Finding top talent is vital to an organization’s growth, but even the best hires can go south without an effective onboarding process in place.

Without quality onboarding, companies set themselves up for a whole host of problems, including lower retention rates, lower engagement, a weaker company culture, lower performance, increased costs, and decreased revenue. On the flip side, a high-quality onboarding experience sets the right tone for new hires, integrating them into the company quickly and getting them up to full productivity faster.

What does a great onboarding process look like? The specific details may vary by company and role, but here are some general principles every organization can use:

Before the New Hire’s First Day

The number of forms a new hire needs to fill out can be overwhelming. However, the paperwork pains can be streamlined for you and your employee if you prepare in advance. Put together a packet of all the documents your new hire will need according to their status, national and local regulations, and your own internal processes. That list may include a W-4, an I-9, a nondisclosure agreement, direct deposit forms, insurance forms, and more.

Once you have the documents prepared, you should send them to the employee prior to their first day. This way, the new hire can knock out all the paperwork ahead of time, and you can dedicate their first day on the job to much more engaging and exciting things. Along with these preboarding documents, you may want to provide the details for the employee’s first day, including dress code, parking instructions, arrival time, what to bring, etc.

In keeping with the theme of preparation, you should also set up the employee’s workspace ahead of time. Everything the employee needs to get started should be ready to go when they arrive. Some common items you may want to take care of include:

  1. Laptop, hardware, other accessories
  2. Software
  3. Company email address
  4. First-day documents (policies, procedures, etc.)
  5. Company swag and welcome materials

Finally, be sure to sit down with any managers and supervisors who will be training the new employee. Go over the employee’s background and experience, and work with the managers to put a tailored training process in place.

Day 1

It’s important to engage employees throughout the onboarding process, and that starts on day one. The new hire’s experience with onboarding will affect their retention and performance, so it’s important to focus on the individual, not just the process and paperwork.

Make sure you have a welcome procedure in place to cover everything the new employee might need to know. Typical details include:

  1. Tour of the building/space
  2. Location of desk/workspace
  3. Hardware setup
  4. Software/account setups
  5. Manager and team introductions
  6. One-on-one meeting to set expectations (planning, goals, etc.)
  7. Once the employee is settled, collect any photocopies or documents you still need (IDs, direct deposit forms, etc.).

Week 1

During the first week, new hires should begin to integrate with their teams. As that is going on, take some time to confirm that you’ve collected all the required paperwork. It never hurts to double-check.

The end of week one is also an ideal time for managers to check in with new hires in a one-on-one setting. Encourage managers to elicit feedback about the employee’s experience and impressions so far, answer lingering questions, and address any concerns. This is also a good opportunity to set the new employee’s goals for their first 90 days. These goals should be designed to both support the team’s overarching mission and ramp the employee up to the appropriate level of performance.

The First 90 Days

The first 90 days can be broken up into three phases: learning, analysis and strategy, and execution.

Month 1: Learning

While the new hire had their first week to get accustomed to the position, there is still a lot to learn about the company, the business model, and the industry. Month one should prioritize the employee’s learning so that they can be fully integrated into organizational operations.

Throughout the month, HR should regularly check in with the person training the new hire to ensure they have the resources, time, and support they need to effectively coach the new employee. These check-ins can also be used to track the new hire’s progress and adjust training as needed to keep the employee on pace.

Finally, make sure the new employee’s manager or supervisor schedules a check-in at the end of the first month. Similar to the week one check-in, this conversation should be used to discuss goals, opportunities, obstacles, and questions.

Month 2: Analysis and Strategy

During the second month, the new hire can work with their manager and HR to analyze what they have seen and experienced in their role so far. From there, they can formulate a strategy for their role that will help the team move forward.

New hires often bring new perspectives, and they should be encouraged to share their perspectives with their team members. The new hire may help the team reconsider existing strategies, fine-tune workflows, and do other things differently in order to reach their goals more efficiently.

Month 3: Execution

By the third month, the employee should be focused on executing their strategy. They’ve had time to observe how the company and the team work, so now it is time for the new hire to shift from learning to performing.

At the end of the third month, it is time to review the employee’s first 90 days on the job. Managers should evaluate performance and progress and plan for the employee’s future at the organization.

After the First 90 Days

If you want to retain employees for the long term, you need to ensure you are consistently supporting them even beyond the onboarding process. Encourage managers to have regular one-on-one performance conversations with all of their employees, new and established alike. These conversations are perfect opportunities to provide recognition and feedback, both of which have been shown to increase engagement and decrease turnover.

Get Software That Helps

Managing the many moving parts of the onboarding process can be a nightmare, even for the most organized HR pros. That’s why finding the right onboarding software solution is critical to an effective onboarding process.

Different companies have different needs, but in general, your onboarding solution should be intuitive and user-friendly for both your HR department and your new hires. Consider looking for a solution that has at least some of these critical features:

  1. Project management
  2. Time tracking
  3. Communication
  4. Reviews
  5. Appointment software
  6. Recordkeeping
  7. Engagement and performance tracking

Your onboarding process sets the tone for new employees. When new hires have a clear plan to follow, they are more likely to perform at their best and less likely to leave the company quickly. Put time in now to craft a streamlined, effective onboarding process, and reap the rewards each time you bring on a new employee.

A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.

Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.

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