7 Foolproof Ways To Improve Your Onboarding Process Today

There are massive, gaping flaws in the ways most companies go about onboarding – and the proof is in the latest research.

🚩 Nearly two-thirds of employees found their onboarding experience to be stressful 

🚩 Only half of all new hires said they felt productive and capable of doing their jobs

🚩 20% of new employees felt they’d been left isolated or alone during their onboarding

“But so many people said they loved our onboarding in the survey we sent out.” We hear you saying. 

The cause? Vanity metrics. And worse still, vanity metrics collected at the wrong time.

How are you going to work out if onboarding sets people up to perform in a role if that feedback stops before they’ve done the role?

You can’t! And this is actually one of the seven ways you can make positive changes today. If that doesn’t inspire (or scare) you to read on, what will…

1. Build better feedback cycles

Now that you’re three months into the job, do you feel your onboarding set you up for success?

If so, which parts and how?

If not, what was missing and why?

It’s not like asking people how happy they were on a scale of one to 10 is useless, it’s just that this is much more useful. You can action this, today. 

Beyond continuing the feedback collection into the role, consider the milestones when it might be worth asking for it.

For example, if sales reps start leading their own calls in week four, maybe week eight is a good time to ask questions about how well their onboarding and early weeks set them up for those conversations.

Better yet, see if you can loop in some of their performance data alongside anecdotal evidence to build a well-rounded picture.

2. Harness the power of internal influencers and experts

In a nutshell, onboarding is there to do two things: empower people to do the role well and connect them to the company mission and culture.

And there will be people internally who give you the best chance of pulling these off for each new employee.

They are your internal influencers, and your job is to facilitate connections with them.

How do I find influencers?

Remember, leaders and influencers are anyone people want to follow! Unless people with senior management titles are really the best people to give a new employee the information they need, there is no reason they should just be doing a tour of the top level.

A product marketing manager can potentially offer more positioning wisdom to new sales reps than the head of marketing.

A customer support rep might have more insights into user pain points than the person leading the team – purely because of the nature of their role.

Performance data (again) and stories from colleagues are great sign posts. Who racks up the best numbers? Who do people turn to internally when they face a problem? Who’s the social secretary and therefore a beacon of culture?

A great way to connect new hires to these people is through buddying and mentoring programs that tie into the onboarding process. Your internal influencers and experts are likely also the people acting as mentors!

3. Create situations where people are encouraged to fail

Yes, we want people to feel comfortable and confident at the end of onboarding, but not at the expense of them being competent in their roles.

That’s why we need to push people, create situations where they might ‘fail’ and then understand where they truly need our help.

Our onboarding process should create situations that feel like the real thing so we can say, if this is where you struggled in the practice environment, we need to give you more help with that before you do the real thing. 

Let’s say we’ve got customer-facing employees, and we know the goalposts are likely to shift during the job. In our practice environments, we could change the timing of the call or push back on certain ideas to ensure it feels like the real thing.

4. Hold a purpose session during onboarding

More than half of employees said the pandemic caused them to question the purpose of what they do. Meaning that employees want to do meaningful work more than at any other point in history.

How many companies are taking the time to truly explain their mission, values and purpose during onboarding, really?

It’s a quick win and a no-brainer. If people want to do meaningful things, help them understand what that means at your company.

Fiona Morgan, Director of Purpose at SailGP, explained how she uses Purpose Inductions with new employees every single month on a recent episode of HowNow’s L&D Disrupt Live podcast.

“I think it shows your commitment. You have this discussion and talk about intent: why you’ve done it, what you’re doing well and then you kind of say, ‘Go forth, you are all now purpose ambassadors…”

“Most sustainability teams should be able to do that! A monthly or quarterly workshop for new starters where you present your strategy and have an open chat. That would be a good start, even if you did that before training.”

5. Set milestones that allow you to deliver relevant content at the right times

Most of us have been there, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information coming our way during onboarding. Which is typically a symptom of two things:

  • A failure to consider what will be relevant to that employee
  • Not thinking about when something will be relevant to a new employee

In other words, we’re not asking two simple questions: Is this relevant to that person? If yes, do they need to know it now?

But how can we work out what is and isn’t relevant? 

The magic lies in understanding the key tasks that person needs to complete, what skills and knowledge are needed to complete them and how we can structure onboarding to deliver them.

How can I establish relevant milestones and goals during onboarding?

Let’s take a new sales rep as an example. For them, the key milestones might be outreach and cold prospecting, followed by holding a kick-off call and then handing over to a more senior colleague.

These happen in order, making it easy to understand what’s relevant and when.

Anything to do with the kick-off call or handover is pretty irrelevant until they’ve nailed that outreach and prospecting.

Why? Because there is nobody to kick-off with (in the good way) or hand over until they’re driving people into the pipeline.

If you’re in the onboarding team, congratulations – you can now work smarter, not harder. The only question you have to answer is: How do we prepare this person to become proficient at outreach in the desired timeframe?

6. Provide consistent experiences for the hybrid world

Whether people are onboarding remotely or in person, they’re just crying out for consistency.

Adding a remote employee to an in-person meeting via a video call is not the same as building a meeting to work for everyone from scratch.

For example, the in-person meeting might involve a real-time presentation that it’s tricky for remote employees to engage in. But a hybrid onboarding session might mean sending the deck to everyone ahead of time and using that meeting time to discuss the content together.

The more you can create self-service, on-demand learning that’s accessible in one place when people need it, the more you’re empowering remote employees. You’re removing the variables and barriers that create varying experiences.

And remember, adding virtual mentoring and buddying to your onboarding program ticks multiple boxes at once. Cater to hybrid teams, connect people to influencers and ensure consistent, timely learning.

7. Learn from the best, even if they’re in a different industry

Would you consider Intercom a similar company to yours? Possibly not, but there’s lots you can learn from them on the onboarding front.

Such as building every onboarding experience around four key pillars to drive that consistency we spoke about. These are: core business learnings, skills and culture, support elements, and social and belonging.

This gives every employee an understanding of the company, its culture, and mission, leaving you to sprinkle in the job-specific stuff we discussed.

Whether it’s sending a party in a box to their door like they do at Happy Money or converting in-person full-day sessions into 90-minute modules people can find online and on-demand at Publicis Sapient, you should always be looking for onboarding inspiration outside your circle.

Then you can test it on a small scale and see if it fits! Get a detailed breakdown for all of these examples and more in HowNow’s employee onboarding guide for fast-growing companies.


Upgrade Your Employee Onboarding Experience With Mentoring

Key Learnings: 

  1. By setting up a mentoring program for employee onboarding you can: nip employee churn in the bud; reduce time to competency for new hires; and improve employee engagement.
  2. Mentoring throughout the employee onboarding process can help make your organisation more inclusive.
  3. Mentors benefit too from wider networks and perspectives, as well as the opportunity to positively impact company culture.

We know the feeling; your fantastic new employee has just signed their contract. Time to sit back and relax, right?

Well… not quite. You might think the hard part’s over but, actually, this is just the beginning. The first 6 months of any new job can determine the success of your hire in the long run. As part of your ongoing talent retention strategy, companies should be focusing not just on hiring but on employee onboarding.

Studies have shown that organisations with a formal employee onboarding program experience 50% better new hire retention than those without. On top of that, those that receive effective onboarding are 18 times more likely to feel committed to the organisation. This is for good reason, the onboarding process is a crucial step in getting your new hire up to speed and showing them what your company culture is really like.

So, how do you improve your employee onboarding? Well, that’s where mentoring can help.

Find out more about embedding mentoring in your HR initiatives with Guider.

How is mentoring used to improve onboarding?

Mentoring is used to improve employee onboarding by matching up new hires with experienced, trusted team members to act as mentors throughout the first 6 months in their new role. Onboarding mentoring schemes can last as long as your onboarding process does and feed into other existing mentoring programs.

Similar to a buddying system, the goal is to help new hires get up to speed with company culture and ways of working. Through providing mentoring for onboarding, you can accelerate the learning and growth of new hires from the start of their journey. The mentor will also take pressure off line managers and create wider networks in the business.

There are many benefits to introducing mentoring early on in your employee journey. The best part is, mentoring can support remote onboarding too through virtual mentoring. Below we break down some of the top problems organisations face when onboarding new hires and how mentoring can help:

Nip employee churn in the bud

On average, a third of new hires leave within the first 6 months of starting a new role and the cost of re-hiring can be 1.5 or even 2 times the person’s salary. This makes employee churn a costly problem!

The good news is that 69% of employees are more likely to stay with their company for 3 years if they had a positive onboarding experience. Mentoring helps new talent to integrate faster, learn more and see that the company cares about their wellbeing and progression. This leads to better retention, money saved and fewer headaches for your HR team.

Reduce time to competency

At Google, new hires paired with a mentor became fully effective 25% faster than those without. Mentors don’t just teach you how to do your job but how to navigate the wider working culture.

Getting your people up to speed on everything from the software you use to the unspoken rules of the office, will get them to the point of full efficacy faster. Meaning that you’ll benefit from greater productivity earlier on.

Improve employee engagement

Employee engagement is a key factor in retaining talent long-term. Mentoring builds relationships and trust across teams, creating more empathetic workplace cultures and ultimately, more engaged employees.

When your people feel seen, heard and valued at work, they are more likely to stay engaged in their work and company culture. The majority of those with mentors will also go on to become mentors themselves, proving the high levels of engagement that mentoring has.

Find out more about increasing employee engagement in our guide.

How does mentoring improve onboarding?

Mentoring is all about harnessing the power of human connections for learning and development. Humans are social beings and workplace mentoring is a fantastic way to build trusting relationships that help us to feel connected to one another.

By introducing mentoring for onboarding, both mentor and mentee are given a safe space to learn and grow together. This sets up a culture of mentoring and social learning from the start of the employee experience that will last way beyond the onboarding process.

A well-structured onboarding mentoring program can…

  • Make people feel valued
  • Get them up to speed
  • Help them feel part of the team
  • Show your culture in action

Remember: Mentors benefit too!
The best part of using mentoring for onboarding is that mentors benefit too. They can impart wisdom and feel that they are actively participating in creating a positive workplace culture, as well as gaining fresh ideas from new employees and a wider perspective.

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Can mentoring make onboarding more inclusive?

Absolutely! A key factor in any successful employee onboarding program is making sure you’re creating an inclusive environment for new hires. By setting every employee up for success regardless of their background, they are more likely to feel connected to your organisation because they have a sense of belonging there.

There are many ways that incorporating onboarding mentoring into your process can lead to greater inclusivity. Below we highlight 3 of the top ways that mentoring makes onboarding more inclusive:

Widening networks

Onboarding mentoring helps new hires widen their networks in the business from the start. An important factor in inclusion is seeing role models around you and finding allies within the business. Through mentoring, you can connect new hires with a community from the get-go.

You can also run events as part of your mentoring program and create a cohort of new hires and mentors to maximise the opportunity for networking within the business and to build a community that your employees will want to be a part of.

Improving cultural competency

Through mentoring, both mentors and mentees can improve cultural competency. This is the ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures different to your own.

Through exposure to new perspectives, we can gain insight into how others think and what their values are. This helps foster an understanding and inclusive environment. Introducing mentoring in onboarding means that new hires will be ingratiated into a more inclusive company culture. It will also mean your culture grows with every new hire.

Building equality

Through incorporating a structured system for mentoring in your employee onboarding process, you can give all new hires the same opportunity to connect with and learn from their peers. Mentors will often become champions of their mentees later on.

You’ll boost the chances of your new hire integrating and thriving by matching them up with the right mentors from the get-go. And as mentoring can happen virtually, you can connect and support your people from wherever they’re based through remote onboarding.

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How do I set up employee mentoring for onboarding?

There are several factors to consider in planning a successful mentoring program to improve employee onboarding. With some careful planning, you can ensure that your mentoring program works hard to support your onboarding efforts.

1. Remember pre-boarding

Pre-boarding is the word for that in-between stage when your new hire has signed their contract but hasn’t yet started. This is the time to focus on building excitement and showing your new hire what your company culture is all about.

Now’s the time to introduce your onboarding mentoring program. Whether you put mentors and mentees in touch in this phase or simply let them know that this support will be provided, you can build excitement for your mentoring program and their new role.

2. Start matching mentors and mentees

The matching phase is important in mentoring for onboarding. It’s a good idea to build a pool of trusted mentors to draw from so that you know new hires are being connected with the right people.

The goal of the mentor is to provide additional support outside of line management, so make sure that mentors have enough time and experience to be able to support with a range of topics and skill development. With a lot of information to retain; a mentor that’s been through the process can keep new hires engaged, show that they are valued and help them to feel included. 

3. Create a cohort 

Bringing together your new hires and mentors in a cohort is a great way to not only maximise the networking opportunity of mentoring but to help people share stories and advice. Bring your cohort together for events and encourage them to share experiences.

When people feel a part of a community, they are more likely to feel supported, know where to go for help and integrate more quickly into their new organisation. 

4. Check-in regularly

Employee onboarding is not an overnight process, in fact, we often forget how long it can take to fully learn a new role. Factoring strategic check-in points with your mentors and mentees will help you to gauge how well your program is working and identify any areas of improvement.

Planning surveys at the 1, 3 and 6-month mark will help you to keep your program on track and ensure that new hires are engaging in their new role.

5. Sign-post onwards

Mentoring has benefits way beyond employee onboarding. Make sure you sign-post your cohort to your wider company mentoring programs so that they can keep benefiting from mentoring throughout their time at the company.

All mentoring programs will help improve employee engagement, retention and inclusion. So, don’t forget to plan ahead and keep your new hires engaged in mentoring – you’ll thank yourself in the long run!

Using these steps, you can leverage the expertise of your existing employees and improve the experience of new hires through mentoring. On top of this, mentoring supports an inclusive culture, so why not set new hires up right?

Find out more about starting a mentoring program for employee onboarding by talking to our team today!