Motivating your workforce is important regardless of the state of the economy or other external forces at play. In a strong labor market, your employees have more choices and attrition is typically higher. In a weaker market, employees may suffer a loss of morale due to financial challenges or a perceived lack of opportunity. Despite the pendulum swing, a consistent focus on employee engagement is always worth your investment.

Onboarding is one process that ensures your talent feels connected and valued from the moment they accept a new role in your organization. The model we at Brighter Strategies use to depict employee hiring shows onboarding as a key component. Below are some onboarding best practices and trends that will help engage and assimilate your newest staff from day one.

Pictured: A man sitting at a desk with headphones on looking at a laptop.

Tie onboarding to recruitment.

Onboarding can begin before a new hire’s start date. According to Aberdeen Group, companies that use pre-boarding retain 81 percent of first-year hires. That’s why Brighter Strategies includes onboarding as part of its suggested hiring approach. Sending information about company policies for employees to review prior to their start date is one example of a pre-boarding best practice. As an extra step you may also consider sending a welcome gift such as company swag or a gift basket to your new hire’s home along with a card signed by the key members of her new work team.

Differentiate onboarding from orientation.

Many companies mistakenly use these terms interchangeably, not understanding how onboarding is different from orientation training in scope and substance. Orientation is typically conducted during a fixed amount of time, such as an employee’s first day or week, while onboarding best practice suggests a three-month to year-long process. Additionally, orientation covers employee and company procedures such as new hire paperwork, facility tours, and IT presentations; onboarding is a strategic process designed to integrate a new employee within the organization.

Prioritize company culture.

The ability of new employees to assimilate to organizational culture is the most effective outcome of onboarding. Design the onboarding process to include culture immersion activities. For example, connect new hires to employees in various departments to learn about culture norms and values from their peers. Invite employees to immediately participate in or take a leadership role at company-wide activities or events. Finally, ensure substantial organizational observation is part of the onboarding process so new talent has frontline cultural experiences. I recommend pairing the new employee with a peer buddy who can offer advice, answer questions, and help introduce him to the organization’s culture.

Involve senior leadership.

New employees must see that your organization cares about their success and development. What better way for leaders to show their investment in people than to connect with new talent? New hires should meet these leaders and other important stakeholders during the first few weeks of onboarding: their supervisor’s manager (or other relevant senior leader team member), HR staff, key internal and external stakeholders, and the company president or CEO.

Design for accessibility and sustainability.

Since onboarding is intended to last at least several months, design a blended process. For example, integrate in-person training sessions with pre- and post-reading, staff lunches, online communication via the company intranet, and even coaching or mentoring opportunities. Make it easy for employees to complete onboarding tasks on-demand or as-needed, and ensure the process is interesting and enjoyable. Finally, I strongly urge you to establish a method for evaluating the impact and success of your onboarding program so that improvements can be made for future hires.

For more information about how to engage your new hires through onboarding, contact Brighter Strategies for employee recruitment and development support.