Onboarding a new employee is important.
It's important to thoroughly introduce a new employee to your company — from meeting the rest of the team to checking in with them often. — Getty Images/fizkes

Onboarding has been shown to improve staff morale, increase productivity (and profit) and heighten chances of employee retention. Data shows that businesses with an onboarding program see nearly double the profit of companies that don’t follow any sort of onboarding strategy. The goal of onboarding is to introduce new hires to the behaviors, culture and skills needed to be successful in their role. This is especially true in a small business, where the cost of employee turnover is much higher. Consider these five steps when creating your employee onboarding process.

Share relevant information before the new hire's first day

Onboarding starts before your new team member arrives for their first day of work. One study showed that 83% of the highest performing companies started their onboarding prior to an employee’s first day on the job. Before your new hire’s first day, send them all of the relevant paperwork, including:

  • Benefits selection and payroll forms.
  • HR manual and policies.
  • Dress code.
  • Parking details.
  • W-9 or other tax forms.
  • Glossary of company acronyms (if applicable).

When your new team member arrives, make sure they have everything they need to get started. There’s little worse than arriving at a new job and finding out nothing is ready for you. It sends the signal that your new hire isn’t welcome. When they see that a phone, computer and email address are already set up, your employee will feel as if you view them as part of the family.

[Read more: 4 Important Steps to Hiring a New Employee]

Introduce the new hire to the team

“Recent research reveals that 40% of adults report feeling lonely. This sense of isolation is amplified for new hires — who often feel like a stranger in a foreign land — and can increase their chances of leaving a job,” writes Harvard Business Review.

When a new team member first starts, assign them to a work buddy who can show them the ropes. This person can answer your new hire’s questions, introduce them to other members of the team and generally mentor them through the transition. Find someone who really knows their way around the business and who has the patience to repeat answers to frequently asked questions. Encourage everyone to meet regularly for informal one-on-ones, or institute a job-shadowing program to give your new team member a clear overview of the working mechanics of your business.

[Read more: Employee Retention: How to Keep Your Best Employees Happy]

The goal of onboarding is to introduce new hires to the behaviors, culture and skills needed to be successful in their role.

Set expectations early

Share your vision and the values of your business with new hires from the get-go. Ideally, you included these aspects of your company during your hiring process. A new employee may know what your business stands for, but spend time diving more thoroughly into the important tenets of your culture.

In addition to making your culture tangible, make sure your newest employee is clear on your expectations for the role. Offer a structured onboarding plan that outlines the training, goals and manager support that a new hire can expect during the first three months on the job. During the first week, have a manager go through the job description with the new hire and outline their responsibilities, resources and support. Setting these expectations early empowers a new hire to ask for help and rise to the role.

Create opportunities for easy wins

As you set expectations, give your new team member small goals that they can achieve early. Build momentum in the first 90 days with a series of wins that make your team member feel engaged with their work. “Start with targets you are confident your new hires can meet. If all goes well, gradually increase the level of responsibility associated with each task. This will help build trust and show them that you are paying attention,” writes Harvard Business Review.

Small wins give your team the confidence they need to settle into a role and grow with your business. Even experienced workers can feel anxious about starting a new job; put them at ease with tasks that can be accomplished. Continually raise the bar until they’re performing, connected and in sync with the rest of your team.

Check in often and ask for feedback

It’s important to check in with your all employees, but especially important to be engaged during the onboarding process. Small business owners wear many hats, and “mentor” is one role that can make the difference between an employee becoming your best worker or bailing out. Ask about a new hire’s first 90 days and whether they have any feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your current onboarding process. Consider asking a new hire to help mentor future hires and integrate their recommendations into your overall hiring process. Continually seek to build a feeling of camaraderie among your team and make sure every voice is heard. The more your employees care about your business, the longer they’ll stay and the happier they’ll be.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published February 06, 2020