The Complete Guide to Improving Your Employee Onboarding Process

Digital Marketing News

The Employee Onboarding Process For Digital Agencies

The Complete Guide to Employee Onboarding

An effective employee onboarding process is essential to successfully and sustainably growing your digital agency. 

But there are plenty of questions you’ll have about building and refining your own onboarding process: what actually is the employee onboarding process? Where does it start and when does it end? And what is it supposed to achieve?

What is the Employee Onboarding Process?

The employee onboarding process is everything that your company does to onboard a new employee and help them become a member of the team and business.

This can be everything from the paperwork and necessary legalities, to learning about the clients they’ll be working on, even to drinks after work with their new teammates. 

While these are just a few examples of the aims of the onboarding process, they do encapsulate the objectives: helping the new employee be effective in their role and becoming integrated into the business.

As an employee, you may think that the onboarding process starts the day you start your new job and begin meeting the members of the team.

But for employers, the onboarding process actually begins as soon as (or sometimes even before) the candidate and future employee accepts the new job. It continues on through the weeks or months leading up to when they begin their new role, and well into the new employees first year of their role.

Why is a Strong Employee Onboarding Process so Important?

A strong employee onboarding process has multiple benefits for both your employees and for your digital agency. 

So we spoke to Alexis Wilkie, Associate Director of Herd Digital with over 10 years of experience in recruitment (including assisting in employee onboarding). We asked him just how important a structured onboarding process has been for the clients he’s worked with.

“When new employees experience a structured onboarding process that engages them, it fosters a sense of belonging and commitment with the agency. This obviously results in higher retention rates, as employees are more likely to stay with a company that values their success.”

Alexis Wilkie, Associate Director

And the evidence strongly supports this, with a strong employee onboarding process making employees as much as 18x more committed to their work!

“And from a recruitment perspective, we see satisfied employees who have had a positive experience with the onboarding process become ambassadors for the agency or business.

An effective onboarding process isn’t just about paperwork or setting up the new employee’s laptop, although that is important! It’s about equipping new hires with the knowledge and the tools that they need to find success in their role.

In short, a well-structured onboarding process isn’t just a cost-saving measure. It promotes retention, encourages your employees to give referrals, boosts productivity of your new hires, and creates a more successful and sustainable business.”

Alexis Wilkie, Associate Director

Your business’s onboarding process is just one part of ensuring your employee’s wellbeing, which we’ve written more about here.

Onboarding New Employees: What to Remember

When onboarding new employees it’s important to remember what your process should actually achieve for a new employee. Objectives such as:

  • Welcoming them to the team and company, and helping them settle in.
  • Showing them the role and responsibilities of their job.
  • Introducing them to their team and helping build relationships.
  • Explaining the company hierarchy and who they can talk to when they need help.
  • Establishing company culture and values.

Some companies consider teaching a new employee the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of their new job as the “onboarding process” and call it a day. But it’s also important to remember that it is also an essential part in making your new employee feel like a part of the team and included in the company culture.

A strong company culture can reduce employee attrition by as much as 35%: Which shows how important it is to have a strong company culture. 

But if you don’t actively work to make your new employees feel like a part of this culture, then it’s not worth much. 91% of employees who receive company culture training as part of their onboarding are more connected to their workplace.

The Employee Onboarding Process Timeline

Surprising to some, your employee onboarding process doesn’t start on your employee’s first day: It actually starts much earlier.

Which is why we’ve put together this timeline and checklist for you to use in perfecting your employee onboarding process.

During the interview/hiring process

Your onboarding process should start as early as your hiring an interview process: Because it’s the start of your new employees relationship with the business. Their first impression of what your organisation is like, and how it is run. So what does this mean exactly?

  • Having a clear job description that matches the role. The role and responsibilities of the job advert should reflect the true nature of the role, and shouldn’t change during the process.
  • Being clear with how the interview process will be structured. This means being upfront with how many stages they can expect, and what tasks they may need to complete.
  • Following up after the interviews. Following up on interviews is essential to maintaining a strong relationship with candidates throughout the hiring process.
  • Making a decision in a timely manner. To your new employee, how your business acts in the hiring process reflects on what it will be like working there. And if you take weeks or months to make a decision, you’ll look like a slow moving, laborious agency to work for with tons of red tape.

Before their first day

Before your new employee joins your company is the time to get all of the paperwork, hardware and admin sorted. 

Which isn’t very exciting, but is essential in making sure that your new employee can hit the ground running and that their first impression of working for your business is a good one.

Your checklist for onboarding your new employee should include most of the following:

  • Any paperwork and forms that you need filled and signed before they start: Employee agreements, non-disclosure agreement, employee handbook etc.
  • Prepare any tech the employee needs: Company email, laptop, phone, headset, monitor etc.
  • Organise access to the building/ parking: Keycards, fobs, passwords.
  • Arrange a welcome lunch: And any other welcoming social events.
  • Arrange an onboarding meeting with HR: Alongside their new manager and teammates.
  • Organise their schedule for the first few days/ week: Help your new hire hit the ground running and relieve some uncertainty by helping them plan out their first week.
  • Establish with your existing employees what the role will be of the new employee. When someone new joins a business, existing employees may feel threatened in their role. So aim to clarify how they will fit into the team, and how projects will run.

The first day

The first day is all about introducing the new employee to their role, to the team and to the company. This means a mix of helping to start the process of becoming a member of the team, as well as helping them understand what they’ll be expected to do in their new role.

  • Have someone ready to welcome the new employee to the office.
  • Give the new employee a tour of the office and introduce them to the members of their team.
  • Conduct an onboarding meeting with their new manager, so they can introduce themselves and the employee knows who to talk to if they need help with anything.
  • Outline their role and responsibilities: Anything they need to know about their new job.
  • Give them some time to set up their laptop, sort out passwords, log into accounts etc.
  • Conduct a formal onboarding meeting that gives them an overview of company structure, holidays, workplace policies etc.

The first week

As the new employee settles into the new role and team, the targets and objectives you set in the first week are essential in setting them up for success in the first months.

  • Arrange and conduct your new employees first recurring 1:1 session with their manager.
  • Discuss and agree upon goals and objectives for your new employee to achieve during their first 3 months, 6 months, and year.
  • Discuss in-depth the accounts they will be working on, the projects they’ll be joining, and introduce them to any clients they need to meet.
  • Assign on-the-job training that was discussed in the hiring process or the employee will need to complete for their role.
  • Give them actual tasks to complete that will allow you to gauge their performance, and 
  • Provide some feedback on their initial work. Even if it’s small work, setting the tone for future feedback helps it feel less daunting.
  • Arrange the first casual company social. Drinks on Friday after work or a lunch with the team, to help ease the new employee into the team.

The first few months

Employee onboarding doesn’t end after the first few weeks. Because the first months on the job are essential to ensuring an employee hits their first year targets, finds success, and stays in their role for the long term.

  • Continue to have regular 1:1 meetings, although they can become less frequent: For example, moving from 1 a week to 1 a month.
  • Have an informal check in after 1 month and after 3 months, to make sure their role is progressing how they would like and that they’re happy.
  • Make sure that their on-the-job training is helping them settle into the role.
  • Ask for feedback on your onboarding process. While it’s not finished yet, it’s important to get feedback while it’s fresher in the employee’s mind, so you can improve your process.

A survey from BambooHR found that a third of employees have quit a job within the first 6 months of their employment. Making these first months crucial in employee retention.

The first year

Here at Herd, we would argue that the first year signals the end of the onboarding process.

This would indicate a gradual shift from focusing on the onboarding process where your focus is on helping them settle into the business and supporting them to perform optimally: To focusing on employee retention and employee wellbeing and ensuring they remain happy in their role.

Employee Onboarding FAQ

What is onboarding?

The onboarding process is the act of supporting your new employees joining the business to find success in their role, and to become a member of the team and company.

How long is the employee onboarding process?

The employee onboarding process varies from position to position. However we would say that a good onboarding process should start during the hiring process, and last between six months to a year after the employee has joined the business.

What is the role of HR in onboarding?

HR plays a crucial role in onboarding, by overseeing all of the official and required paperwork and documentation: From drafting the offer letter to ensuring all paperwork is signed and HR compliant when the new employee starts.

HR may even be responsible for initial welcoming and orientation of any new employees.

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