Onboarding Employees: How to Make the Process Smoother

How’s your onboarding process? Let’s take a wild guess.  Does it look something like this? You have a set of documents in a drawer.  There’s a company handbook that was last updated about five years ago. You ask your assistant to make copies of that, staple them, and stick them in the folders.  Actually, wait. You need folders. You send your assistant to the nearest office supply store for folders. Next, insurance paperwork. Copies? Make copies. Also, tax forms.  Don’t forget the tax forms! More copies. Send another employee to the copier upstairs.

Now, you have an assembly line of employees working on getting all the documents and forms stapled and put into folders.  A few minutes ago, all of these employees were productively working on their tasks for the day. Now, they’re shuffling documents and discussing how to best remove a jammed staple.  

Is this functional? Hardly.  Call it getting the job done, but is there a better way to complete onboarding for new hires?  There most certainly is, and this post can help you. Read further to learn how to smooth out the wrinkles in your onboarding process.

onboarding successfully helps with retention

Onboarding Employees: How to Make the Process Smoother

Know Your Goals.

Sure, you want to distribute important documents and forms to your new employees.  Insurance and tax forms are a must. And the sooner you get these items to new hires, the sooner they can fill them out and get them back to you.  

onboarding is about more than just forms

However, getting through paperwork is not all that onboarding is about. Realize that your goals for the first day go beyond the necessities of filling out forms.  Your new employees have done the work of impressing you – that’s why you hired them. Now, it’s actually your turn to impress your new employees. That’s how you keep them.  This is called retention, and it’s one of the most crucial, overlooked elements to keeping money from flying out the door of your business.

You put a lot of energy and expense into hiring and training new employees. A high turnover – employees consistently leaving the job after a short period of time – reduces your profit considerably.  Plus, it reduces your company morale.

Your goal for your new employees’ first day should be to make a good impression.  Important: This should also be an accurate impression. Is your workplace friendly and energetic?  Calm and laid back? Professional and sophisticated? Make sure that, on the first day, you are presenting the attitude that reflects the day-to-day experience your new hire will have. This will help the new employee you are onboarding know exactly how to fit in and succeed.  

Be hospitable.

onboarding should make an employee feel welcome


The onboarding process can be exciting and hopeful for new employees.  This could be their first job, or a step up from their old job, or a needed change of pace.  Both the employees and the employer have expectations and dreams for the goals they’d like to pursue during the time they share together.

Eventually, though, that newness wears off, and the reality of the daily grind at the workplace settles in.  Ideally, the workday remains a hopeful situation, full of collaboration and productivity that helps both the individual and the company meet their goals.  Still, unless they are working from home, your employees will be spending most of their daylight hours at your place of business. This is something to keep in mind when introducing them to what will be, essentially, their second home.  Here’s a list to help you welcome them:

1. Give a walk-through rather than a sit-and-talk.

onboarding is an opportunity to team buildGet your new employees up and walking around the office. This is a much better way for them to get to know the place, and the people. Being tucked away in a back office for onboarding can feel isolating.  Let them see their workplace in action. You have nothing to hide! Show them you’re proud of your business, and they will be, too.

2. Take your time.

That said, this walk-through should be truly that – a walk-through, not a run-through. You’re onboarding new employees, not preparing a fast food order.  There’s no reason to rush. This is your opportunity to show your employees that you have time for them – for their questions, their concerns, and their helpful ideas.  Your employees get the message about how available you will be from their first moments with you. Do your best to slow down and be present. Be thorough in your introductions and explanations. Take time to answer questions along the way.  Make sure they know where the bathroom is, and how to turn on the computer. These seem like small considerations, but they’re the business equivalent of offering your guests a drink or taking their coats when they first arrive.

3. Keep current employees clued in.

Before your new employees appear, let your current staff know.  And let them know more than an hour ahead of time. Your current employees will appreciate being in the loop – this will help the company feel more like a team.  Employees like to know what’s going on. Giving them information upfront cuts back on fear and gossip. Also, when communicating with your staff that you’ll have some new arrivals, let them know how you hope these new employees will fit in and help.  Make your current staff excited about the new additions. This will ensure that your staff will welcome the extra help with open arms. Your current employees are a huge part of making a good impression on the employees you’ll be onboarding.

onboarding equals success4. Make it fun.

Go one step further to bring your current staff and new employees together.  At the end of the day, consider holding a game of trivia. Form teams that are a mix of current and new employees, or have current and new employees compete against each other.  Ask trivia questions that consist of basic facts and little known aspects of the business. Make sure new employees have a fighting chance by only including information gone over with them during the day. Give small rewards throughout the game for correct answers, and allow bragging rights, along with a goofy trophy, for the winning team.  This activity acts as an icebreaker for new employees, as well as a team builder for the entire staff. The game can be repeated whenever new hires are going through the onboarding process, or whenever you wish!

Check-in. Again and again.

It can be difficult for new employees to speak up if they are struggling through the onboarding process.  New employees want to be seen as confident and competent. They don’t want to bother the busy staff around them and may be intimidated to approach a more senior administrator. Sometimes, they don’t know who to go to with a specific question.  

For these reasons, new employees may engage in a dangerous “fake it til you make it” policy. You can fight this by frequently and effectively checking in with new employees.  While the onboarding process is designed to acquaint new employees with all they need to know, you can’t cover everything in one day. It simply isn’t possible.onboarding communicates more than you know about your business

A good rule of thumb is to either check in yourself or ask a senior employee with good mentoring skills to check in with the onboarding employee three or four times each day for the first week, then steadily reduce check-ins over the first month.  Don’t just say, “I have an open door policy” and expect new employees to walk through that door. Go to them.

In order to effectively check in on new employees during the onboarding process, ask open, inviting questions.  For example, instead of “Do you need help with anything?” ask “What can I help you with right now?” Or, try asking a specific question such as, “What would you say is the most confusing/overwhelming thing right now?” Let them know that you are working on improving the onboarding process.  When new employees feel that they are being surveyed for helpful insights rather than being judged, they are more willing to give honest answers.

Go paperless as much as possible.

(Stay tuned for a bonus track below!)

Paperwork often gets in the way of onboarding employees in a way that allows you, and your business, to make the right impression.  What if you could handle all that paperwork, without the paper? Actually, it’s possible with PayWow.  Our business management software solution allows you to invite staff to use an employee app – myPayWow.  Once they’ve signed up, employees can sign employee documents, complete tax forms, and even enter their banking information to receive direct deposit! This gives you plenty of time to go over what’s really important to you, and your business, with new hires! Go paperless, and impress your staff!

Go paperless!

Bonus Track:

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