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A small business guide to employee onboarding

When your business recruits new staff, offering someone a job is only the first part of the process.

Helping them to settle in quickly when they join is crucial if you want to retain the best employees.

Successful onboarding processes can help you to make the most of your recruitment efforts and grow your business. Read our in-depth guide to get started.

What is boarding?

The onboarding meaning is helping a new employee to settle into your company and understand its values, while providing them with all the information and tools they need to excel in their role.

A successful onboarding of a new staff member will not just tell them how they can do their job, instead it’ll introduce them to the company’s way of working and culture.

Employee onboarding is about making people feel welcome and at ease, as well as increasing the chances of them settling in quickly.

The onboarding process can last up to a year, but it often lasts for 90 days to mirror the standard three-month probation period.

Employee onboarding – what do you need to do?

There are things you can do to onboard an employee as soon as they accept your job offer, but it’s likely there will still be key information to share with them during the first few months.

Below is an overview of how you can break down the onboarding process.

Before the first day

Kicking off the onboarding process as soon as the employee accepts the job offer can help them to settle in more quickly.

While they’re waiting to start their new position, you can provide them with key information about your company and their role, such as:

  • dress code
  • company culture and values
  • role duties, responsibilities, and expectations
  • available benefits like health care schemes
  • equipment they’ll need
  • holiday and sick policy

This can help new employees to improve their understanding of your business and reduce the chances of them feeling overwhelmed in their first few weeks.

It also gives them the opportunity to ask questions or raise any concerns before they start.

Many companies use an onboarding portal or an automated onboarding journey to engage with new employees.

the first day

The first day at a new job can be nerve wracking, so a good onboarding process will make new employees feel as comfortable as possible.

On the first day, it’s recommended that you show new employees around the workplace, introduce them to as many people as possible, and give them an overview of the company and their role.

Lots of companies also include an IT induction on the first day (if necessary) so new starters can get up and running quickly. Meanwhile if you’ve got a staff handbook, this could be a good time to share it.

Taking your new starter out for lunch on their first day or during the first week is another way to introduce them to the team and make them feel welcome.

The first month

During a new employee’s first few weeks, it’s important to check in with them regularly to make sure they’re feeling comfortable.

Some businesses have a formal induction program for new starters. This will usually take place in their first few weeks and provides an opportunity to learn more about the business and interact with other newcomers.

An employee’s first month will also be a good time to complete onboarding objectives that may not have been crucial during the first few days, including:

  • making sure they have access to extra programs and software they might need
  • introducing them to wider stakeholders within the business
  • giving them the opportunity to select benefits, such as additional holiday or a cycle to work scheme
  • making sure they complete training on subjects like health and safety or compliance

After the first month

After the first few weeks, your new staff member should be feeling more settled. However, they will likely still have questions about their role or how the company works.

Here are three things you can do to continue a smooth onboarding process during an employee’s first few months:

  1. Keep up regular check-ins – as time goes by, the number of formal check-ins with a new employee may decrease, but it’s crucial that you catch up on at least a weekly basis during the first few months
  2. Implement a buddy/mentor system – after the induction and initial onboarding, pairing up new team members with a buddy or mentor can help them to get to know the inner workings of the company
  3. Invite new starters to review the onboarding process – asking for feedback about an employee’s first few months can help you to fill in any gaps, while also improving your onboarding process steps for future recruits

Onboarding checklist

Onboarding new employees will be different depending on the size of your business and the sector you operate in.

However, many of the key milestones will be the same. Here’s a quick 10-step onboarding checklist you can use when you hire new employees:

  1. Start as soon as possible, including getting the new employee’s contact and payment details
  2. Complete any necessary checks, such as DBS
  3. Provide information on company policies, such as disciplinary and whistleblowing
  4. Make sure they complete mandatory training and have access to relevant software and programs
  5. Introduces new employees to other team members and wider stakeholders
  6. Help them integrate socially with a team lunch or announcement when they join
  7. Run an induction to introduce them to the company’s ways of working, culture, and values
  8. Provide key information on topics like benefits, dress code, and expectations
  9. Hold regular check-ins with a line manager and buddy/mentor
  10. Complete week one, month one, and month three reviews to make sure they’re settling in

Tips for remote onboarding

In recent years, more people have been working from home than ever before. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, more workers have gone fully remote.

If you’re hiring remote workers, the onboarding process will be different. You’ll need to make sure that employees still feel engaged and welcome, even if they’re not meeting their colleagues in person.

Some things you can do to provide a seamless remote onboarding experience include:

  • making sure they have access to the equipment and software they need before their first day
  • introducing the new employee digitally via a company-wide email or messaging service like Slack
  • organizing video calls with other team members so they can meet them virtually as soon as possible
  • checking-in daily as remote working can be isolating, particularly if you’re new to the company

Download our working from home policy template for more guidance.

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