Employee onboarding refers to the process of integrating and orienting new team members into an organization. It’s a comprehensive approach that helps new hires become familiar with their roles, responsibilities, and the company’s culture, policies and procedures. Onboarding typically begins from the moment an employee accepts a job offer and continues for a defined period, often extending beyond the initial few days or weeks of employment.
The onboarding process involves various activities, such as completing paperwork, providing necessary training and resources, introducing new hires to their team members and key stakeholders, and facilitating their integration into the agency’s work environment. It aims to ensure new employees feel welcomed, supported and equipped to succeed in their new roles.
Effective onboarding programs go beyond administrative tasks and can also focus on social integration, clarifying expectations, setting goals and providing ongoing support and feedback. The goal is to help new employees quickly adapt to their new work environment, understand their job requirements and establish positive relationships with colleagues, ultimately leading to their long-term success and retention within the agency.
In addition, effective onboarding programs create a positive first impression and help new employees feel valued. When employees feel supported and engaged from the start, they are more likely to stay with the company for a longer duration. This reduces turnover rates, saves recruitment costs, and fosters a stable workforce, which is crucial for business continuity and growth.
Onboarding typically begins before the employee’s first day and can last from a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the role and agency. It’s not a one-time event but rather an ongoing process.
The Four Phases of Onboarding
- Phase I: Pre-onboarding. It begins as soon as the candidate accepts your offer and continues until at least three months of employment.
- Phase II: The friendly welcoming of the new employee.
- Phase III: Role-specific training.
- Phase IV: Easing the transition to their new role.
Employee Hiring Checklist Before the First Day
- Making the job offer.
- Reviewing of all benefits and personnel handbook.
- Paperwork — W-4, I-9, health insurance forms, direct deposit forms, etc.
- Basics — parking, building access, dress code, assigning an office/workstation, distributing keys, etc.
- Review and answer questions about the new employees job description.
- Provide a pleasant staff team welcome.
Employee Hiring Checklist: The First Day
- Alert and apprise your receptionists and security personnel.
- Make sure the new employee spends time with his/her supervisor.
- Provide a comprehensive tour of your facility and campus.
- Providing a few special touches to the new employee goes a long way — welcome note, agency swag.
- Have someone from your staff take the new employee to lunch.
- Give the new employee something meaningful to do, preferably something more than busywork but not an overly daunting task.
- Offer praise and remind the employee of your appreciation of whatever quality the person brings to the agency.
- Encourage the new employee to reach out to other staff team members, thus taking the responsibility for part of their own onboarding.
Employee Hiring Checklist: The First Week
- Dispense training materials which should cover both short and long-term learning.
- Give a first assignment and check on the new employee’s progress.
- Assign a peer to mentor the new employee.
- The employee’s supervisor should outline meeting expectations.
- Arrange for orientation sessions with HR, peers, and administrative departments.
- Follow-up and meet with the new employee to make sure that all paperwork is in order.
Employee Hiring Checklist: The First Three Months
- Assess the employee’s progress in becoming a productive team member and in absorbing the agencies culture.
- Celebrate the employee’s “first-quarter anniversary.”
- Encourage the new employee to participate in agency special events, meetings, open houses, and social gatherings.
- Recommend reading material for professional and personal growth. Support participation in training opportunities.
- Schedule “regular” and ongoing meetings with supervisor, staff team, and others.
Effective onboarding has several benefits for both the employee and the agency. It helps new hires feel welcomed, increases their time to productivity, enriches job satisfaction and improves retention rates. For the agency, it ensures a smooth transition, boosts employee engagement and protects the investment made in hiring and training.
Best practices dictate that a successful onboarding program frequently involves clear communication, well-defined goals and expectations, mentorship or buddy systems, regular check-ins, and feedback mechanisms. Personalizing the onboarding experience to meet individual needs and providing opportunities for social integration is very important.
With the recent rise of remote work and virtual teams, onboarding has adapted to accommodate remote employees as well. Virtual onboarding involves leveraging technology to provide a similar experience to in-person onboarding, including virtual meetings, online training modules and digital resources.
Onboarding is not limited to new hires. It can also be applied to internal transfers, promotions and acquisitions. Continuous onboarding ensures employees are supported during transitions and have the necessary resources to succeed in their new roles.The agency must be innovative while planning your onboarding program to excel over your competitors. If you provide the best onboarding experiences, new staff have the best opportunity to become permanent and productive team members.
The length of your onboarding depends on your agency and the complexity of the position. Ensure your employee can settle into their position and workplace with ongoing support throughout their tenure and not just for their first day or first week at work. Overall, onboarding plays a critical role in setting the stage for a positive employee experience and long-term success within an organization.
About the Authors
Gary Bernstein currently serves as an Assistant Professor in the College of Business at Misericordia University and is a former advisory board member of Community Rec Magazine. Gary Bernstein has proudly authored the textbook, “The Fundamentals of Sports Marketing” with Sagamore Publishing and “Nonprofit Sport and Recreation Programs: Principles and Practices of Leadership and Management” by Sentia Publishers. For more information, call 757.667.0293 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Sorkin currently is the CEO and president of DH Sorkin Consultation Group, LLC a company that provides any array consulting and coaching services to nonprofit agencies. He has worked in the nonprofit sector for where he served for 30-plus years in the CEO position. Sorkin lectures on topics including board governance, networking and government relations and emergency management planning. For more information visit dhsorkinconsultationgroup.com.