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7 Ways to Onboard Employees

Connecting new employees to what matters most.

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Onboarding is more than just a first-day orientation on policies, procedures, and company benefits – it’s a year-long opportunity to connect new hires to your organization’s purpose, inspire them to do great work, and make them feel like they really belong.

The first year is also an important time to make sure new employees feel appreciated. Recognizing employee accomplishments early on is a great way for companies and leaders to have a direct role in shaping each employee’s career and the organization’s future culture.

A study by the Brandon Hall group finds organizations that have a strategic onboarding approach see a 32% increase in new hire engagement.


According to research by the O.C. Tanner Institute, employees feel more connected to the success of their organization when they take part in an effective onboarding program:

• 81% of employees are motivated to go above and beyond, compared to 54% who did not participate in an onboarding program

• 84% of employees understand how their team contributes to the success of the company, compared to 67% with no onboarding program.

And when companies have an effective onboarding program, 3 out 4 employees feel inspired to work toward a collective goal, and see a 37% increase in employees who say their organization has a clear purpose.

Onboarding is a critical time to create connections – to purpose, to success, and to the organization.

Onboarding is a chance for you to connect your new hires to your purpose and culture immediately.

Unfortunately, most onboarding programs are not very effective. Only 40% of employees rated their onboarding experience either Excellent or Very Good. While most had a company orientation and completed new hire paperwork, very few had a welcome activity/celebration or mentorship opportunities.

Employees expressed an increased desire to connect with leadership during the onboarding process, as well as more in-depth job training.

When it comes to celebrating accomplishments in those first few years, the results are even worse. 59% of respondents did not have their 1 year anniversary celebrated, and 57% did not have their 3 year anniversary celebrated.

For those who were recognized in the early years, employees typically received verbal recognition (29%), a personal note (14%), and lunch/dinner/treat (12%).

Recognition, especially within the first year, is a natural connection point for leaders and their new hires, something every new employee craves.

Helping new employees feel valued and appreciated early has a big impact. When companies wait until 5 years of service to recognize an employee’s achievements, they miss out on several crucial opportunities to connect with that employee, build engagement, and see tangible results.

When managers/organizations celebrated an employee’s 3 year anniversary, employees were 40% more likely to anticipate staying at their organization for 3-5 more years and 21% more likely to anticipate staying more than 5 years.

When managers/companies celebrated an employee’s 1 year anniversary, employees were:

• 55% more likely to recommend the organization as a place to work
• 42% more likely to be proud of their organization
• 33% more likely to be highly motivated to contribute
• 29% more likely to support the organization’s values
• 24% more likely to put a great deal of effort beyond what is required to help their organization succeed

“If I question whether this is a good decision, I don’t want to wait 5 years for you to tell me.” – FOCUS GROUP PARTICIPANT

The onboarding process can be very disjointed, and the experience can differ based on individual areas and leaders. Here are some best practices you can follow to ensure all employees have a great experience, from the moment they step in the door on day 1:

1. Connect new employees to a purpose. More than just the history of your organization, or even sharing company strategy and goals, show employees who your company is, where you have been, what purpose you serve in the world. Answer questions such as, who do you want to be? And how do people live your company values? Why is your organization a great place to work for new hires?

2. Have onboarding champions and buddies. Enlist an executive who understands, believes, and can teach a good onboardingexperience, and who enables other leaders to believe in it. Have a set of employees who partner with new hires to help them fit in.

3. Equip leaders to have regular conversations and check-ins with employees. Provide tools and reminders that help leaders check in with new hires every 30 days.

4. Provide feedback loops with new talent within the first few weeks to learn more about their onboarding experiences. Use pulse surveys, focus groups, or informal lunches to check in and see what’s working and what’s not.

5. Take the time to train people in their new roles. Help them learn the skills required, the processes in place, and how they can hit the ground running to produce great work in their first few months.

6. Connect employees to their achievements. Show new employees how they can contribute to the organization and experience the thrill of victory. Recognize their early efforts, both the successes and the failures. Be specific in what they’ve done and how that reflects what’s important to the organization. Celebrate early, and involve leaders, peers, and perhaps even a small token of appreciation. Branded company items like backpacks, tumblers, power banks, and small symbols of your organization work as great reminders that new talent rightly chose your organization to work for.

7. Connect employees to each other. Embed them in your culture. Whether it’s teambuilding activities, peer to peer recognition, or company events, help employees feel like they fit in and belong. And, of course, before you start anything, set a baseline so you know where you are starting from. Your biggest objective for onboarding should be to create an emotional experience with your people, both new hires and current employees. Don’t wait 5 years to show your new talent they are valued and belong at your organization. By using early recognition as part of a strategic onboarding experience, you’ll see decreased new hire turnover, more great work, and build a culture that top talent flocks to.

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