Just four years ago, the average time to hire was 13 days. Now it takes about 23 days. Not only does a lengthier hiring process negatively affect the candidate experience – which is key to recruiting the best talent  – but it also means that it takes longer for a new hire to become a productive employee.

It’s a total lose-lose situation.

This was the issue facing my own company, Red Branch Media, not too long ago. So, I went back to the drawing board to see how I could speed up our hiring process. Here is the game plan I came up with, as well as my recommendations to any company struggling with lengthy hiring and onboarding processes:

1. Look at Your Employee Referrals First

If I want a fast, reliable hire, the best sourcing tool I have is my own team. Hiring involves several factors. One of the biggest and baddest of them all is the cost. Because replacing a salaried employee can cost about $20,000 to $30,000, I want to make sure this investment is a quality one. I want to make sure we hire someone who is a great fit for the culture we’ve built, someone reliable and loyal. If you trust your team, which I’d hope you do, you should welcome referrals.

A referral is a hire you can trust (almost) immediately. Because they were brought to your attention by a trusted employee, you can safely assume the cultural fit will have a natural feel.

Of course, you can’t make all your hires through referrals, so I also source local colleges and universities for grads who have the background I want and the desire to build their agency portfolio.

2. Craft Workflows to Speed Up Onboarding

At The Branch, we are firm believers in workflows. We craft workflows, or processes, for jobs we’ve done over and over and will continue to do time and time again. These processes are the “final drafts” of what gave us the best results each time we did it. We kick our workflows off at the start of every large and small project, from creating an email to welcoming our clients and onboarding new hires.

Building a workflow for repeatable processes keeps the team from running around like a flock of headless chickens. We can go through the motions of a well-structured, step-by-step process of everything that needs to happen on an employee’s first day.

pathTo start your own workflow, think of all the information you wish you had on your first day. Think about what tools you need to survive the first week, whom you would love to be introduced to, what facilities/parts of the building you’re allowed to explore and which are off-limits, the times of weekly meetings, best practices, company expectations/guidelines – the whole works.

Think of which team members can tackle each task and what order these tasks need to follow – and you’re there. The workflow is set. Follow it, memorize it, perfect it. We use a tool called Bitrix24, but systems like Slack, Basecamp, Asana, and even a supercharged email tool like Gmail or Outlook can produce similar results.

Some tasks included in our onboarding workflow:

  1. Set up computer and workspace
  2. One-hour increments for new hires to learn about what each department does
  3. Social onboarding (which accounts we use, the tools we use to manage them, and what is expected from a social standpoint)
  4. Content and editorial process overview
  5. New hire quiz and blog post
  6. Lunch with the CEO

3. Enable New Hires to Bond With Employees Faster by Conducting Personality Tests

Since we have a smaller team, we have the luxury of introducing new hires to each department. That way, they know whom they should turn to if they hit bumps during their first months on the job. The head of every department sits down with the newbie, introduces themselves, and presents the new hire with a short demo on what their daily tasks and responsibilities look like. No Brancher left behind!

Of course we want new hires to grow relationships and grow into their departments organically, but an easy way to test employees’ personalities is by assessing each one through a personality assessment platform; Red Branch uses Vitru. This helps us see where new hires can start off by identifying the personality types in the office with which they’d collaborate best.

Not only does learning about each department provide new hires with the opportunity to make new friends, but it also gives them more insight to how each department works, in case they want to move around the company later in their tenure.

tableAnother reason we invest in the time it takes to do onboarding right is that we have a lot of entry-level hires and interns. If we let them develop habits that are counterintuitive to our business model, we’re wasting our time and theirs.

4. Organize Group Activities That Will Make New Hires Feel Welcome

At the end of the week at our famous Eatin’ Meetin’, we have “New Hire Trivia” where the new hires are placed center stage and current employees have to answer trivia questions about them on subjects like their hobbies and histories. The trivia game establishes a culture while at the same time acting as a getting-to-know-you icebreaker that’s fun for everyone. The sooner new hires feel comfortable, the sooner they will jump into their new roles and collaborate with others.

With this hiring and onboarding process, there’s zero time between the referrals, workflows, onboarding, and games for slacking on our time-to-hire goals. Once our hires come through the door, they already see three familiar faces and are immediately introduced to the team, the culture, the company, and our values.

Implement this process and you’ll find you not only save a lot of time, but also blow new hires out of the water. Candidate experience, here you come.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Maren Hogan is founder and CEO of Red Branch Media. You can read more of her work on Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and her blog, Marenated.

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