets an expectation that they’ll be operating in isolation throughout the process. On the other hand, a clear and support-oriented onboarding process helps employees to understand what resources are available and how their colleagues and managers help them access them. This not only gives new workers the tools they need but also sets expectations for how to provide support for other new hires later in their journey with the business.

Forging Strong Relationships

It’s important not to mistake onboarding for being a simple process of issuing documentation and signing contracts. The process is far more than an administrative checklist. It’s an opportunity to start forging strong and meaningful relationships in various areas. 

Firstly, it fosters relationships with leadership. One of the errors made by many businesses is in failing to involve immediate leaders in these vital initial stages. A recent study found 37% of workers surveyed didn’t think their manager was significantly involved in the onboarding process. Yet this is one of the most important relationships new hires need to build from the earliest opportunity. A good onboarding process ensures direct managers are among the first contacts with workers and perform regular check-ins along the way. This helps to build mutual respect and understanding.

Great onboarding is also integral to colleague relationships. Where the team manager is a key contact from the outset, they can be useful in making more personal and relevant team introductions. This tends to be even more effective when businesses implement buddy systems during onboarding. The buddy becomes a key figure of contact and support in the day-to-day activities of new workers. They’re also instrumental in helping newbies integrate into the team dynamic.  This ensures employees connect meaningfully with the organizational culture and creates a stronger sense of belonging.

Perhaps above all else, good onboarding is essential for a strong, fully engaged relationship with the company itself. The support and guidance new workers receive gives a sense that all members of the organization are collaborating in the name of mutual success. From the outset and throughout workers’ first months of employment, there is continued evidence of authentic care. This can influence whether new workers see the organization as something they want to be a part of and contribute meaningfully to.

Encouraging Compliance

It is always important to make sure employees have the skills and knowledge to perform in their roles. However, compliance is often subjective to the needs of individual businesses alongside the legal demands of the industry or individual role. When good onboarding is in place, there are opportunities to cement practices that not only ensure initial compliance but maintain it throughout the worker’s lifespan with an organization.

The initial aspect of onboarding can introduce new hires to specific company aspects of compliance. HR professionals can outline the expectations for employee behavior in the workplace alongside health and safety attributes. Perhaps most importantly, managers must be involved with communicating the importance of these aspects of compliance and how they feature in team efficacy. This part of onboarding shouldn’t only focus on the legal and career ramifications of missteps. There should be a clear communication of how they, their colleagues, and the company culture as a whole tangibly benefit from ongoing compliance.

As onboarding is a process that occurs over a period of months, this can be ample opportunities to reinforce and revisit areas of compliance. Buddy situations with colleagues can demonstrate how compliance is implemented into everyday activities. Regular one-to-one meetings with management should include discussions surrounding such regulatory areas. It’s important to utilize these meetings to assess whether workers understand the rules and why they are in place. The strength of employee buy-in to these concepts can seriously impact how they choose to implement them throughout their career.

Utilizing the Right Tools

In order for both employees and the company to get the most out of the onboarding process, it’s important to use effective resources. While these might involve investment of time and capital, they can have an influence on success moving forward. 

Some of the tools you should consider to support onboarding include: 

  • Clear Structure

Structure is one of the most important resources at your disposal for effective onboarding. The process doesn’t work if it is improvised or different for every employee. Though some aspects will be different depending on the role, there needs to be some company-wide consistency. This helps your workers, HR professionals, management, and teams understand exactly what to expect during onboarding and the milestones to hit. It’s worth formalizing this onboarding journey in accessible documentation so there is an element of transparency from the outset.

  • E-learning Platforms

Formal in-person training should be a part of onboarding wherever possible. Indeed, if other colleagues can join the sessions, this can assist with team bonding. However, there will be times when individual learning is necessary. This may be to assess and reinforce aspects of company compliance at regular intervals. It could be the initial or ongoing training of remote workers. In either case, e-learning platforms can be useful onboarding tools, as they can be tailored to meet specific onboarding needs and branded with your organization’s visuals.

  • Experience Surveys

One of the key ways in which good onboarding can affect your company is in boosting employee engagement. However, it’s important to assess engagement throughout the onboarding process, too. Implementing periodic employee experience surveys at key onboarding milestones can help you gain insights here. These can be tailored to assess the specific aspects of the onboarding process, company culture, and worker engagement you need to learn about. Indeed, the data gathered can give different types of actionable information to managers, HR departments, and executives. Indeed, it can be wise to provide new workers access to anonymous conversation platforms. This allows them to offer comments about issues as they arise. This not only gathers vital data regarding the efficacy of onboarding, it shows new employees that the company values their opinions.

Wrapping Up

Onboarding is far more than just initial orientation. It is a process that helps to support and guide employees through the first months with the business. This sets positive expectations about their interactions with the company and helps them forge strong relationships with everyone involved. Not to mention it can boost compliance across several areas. When the process is implemented using a solid set of tools, your business can see improved retention and a stronger culture.