Getting the right onboarding process steps for your small business or startup can take a few attempts, but it's important to make your new hire feel welcome and ready to start their job. Here are the 6 onboarding steps we took at Charlie to tackle this process.
It’s easy to think new starters will quickly catch the drift of their new role when they’ve made a strong impression during their interview, but this first performance shouldn’t work against them.
In my role at CharlieHR, I learnt that the steps towards a good onboarding process have to be meticulously designed to provide the right tools and knowledge for new team members to successfully pass probation and thrive in their roles.
Let’s have a look at what that looks like in practice.
Why onboarding is fundamental for new team members
Giving new hires the means and training to do their best work right from their start date is a priority, and onboarding is crucial to get that right so they can:
- Fit into their role and understand the expectations around it
- Contribute to business goals
- Engage with the company’s values and feel part of the team
- Successfully pass probation
But that does not happen without your help, and it’s your responsibility as a leader or manager to put an effective onboarding process in place so they can reach these goals.
At Charlie, we’ve gone from 20 to 40 team members in just over a year (and still growing!), so we’ve had the opportunity to refine our onboarding process to scale.
If you’re interested in our current onboarding steps, make sure to download our onboarding checklist to try them out at your small business.
Why the onboarding process steps should be carefully crafted
With almost 30% of new hires leaving within the first 90 days, it’s clear the onboarding experience and the probation period are critical for HR teams and HR professionals to get right.
It's easy to blame poor performance if new hires don't make the cut, but in my book, most of these difficult situations can be avoided if supported by a solid onboarding plan that prioritises the employee experience.
Over the years, I've learnt that a negative onboarding experience can hinder your new team member's motivation and willingness to learn, slowing down their ability to contribute to their team's goals.
On the other hand, a positive onboarding experience can bring tons to the table:
- Employee retention – ensure team members want to stay in the business for the long run by getting what they've signed up for
- Employee performance – boost their confidence and their ability to do their best work by giving them the support and training they need right from the start
- Teamwork – encourage connections between teammates and make working easier with the right processes
- Discretionary effort – foster the right working environment to make people want to do more than "just their job" and exceed expectations
Let's have a look together at what steps you need to take for your onboarding process to succeed.
Onboarding Process Step 1: before the new hire’s first day
1. Communicate with the new hire before their start date
Don't lose the connection you've established with your new hire during the interview process.
Once they've accepted the offer, draw their employment contract straight away so there's no confusion or doubt as to whether the offer still stands.
This can be a very stress-inducing process, especially if your new hire is waiting for the contract to give their notice period to their former employer. Get on it as soon as you can so there's no delay in their start date and they don't get snatched up by another business.
On your side, it'll also be a good way to make sure you keep in touch and get the paperwork you need from them promptly.
2. Create a company email address and grant access to the right platforms
The first admin bit you want to take care of is making sure everything is ready on your new hire's first day – even more if it's a remote onboarding process.
To do so, get in touch with all the team members that own the different platforms you use so they can give your new employee access.
In these situations, it's useful to have onboarding checklist templates saved. You can do this in onboarding software and tick all the boxes as you go along, as well as tag any person involved in the process (think payroll administrator or dev functions).
By setting a due date, each person involved will get an automatic reminder in their inboxes to minimise any onboarding hiccups.
3. Be compliant and make sure all paperwork is done on time
One of the most time-consuming steps of your onboarding process is to make sure you stay compliant by getting all the necessary documents for your new hire and storing them in a secured place.
It's easy to get confused and lose critical documents whenever communicating via threads of email and saving tons in drive folders.
Maybe that's where HR software could help you by automating your onboarding process.
Before they even get started, send an invite to the email address you've created and once they've logged into it, simply watch it happening from afar with automatic reminders.
Start a 14-day free trial with CharlieHR today to find out more about our onboarding feature.
4. Order a laptop and the rest of their equipment
Ordering a laptop may seem like a basic step, but adding it to your checklist to do it on time so your new hire gets it on time.
It wouldn't be a good look if they were left stranded with no equipment. Depending on your policies in terms of remote or hybrid working, you can also allocate a budget towards the rest of the equipment they need to work from home.
Send a welcome email to your new employees and ask them whether they need you to order anything with their budget. This will add a thoughtful touch to your onboarding process.
5. Invite new hires to company-wide meetings
One last step before your new hire's first day: invite them to all the meetings your company is regularly having so it's straight into their calendar when they log into their account.
This ensures they don't miss any important part of the company-wide context and feel at home right from day one.
Onboarding Process Step 2: first day, make their first impression a long-lasting one
1. Make them feel welcome
On their first day, give new hires a warm welcome and hand them all the information they need to start off on the right foot.
Although in-person meetings allow for more laid-back conversations, the challenge of remote onboarding doesn’t mean it’s impossible to form new bonds and lay the foundations for great employee engagement.
So to make new hires feel welcome, schedule a one-to-one meeting at the beginning of the day so you can lead the way as to what's expected and what's going to happen.
2. Give an office tour and invite them for coffee
If you're in the office and not remote, make sure you show new hires around – get them to know everything there is to know about the place they're going to be working in.
Coworking and office space often have health and safety protocols in place, so it's your role to ensure new hires either attend an induction session or you run them through the safety measures.
Once that's done, maybe it's time to get to know them better and invite them for coffee and a more casual chat.
3. Introduce them to other team members
Creating connections between team members is essential when they start a new job. This will allow them to work well as a team, and to be able to communicate without any issues.
Sometimes, however, especially as your company grows, not everyone is very good at keeping tabs on new starters if they're not on their team.
At Charlie, for example, a reminder of the new starter’s first day shows up on our software's homepage – team members never miss it and can make the first step to breaking the ice by inviting new hires for a virtual coffee or a team lunch in the office.
Some meets and greets with the leadership team will also have to be scheduled to avoid new hires feeling siloed in their role and help them understand the broader context of the business.
4. Pair new hires with a buddy
We also always assign new starters a buddy to help get their bearings at the company, meet new colleagues and answer any non-work-related questions they may have.
This is a great way for new hires to get to know their new working environment and to have a familiar face to refer to if needed, on top of their line manager.
5. Get them to work through their own checklist
Remember how we mentioned everyone in the team follows the tasks assigned in the Charlie onboarding checklist?
Well, the same can be done for your new hire, especially when it's their first day. You might want them to have a read of your HR policies, read relevant documents or even get familiar with the company's values.
Again, the checklist integrated into our software will be a great way to set up a goal for their first day and make sure everything is done on time.
Onboarding Process Step 3: First week, help them hit the ground running
1. Ask managers to run them through their role document
An important aspect of your new hire's starting pack is to get them to understand what the expectations for the role are.
Of course, they'll have had an introduction through the job spec as well as through the interview, but it's essentially what they have to do to pass probation and beyond.
You should make sure managers have a role document ready to hand to them and run them through it as well as ask new hires if they have potential questions.
Once that's done, they can start talking to them about progression, but the first point of focus should always be around passing probation.
2. Get managers to set small goals and make them part of day-to-day work
At Charlie, I encourage and help managers to put together onboarding plans that include a timeline of the knowledge they want to share.
I also remind them training is not one-size-fits-all, and they might have to adjust it as they go along.
The biggest priority is setting milestones to assess how well a new hire is doing to back up any future decisions regarding probation.
That's why starting small, for example with day-to-day task, and moving on to bigger projects is the best way to go about it.
3. Check in with them by the end of the week
Again, never lose sight of your new hire even if you're not as involved in the onboarding process as you were at the beginning.
It's your role, as someone responsible for HR, to gather any concerns or solve any problem coming their way.
If there's any issue arising, you should be the first point of contact they can refer to and trust, so make sure you check with them by the end of that first week to understand how it went and whether they need anything from you.
Onboarding Process Step 4: First month to end of probation — keep the boat steady
1. Keep checking on them and ask for feedback on their onboarding process experience
Your new hires should never feel like they've left to their own devices in the first months – especially when they're waiting to hear whether they made the cut or not.
To do so, schedule monthly meetings with them to gather their impression and keep up with what's going on with their work goals.
You should also ask them for feedback on their onboarding process experience. This is a good method to make sure you keep on iterating on your process and refining it.
If you don't want to have to schedule time for a meeting, maybe you should use automated engagement surveys to get a better picture and use the same template each time.
Have a look at what that's like for real by catching a free 14-day trial with CharlieHR today.
2. Make sure feedback goes both ways
As new hires ease into their role, it’s only natural for managers and other team members will have feedback about their performance.
New hires need to understand how well they're doing and where they can improve for the sake of transparency.
Feedback is not a one-way street and you need to make sure new hires feel confident and comfortable sharing it with their line manager.
By identifying blockers early on, it will be easier to find a solution and make sure new hires are going in the right direction.
3. Catch up with their line manager regularly
You shouldn't just catch up with line managers when the end of their probation period is up, but regularly so you can give them advice and help them reflect on the team member's performance.
What happens next and what decisions are made toward probation should never be a surprise and you should always be straightforward when it comes to performance.
If a new hire brilliantly covered all the steps set out for them, then it shouldn’t be difficult — but what if there are any doubts?
Tuning off your concerns can seem like a good solution, especially when you do onboarding as a startup or small business, but our advice would be to extend probation if you’re not 100% sure about their performance.
To make the most use of the extension, at Charlie we make sure to outline areas where new hires fell short of expectations and set clear goals to be confident in our decision when it comes to an end.
Unfortunately, some new hires won’t make it despite your best efforts, and if you’re not sure how to handle a termination, perhaps an HR expert could help you with this delicate situation.
So that's it. Your onboarding process steps are done, but the work is not over. You still need to keep engaging with team members to develop their skills and take their careers to the next level.
Find out more about how to optimise your onboarding in detail and understand what is onboarding about in our complete guide.