You’ve gone through the careful search process for a new employee. You’ve hired the best candidate. Now you can relax, right? Not so fast. The work of onboarding has just begun.

Your new hire may have all the qualities and qualifications to make them a star in your organization, but the road to success isn’t always that easy. In fact, the line between fantastic and fiasco can be a thin one, and a lot of it comes down to how you handle the on-boarding process.

Skeptical? Consider that more than half of all U.S. employees leave their job in the first year, citing internal factors like lack of training or mentoring as their reason for wanting to bail. Contrast that with the fact that 69% of employees are likely to stay with a company for at least 3 years if they’ve had a great onboarding experience.

So, what does “a great onboarding experience” look like? To help you train and retain your new hires, here’s our quick start guide with best practices for on-boarding.

1. Understand that onboarding is not an event, it’s a process.

Some organizations mistakenly think that onboarding is an event that happens on the new employee’s first day. Newsflash: a meet-and-greet over muffins in the conference room and pointing out where the bathroom is, constitutes only a small part of the lengthy onboarding process, which should actually start the day you make the offer and last 365 days, not just one.

PRO-TIP: Have a pre-set agenda for check-ins with your employee at 30, 60, 90 and 120 days. Use this time to make sure your employee is settling in okay, understanding their role and responsibilities, and there’s a space for feedback and any important conversations. Consider using an onboarding checklist to help you with this process.

2. Include the whole team.

We’ve all been here before: you show up to work one day, and there’s a stranger in the breakroom. Is it a repairman come to finally fix that blasted copy machine? Is it your co-worker’s ex-boyfriend come to woo her back? Later, you discover that he is actually a new employee that no one bothered to tell you about, leaving you feeling left out of the loop and him feeling unwelcome. Instead, send an email to your staff before the new employee’s start day, letting them know about the new hire. Next, arrange a coffee (don’t forget the muffins) to formally welcome and introduce them to everyone. Set up meetings with key staff, especially the manager to whom they will be reporting, to set guidelines and expectations. 

PRO-TIP: While the whole team should play some part in helping onboard your new hire, consider assigning one person, “a buddy,” either from HR or their team, to train them and be available for questions, etc.

3. Make a big deal of the new hire.

That whole “coffee and muffins in the conference room thing” was a great way to introduce your new hire to their colleagues and the culture of your organization, but it’s just the start of the welcoming work. An employee’s happiness, level of productivity and retention are inextricably tied; meaning it’s time for a little red carpet treatment. Start by making sure their workstation is nicely cleaned and set-up, leaving no trace of their predecessor (imagine going to a hotel and being told to just go ahead and clean the room you’re about to check-in to.) Also make sure their computer, email, phone and passwords are set-up in advance. 

PRO-TIP: Spread the news! Go the extra mile and write a press release and / or social media posts letting people outside the office know about how excited you are about your new hire.

4. Encourage a culture of asking questions.

When you’re a new employee, you have a LOT of questions. Where are the staples? How do I make the copy machine stop copying double-sided? If the yogurt in the fridge doesn’t have a name on it, can anyone have it? Does Hal realize a mustache is not a good look for him? Many new employees fear looking uninformed, or bothering busy people with their questions; they also may feel they should just be able to “figure it out.” While certainly every boss appreciates a degree of initiative, often, more time is wasted by trying to figure things out or doing them wrong (and then having to re-do them) than if the person had just asked for help or instruction in the first place. Make sure your employees know that you not only tolerate and expect questions, you welcome them. 

PRO-TIP: Don’t expect that simply saying, “if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask,” one time is sufficient enough. Check-in with your new hire repeatedly, especially in the first few weeks, and encourage their questions as part of their growth.

5. Lay the foundation for integration.

At Envision, we have a mantra that says: “Everything we do is connected.” Our work in the areas of search, strategy and leadership is all intertwined; this is also why we chose to feature gears—cogs working together to run the machine—in our logo and marketing materials. Like us, your organization is comprised of individuals who are doing collective work toward the same common goal. The problem is, oftentimes no one really knows what anyone else is doing, making teamwork and integration a challenge. As you take on new, and possibly more staff members, you might need more meetings for a while. People often groan about team meetings, but they are a valuable way to get everyone on the same page, seeing what everyone else is doing and learning how the office is run as a whole. 

PRO-TIP: To ensure that the meetings are an efficient use of time (and eliminate some of those aforementioned groans), carefully determine your objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? What do you want and need to know from your team? Is the information in this meeting relevant to everyone?

6. Guess what? Your board needs onboarding, too.

It may surprise you to know that new staff members aren’t the only ones who need onboarding. Effective leaders need proper onboarding, too. Every organization hopes to put together the best board of directors, but once you find those members, getting the most out them is a carefully thought out process, not a given. Applying some of the aforementioned tips for new staff can also be helpful for new board members, like asking a veteran board member to be a buddy / mentor to your newest addition. 

PRO-TIP: Want more information? Check out this advice from The National Council of Nonprofits. A board orientation is a great way to bring on new board members and to introduce and invigorate your entire board. There’s a lot to consider when putting together a board orientation; fortunately, we can help.

These tips may seem like a lot of unnecessary work, but when you consider the cost, in time and money, for finding and replacing a new employee, the cost for retention will feel like a bargain.

Need help finding that perfect hire? We do Executive Search

Still working on onboarding that new leader? Think about Coaching

Need an organizational check-up? Consider an Assessment