If you ever started a new job and felt like you were flying blind on day one (and beyond!) because you simply don’t know what you don’t know, you’re not alone. According to SHRM, a full 76% of HR professionals admit their company’s onboarding program just isn’t effective for employees. But now that you’re a business owner, that’s all changed, right? You hire a new employee, greet them at the door on day 1, and immediately start helping them find their way around. Or do you? Here’s the deal: if you’re not onboarding your new employees — particularly now as competition to get the right talent into your business is sky-high — you’re missing the boat because onboarding helps new employees get up to speed faster and, even more importantly, helps YOU retain the great people you’re hiring. And with the average cost of hiring a new employee ranging from an estimated $4K and 24 days to 200% of their salary and 4-8 months, when you’re hiring an executive, you’ll want to do whatever you can to ensure the high-flier who seemed like such a perfect fit during the interview has everything they need soar. The best way? Smart onboarding. What Is Onboarding? First things first: onboarding isn’t orientation. Yes, new hires need to know where the bathroom is, where completed files go, and how to track expenses. Onboarding, however, helps them understand your business, their job, and the institutional knowledge they’ll need to succeed. And it doesn’t happen in a single half-day session. “Finding the best candidates for positions in your organization is only part of building an effective team,” explains human resources expert Roy Maurer. “The process of onboarding new employees can be one of the most critical factors in ensuring recently hired talent will be productive, contented workers. It’s a comprehensive process involving management and other employees that can last up to 12 months.” Why Could Onboarding a New Hire Take Up to a Year? Depending on the job, a new employee may have a lot to learn. And the day-to-day might just be a part of it. For example, part of a sales role onboarding plan might be to take the new hire around to meet every client face to face. Conversely, part of a medical clinic worker onboarding plan might be to work them up to 12-hour shifts. Harvard Business Review refers to this process as an “onboarding journey,” which highlights the time and energy required to carry it out effectively. What Are the Benefits of Employee Onboarding for Small Business? Onboarding builds good habits. Informing employees about how processes work as well as background details about their role and others can help a new worker understand what works and what doesn’t and maybe even find opportunities to make improvements (remember, new employees are always “fresh eyes”). Plus, conveying this information upfront may also reduce the likelihood that a new worker will introduce a not-so-productive process from their previous job into your business. Onboarding shows employees they're valued. When an employer takes the time to teach a new employee, it can demonstrate how much employees are valued and may also help build a stronger connection between you, your team, and your new employee. It also shows how much you care about their individual success and team achievement. Onboarding reduces employee turnover. Concerned that a new employee might leave? Proper onboarding usually lowers employee turnover and leads to better productivity all around. In fact, organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. Must-Know Info for Your Employee Onboarding Program This is where things get tricky: no two jobs and no two companies will have an identical employee onboarding program. And if your team is large enough to have multiple managers and departments, the onboarding programs for each will be different. While you should work closely with your managers and HR professionals to help you craft the right program for each new team member you hire (and ask for feedback, too!), every employee onboarding program will benefit from the following: 1. Company Handbook or Employee Manual Is your employee handbook getting a little dusty? Not sure when you saw it last? Pretty sure you don’t even have one? Then it’s time to get to work: an employee guide should be required reading for every new – and existing – employee. Your employee handbook should take the tone and vibe of your business. So, a surf store’s onboarding plan will sound and read differently than a lighting store, but each will reflect the sensibilities of each business and model the way employees should think about the company and interact with customers. 2. Personalized Plan for Each Employee You’ll obviously have universal elements of an onboarding plan, but you should also customize it for the role and the individual. For example, an onboarding plan for a new sales associate may include setting individual targets and defining a territory based on where that associate feels most comfortable. At the same time, an onboarding plan for a graphic designer may include two weeks of training on your brand’s look and feel or on how to read between the lines of client brief. Not sure how to start? Check with existing employees: what do they wish they had known when they first started … or even last week? 3. Check-Ins and Feedback Whether your new employee works at the next desk over or thousands of miles away, it’s important to have a place where you can answer questions, provide encouragement, and show that you’re invested in their experience. Schedule time for new employees to meet with and talk to peers, too. 4. Breathing Room While it’s important to provide resources to new employees and be involved in their development, be careful not to go overboard. Resist the urge to smother them with training or documents or preferences, and give them space to explore and learn the nuances of the job in their own way. Adjusting Your Onboarding Process Your onboarding process should be stable but never stand still. It should evolve with the times, and with the demands, expectations, and world views of the people you’re looking to hire. The best ideas for improving your onboarding process will often come from your existing employees, since they understand the challenges of the job and probably have insight into where new employees may falter. The simple act of thinking about “what should they know” and sharing that information may also help long-term employees feel more confident in their own roles, too! Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice and is provided for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice on any particular matter.