According to SHRM, employee turnover can be as high as 50 percent in the first 18 months of employment. A Gallup poll found that an employee’s perception of an organization begins with the individual’s very first interactions with the company, including the sourcing, recruiting, and onboarding processes. Unfortunately, Gallup also found just 12 percent of employees feel their organization does a great job onboarding new employees.
For a growing business, onboarding new hires is a big responsibility. How well you onboard employees plays a key role in your retention efforts.
Put another way, the most effective onboarding processes are built with retention as an explicit end goal. But what exactly does that look like in practice?
Building an Onboarding Process With Retention in Mind
Ideally, an onboarding process should so thoroughly integrate a new hire into your company and prepare them for success that the employee decides to stick around for the long haul. To ensure your onboarding process achieves this, start by drafting a thorough checklist that covers every task involved in bringing on and ramping up a new hire. This list should include both items that need to be accomplished before the hire’s first day and tasks that will happen once the hire officially starts.
Crafting and following a comprehensive checklist ensures a consistent, streamlined onboarding process for each new hire. It also allows HR pros to better track the work and time associated with bringing on new employees. This data gives the company an easier way to identify and address inefficiencies in existing onboarding processes.
What should your onboarding checklist include? While the specific items may vary company by company, there are four general categories all companies need to consider: legal requirements, technology, culture, and practical needs.
The Retention-Focused Onboarding Checklist
1. Legal Requirements
This section of the checklist includes hiring paperwork like offer letters, legal notices regarding harassment disclosures or noncompete clauses, and the collection of official documents like the I-9 and W-4. It’s worth noting that many of these checklist items can be completed prior to the new hire’s first day via HR software. This alleviates a lot of the administrative burden of onboarding. Rather than chasing paperwork, onboarding leaders can focus on the more valuable cultural and practical elements of onboarding.
Your organization is almost certainly already covering legal requirements in its onboarding. If not, start incorporating them into the process immediately. You’re taking some serious compliance risks by leaving these items out.
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This segment of the checklist centers on equipping your new hire with the tech tools they will need to perform their job duties. This includes both hardware (e.g., company-issued laptops and cellphones) and software (e.g., company email accounts and sales software login credentials). Additional items like company cars, credit cards, and building access keys should also be included in the technology segment of the onboarding process.
In many organizations, employees are introduced to these tools in a piecemeal fashion over several days as the hiring manager remembers them. This greatly slows down the new hire’s ability to ramp up to full productivity in their new role. The better approach is to establish a baseline of company-wide technology needs — like access keys and computers — that all new hires require. Then, work with the hiring manager to determine any additional technology each specific new hire will need. Once you have a full list, set aside a specific time during the onboarding process to introduce all required tech to the new hire.
The first two categories of items can often be completed before the new hire’s first day. However, there are some components of onboarding that cannot begin until the new hire begins — including cultural acclimation.
The first few days and weeks of a new job constitute a make-or-break period for retention. If reducing turnover is the end goal, your onboarding process must ensure new hires feel welcome, supported, and familiar with the culture. For this reason, you should start introducing cultural components as early as the new hire’s very first day.
HR can coach managers on how to effectively communicate the organization’s mission, vision, and history to new hires. This information will make the new hire feel like part of the team from the very beginning. You may also want to establish other team-building traditions as well. For example, every new hire on our team reads The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. A get-to-know-you lunch is another good idea. If your company gifts new hires with swag, assemble the package ahead of time and present it to the new hire on their first day.
4. Practical Needs
While culture matters, the new hire’s first day should also include the practical tools and information they need to get started in their role, such as relevant training materials. Have the hiring manager build a comprehensive roadmap of expectations over a predetermined period of time. This way, the new hire and the hiring manager will have a mutually agreed-upon set of actions to take and milestones to hit for a successful ramp-up period. Clear, specific expectations are one of the most important — and least common — elements of an effective onboarding checklist.
The best onboarding checklists are often more robust and more detailed than the checklists many organizations currently have. Outlining each step of the process in detail may be time-consuming, but it ensures each new hire has a consistent, streamlined, and effective onboarding process. The better the onboarding process, the less likely a new hire is to leave.
Alex Tolbert is the founder and CEO of BerniePortal, the all-in-one HRIS for small and mid-sized businesses. Alex received his BS and BA in finance and international studies from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a member of the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business. He obtained his JD and MBA from Vanderbilt University Law School and the Vanderbilt University Owen School of Management. Alex is an industry-recognized expert on HR technology, the benefits industry, small business operations, and software development.