When you start a new role, the onboarding phase might not be something you particularly look forward to — after all, it’s reported that the average new hire is required to complete around 54 different onboarding-related tasks during their first few weeks in the job; a little overwhelming, to say the least.
For employers, however, an effective and engaging onboarding process is crucial, and has implications far beyond those initial weeks; a positive onboarding experience is said to make an employee 18 times more committed to their organization, for instance, significantly increasing the likelihood that they’ll stay in their role for the long haul.
But with so many unavoidable administrative tasks to complete during onboarding, how can employers ensure their new hires don’t feel overburdened during the first few weeks? How can they create an onboarding experience that not only fulfills HR-related necessities but is actually engaging at the same time?
Read on, as we offer 5 tips for devising an effective, engaging employee onboarding process designed to boost employee retention.
1. Personalize the Experience
From tailored product recommendations to music playlists curated just for us, we’ve come to expect a level of personalization in our daily lives — and why should it be any different when we start a new job? Creating an engaging onboarding experience is increasingly dependent on making it personal to the individual.
Start by acknowledging the unique experiences and talents each new hire brings to the table and create a personalized onboarding roadmap that aligns with their prior experiences, role requirements, and personal growth goals. For instance, while compliance training might be non-negotiable, some sections of your standard training modules might be redundant for seasoned professionals — enable them to tailor their onboarding schedule to their individual experience and training needs.
In addition, infusing the process with small, personal touches — personalized welcome notes, team introductions, or an assigned “buddy”, for instance — can make a world of difference to how valued and engaged an employee feels in their first few weeks in their new role.
2. Gamify the Onboarding Journey
Turning tasks into games isn’t just a sneaky way of getting your children helping out around the house: when applied to the onboarding process, the principle of gamification can transform mundane administrative chores into engaging challenges. Points, badges, leaderboards, and milestones can make even the most standard procedures feel lively.
A simple example is creating an onboarding quiz or scavenger hunt. As employees navigate through different sections of the company intranet, answer questions about the company’s history, or locate key facilities, they can earn points. Celebrate those who complete their onboarding “quests” with rewards and recognition, ensuring that the early days are not just about learning, but also intrigue and fun.
According to chameleon.io, gamifying the employee onboarding experience can help to boost engagement and user retention, but it’s also important to remember that gamification might not work for everyone — you should evaluate whether your company (and your new hire) is suited to this slightly more unorthodox method of onboarding.
3. Blend Technology with a Human Touch
Virtual reality (VR) orientations, augmented reality (AR) office tours, and AI-powered employee training modules can create immersive learning experiences for new hires. But while leveraging the latest tech tools can help streamline the onboarding process, it’s important that technology doesn’t completely replace the human element.
Your company culture is often a big draw for new starters, and it’s important to make them feel “at home” during their first few weeks in the role by fostering connections with their new colleagues — something that technology alone cannot do. Even if the job is fully remote, use technology to facilitate those connections, leveraging a video conferencing tool to set up introductory meetings with relevant stakeholders.
To balance efficiency with engagement, it’s essential to ensure that technological immersion is combined with human interactions. As their role progresses, schedule regular face-to-face or video check-ins with managers and peers; organize small group lunches or coffee breaks. Remember, it’s the human connections that foster genuine belonging, and that cannot be replicated by technology.
4. Make it Inclusive
In an increasingly globalized world — where employer of record (EOR) services like Remote are facilitating global employment — companies often have a presence in multiple countries and employ a mix of on-site and remote employees. An inclusive onboarding process means ensuring that every new employee, regardless of their location or mode of work, feels equally welcomed and integrated.
For remote team members, ensure that they receive the same onboarding materials, training sessions, and mentorship opportunities as on-site employees. This might involve using collaborative tools or hosting virtual meet-and-greets. It’s also important to communicate effectively with remote employees to ensure they don’t feel isolated.
For global employees, it’s also essential to adapt the onboarding content to cater to cultural nuances. This might mean translating materials, providing context on company culture, or even offering localized onboarding for different regions. You may also need to be cognizant of time zones for new hires located in other countries.
5. Seek Feedback and Adapt
It’s not enough to simply assume your onboarding process is working effectively. Regular feedback sessions with new employees can provide invaluable insights into what works, what doesn’t, and how onboarding can be improved. These check-ins shouldn’t be seen as a formality, but a chance to iterate and refine the onboarding process.
Of course, you can ask employees for their feedback directly in a one-to-one meeting, but not all new starters will feel comfortable doing so in this setting. For more candid feedback, use an anonymous employee survey tool such as Officevibe, and analyze the gathered data regularly to uncover frequently-raised concerns or suggestions about your onboarding process. Using this information, you can pivot and adapt.
An agile approach to onboarding — where feedback is used to continually refine and improve the process — ensures that the onboarding remains both relevant and engaging for all your new hires.
The onboarding process is a critical first step in an employee’s journey with an organization. It sets the tone for their experience, impacts their long-term commitment, and can even be a determinant in their overall career trajectory.
By taking these five steps, employers don’t just fulfill HR-related necessities; they cultivate a culture of belonging, commitment, and motivation — ensuring that every new member begins their journey on a positive and empowered note.