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Onboarding | 8 minute read

6 tips to develop a successful employee onboarding program

June 1, 2023

Congratulations! You found candidates you’d like to hire. You extended offers and they accepted. Time to relax? Far from it.  

What happens next, during the pre-boarding and onboarding process, will either set them on a path to success and being engaged or doom them from the start. Organizations with strong onboarding programs improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%, research from Brandon Hall revealed.  

So, how do you develop an effective onboarding program? Read on for some top tips. 

#1: Build connection and a sense of belonging 

Multiple studies have shown that employees who build strong connections with managers and the wider business are more likely to excel in their roles. And the earlier you can encourage this in your organization, the better.  

You don’t need to wait until the first day to make connections either. The “yes to desk” period should be as productive and engaging as possible. This period is often an anxious time for new starters and their current employers may have one last attempt at trying to keep them. To reduce the risk of this happening, ensure you keep in touch with new starters and do it often. It sounds obvious, but use this time to take care of the onboarding basics such as background checks, provision of IT equipment, providing access to systems and applications with easy-to-follow instructions and provide points of contact for any questions. It gives you a reason to reach out frequently.

Send a welcome package with swag items to your new starters. And don’t forget to send an announcement to the wider business about your new hires. Encourage your peers to reach out to your new hire on LinkedIn and send warm welcome messages.

Once they've started, arrange informal "coffee catchups" with your new starters to get to know them more as well.   

#2: Make introductions and encourage relationship-building 

When your new employees have officially started, your line managers then have a crucial role to play. They must connect with their new starters on day one, make introductions to the broader team (and organization) and facilitate networking and relationship-building. Line managers should also shoulder some of the responsibility for speeding up time-to-productivity by ensuring new hires clearly understand their specific roles and responsibilities and have the necessary tools to meet their objectives.  

If you can, organize group introduction and onboarding sessions, as this helps to foster an immediate sense of community and reduces the risk of new employees feeling isolated (this is especially important in a virtual environment). It also helps new starters to build cross-functional connections. Likewise, assigning buddies (or mentors) to new employees can help new starters settle in. Make sure your buddies or mentors understand that their roles are to help new employees to understand the organizational structure and ways of working. Remember, buddy and mentor programs don’t need to be formal. A more informal approach is more likely to encourage new hires to be more open about any questions they may have. 

Line managers must be purposeful in extending connections beyond the immediate team. For example, organize introductory calls with your senior leadership team and ask the team to provide overviews of their business areas. Get them to reinforce your company culture and values as well as provide insights on your organization’s position in the market and its mid- and long-term ambitions.  

#3 Reaffirm your EVP and build a sense of purpose  

Your candidate will have formed expectations of what it’s like to work at your organization during the hiring process. Your employee value proposition (EVP) and culture will no doubt have played a role in their decision to accept an offer, so make sure the reality matches their expectations.  

Read more: How to elevate the employee experience

Clearly communicate your culture and don’t just share employee handbooks; be sure to ask new employees if they have any questions about any of the content. Invite them to company town halls too, all-hands calls, huddles, virtual gatherings, in-office meetups and so on. The earlier, the better.  

The transition from candidate to employee should be as seamless as possible and feel like a natural transition. Introduce your diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives and employee resource groups (ERGs) as early as possible as they support collaboration, networking and allyship. 

#4: Impart crucial knowledge of your company's ways of working, and set clear goals with regular check-ins 

This aspect of the onboarding focuses on learning and will ideally include a predetermined set of training materials to ensure your new employee reaches productivity as soon as possible. 

Ensure you share information about ways of working, processes, tools and systems at your organization. Share learning and development plans and details on how to access your learning resources. Be sure to communicate possible career progression opportunities from the outset as well so that new starters can see it is possible to advance their career at your organization. 

Role clarity is an important predictor of job satisfaction and it’s vital that your new employee knows exactly what the role expectations are. Part of this is to set clear goals and to check in regularly with the new employee on their progress.   

#5: Use onboarding technology to generate efficiencies 

Organizations are increasingly leveraging HR and talent acquisition technologies to implement onboarding best practices. Onboarding platforms ensure a consistent and structured onboarding experience while balancing compliance. And they can also help to monitor training progression and measure the effectiveness of the onboarding process.  

#6: Measure the effectiveness of your onboarding program 

Evaluate your onboarding processes regularly to determine whether they provide employees with a good experience. You should continually optimize your onboarding program by implementing feedback. To understand whether improvements might be needed, organizations should look at retention rates at 90 days, six months and 12 months, as well as time-to-productivity. New hire surveys should also be completed after the formal onboarding process has ended and feedback should be collated and acted upon to make improvements. 

Onboard with a human-centric approach

With proper relationship-building and communication, your employee onboarding program is sure to make new hires feel welcome in their new roles. It will help reduce attrition and build meaningful connections that will encourage your employees to excel. Learn more below about building your own onboarding program.


Need help building an onboarding program?
Learn more about how WilsonHCG can help your organization build an onboarding program that fosters engagement, sets your new starters up for success and reduces attrition.
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About Dagmar Heilbuth

Dagmar Heilbuth is the director of delivery at WilsonHCG. She has been leading regional and global RPO partnerships from solutions design & implementation to operational delivery for 10 years. She has a particular interest in the candidate experience and how people, processes and technology interact to provide a top-class candidate experience and thus a competitive advantage to companies that get it right.