SelectOne Blog

Best Practices for Onboarding New Employees


So you’re feeling pretty pleased with yourself because you’ve just hired a superstar.

Now what?

These initial days are so key in determining a new employee’s experience as part of your organization. Don’t let bad onboarding stop a great employee from doing great work.

Be prepared.

This should be painfully obvious, but it needs to be said. How many new employees have been left stranded in a random conference room with a handbook to look over because the person responsible for their orientation was unprepared?

The New Hire Activation Guide - SelectOne Do you have all the forms you need? Policies and procedures, non-disclosure agreements, all that jazz. New-hire paperwork is nobody’s favorite thing to deal with, but not having it on hand is even worse.

Do you have the space and equipment you need? Is your new employee’s desk space ready to go? Do they have a computer yet? A chair? Have their office supplies been hit by poachers while the position was vacant? Nothing says “I didn’t actually put much thought into hiring you” like asking them to watch a training video, only to discover that there’s no monitor at their station. Business cards are also really important for professional employees. Business cards (and sometimes some other company “swag” like coffee mugs, stickers, etc.) show the new employee that work done to welcome them and they’re important.

Is your technology ready to go? Your new employee will need an email address, logins to access their files, and a code, badge, or whatever is needed to enter your workspace. If their predecessor had files that were password protected, they’ll need access to those as well. 

Do you have the time and people you need? None of this helps if there’s nobody with the time and skills to provide it. Even if a lot of your first-day orientation consists of reading or online training, you’ll need to block off a significant portion of time for onboarding, both that day and overtime. Don’t make your new employee have to walk around introducing themselves alone or ask a random coworker about the location of the bathrooms.

Have a plan for training.

This means all the classic things we associate with training new hires, like how to use software or what the organizational chart looks like, but it also includes other, less often addressed topics like:

  • What kind of communication is normal here? (Mostly emails? Instant messaging? Phone calls?)
  • What kind of feedback can employees expect?
  • What kind of authority does this employee have, and over what?
  • What challenges are they likely to encounter?

A lot of these sorts of things are best addressed through a more casual conversation (having a PowerPoint presentation on the fact that you need to tread carefully with Janet the Prickly Vendor is probably counterproductive), but having a written plan for addressing them, even if it’s just a jotted list in your planner, can be incredibly helpful in avoiding gaps.

Setting sane goals.

New employees are nervous, and with good reason. It takes most people three to six months to feel like they’ve gotten the hang of things at work, and sometimes longer, depending on the complexity of the work. If you had someone stellar in the role before (or even just pretty decent), it’s natural to compare your new hire to the experienced one and expect them to perform accordingly. But that’s not always possible right away.

It’s important to look at the very short term with new employees, as well as the longer term. Pick your priorities, and know that some things take longer to learn than others. “Accurately tracking time using ABC Program by Thursday” is reasonable. “Take on the remainder of Jordan’s former accounts by October” is reasonable. But expecting all those accounts to be under control by Thursday isn’t reasonable for your new employee, and not having nailed down basic time tracking in October isn’t reasonable for you. Be open about expectations and timelines and check in regularly.

The first 30-60 days after bringing on a new employee can be a whirlwind.

Don’t let your new hire get left in the dust! At SelectOne, we’ve assembled some quality advice on how to make the most of this critical period. Download New Hire Activation - The Employer's Guide to Mastering the Introductory Period for free.

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