How to Breathe New Life into Your Formal Onboarding Process A formal process shows new hires that the company is prepared and excited to help them grow.

By Andre Lavoie

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


There are two obvious ways to approach onboarding: by using a formal process or an informal process. However, each of these strategies sends a distinct message to the new hire, so it's important to understand the differences between them.

Related: Here's What Happens When You Improve Your Onboarding Process

On one hand, informal onboarding is unstructured. These trendy processes are too loose, leaving new hires to fend for themselves while they learn the ropes, without enough support or direction. Informal onboarding doesn't consider their needs and creates a "sink-or-swim" mentality.

On the other hand, a formal process is structured and efficient, and shows new hires how the company is prepared and excited to help them grow. It recognizes their ongoing progress and delivers an ordered method of support to them.

It's time to go back to the basics of formal onboarding. It's time to breathe new life into the processes that are still the most effective and efficient way to get new employees what they need, when they need it.

Let's take a look at each aspect of the new-hire process and explore how to adopt formal onboarding in new and exciting ways:

New-hire paperwork

Fuel new employees' enthusiasm by getting the dreaded paperwork out of the way before their first day. Send it to them electronically after they sign the offer letter, with clear directions on how to properly complete it.

Then, warm them up to the culture with a fun welcome video that includes personal comments from current employees. It should include a virtual tour of the workplace, as well.

Related: Why Everyone Hates Onboarding (and How to Make Everyone Love It)

Also, provide a "culture at a glance" document that gets them acquainted with the environment and shows them whom they will be engaging with. This should include a map that shows where they need to report on day one, a directory of employees they will be meeting and some fun facts about the company and each teammate.

The main goal at this stage in the process is getting the boring paperwork out of the way and fueling new hires' excitement. They will appreciate the efforts taken to make them feel prepared and welcomed, but most importantly, they will be eager to dive into their first day.

Day one

When companies adopt an informal process, new hires are often left waiting for IT to set them up on their first day. They waste time sitting at their empty workstation as their computers are set up and software is installed or updated.

Formal onboarding looks a lot different. Workstations are already set up, with accounts and logins provided. Not only is software installed, but a buddy should be assigned to guide each of them through the program on their first day.

Their desk area is also clean, organized and stocked with basic supplies so new hires can settle in right away and personalize their desks as their own. Providing a welcome gift also shows them that personalizing their workstation is encouraged; a gift will help them acclimate to the office environment faster.

What to get? Research their interests on social media, then tailor their gift to that. For example, if they like the outdoors, hang wall art in their work area that features nature. Help them feel at home in their new work environment.

If possible, give the new hire options for where to set up. This person might prefer to be closer to the windows or in a corner area. Make their first day feel as personalized as possible.

A warm welcome

Twitter knows how to welcome employees. Each new hire at the company receives a shirt and a bottle of wine. New hires also have breakfast with the CEO, then tour the facility. To engage them with senior leadership on a regular basis, the company hosts monthly happy hours.

Instead of making your new hires feel awkward and isolated at their workstation, show them around and host a "new-hire celebration' that involves team-building and ice-breaking games. For example, host a "day one" talent show, where everyone reveals a special skill or talent and demonstrates it. Assign new hires a social scavenger hunt, where they complete activities in the workplace that help them meet their colleagues and learn more about the company culture.

Also, encourage leadership to take them out for a surprise lunch or attend a fun event, like a baseball game or a brewery tour in the first 30 days.

These actions demonstrate that talent is more than just an asset -- they're joining a family. Furthermore, it tells them that the company wants to make them comfortable and get them up to speed as quickly as possible.

Training action plan

Informal onboarding sucks the fun out of learning and leaves goals loosely defined. On the contrary, new hires don't want to sit through countless hours of videos and lectures while reading through the employee handbook -- they want to hit the ground running.

The truth is, most employees crave learning opportunities. In fact, as a Learnkit 2015 report found, 89 percent of employees feel it is important that their employers support their learning and development.

It's best to stick to the structure of formal onboarding. Define what success looks like for new hires, with clear targets at 30, 60 and 90 days.

Don't just distribute packets of papers and make them sit through a presentation. Instead, engage them in interactive educational materials that allow them to work closely with their peers and build relationships in the process.

Also, give new hires access to specific mentors. For example, Buffer assigns each new hire three "buddies"' -- a Leader Buddy, a Role Buddy and a Culture Buddy. These people guide the new hires through their six week "bootcamp" onboarding process.

Ultimately, the new hire and onboarding process should be well-structured and tailored toward getting new employees the information and resources they need to succeed. By following a formal process and adding some excitement to it, employers are better equipped at retaining top talent and helping them reach their potential sooner.

Related: 4 Reasons Technology Is the Future of Onboarding

More importantly, new hires see that the organization is serious about helping them be their best from the get-go and that the company is invested in employee development for the long term.

Wavy Line
Andre Lavoie

Entrepreneur; CEO and Co-Founder, ClearCompany

Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the talent-management solution that helps companies identify, hire and retain more A players. You can connect with him and the ClearCompany team on Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter.


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