First Impressions Count: 4 Tips for Creating a Positive Onboarding Experience

June 27, 2017

Congratulations! A qualified candidate that you are very excited to have join your team has accepted your employment offer. Now the onboarding process begins.

Onboarding is the process of introducing the new hire to your company, the team, the role and the corporate culture. You get one opportunity to make a first impression—there are no do-overs. A positive experience, which sets the colleague up for success on day one, starts with the new hire feeling welcome and comfortable. After the first day, the roadmap for colleague success continues by providing training resources and consistent feedback for the new hire.

The result of taking the time to support the new colleague will be a productive, valued and an engaged member of your team. A positive onboarding experience delivers very tangible results. According to a 2013 study from the Aberdeen Group, companies with an engaging onboarding program retained 91% of their first-year workers. Conversely, nearly 33% of new hires actively search for a new job within six months when they have a poor onboarding experience, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Here are a few suggestions to create a positive onboarding experience.

1) Prepare for the first day

Welcome your new hire with a space that is clean, inviting and has the necessary equipment and supplies for the new employee to perform their job duties. Ensure all required equipment is available and functioning properly, required accounts are set-up and online resources are accessible. Make a plan for introductions to staff and provide an office tour. If budget permits, arrange for the manager to take the new hire to lunch.

The benefits of investing time to properly introduce a new staff member into your department are immediate and substantial. It lays the groundwork for a long and rewarding professional relationship with the manager and ensures the employee has the tools needed for success. If possible, give them an assignment so they can feel like they’re making an immediate contribution.

2) Assign a mentor

Reassure your new hire that they are supported throughout the onboarding journey by providing them with a dedicated mentor. Assign a fellow colleague who is available to provide guidance, answer questions, alleviate concerns and be the new hire’s go-to person. Reward and acknowledge the mentor’s efforts so they are invested in the success of the onboarding process.

3) Conduct impactful new-hire training

Adult workers have their own style of learning that includes four key elements: motivation, reinforcement, retention and transference. Incorporate these key elements in a way that makes training fun and practical. Focus on what is initially most important to learn, rather than potentially overwhelming the new hire with too much information too soon. Make the training as interactive as possible and use real-life scenarios. Build confidence by teaching the new hire how to perform the critical functions of the position. If there are multiple new hires in similar positions, bring them together to build camaraderie and share the learning experience.

As training is conducted, incorporate the following:

  • Delivery method and format. There should be an opportunity for interactive questions and answers with the person conducting the training session.
  • Trainee evaluation. Training effectiveness should be measured and can be performance-based (observed behavior) or by written or oral test.
  • Training records should be kept showing when the training was held, what was covered, who gave the training and their qualifications, and who attended.
  • Feedback should be solicited from new hires on the training content, knowledge and communication effectiveness of trainers, retention of topics covered and suggestions for improving future courses.

Analyze data collected and continually assess the impact of the training. Make changes to training and the onboarding process as deemed necessary to provide the greatest benefit to the new hire.

4) Schedule check-ins

When an employee is hired, it is important to set expectations and establish a cadence for frequent check-ins. Conversations with the new hire should focus on how the colleague is progressing in the role, risks, roadblocks, as well as the sharing of ideas and questions. Encourage what is going well and address opportunities for improvement, both with job performance and acclimating to the company and the position.

The cost of poor onboarding

The onboarding process is an opportunity to integrate a happy, productive, self-motivated and passionate new hire onto your team. Yet, there is also the potential danger for creating a less optimal experience that diminishes the new hire’s experience and can adversely impact your company and staff.

A new hire who is dissatisfied with the onboarding experience may share their displeasure through negative word of mouth in the workplace or on social media, become disengaged with the process and ultimately decide to leave. The negativity could deteriorate employee morale and tarnish your marketplace reputation; potentially affecting productivity and profits. If the new hire was the right fit for the company but became disenchanted during the onboarding process, the risk of the new hire leaving quickly or potential for failure is increased. Consider that 22% of all employee turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment.

Why a Positive Onboarding Experience is Important

A positive onboarding experience is critical to set the new hire up for success, accelerate the learning curve, initiate engagement, reduce possible turnover and develop leaders of tomorrow. People are the most valuable resource. Providing the best first impression possible will lead to an increase on the return in investment for all involved.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

This post may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such websites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.

View eGuide

How to recruit and onboard in a virtual world.

Remote work means a bigger talent pool. Here’s how to find and keep the people you want. Discover best practices in our eGuide, An SMB’s Guide to Recruiting and Onboarding in a Virtual World.


By Rajean Bosier

Rajean Bosier is a learning and performance strategist at TriNet.

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