Employee Onboarding in 2019:
The Definitive Guide

Are you looking to implement an employee onboarding process or maybe you're browsing for inspiration to improve? You have come to the right place...

In this guide you'll learn:
  • How to create amazing onboarding experiences
  • How to streamline and optimize processes
  • Dozens of inspirational examples, cases studies & ideas

In short: if you want to lower employee turnover, increase engagement and productivity, you’ll love this actionable employee onboarding guide.

Let’s jump right in.


Are you looking to implement an employee onboarding process or maybe you're browsing for inspiration to improve? You have come to the right place...

In this guide you'll learn:
  • How to create amazing onboarding experiences
  • How to streamline and optimize processes
  • Dozens of inspirational examples, cases studies & ideas

In short: if you want to lower employee turnover, increase engagement and productivity, you’ll love this actionable employee onboarding guide.

Let’s jump right in.

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Contents
Chapter 1
The (Extraordinary) Benefits of Prioritizing Onboarding
Chapter 2
Designing The Perfect Onboarding Process
Chapter 3
Onboarding Best Practices [Case Studies]
Chapter 4
Onboarding Checklists & Templates
Chapter 1:

The (Extraordinary) Benefits of
Prioritizing Onboarding

The (Extraordinary) Benefits of Prioritizing Onboarding

In this chapter we'll go through how and why onboarding plays a major role for your new employees (and organization).

We will cover:
  • The business case for onboarding programs
  • How good onboarding helps business growth
Let's get started...
In this chapter we'll go through how and why onboarding plays a major role for your new employees (and organization).

We will cover:
  • The business case for onboarding programs
  • How good onboarding helps business growth
Let's get started...
Starting a new job is a rollercoaster of emotions. Excitement, nerves and a massive sense of information overload hits you as you try to wrap your head around your new tasks, the company culture and scramble to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

You are eager to show why it was the right decision to hire you in the first place and eager to be reaffirm that you made the right decision to sign the contract.

So early days in a new job is a vulnerable time that carries both a huge risk and huge potential for any employer bringing on a new employee.

Dozens of benefits of creating a great onboarding process exist. We narrowed it down to the 3 that most leaders will relate to: the business case.

Increased Productivity

One of the advantages is of course that new hires will be ramped up more quickly and ready to contribute. Having instant access to the information, tools, and support is a sure way to significantly increase productivity. Numbers show us that an effective onboarding plan can increase productivity by over 70% for new hires.
What would a 70% increase in productivity mean to your business?

Better Employee Performance

Onboarding programs aren’t designed to directly improve performance down the line but research shows that by setting expectations from the beginning and actually engaging before day 1, employees are much more likely to perform.

So how much can onboarding really push the needle?.. Drumroll please….
How about an 11% increase in employee performance levels?... Mic drop 🎤

Lower Employee Turnover

Probably the highest impact of proper onboarding is how it affects employee turnover. Particularly in high turnover industries such as retail, facility management, and hospitality - proper onboarding is a must.

We see that when an employee experiences great onboarding they are 69% more likely to stay with the company for more than three years.
That. Is. HUGE!

Just imagine the effect that would have on so many levels in your business. growth.

Calculating The Cost of Poor Onboarding

So how much is poor onboarding costing your business?

As every industry and business is different, we decided to create a calculator for you to test out using your own business metrics. Stat: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/dont-underestimate-the-importance-of-effective-onboarding.aspx


Bottom line? Great onboarding plays a crucial role in the growth of your business and optimizing employee lifetime value.

With that, it’s time to dive into chapter 2 and start improving the numbers above.


Chapter 2:

Designing The Perfect
Onboarding Process

In this chapter we will take you through how you design an awesome onboarding experience for your new hires.

Learn how you can build on the excitement of signing and shorten their time to perform.

Let’s have a closer look!

In this chapter we will take you through how you design an awesome onboarding experience for your new hires.

Learn how you can build on the excitement of signing and shorten their time to perform.

Let’s have a closer look!

All companies are different and there is no one-size fits all solution or single employee onboarding definition. But there are some guiding principles and basic components that will bring you a long way.

The first part of creating a world-class onboarding process starts with step 1: The Preboarding Phase.

The Preboarding Phase: First Impressions Matter

Why wait for the employee to start before you begin your onboarding? There is a huge opportunity to build on the excitement between accepting the job offer and day 1. We call that preboarding and the first steps begin before the ink on the contract is dry.

You can use preboarding to establish an emotional connection with your brand early on. Imagine the face of a tired woman on her commuter train on the way to the job she finally quit but still have to go to for another month. Suddenly she gets a fun reminder video on her phone about how excited you are to see her and the frown is turned upside down.

In this video our Customer Success Manager, Marie, shares the 3 key things you need to consider when you develop your preboarding process. From hired to your employee's first day.



Don't Reinvent the Wheel: Preboarding Examples

So what is the best approach?

What we have learned from working with hundreds of companies on their pre- and onboarding processes can be boiled down to three tips:

  • Automate
  • Segment
  • Personalize


So let's see these in action along with five tangible examples to help you make your preboarding initiatives a runaway success:

1. Create Automated Journeys

When you structure the entire learning journey for your new hires automation flows are key.

By setting up automation flows you can easily scale and schedule the entire sequence of events, messages and training elements that the new employee gets.

Customize and adapt the flows allowing for different messages to be sent according to whether or not the new hire completes it on time, or create a different segment if you have a training element that only applies to e.g. sales people.

2. Begin Communicating

A welcome message is a nice touch to let your new hire know that you are as excited as they are and that you look forward to seeing them soon.

McDowells App Welcome from CEO Message
Especially if people have long notice periods, the interval between signing and starting can be quite long and if you don’t somehow stay in touch and let the new hire know that they are eagerly awaited it can feel a little uncertain.

Remember that they are taking a leap and have made quite a significant life decision, so they will most likely have a very understandable human need to be reaffirmed in their decision. So shoot them an email or a message on their mobile phone - it’s a small effort that has a great impact.

3. Start the Learning Process

Especially in large companies, there is no way around the fact that the e-learning or training curriculum for new employees is large and covers a lot. Besides of course taking a fresh and modern approach to learning in general, one way to relieve the new hires of a little bit of e-learning fatigue is to invite them to complete some elements of it before day 1.

Don’t go for a hardcore compliance course but a nice and engaging intro to the company with some quiz elements and a bit of info on the strategy and values a could be a nice way of getting them up to speed before day 1.

You could also create a nice digital version of an employee onboarding handbook. And make it short, sweet and mobile friendly so they can complete on the train home. Consider framing it, so it does not feel mandatory - some new hires will be very busy in the handover process at their old job.

digital employee handbook

4. Introduce the Team

One of the most overwhelming things about starting a new job is the many new names and faces. A way to ease a bit of that stress can be to send a video message from the team where they introduce themselves to their new colleagues and you give them a virtual “mini-tour” of the office.

Perhaps they haven’t even seen the actual surroundings they will be working in if all the interviews were done in meeting rooms. No reason to call your communication department for high production value employee onboarding videos - a quick, friendly mobile video greeting will work wonders.

That way your new hire will at least see some familiar faces on day 1. You can attach that to the welcome message or share it as a follow up message the week before they start.

Here is an example of how we do at Actimo:

5. Provide Practical Information

Make sure that the new employee gets all the relevant practical info well in advance of their first day. They shouldn’t spend mental energy worrying about where to go when, but have an informative onboarding schedule sent a couple of days in advance that tells them everything they need to know from dress code, what time it's lunch, and who will receive them.



Simple, yet effective and the perfect segway to step 2: The onboarding phase.

The Onboarding Phase: Day 1 and Beyond

Your new employee has just arrived for their first day (and hopefully for many years to come).

Now what?

Already having been properly introduced to the company from a succesful preboarding stage you are on the right track 🛤

So let's continue designing an optimal onboarding process with three key steps when it comes to planning a succesful first couple of days.



“Onboarding starts with satisfying the most basic of Maslow's psychological needs: belonging. New hires shouldn't arrive to an empty cube and be forced to forage through corridors searching for a computer and the bare necessities of office life. A new hire isn't a surprise visitor from out of town. Plan for their arrival. “
Jay Samit - Author, former Vice Chairman at Deloitte Digital
Let's be honest. Onboarding is not rocket science.

But having a framework and enough relevant ideas for your specific industry and business is vital.

Continuing from Marie's 3 key steps here are 9 actionable onboarding tips to you can take inspiration from.

1. Make Them Feel (Truly) Welcome

A key component of any happy employee, new or old, is being appreciated. Provide new hires with a buddy and give them a welcome tour around the premises. Where is the good coffee? Where do you go if you have an IT issue? Show them all the inner workings of the company.

Bonus Tip:
Have a welcome gift, flowers or a goodie bag waiting for them at their desk or in the break room.

Cost: $20-$50

Giving a good first impression: Priceless

Inspiration

There are a lot of fun and creative ideas out there to gain inspiration from - some might be too quirky or hip for your organisation but getting a tad more creative than a pen and notepad would not hurt. One of the best examples out there is Warby Parker, an online retailer of fashionable glasses and sunglasses.
Their welcome package for new employees include a copy of the book “Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac (Warby Parker is a name of a character), glasses for you and a friend, a gift certificate for an eye exam, a bag of pretzels (as that was the snack of choice for the founders in the early days) and a gift certificate to a thai restaurant (also a reference to the early days of the company in Philadelphia).
You could also go with something more simple and useful like a reusable coffee mug, some branded work out gear or perhaps a nice laptop bag.

2. Introduce Social Learning

Besides a nice welcome, some breakfast, flowers, a gift bag or whatever works for your organisation, you obviously also want to get them started on the more “serious” stuff.

But how should you structure this to optimize the learning experience? Researchs shows that the vast majority of learners want social workplace learning experiences.

71% of Gen-Z, 69% of Millennials, 56% of Gen-X, and 54% of Baby Boomers express a desire for a more social learning experience.

onboarding and training generations mobile
onboarding and training generations

What this shows us is that you need to give serious thought how you can facilitate collaboration with instructors and/or other learners via social feeds, groups, or Q&A sessions accessible in the flow of work.

3. Throw A Welcoming Event

Meeting your new team is of course a great start, but there is one thing that you don’t have in common with your new team mates: being the “new guy”.

Am I dressed right? Will they like my jokes? What if the kitchen I will be working in or reception desk I will be managing is totally different then the one I’m used to?

That is why many companies successfully do events for their entire cohort of newcomers. How big that group of course varies a lot depending on company size - in some companies hundreds start each month, in others a new joiner is a rare event.

But no matter your size, try to group them together at an interval that makes sense to you.

The agenda for a “Welcome” event does not have to be elaborate, as long as they leave more informed, excited and with a bigger network when they arrived.

Some companies take this event to new extremes. Here's an example from Zappos.
new employee onboarding at zappos

4. Involve Senior Management

It sends such a strong signal to have either the CEO or at least a member of the top level management team stop by, give an inspirational talk and take a few questions. It could be an inspirational talk or a Q&A, either IRL or online.

If the group of new hires is smaller you can do it as a breakfast or lunch. It shows that your CEO takes an interest in the new people joining his company and is a great opportunity of setting the stage and conveying the strategy in a more authentic way than a random HR consultant.

onboarding senior management exposure

5. Have an Informal Q&A with HR

A session with some useful info from HR and other staff functions is always a good idea as the new joiners will have a ton of questions that are nice to be able to ask face to face.

If you have employee discounts or other benefits that you would like to highlight this is also the perfect setting for that.

Quick Tip:
Consider opening up a direct line of communication through your internal systems such as social feeds, chat, or Slack.

5. Break Out Group Work

Instead of just showing slide after slide, perhaps you could do a session with some interactive group exercises.

Break up people in groups and have them discuss elements of the company strategy, core values or perhaps some business dilemmas that reflects the company they have just joined.
onboarding group work
That way they will get the material under their skin in a fun way and do some networking that does not feel forced while they are at it. Not only is that initial networking and feeling in the same boat as someone else quite comforting in the early days, but it also inspires cross-departmental collaboration down the road which is obviously a big advantage for companies.

Especially in larger companies that have a natural tendency towards “silos” and you don’t necessarily know that there might be sitting an expert in something that you are struggling with two floors down.

Lunch Roulette

onboarding lunch roulette
A popular concept that also can be implemented as part of your onboarding is “Lunch roulette” where you are assigned a random lunch buddy from a different department.

A little scary at first if you are an introvert by nature, so make sure to highlight what’s in it for the employee: a great chance to network outside of their team and gain knowledge from experts working on interesting projects

Inspiration

One of the companies that does it and believe it really helps spark innovation is the US arm of the pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim.
Some companies take the idea even further and assign tables in the canteen specifically for people who are looking for someone they don’t know to lunch with.
Take the ball and run with it - the degree of organizing and logistics this requires all depends on the size of your company and the type of professionals that make up the majority of your workforce.

Provide Engaging In-Depth Training

When you’ve got the basics covered you can begin to let your new hire dive into the more advanced training elements, which should basically cover everything they need to know in order to be a smashing success in their role.

You don’t want to just shove them into a corner to sit alone with an epic curriculum while the rest of the team goes about their business, but focusing on a fun and engaging e-learning course for e.g. half an hour

A few tips to create memorable in-depth training:
  • Add rich media to boost engagement
  • Personalize content and experience as much as possible
  • Gamify training with points, badges, leaderboards
training and onboarding gamification leaderboard

Introduce Blended Learning

A crucial key concept here is blended learning. Be creative here and try to mix classroom training with online learning to get the best of both worlds. Some topics require interaction with a teacher and interactive exercises with other students, while other topics can easily be scaled as digitally accessible e-learning.

A nice touch would be to add some gamification elements as well as a bit of fun and competition can do wonders to heavy topics. It would also be a wise move to split up the training rather than bombard the new team member with hour long e-learning - think “snackable” pieces.

A snackable piece of learning content could be a short explainer video followed by a 10 question quiz testing you on what you just saw.

This is amazing right? Hopefully you can't wait to start implement some of these examples.

But wait there's more...

Keep on scrolling as our next chapter will take you through some epic case studies of some of the biggest brands in the world who have (almost) perfected the art of onboarding!


Chapter 3:

Onboarding
Best Practices [Case Studies]

Ever wondered how some of the greatest brands in the world do their onboarding of new employees?

Then read on - we have created some cool case studies and highlighted how you can draw inspiration from frontrunners.

Read on to learn from the best!

Ever wondered how some of the greatest brands in the world do their onboarding of new employees?

Then read on - we have created some cool case studies and highlighted how you can draw inspiration from frontrunners.

Read on to learn from the best!

In this part, we thought it would be a good idea to show you some hands on examples of companies out there who have really nailed this part of their employee experience.

We have gathered a few examples of award-winning top notch onboarding processes that deliver a lot of value to both employees, management and the company culture in general and who have found a great balance between utilising digital tools and the human touch.

Case Study #1: Facebook

facebook logo
A company that is definitely worth having a look at when it comes to onboarding is Facebook. The social media giant currently has approximately 37.700 employees and are famous for their six week engineering Bootcamp which aims at onboarding their new developers to the culture and bring them up to speed quicker than “traditional” onboarding and introduction might do.


During the bootcamp the newly hired engineers work on actual problems together with mentors assigned to them. That allows them to gain a better insight into the company and its tech stack, quickly build an internal network and it also gives both the new hires and Facebook a better idea about which part of the organisation would be the best fit.

This is a radical approach and most likely won’t make sense in all types of companies, but you can still draw quite a lot of inspiration from it.

Take inspiration from Facebook:
  • Think less in silos - use onboarding as “matchmaking"
  • Allow people to network by collaborating on actual tasks
  • Try to conceptualize your onboarding and build it as an experience

Case Study #2: Google

google logo
Another tech giant that knows a thing or two about how to do onboarding right is Google. The legendary company has spawned many trends related to HR and work culture, such as the “20 percent rule”, and they almost always rank highly in any survey on employer attractiveness.

When it comes to onboarding their ideas might not be as radical as Google Glasses or Google Home, but there are a few key elements that are worth taking note of. Google’s new hires are referred to with the endearing moniker “Nooglers".

google onboarding experience
google nooglers onboarding experience mobile

An important element of their onboarding is the checklist that managers are sent just 24 hours before their new hire starts.

The list includes the following five pointers:
  • Having a discussion about roles and responsibilities
  • Matching the new hire with a peer buddy
  • Helping the new hire build a social network
  • Setting up employee onboarding check-ins once a month for the new hire’s first six months
  • Encouraging open dialogue

Not rocket science perhaps, but they are great things to keep in mind in order to create a good start for the “Nooglers”. It is very to-the-point and deliberately free from lengthy HR lingo or elaborate instructions that might make a busy manager dismiss it. And the most brilliant bit about it is actually the fact that it is sent just 24 hours before, as the managers then have it top of mind and are much more likely to prioritize the tasks.

Take inspiration from Google:
  • Respect that managers are busy by keeping onboarding instructions short and sweet
  • Introduce a buddy programme
  • Be clear about roles and responsibilities

Case Study #3: McDonalds

mcdonalds logo
Onboarding software engineers at fancy Silicon Valley HQ is one thing - onboarding non-desk workers in retail or the hospitality industry is in many ways a completely different beast. And that is why we have also included another case from en equally well known brand that operates in a completely different sector, McDonald’s. For McDonald’s it is obviously crucially to have their many new employees get up to speed quickly in order not to compromise the customer experience.

In the UK McDonald’s employs 110,000 people across 1,250 restaurants and more than 50% of new hires are under 21 years of age. A lot of those young people have never had a real life job before, which makes the task of onboarding them successfully into a company culture even more crucial.
McDonalds UK Employees
As we advance in our career we start to notice similarities in work environments and adapt more quickly to new surroundings based on our experience, but if you have never found yourself in a professional environment, be it an office space or a fast food restaurant, the transition is more challenging.

One of the cool things that McDonald’s decided to do was to add a gamified element to their intro “Welcome Meetings.” Those meetings are held across all the 1250 locations and consists of a People Manager introducing a group of new hires to their new workplace with the intention of getting the new hires to feel “valued, confident and engaged” and give them knowledge, confidence and enthusiasm to stay with McDonald’s as an effective employee.

mcdonalds onboarding boardgame

The gamified element consisted of an actual, physical board game which gave the new hires a fun and playful way of learning how to deal with customers. The board game was not a stand alone thing but just one ingredient in a mix of online and in person training activities. Again, blended learning is the way to go.

Take inspiration from McDonald’s:
  • Think gamification and blended learning
  • Analyse your new hires and see if there are segments that require something “extra” in their onboarding process
  • Make it social

With that inspiration in mind, our next chapter will be all about the structure! We will share some great industry specific onboarding checklists for you to download and use as a stepping stone to create employee experience magic!


Chapter 4:

Onboarding Checklists & Templates

If you are feeling inspired and ready to get started with your onboarding process, a good way to start is a checklist.

Learn everything you need to consider in order to make your new hires feel excited, welcome and supported & confident

Read on and download a checklist with everything you need to consider, tailored to YOUR industry.

If you are feeling inspired and ready to get started with your onboarding process, a good way to start is a checklist.

Learn everything you need to consider in order to make your new hires feel excited, welcome and supported & confident

Read on and download a checklist with everything you need to consider, tailored to YOUR industry.

To make life easier for you we have compiled everything you need to consider in our “Onboarding checklist”. You can also download it as a nice Word document and get to work right away using it as an employee onboarding template.

We have created 6 customized checklists for different industries as we realise that there are important distinctions to be made between for instance a big, international Facility Management company and a medium-sized accounting firm.

But what if my company operates in a completely different industry, you might think?
Fear not, we have also made a generic checklist, that you can tweak in order to fit the specific circumstances that make the work life experience better for your new hires.
In the checklist you will see a timeline of which tasks you need to focus on when and which emotional experience you want to cultivate.

With that said, here are the 10 things you need to remember in order to structure your onboarding experience and help your hiring managers support their new hire without drowning in administrative tasks.
standard onboarding checklist
Generic
Onboarding Checklist
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retail onboarding checklist
Retail
Onboarding Checklist
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facility management onboarding checklist
Facility Management
Onboarding Checklist
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hospitality onboarding checklist
Hospitality
Onboarding Checklist
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finance onboarding checklist
Finance
Onboarding Checklist
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transportation onboarding checklist
Transportation
Onboarding Checklist
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Now it's your turn

So with the checklist in hand and our best advice in mind it’s time for you to start creating magic onboarding moments for your new hires. Feel free to download the ebook version of our guide and share it with your colleagues and HR industry peers.

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