How to build a successful employee onboarding program

Make onboarding a team effort

In the last lesson, we mentioned asking future coworkers to greet a new employee. Your team shouldn’t just help with early onboarding, though—they should be involved in the whole process. We’ve created a FAQ for this below.

How do you make onboarding a team effort?

We’re not suggesting every member of your team devote their whole week to the new hire. Instead, we recommend smaller steps.

For example, key team members could reach out to the new hire during the first week. By offering to answer questions, grab coffee, or just listen, they can help the new employee feel confident in the new role—and supported by the team.

Of course, this might not be enough. If onboarding is a consistent struggle for your organization, you might consider introducing onboarding buddies.

What’s an onboarding buddy?

An onboarding buddy is an experienced teammate that helps the new employee feel like they belong. The onboarding buddy introduces the new employee to other team members, shows them around the office, and schedules coffee breaks with the employee to check in and make sure onboarding is going smoothly.

How do I choose an onboarding buddy?

Onboarding buddies should always be seasoned employees in good standing with the company. Ideally, they should strongly embody the cultural values of your organization—after all, the employee will learn from their example.

Onboarding buddies should also be volunteers. If you twist someone’s arm into the role, they’re liable to roll their eyes and bring a poor attitude. The onboarding buddy should be excited to help out.

Do I need to train an onboarding buddy?

Yes and no! We don’t expect you to put the onboarding buddy through a live webinar. But they will need reference materials.

If this is your first time using an onboarding buddy, you’ll want to collaborate with HR on an onboarding guide. The first section of the onboarding guide should cover onboarding buddy etiquette: what the expectations are, how to make the new hire feel welcomed, etc. The rest should cover common onboarding questions. That way, if the onboarding buddy doesn’t know how to answer a question, they’ll have a quick reference.

It’s best if the onboarding guide is a ‘living document.’ When a new hire has a question that the guide can’t answer, add it to the guide! This way, the guide will reflect what new employees need—not just what you think they’ll need.

Finally, we recommend letting the onboarding buddy know about the new hire’s start date as far in advance as possible. They’ll need the space to prep and clear their calendar!

How long should the onboarding buddy help for?

We recommend the onboarding buddy checks in at least once a week for the first month. Depending on the complexity of the role, they might want to continue to check in once or twice a month for up to two months afterwards.

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