How to create a great employee onboarding experience?

Employee onboarding is like a Swiss army knife—you can use it to solve a lot of problems in your organization. Take employee attrition, for example. According to UrbanBound research, businesses on average lose 25% of all new employees within one year of hiring them. From a financial standpoint, this is a costly affair because replacing an employee typically costs you 6–9 months of their salary.

A well-structured employee onboarding program also shortens the cycle between new employee ramp-up and the outcome they are supposed to deliver. There are also other opportunities at stake that you can leverage if you can improve your employee onboarding. 

For the scope of this post, we will look at:

  • What is employee onboarding?
  • Why is employee onboarding important?
  • 3 important factors to create a seamless employee onboarding experience

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the bridge that helps new hires cross the gaps between them and the new company. It’s the formal process of welcoming new employees into your business. It’s a lot like going through a student orientation program in college—if you had one during the first week of your freshman year.

Employee onboarding is usually a series of sequential events that are designed to help new employees get acquainted with your company, the team, and other aspects of their new job. For instance, most employee onboarding processes include a welcome event (sometimes, in batches), getting the necessary paperwork completed, setting up the technical equipment, registering for training programs, enrolling for healthcare and other benefits, and learning about the company’s values and mission.

Accelerating the onboarding of a remote Account Executive

Just like in college, the onboarding program ranges from giving new employees highly tactical experiences such as explaining to them their day-to-day tasks to getting to know their coworkers. At the same time, it’s also about giving the new hires a highly strategic overview of their role in the organization such as communicating their job responsibility and reiterating the main goals set for them.

Why is employee onboarding important?

Offering a great employee onboarding experience sets the right tone for the new employees from day one. New employees often reciprocate the energy that you put into the onboarding process. If you offer a lukewarm onboarding experience, they will probably give you an equally tepid job performance—until they find the next adventure that captures their imagination. And if you offer them a great welcome experience from the get-go, they will put all their might into their work to match the energy.

Stats back this up too. Companies with a standardized remote onboarding process witness 50% greater productivity in their new hires than the companies that don’t. This circles back to the point we made earlier about using onboarding to shorten their learning curve.

At Avoma, we have learned this through our first-hand experience. We have accelerated our employee onboarding for new Account Executives (AEs) by enabling an asynchronous learning process. We believe in drinking our own champagne and therefore leveraged the most Avoma for not only recording, transcribing and summarizing notes of our reps with prospects and customers, but also to turn them into playlists. It ensured that new AEs could learn directly—often, at their own pace—instead of shadowing other team members for weeks in a synchronous manner.

We follow a similar process for all our job interviews. This allows all the stakeholders in the recruitment process to be on the same page about the new candidate and offer them the right kind of guidance to speed up their training and integration process.

Apart from the loss of productivity, lack of proper onboarding often leads to increased employee turnover. Here’s another interesting research data from ClickBoarding about the efficacy of employee onboarding that’s hard to ignore. The finding shows that employees who receive proper onboarding experience are 69% more likely to stay with the company for at least three years.

This goes on to show that onboarding is a direct contributing factor to your bottom line and not just a feel-good HR process. Well-structured onboarding processes are also shown to improve employee engagement, job satisfaction, and increase mutual trust among cross-functional teams.

When you invest in a good onboarding program—as part of the overall employee experience program—it helps you maximize the profit per employee. And the inverse is true, too—low levels of employee engagement often lead businesses to financial losses that run in millions.

3 important factors to create a seamless employee onboarding experience

Employee onboarding is a tricky proposition. Offer too little and you risk losing your employees’ enthusiasm in the short term. Cram too much into it and you will overwhelm them with the stress of performing in their new job.

A great way to create a world-class employee onboarding experience is to follow the Goldilocks principle. The rule, inspired by the children’s folk tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears, states that "humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right."

That means you have to structure your onboarding process in a way that feels easy, paced out, and productive at the same time. Ignore the myth that says you have to put all of your onboarding events into a day or a week.

More often than not, the process of onboarding a new employee starts even before they formally walk through your office doors. 

For onboarding a new product marketing manager expected to join your team next month, for example, it might mean staying regularly in touch with them through email or answering their queries—if any.

The actual onboarding does begin on the first day of a new employee joining you. To cash all the benefits of a good onboarding process discussed above, we recommend you give them a memorable first-day welcome that they might not have experienced previously.

This usually means opening the welcome ceremony by giving them personalized swag—branded merchandise to make your new squad members feel welcomed. If you are not sure about the effectiveness of giving away free swag to your new employees, just search for keywords like “new swag” on LinkedIn and filter by “Posts.” Most employees can’t resist showing off their new company swag to the outside world when they start a new job.

The swag can also be a gift that extends beyond branded merchandise. For instance, tech giants like Facebook and Google give their new employees gifts that are more relevant to a person’s lifestyle. For example, senior management hires value free gym memberships whereas the younger recruits appreciate free Starbucks vouchers over a Yoga club membership. The point is—every small detail like giving cool new gifts along with the welcome kit makes a world of difference to a new employee experience.

But onboarding is rarely over after the first day’s affair. The real process of acquainting new employees to their job begins after the pleasantries are over. Here are three ways to create a great employee onboarding experience and set your new hires up for success:

1. Create a thought-through onboarding program

A few years back, Gallup surveyed millions of employees to understand the quality of the onboarding experience they went through in their jobs. The result? Only 12% of respondents said that their employer did a great job of new hire onboarding.

Onboarding is one of the most important touch points that new employees have with your brand. All across their journey, every touchpoint that a prospective employee has with your organization either moves them toward or away from your brand. Therefore, you want to be mindful about the experience you offer them right from the moment you shortlist a candidate and interview them.

At Avoma, we record and transcribe all job interviews mainly for two reasons:

  • It gives all stakeholders involved in recruiting enough context about a candidate
  • The candidates won't be asked the same questions repeatedly

It is important for stakeholders like HR managers and hiring managers to create playlists of the interview processes that other people in the organization can subscribe to and listen to. This helps them identify the best practices in hiring while offering a uniform experience to prospective employees right from the interview stage.

Here how you can break down the onboarding program into three categories to help new hires easily learn the ropes at their new job:

Bridge the knowledge gap with training and feedback

The onboarding time is a great time to offer comprehensive product training and improve your new recruits' domain knowledge. Use the onboarding period to bridge the gaps that the new hires might have about your product or the internal operations in your company. For instance—if your sales recruits are taking customer calls during the onboarding period, record the calls so that you can give them specific, asynchronous coaching and feedback based on real conversations.

Set realistic SLAs

Onboarding is also a ripe opportunity for you to familiarize the new employees about the standard operating procedure (SOPs) in their team and set service level agreements (SLAs) between them and their cross-functional partners. If you are onboarding a customer service rep, make sure they understand the critical metrics for their team and the SLAs they have with the engineering team or the end customers.

Give them the big picture

Finally, give them a high-level overview of your organization’s goals and vision to communicate how they can help your company achieve them. Set reasonable, time-bound milestones—based on the Goldilocks’ principle—for them to achieve so that they are motivated to help the company grow while shining in their new job.

2. Offer frequent touches for the first three months

Depending on your organization, this can either be three weeks or two months. But three is usually the magic number because it takes an average of three months for a new sales rep in a typical B2B environment to start making sales calls on their own. The transition time is more or less the same for new employees across all customer-facing teams—assuming you have set the right milestones for their learning.

If you can spread your onboarding process across three months, you can give your new employees all the tools that they need to succeed. Therefore, create coaching programs that can help you ramp up the new employee’s learning curve. This technique not only contributes heavily to their professional development but also helps them increase the likelihood to succeed at their jobs.

The only caveat to this is—you can’t rely on in-person training programs anymore in the post-pandemic world. The pandemic doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in 2021. And even if there was an end in sight for the force that’s keeping us tied to our home offices, virtual coaching programs seem to offer a better yield in general. A remote training program spread over several days, weeks, or months makes employee training easy-to-follow and self-paced instead of overwhelming new recruits with the entire learning at one go.

Besides, giving your new employees access to conversation intelligence software like Avoma can help you win big in the long run. For instance, it helps a marketer understand the competitor your prospects compare you most with and that intelligence can help them prioritize the right battle-cards to work on. Similarly, it helps a product team to understand the most requested product features to prioritize.

That said, regardless of the tools it is the responsibility of team leaders across all functions to offer a few touches here and there to let new employees in on the right balance between expectations and the northstar metrics.

3. Facilitate cross-functional collaboration

Onboarding is a company-wide function—HR is not the only team that’s responsible for onboarding new employees. One of our key learnings about onboarding new employees is the fact that cross-team collaboration can give great mileage to the new joinees’ integration process.

Cross-functional collaboration is one team’s ability to effectively work with product, marketing, sales, customer success, and customer service teams. A smooth onboarding helps new employees get a 360° view of the organization and foster important relationships across the board.

How to improve collaboration between cross-functional teams

We suggest you introduce your new hires to relevant people from all other functions so that they can consult with an expert from across the team in case they have a query. A formal introduction with key people across the organization helps new recruits form key partnerships and break organizational silos.

This is especially critical in today’s remote-friendly, asynchronous, and geographically distributed work culture. Leverage technologies like Slack, ClickUp, and Avoma to enable free flow of communication between teams so that new hires can go with the flow as soon as they become a part of your team.

Get on board with a great employee onboarding process

Employee attrition is not the only problem onboarding solves. Done well, a smooth onboarding process helps you pep your new hires from day one, get them up to speed in no time, and motivate them to perform at their best level.

A great onboarding process is like throwing a wedding party—when all the stars align together, it becomes one of the best days of an employees’ professional life. The training and getting-to-know events that follow after the first few weeks are the “honeymoon period”—you want to keep it short and productive. The real journey begins after the induction is over, but the chemistry between the new employees and the company begins the moment their eyes meet.

You want to make sure you give them the best-ever onboarding experience that aligns them with your company’s goals, helps them bring out their best performance, and leads to mutually beneficial growth opportunities.