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How to ensure new hires aren’t drowning in your onboarding

6 min read

Chris Ronzio is the founder and CEO of Trainual, a platform for entrepreneurs to get their business out of their brain by documenting and delegating the processes in their company.

A new hire’s first day is an exciting time—both for you and for them—but managers can often let the excitement become an overwhelming experience. Projects that were sitting on the backburner are now experiencing new life and opportunities for new ideas are endless.

Many companies are so anxious to get their new team members up to speed quickly that onboarding is squeezed into the first week or so, resulting in a feeling equivalent to drinking from a firehose. To ensure your new hire doesn’t jump ship, you’ll need to space out your onboarding and provide support for much longer.

A new employee’s onboarding process should last for several months so they can really start to understand the ins and outs of your business and how they fit into it. That’s not to say a new hire can’t start producing or doing the work assigned to them sooner than that, but to understand the company’s brand, voice, systems, roles of other team members, etc., you’ll need to give them ample time to get up to speed.

Take time to pre-board new employees.

To avoid bombarding your new hires with mounds of information on day one, invest in some pre-boarding. This can include sending along general HR documents employees need to fill out prior to their start date, freeing up some time on their first day.

Pre-boarding is also a good time to send email invites to any tools, systems, or services they’ll need access to. While you can’t make it a requirement that they go through these prior to their start date, giving an optional head start on as much of the “boring” stuff can help free up time once they officially start.

Help them feel welcomed.

While a new hire is—hopefully—enthusiastic about starting their new job, it’s usually coupled by some level of anxiety. First day jitters are real. With that in mind, consider the time it takes for a new employee to adjust to their new work environment and start to feel comfortable navigating the ins and outs of all the tools, processes, and systems you use.

At one time or another, we’ve all been the new kid on the block at a company. Even if you grew up working for your family’s business or started your own and never worked for someone else, you can likely relate to starting your first day of school. Remember that feeling? That’s how your newest employees may feel.

To help combat the anxious first day, take steps to make your new hire feel welcomed, such as offering a welcome kit. Put together some goodies—like company swag, t-shirts, hats, stickers, or a card the team signed—that will help your new hire feel part of the team.

Start with the “why.”

There’s tons of work to be done, but carving out time to give the “why” behind it all will save you turnover in the future. After all, how engaged or invested can an employee feel if they don’t know your mission, vision, and values?

Every company, no matter how big or small, has a story. Start with why you started the business, where the idea came from, where your company is headed, and what your culture is like. Having this context will help your employees feel like part of the team.

Too often, we skip the story and the context around the company’s history and head straight to that backlog of projects.

Set clear expectations and metrics for success.

Nothing is worse than not knowing what’s expected of you, especially when you’re a new member to the team. Outline the employee’s roles and responsibilities, along with metrics for success, so they’re clear on expectations and how success is measured.

This review is also a good time to check in on any metrics, goals, or responsibilities you’ve assigned to your employees. When someone is first starting, they’ll likely work a bit slower than they will by the time they have six months under their belt. So, go easy and set some longer-term expectations they can work toward. When they’re up to speed, you can be more aggressive with timelines or deadlines.

Start working to establish a good working and personal relationship with your employees from day one, and carry that through their onboarding journey with regularly scheduled check-ins.

Are you making quality hires?

Use this template to measure new hire performance.

Keep new hires afloat.

Many managers are in a rush to get employees up to speed. As a result, employees often suffer from information overload. You might think that by providing every bit of information you have you would be equipping them to be successful, but parsing information throughout a training and onboarding process allows them to better understand and absorb the material.

To start, try giving your new hires some of that company history—the why—behind it all, and then transition into more knowledge-based training and onboarding. This knowledge-based training should encompass what’s critical for a new hire to know in order to do their job—things they absolutely can’t do their job without. This includes things like, equipping them with their computer, providing logins and access to systems, keys to get into the building, or who their immediate manager is.

Once they have the basics down, you can move to more awareness-based training. This includes helpful information that’s not critical to the function of their role. Examples of this are company holidays, how to put in a PTO request, or how to work the coffee machine.

Take a more novice approach as a manager, and put yourself in the position of your new hire. What would you have liked to know when you first started to be successful?

Provide long-term support.

By taking time to answer questions and explain concepts, roles, responsibilities, and company history in depth, your new hires won’t feel overwhelmed and like they’re drowning in your onboarding process.

An easy way to conquer this is by providing a place of reference for new hires that documents all the internal processes and workings of the business. Having this sort of process built out will save you time as a manager by not having to answer every question individually and will be useful for new hires throughout their entire training process as they need a quick reference on a policy or procedure. Apps like Slack or other messaging tools can help answer questions quickly, and shows you’re available to responsive to your new hires.

The better your onboarding experience, the better retention rates you’ll have. New hires will feel invested and know how they are contributing to the greater mission of the business.

The best onboarding experiences aren’t the ones that train employees the fastest; they’re the ones that give your employees time to get up to speed so they feel comfortable jumping into their job responsibilities.

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