8 Onboarding best practices you should adopt today

Want to make new hires feel like they made the right decision in accepting your job offer? Pay attention to employee onboarding. The onboarding process, which can begin before they even show up for day one of employment, integrates them into the organization and lays out their role in it. Not only does onboarding help new employees quickly become productive and engaged team members, it lays the groundwork for building lasting connections.

Consider the onboarding experience a crucial factor in retention efforts. Metrics show that employees who partake in structured onboarding programs are 69 percent more likely to remain after three years. A half-hearted effort makes new hires wonder if the organization truly cares about them. Being bored, unengaged, or confused during the early stages of employment leaves an unfavorable first impression that may never get forgotten. On the flip side, captivating new hires from the start when they hunger most for information and interaction sets the stage for a long-term relationship.

What’s involved in effective onboarding? Here, we look at various employee onboarding best practices.

Start the onboarding program immediately

Savvy companies know the importance of getting people excited about their new job from the minute they accept. They cash in on the period between being hired and actually starting work. (Some refer to this timeframe as the preboarding stage.) They use these days to get new hire paperwork and other administrative tasks out of the way. They also teach new employees about the organization’s vision, company culture, and people.

Preboard new employees

“One of the easiest ways to lose out on top talent is through a clunky onboarding process,” says Nick Valentino, vice president of market operations of Bellhop Atlanta Movers. “We have streamlined ours through the use of preboarding, which gives us a way to check in with new recruits prior to their first day. We share our company mission statement, important benefits documents, and more during this time. It helps bridge the gap between the final steps of the process and the initial start date, keeping the prospective employee engaged from the very beginning.”

Hiring for Attitude D

Onboarding software helps human resources send along and receive payroll forms, benefit enrollments, emergency contact information, and the like. (Score bonus points for systems that autofill common information rather than needing to retype name and address again and again.) Distribute the employee handbook at this time, too. Providing in advance allows ample time for new employees to contact HR professionals with any concerns about company policies. Plus, the document answers many common questions. Knowing what to wear the first day, where to park, which entrance to use, and similar “basic” things eases jitters!

Direct managers may want to send an agenda for the first week. This action builds excitement about the work ahead. It also conveys that the department eagerly anticipates the upcoming arrival and the contributions that will follow.

Involve the team

Many places ask current team members to write a welcome email to their new co-worker. This icebreaker helps with the getting-to-know-you process and facilitates conversation for upcoming in-person interaction. Be certain to provide staff with background information so they can better tailor their correspondence. Access to a headshot and a bio before a new worker shows up keeps employees from accidentally calling security on a “stranger” in the building!

Consider creative spins on introductions, too. At LeverageRx, new employees receive a virtual tour video of the office and its people. Employees talk about themselves and the company. They also tell the new hire what help they can offer, as in “Come to me if you have questions about XYZ.”

CEO Rhett Stubbendeck believes the video has been very effective. “The new hire feels at ease when he or she sees the excited and welcoming faces,” he states. “This reduces their anxiety about their first visit to the office. The atmosphere and the people look more familiar to them.”

Set the workplace up for success

On the office end, use the preboarding period to prepare the new person’s workstation. Remove leftover items from the last occupant as well as anything temporarily stored there while unoccupied. Have furniture, equipment, and lighting set up and ready to use. A pretty plant on the desk or a coffee mug with the company logo adds a nice touch. (For the record, new employees welcome presents and swag at any point during onboarding, so keep it coming.)

Make a memorable first day

You want employees to generate good memories when they think back to their start date. Endless lectures or stacks of reading material get old fast. Favor hands-on, interesting activities that stimulate the mind.


At ZZ Servers, new hires go on a scavenger hunt around the office. They interact with different staff members to collect answers or rewards. As company president Peter Zendzian notes, “The first day at a new job can be nerve-wracking for new hires, and it’s the responsibility of top management to make them feel welcome and comfortable. This game helps them become familiar with the office layout and encourages them to meet people from various departments and get to know their team members. It also makes introductions less awkward and creates a friendly and open atmosphere.”

Many organizations use much of the new hire’s first day for welcoming efforts. Gathering the staff together for lunch offers a chance for socialization (and prevents the common new kid on the block worry of having to eat alone). Consider assigning the team a work project in which the new person can participate. Being asked to contribute from day one sends a powerful message that your input is valued.

Use day one, too, to build a connection to the company and the person’s future in it. The direct manager can schedule a one-on-one meeting to go over job responsibilities in detail and talk about goals. (Side note: Never start a new employee on a day when the supervisor is not there. It looks uncaring, and nobody wants a replacement “baby-sitter.”)

“Teach people how their job creates value,” says Mark A. Herschberg, author of The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You. “Most people get what they do at a higher level – marketing brings in customers, IT support helps people do their jobs with working computers – but not concretely. Map out how this specific role creates revenue or savings directly. Also, emphasize what can be done to create more value or savings, and be clear about what the path for promotion will look like.”

Expand the new hire onboarding period

As important as the employee’s first day is, smart organizations realize you need more than a good initial impression. What goes on in the first week, the first month, the first 90 days, and even the first year contributes to decisions on whether to remain in the new role. Think of the employee onboarding process as much more than a one-day effort. Thoughtful longer-term attention enriches the employee experience. Look for ways to continue building relationships, knowledge, and a sense of this is a great place to be.

Let mentors show new employees the ropes

Many companies assign each new employee a buddy or a mentor. This person gives the new hire someone to turn to besides the direct manager when questions or concerns arise.

“Our program aims to facilitate a smooth transition into our company culture, helping new hires acclimate to their roles more quickly,” says Jessica Bane, director of business operations at GoPromotional. “The mentorship program establishes a strong support system – providing guidance, answering questions, and sharing experiences to alleviate any initial anxieties. It fosters a sense of belonging and a positive work environment. Additionally, it promotes knowledge sharing, skill development, and insider tips that formal training may not cover. This personalized guidance deepens understanding of our operations, goals, and company values.”

Make information easily available

Michael & Associates utilizes another great strategy for providing new hires with a ready source of information. Vice President of Operations Ben Michael calls the company wiki “one of the single most useful tools at our company.”

“It represents the accumulated internal knowledge of dozens of workers with decades of experience, and it functions as a how-to guide for our office, our company culture, our policies and procedures, the software tools we use, and just about anything else an employee would need in order to do their job,” he says. “In addition to making sure our new hires know what the wiki is and how to access it, one of the things we also do is encourage new hires to make edits and additions to the wiki based on their experience. If there was an aspect of onboarding that they struggled with or that the wiki didn’t cover to their satisfaction, it will be their job to update the wiki with what they’ve learned once they’ve gotten the help they needed.”

Indeed, enabling new hires to quickly become valued contributors to the company and its success increases employee satisfaction. Nobody particularly enjoys feeling like an outsider biding one’s time before getting to the “good stuff.” Yes, both new hires and management need to allow time for getting up to speed. But plenty of interesting ways exist to build skills and capitalize on eagerness to perform.

Learning can be a hands-on experience

At Force by Mojio, an organization that does GPS fleet tracking for small businesses, the employee onboarding process includes Product Immersion Day. New hires spend a full day using and exploring the company’s products as if they were customers.

“They set up devices, monitor vehicle diagnostics, utilize GPS tracking, and set up and respond to alerts. Essentially, they get a hands-on, comprehensive user experience,” explains Kyle MacDonald, director of operations. “This direct experience provides a deep level of understanding and empathy for our end-users, which we believe fuels better decision-making and innovation, regardless of the employee’s role. We’ve found that this immersion experience not only helps new hires understand our products but also gives them an early opportunity to start thinking about improvements or innovations. It’s a practice that encapsulates our customer-centric approach and fosters a culture of continuous learning and innovation.”

Connect an employee’s passion to company efforts

One of the onboarding activities at Counter Culture DIY, which sells art epoxy resin and supplies, is called Passion Projects. As owner Barry Brown explains, each new team member receives the opportunity to work on a personal project that aligns with his or her passion and interests within the industry.

“This activity serves multiple purposes,” Brown says. “First, it allows new employees to showcase their talents and skills while exploring their creative potential. Second, it fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment by giving them the freedom to pursue their ideas. Lastly, it encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing among team members as they provide support and feedback to each other. We believe that this activity not only enhances the onboarding experience but also contributes to a culture of innovation, enthusiasm, and personal growth within our company.”

Managers should remain involved in the process

Finally, every good onboarding checklist should include frequent check-ins from the manager. Timely feedback makes an employee feel confident that she is doing things correctly. If problems exist, they can be dealt with at an early stage before becoming larger issues. Ask where the person needs more training. Evaluate workflow. Get a sense of overall job satisfaction. Answer any questions. Compliment progress or achievement. Learn a bit more about her life and interests away from the office to demonstrate concern for the individual as more than a worker.

Also, use the opportunity to get some first-hand input on developing a more effective onboarding process. New hires will like that you took the time to ask and will relish the chance to make a meaningful contribution.

“We do check-ins with our new hires a few months after they’ve started working for us, where we have them help us analyze our onboarding process,” says Nate Russo, director of operations at Destin Vacation Rentals. “I know that improvements can always be made to onboarding, but it’s hard for our leadership team to actually see what those improvements should be since we are so far removed from the process. So, by checking in with our recent hires, we are able to get the most accurate depiction of the strengths and weaknesses of our current process.”

Above all, convey the feeling that the organization remains excited about having the person on staff and committed to his success. New employees develop into long-term employees when the welcome wagon doesn’t just make an initial stop and then leave!