What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding describes the processes of integrating new hires into a company and its culture, including training, tools, and documentation

Among business processes, employee onboarding is at the same time unique, and near universal. Nearly every business in every industry incorporates some form of onboarding procedure. However, the specifics on the onboarding process will naturally differ from one organization to the other. What remains consistent is the importance of having an effective onboarding process capable of bringing new hires up to speed quickly—not only in terms of productivity, but also in regards to company culture and values.

Excluding the hiring and interviewing processes, onboarding is essentially the first contact that a new hire has with your company. More than that, it is the very first interaction they have as full employees.

This first impression is essential; if the experience doesn’t live up to their expectations, or if the onboarding process is confusing, disorganized, or lacking in a formal schedule or process, it may set a negative tone for their entire duration of employment. Conversely, an effective onboarding process helps your new employee settle into their job, understand and embrace company culture, forge beneficial relationships, and clarify their objectives and expectations.

Finally, a streamlined onboarding process can help reduce the HR burden of integrating new employees, freeing up this essential department to focus more of their time on other tasks.

There is no single, standardized process used by companies across every industry and market. Instead, businesses are tasked with developing an onboarding process that addresses their specific needs and the needs of their new hires. That said, the process often follows a generalized path. This path includes the following stages:

Offer Acceptance

The onboarding process picks up precisely where the hiring process ends, with the prospective hire formally accepting your offer of employment. With the new employee committed to joining your team, it is now the responsibility of the hiring manager to notify the HR department of the hire, work with the employee to set a start date, and secure an offer letter for the employee to sign and return.

HR is then responsible for ensuring that the new employee receives all relevant forms and documentation explaining the terms of their employment.

Graphic showing the employee onboarding process.

Pre-boarding: Preparation for onboarding

Organizations often face a number of hurdles when onboarding new employees. Specifically, the desire for employees to feel welcomed and confident, and to quickly get up to speed in terms of productivity may be hampered by an inconsistent onboarding experience. To ensure effective onboarding, HR should work with Learning & Development teams, department heads, and other stakeholders to create role-based templates. Managers can then use these templates to build employee-specific onboarding plans.

1st day: new employee welcome & orientation

As the employee arrives for their first day, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they have access to the equipment, tools, and resources to begin performing their job. Prepare a workspace for them, requisition any necessary hardware, and authorize them to use essential company software. Likewise, remote workers who are not expected to show up in person to any physical workplace will need to have access and software availability before they can begin.

The employee’s direct supervisor or manager should send out an organization-wide email publicly introducing and welcoming the new employee, and someone should be assigned to meet the employee as they arrive at the office, give them a tour of the facilities, and introduce them to their team members and organizational leaders. Greeting and introducing the new employee to facilities, team members, and resources is important, even in hybrid and remote-work environments. A video training, online guided tutorial, or even a simple remote getting-to-know-you video call can go a long way towards helping remote workers feel welcome and included.

Human resources should hold an orientation meeting, outlining company values and goals and covering important policies. Enroll the hire in any necessary training programs and add them to recurring meetings. Schedule a time for the employee’s three-month check in.

1st week: introduction to company, people, and role

With most of the important housekeeping tasks squared away within the first day or two, management can focus most of the rest of the first week on helping the new hire acclimate to their role and the company. After approximately one week of employment, the employee’s manager should schedule a meeting with the hire, asking for any thoughts, feedback, or questions.

At this point, HR should verify that the employee has received and completed all necessary forms and documentation, and that they have access to all resources they need to perform productively.

1st month: ongoing education and trainings

With the employee now settling into their role within the company and developing a working routine, management should now be able to assess the quality of the hire’s work. Set up a meeting with the employee to address relevant performance metrics, provide feedback, workshop any issues, and respond to any concerns the employee may have.

It’s important at this stage to set a habit of continual improvement. Rather than allow the employee to become too comfortable with their now-familiar task, push them towards further growth. Enroll them in more advanced training courses where possible and appropriate, and support them as they pursue job-relevant education options.

3rd month: check in and feedback

After three months, the employee should be relatively comfortable with their tasks, understand their performance metrics, be familiar with the company culture and values, and know how to work with their managers and immediate team members. At this point, many organizations feel that the onboarding process has come to a close.

To mark this milestone, schedule a meeting with the employee to check in on their progress and gather further feedback. After going through the onboarding process, these employees will likely have valibile insights that may help you refine and improve the process for future hires. Some organizations may instead wish to schedule a six-month recap and review as the conclusion to the on boarding process.

Working from Home

It’s also worth noting that onboarding is just as important for remote workers as it is for in-house employees. When bringing on hires who might not be working in the office, ensure that these employees have been sent any necessary hardware, and set up video conferences to cover important policies, align on goals, and hold introductions with leadership and team members. During the hire’s first days with the company, make sure that someone is online and available to answer new-employee questions as they arise.

Remote work creates a number of potential hurdles, particularly where the social, interpersonal aspects of company culture are concerned. Leadership, HR, and team members will likely have to put in extra effort to ensure that the new hire feels like they are part of the team.

At its heart, effective onboarding is nothing more or less than a strategy for setting the stage for a positive, beneficial, long-term employee experience. But while this description may seem simple, it’s actually a complex, integrated process that depends on full company collaboration. More specifically, IT and HR departments must work together to ensure that employee onboarding provides each new hire with everything they need to make the transition into established, productive team member.

Here are five steps to promote positive IT and HR partnerships within employee onboarding:

Structure new work teams

Successful workplace strategies need a cultural shift between IT, HR, and facilities—ideally, you’ll define new skills and talent in conjunction with structuring teams to encourage ideation and better workflows between teams.

You’ll need to up your game, talent, and responsibilities in shared services. Organizations are redesigning decentralized service delivery models to foster better working relationships and create alignment on experience goals. The scope of “people enablement” is evolving beyond routine transaction activities as well.

Workplace transformation is a combination of technology, talent, and change. Companies must train and enable a team that oversees technology in order to successfully implement new technology. Data science teams and other teams with deeper skills are consistently being added within IT to focus, not only on UI, but on the way that technology makes people feel. Focus on architecting, mobile HR software, applications, and systems create a connective component in the workplace, and thus the employee onboarding experience.

Make technology investments together early

Companies are gradually adopting cloud-based solutions, in conjunction with other technologies, to deliver digital enterprise-grade systems. IT and HR will have a growing priority to make sure that technologies not only address business issues, but also meet the expectations of employees during the onboarding process.

Use a single digital experience platform

Onboarding can be a difficult, confusing process for new employees. At the same time, these new hires don’t wish to appear uncomprehending or needy, and thus will sometimes hesitate to ask questions of their managers or team members.

Employee self-service options in the form of a unified digital experience platform can provide consistent, easy-to-access solutions to common employee questions. This provides a number of advantages over the disparate websites, hotlines, portals, and other channels that have traditionally assisted new employees, delivering a more uniform HR experience, and giving employees a single location to find solutions to their needs.

Go beyond automating tasks and design for the end-user experience

Automation is an essential part of improving the onboarding experience, improving data accuracy, increasing efficiency, and establishing vital workflows, while reducing errors. However, automating tasks and addressing individual inquiries aren’t the only parts of transforming the employee onboarding experience.

Possibly more than nearly any other time, the onboarding period has the potential to define the tone of the employee’s tenure with your company. HR and IT can partner to redefine these highly impactful moments within onboarding, to provide a positive, employee-experience centered process, supported by automation and other relevant technologies.

Improve as you go

No new employee fully understands every aspect of their position or responsibilities on their first day; they learn as they go, and improve as they learn. Similarly, collaboration between HR and IT to improve employee onboarding must be an ongoing, iterative process.

To ensure an upward trend, establish feedback channels where employees new and old can share their concerns and offer their suggestions. From simple pulse surveys to active forums, these options help ensure that you have the insight you need to optimize the onboarding experience.

Onboarding doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Here are several businesses who have created effective onboarding solutions:

Asurion

Asurion unlocks technological potential for more than 300 million people around the world through a range of highly-rated services. It operates in an incredibly competitive labor market. In order to attract and retain talent, it must invest in excellent recruitment teams and work to emphasize on the importance of delivering outstanding experiences for new hires through the onboarding process.

Asurion chose ServiceNow Enterprise Onboarding and Transitions to fulfill those needs. We provide them with a centralized employee service center that offers hiring managers intuitive onboarding checklists, helps manage and assign tasks, and distributes targeted content to new hires. New employees can access employee self-service options to find solutions to common issues.

Schneider Electric

A leader in power management, Schneider Electric was faced with the issue of having planned different initiatives to transform initial customer service delivery. HR was running a different experience from IT by using different customer support phone numbers and an outdated ticketing system with limited upgrade options.

Working with ServiceNow, Schneider Electric now enjoys modernized IT service management, providing a customer-like experience to the company’s 133,000 employees. With a single, unified employee experience platform, new hires across every department have instant access to the vital resources they need to do their jobs well.

ServiceNow

Our own HR team uses the ServiceNow HR Service Delivery Solution. We want to give our employees a great experience, as we know that positive onboarding creates a strong bond between our employees and our company. We moved from manual work to automated systems with ServiceNow Enterprise Onboarding and Transitions, which has allowed us to accelerate and streamline our onboarding processes.

Now, onboarding isn’t only more efficient; it’s faster. The new hire experience has been cut from three days to a few hours, which gives new employees what they need right away, so they can transition more quickly from the first-day jitters, into confident, experienced contributors.

ServiceNow Enterprise Onboarding and Transitions is a powerful blueprint for bringing new hires into your organization. Benefits of Enterprise Onboarding include:

  1. Enhanced employee experience
  2. Increased enterprise-wide productivity
  3. Design for the moments that matter
  4. Targeted content

Learn more about ServiceNow Enterprise Onboarding and Transitions here, and help your newest employees hit the ground running.

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