Corporate Onboarding Programs: What You Need to Know

Employee onboarding programs have these common objectives:

  • Get new employees working at full capacity as soon as possible
  • Prepare a new employee for their position’s tasks and duties
  • Get new hires immersed with the team and the company culture
  • Help new hires understand their roles and the tools and processes needed to do them
  • Show new hires how their work will achieve department and organizational goals 

As time marches forward, new industries will arise, workplaces will transform, and organizations will covet different skills. Amid such change, one thing is sure: employee onboarding programs will remain vital.

Whether your organization conducts virtual onboarding or sticks to in-person onboarding, the goal is to prepare new hires to succeed in their roles. That’s easier said than done, especially considering the number of elements that impact employee success. The best employee onboarding programs account for them all.

In this article, we’ll define onboarding programs, explain why they’re important, and discuss how to establish effective onboarding. 

 

What is Employee Onboarding?

Organizations use onboarding training programs to bring new hires into the company smoothly. Onboarding programs typically encompass new hire training and employee orientation. They feature everything from strategy discussions to technical training — anything your new hires need to do their job comfortably and completely.

Additionally, you should warmly welcome new hires to the team. They want to understand how their role will help achieve department and organization goals. And they want to be equipped with the resources to do their best work.

All that considered, typical objectives of onboarding programs include: 

  • Get new employees working at full capacity as soon as possible
  • Prepare a new employee for their position’s tasks and duties
  • Get new hires immersed with the team and the company culture
  • Help new hires understand their role and the tools and processes needed to do them
  • Show new hires how their work will achieve department and organizational goals 

The employer might have its onboarding goals, and the employee has theirs. But really, they seek the same outcome: a solid foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship.

READ MORE: Why is Onboarding Important For Your Organization?

 

What Topics Does Onboarding Cover?

Given the many goals of onboarding training, a program often includes these topics:

  • Workplace tours and company history
  • Values and culture
  • Employee benefits
  • Workplace policies
  • Position-specific tasks and processes
  • Department-specific goals and projects
  • Safety protocols
  • Sales techniques
  • Technology and systems
  • Compliance
  • Soft skills

Your onboarding program’s exact makeup depends on your organization and the new hire’s role. For example, onboarding for warehouse associates might have a greater emphasis on safety training while sales may focus more on soft skills training.

Regardless, an employee onboarding agenda usually involves:

  • An overview of company history and values
  • Outlining goals and performance expectations with the direct manager
  • Training for company products, services, and processes

We mentioned that onboarding also entails standard new hire paperwork. Later in this article, we’ll discuss how you can streamline that part of onboarding by using Day 0.

 

Why is Onboarding Important?

Onboarding is a crucial step to seeing ROI from new employees. When you consider each new hire costs organizations $4,000 and 24 days on average, you know the importance of protecting that investment with effective employee onboarding. 

Bad employee onboarding may be disorganized, impersonal, unhelpful, or any combination of the three, leading to your new employees feeling confused, disengaged, and unmotivated. 33% of new hires leave their jobs within their first 90 days, and lousy employee onboarding increases that risk.

On the other hand, good employee onboarding programs can excite and motivate new hires while also reducing their anxiety. Of the 33% who leave their jobs in the first three months, 43% pointed to their day-to-day role being different from what they expected. 32% cited the company culture as the culprit. Onboarding — and a transparent hiring process — can alleviate those concerns and more.

In other words, employee onboarding is critical because it can combat employee attrition. It can do so by:

 

Reviewing the Role

Effective employee onboarding reviews the new hire’s role. It covers the day-to-day responsibilities, and it illuminates how the position contributes to overarching business goals.

 

Showing the Culture 

The best new hire onboarding programs also show the company culture. Though company perks vary from one organization to another, most new hires are looking for signs that their new employer is: 

  • Welcoming
  • Positive
  • Invested in their success

A great way to get your new employee acquainted with your culture is to set up introductions to different team members and leadership. Those meetings can feature work-related discussions and icebreakers, allowing everyone to meet the new employee and vice versa. Remember to be on time! New employees want to feel welcomed, and few things leave a worse impression than waiting alone to meet late-arriving colleagues.

 

Reducing Anxiety

By reviewing the role and showcasing an upbeat and encouraging culture, you help reduce the first-day jitters. You better prepare new employees to soak in the rest of your onboarding program, which should include relevant material like role-specific training, safety protocols, workplace policies, and more. 

All together, robust employee onboarding doesn’t just inspire people to stay. It also empowers them to produce. Effective onboarding programs result in 54% greater new hire productivity. If new employees are delivering, that means they feel comfortable, confident, and a part of the team. And of course, productive employees make for a thriving company. 

READ MORE: Skilled Labor Shortage: How Learning and Development Can Help Retention Rates

 

How Do You Establish an Onboarding Program? 

Developing an onboarding program can be a challenge. In addition to covering the bases relevant to your organization and each role within it, you also have to stay grounded in instructional design. That means: 

  • Assessing your material and training against your program objectives
  • Creating engaging onboarding training
  • Ensuring your onboarding is conducive to knowledge retention

The good news is there’s a method you can follow.

Whether you’re going it alone or are partnering with a learning solutions vendor, you can take these steps to establish an effective employee onboarding program:

Define Program Goals

First, you need to define your program goals. To do so, you might have to conduct a needs analysis. For the role-specific training, you’ll likely need the help of a subject matter expert (SME). The SME could be the hiring manager or anyone who knows what knowledge a new hire needs to perform their job in the first weeks. Onboarding training should prepare new hires to perform core functions, leaving more advanced responsibilities for later practice. 

Consider asking the following questions: 

  • Are new hires typically ready for their first day on the job?
  • Do they showcase the skills and knowledge necessary to perform?
  • Are they excited and motivated?

You want to use this time to identify performance gaps and any red flags regarding motivation. That way, you know how to build your onboarding with precision. 

Choose Your Modalities

As modern learning and development professionals, you have many impactful training solutions at your disposal. They include:

The modalities you choose to use in your onboarding program will depend on your industry and the nature of each job. For example, if you need to train new hires in life-like scenarios that are too dangerous, costly, or risky to practice in person, you may opt for virtual reality. If you want to train retail associates in product knowledge or wish to train technicians in equipment, you may consider augmented reality.

With that said, instructor-led training (ILT) — both one-on-one and in groups — is commonly used in onboarding training. Many organizations use eLearning, too. The beauty of having so many viable options is that you don’t have to choose just one. Today, you can use a blended learning program, which calls for using a mix of modalities according to your training needs.

Audit The Current Program

Once you’ve defined your new objectives and selected your training modalities, you should conduct an audit of your current onboarding program. Referencing your needs analysis, identify the elements of your program that work and retain them in the new one.  

Develop Your New Content and Materials

At this point, you’re ready to create your new onboarding program materials. Keep your needs analysis top of mind, and make sure you’re addressing the performance gaps your SME identified. 

Run a Pilot

Run a pilot onboarding program with a few new hires. Allow enough time for those new hires to complete the onboarding and take what they learned to their job. The duration of onboarding varies based on how robust the program is. Some employee onboarding lasts less than a week, while other programs span 2-4 weeks. You must give your SMEs enough time to assess how ready new hires were to perform core functions. You can’t accurately judge the effectiveness of your employee onboarding without that information.    

Fine Tune and Launch

Evaluate the data from your pilot, adjust your program, and launch it. While you can feel confident in your onboarding following this process, you should expect to evaluate your program regularly. Employee trends fade, and new ones sprout. Advances in technology alter how people do their jobs. It’s up to organizations to stay on top of such changes to ensure their onboarding programs ready new hires for success.

READ MORE: Why You Should Consider a Blended Learning Program

 

Make Use of Day 0

Earlier, we mentioned Day 0, or the time between a new hire accepting a job offer and their first day on the job. More and more organizations are using that time to add an extra level of efficiency to their onboarding training.

They use Day 0 to:

  • Digitize new hire paperwork like payroll setup, tax forms, NDAs, employee contracts, and policy manuals
  • Send new hires first-day information like a company history video, directions to the workplace, and organizational charts
  • Send a company-wide announcement with the new hire’s approval
  • Prepare their workspace with a personalized note and a welcome gift
  • Assign an employee mentor to show the new hire the ropes

All those things are easy to do and can have a positive impact on new hires. In particular, an employee mentor can help new employees feel welcome and build rapport with their colleagues, increasing employee satisfaction by up to 50%. As you’re designing your employee onboarding program, think about how you can utilize Day 0.

READ MORE: Day 0 Onboarding: Why it’s Important and 5 Ways to Prepare  

 

Custom Built or Off-the-Shelf?

You might be able to use off-the-shelf training and products for some parts of your onboarding program. That’s especially true if you belong to an industry where governing bodies issue standard safety or compliance laws. 

However, you want to make a positive first impression on new hires regardless of your industry. That means sharing your unique company culture and history. It also means making your onboarding welcoming and personalized to each employee. While a custom-built onboarding program may come with higher initial costs, they enable you to tailor your program to have the most significant effect on new hires and therefore lead to a positive ROI.

 

So, Are You All Aboard?

Employee onboarding programs are integral to organizational success. We hope we illustrated that for you here, and we hope you’ve come away with some ideas for addressing your onboarding program.

Ready to take the first step toward a new or revamped employee onboarding program? Start designing your project today!

 

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