An onboarding process is a structured approach to welcome new hires and set them up for success. When done right, onboarding helps you build great company culture, prevent impostor syndrome, and empower new team members to learn and grow in their roles. Learn about the benefits of great onboarding and how to achieve them, plus create your own onboarding process with four simple steps.
First impressions are important. Nobody knows this better than new hires.
During the interview process, they’re the ones who are concerned about how they come across. Was their handshake strong enough, were they wearing the right attire, was their hair in place?
But once the offer letter is signed, the tables turn and it’s time for your company to make a great impression.
You’ve invested time and resources to hire the best candidate—now you have to make them feel like they’ve made the right choice, get them excited about the time ahead, and welcome them as part of your team.
Employee onboarding is more than just a training period for a new job—when done right, it’s a chance to build your company culture, stop impostor syndrome before it starts, and provide time for new hires to learn the skills they need. And with a structured onboarding process, you can set every new team member up for success.
An employee onboarding process is a structured approach to welcome new hires to your team and get them up to speed. During onboarding, employees learn about your organization and its culture, get to know their teammates, meet cross-functional partners, and learn the tools and information they need for their role.
A structured onboarding process lays out the steps required for every new hire, so you can ensure all new employees get the right information at the right time. It provides a standardized experience for new hires, a repository of information for their onboarding, and a timeline for introductions and trainings so new hires know what to expect during their first weeks and months.Free employee onboarding template
An effective onboarding process helps new team members feel welcome and empowered to learn. It also boosts productivity and encourages great talent to stay at your company longer.
Research by CareerBuilder shows that 93% of employers agree that a successful onboarding experience will influence a new hire’s decision to stay at the company. However, only 29% of employees think their companies did a good job with onboarding—your efforts in creating a great onboarding experience can help close that gap.
Here’s how effective onboarding will impact your team:
Organizational culture is made up of all the norms, best practices, ideals, and shared values within your company. Investing in great culture benefits everyone—not only does it help team members feel supported, but it also encourages them to engage, grow, and produce their best work.
Great culture starts with a good first impression. Here’s how to use your onboarding plan to build a positive work environment:
Communicate your core company values. Values describe how team members can expect to be treated and provide guidelines for employees to collaborate with mutual respect. For example, some of Asana’s values include being real, giving and taking responsibility, and practicing mindfulness.
Set the standard for diversity, inclusion, and belonging. You want team members to feel like they belong. For example, you could include a DI&B learning session in the onboarding process for all new employees to learn about your company standards and employee resource groups. Additionally, let new hires know about any special events where team members can candidly discuss their experiences with identity and workplace challenges.
Build trust with feedback. Effective feedback is essential for workplace communication and employee engagement because it helps people grow and improve. Soliciting feedback from new hires encourages them to ask for what they need and demonstrates that you value their input. Conversely, giving feedback helps new team members learn and feel safe in their role, because they can trust that you’ll tell them if they’re doing something wrong.
Impostor syndrome is a feeling of self-doubt about your abilities, like thinking you don’t deserve your job or that you’re not as accomplished as your co-workers think you are. It’s hard to cope with and can lead to burnout, low self-esteem, and a disconnect with coworkers. Impostor syndrome is also startlingly common among new hires—according to our research, nearly eight out of every ten new hires experienced impostor syndrome in 2020.
As a manager, you can help prevent impostor syndrome right away by building these components into your onboarding program:
Use goals to set clear expectations. Set goals to give team members a clear definition of success and metrics to measure their progress. For example, you could set goals for what the new hire should accomplish within their first 30, 60, and 90 days. These can be smaller short-term goals to start, like trainings they should complete in their first few weeks. Later, you can work with the new hire to set measurable long-term goals. Make sure each objective you set is SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
Assign a mentor or buddy for your new hire. A mentor meets regularly with your new hire and is typically a peer on their team—in other words, a mentor is someone the new hire can talk to other than their manager, so they have a space to bring up issues in a low-pressure environment. Assigning a mentor during onboarding can also encourage people to stay with your team longer. According to a study by Deloitte, employees intending to stay with their organization for more than five years were twice as likely to have a mentor than those who planned to leave sooner.
Be specific about how your team communicates. This is especially important for virtual teams, because it’s harder for new hires to ask questions when they’re not physically at the office. Create and share a communication plan that outlines who to talk to for specific issues, which communication tools to use for what, how often team members should communicate status updates and project details, and what requires a face-to-face (or virtual) meeting rather than asynchronous communication. It’s also helpful to set expectations around instant messaging apps like Slack—for example, you could emphasize that team members don’t need to respond to messages immediately.
There’s a lot to take in when starting a new job. New hires need to learn new skills, explore company processes, understand their job responsibilities, and figure out how to collaborate with cross-functional partners. A structured onboarding experience gives time to absorb all this new information so they’re set up for success when work ramps up.
Here’s how you can prioritize learning during onboarding:
Make your onboarding process at least three months long. Hiring managers and HR professionals often spend less than a month onboarding new employees. But that leaves little time for new hires to become confident in their roles. Ideally, onboarding should last from three to six months to allow new hires to ramp up gradually. And you may want to extend it even longer—research suggests that organizations with strong onboarding processes increase productivity by 70% and employee retention by 82%. So you may want to continue to look for and provide learning opportunities past the first three months of their employment. This will help your new hire deepen their understanding of your company and team.
Give new hires unstructured time. Instead of packing in back-to-back training sessions, leave room for new team members to read through information and explore on their own. This is especially important in the first few weeks, when employees are unfamiliar with company processes. Estimate the time it will take for your new hire to read through all the materials you give them—then add additional buffer time so they can take breaks and absorb information.
Make information easily accessible. Since new hires have extra time during onboarding to read through project materials and documentation, information should be easy for them to find. It’s time-consuming to share individual files for your team member to read, and near-impossible to put together a comprehensive list of resources—that’s where a project management program like Asana can help. When you share a project in Asana, team members can see all of the relevant tasks, documentation, and contributors, plus explore other related projects they might be interested in.
Creating a great onboarding process may seem daunting at first. Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can build off of existing company processes or use an employee onboarding template to jumpstart the process.
At its heart, onboarding is about learning. That means it’s important to determine what new hires need to know for their role so you can make sure they get the information and training they need. Think beyond just hard skills—this can also include details like your company culture and values, how your team is structured, and how employees give and receive feedback.
Dr. Talya Bauer’s framework “The Four C’s” is often used to effectively onboard new team members. The Four C’s stand for compliance, clarification, culture, and connection.
Depending on the degree to which you leverage the Four C’s, you’ll create a different onboarding experience for your new hires. There’s passive (level 1), high potential (level 2), or proactive onboarding (level 3)—the more C’s you cover, the higher your onboarding strategy level will be.
While it’s not the most fun part of onboarding, it’s fun-damental for employees to have a basic understanding of legal regulations and rules as well as company policies.
This can include security or privacy trainings, information about annual review cycles, and how to request time off.
Compliance is almost always the first thing organizations cover during onboarding and essential in all three strategy levels of onboarding. Make sure you work with your internal legal and HR teams to identify all compliance-related materials you need to cover during onboarding.
No matter how hard a new hire studied the job description, you’ll still have to clarify what exactly their job entails now that they’re part of your team.
That includes expectations as to when they need to be in the office (or online), clarification on their day-to-day responsibilities, and a clearly outlined communication plan so they know when to chat, email, call, or schedule 1:1 meetings.
In passive onboarding, this is where the process stops. New hires are given some clarification as to what their job entails but are left to their own devices afterward.
Introduce your new hire to the culture at your organization. Share company values, explain formal and informal organizational norms, and ensure that your new team member understands this new-to-them environment.
In high potential onboarding, new hires will experience well-covered compliance and clarification but also a bit of culture and—the final C—connection.
Part of the onboarding process for new hires is meeting team members and cross-functional partners they’ll be working with on a regular basis. As a manager, you can help your new hire make the right connections during onboarding so they’re clear on who they should be working with on which projects. Make a list of everyone your new hire should meet during their first weeks on the job—later, you can use this information to schedule introduction meetings.
If you’ve opted to assign a mentor for the new employee, now is the time to specify who that person will be. Your new hire’s mentor should be one of the first people they meet with regularly. Their mentor may also have suggestions of people they should meet during their first few weeks.
And most importantly, make sure your new hire has dedicated time to meet their fellow team members. This can include group events like a team lunch on their first day, plus 1:1 time with each new teammate.Read: 45 team building games to improve communication and camaraderie
Only organizations with a proactive onboarding strategy will ensure that their new hires get to experience all four C’s fully.Free employee onboarding template
An onboarding timeline lays out when each step of the new employee onboarding process should happen, so your new hire has a clear path to follow from day one onward. Your timeline should address the following things:
You may want to start the logistical aspects of onboarding before an employee’s first day—like getting their direct deposit and tax information, setting up their equipment, and sending a personal welcome message from your team.
Since you’ve already laid out all of the information and skills your new hire needs to know, you should have a general sense of how long it will take for them to get up to speed.
Remember to build in plenty of buffer time so they can take breaks and process all the new information. It’s also important to communicate the length of your onboarding process to new hires, so they know how much time they should spend on each task.
Keep in mind that this isn’t set in stone—you can always adjust the pace of onboarding depending on how fast your new hire is learning.
It’s important to ask yourself when you want to schedule training sessions to pass along key information. You might want to slate time for high-level sessions on company processes the first week, and skills training during the second and third weeks.
It can be overwhelming for a new hire to learn new skills if they don’t get to put them into practice. Instead of bombarding them with lots of theoretical training, try to time skills-training sessions close to when they’ll start using them.
That way, they have an opportunity to solidify their understanding and ask questions that weren’t addressed during training.
Set up a schedule for your new hire that allows them to meet with everyone in a timely but comfortable manner. For example, they might check in with their mentor every day during their first week, and meet cross-functional stakeholders during their second or third week.
There should be clear expectations for what the new employee should accomplish by when. For example, a new recruiter on your team may have a goal to shadow a hiring process with one of their peers during their first month. Keep in mind that goals are a starting point—you can still work with your new hire to adjust objectives as needed.
Make sure to schedule a time with your new hire to give and receive feedback. This can be in the form of casual check-ins to see how things are going and what can be improved, plus more structured feedback sessions at the end of the new hire’s first month or 100 days.Read: 3 guiding concepts for successfully managing a newly remote team
An onboarding checklist is a useful tool to ensure your onboarding process includes all the steps necessary to set new hires up for success. This can be a version of your onboarding timeline, with individual tasks grouped in sections for your new hire’s first day, week, month, and so on.
Using project management software like Asana can help make your onboarding checklist actionable. For example, you can create tasks with links to relevant information and specific due dates, then assign them to yourself, IT and HR team, or your new hire to complete. That way your checklist isn’t just a static document—it’s a living resource you and your new hire can work from and complete together.
With these steps, you can onboard new team members with confidence.
Taking the time to create a structured onboarding process not only helps employees succeed in their new role—it also makes your company great from the inside out, with a positive culture that encourages talented employees to stick around.Free employee onboarding template