How To Design An Onboarding Process for New Hires (with Templates)

Your new hire onboarding process will impact the likelihood, timeline, and level of success for every new hire, so you want to get it right.

If a new hire starts their job with a task list and measurable goals, taking ownership, feeling part of the team, and understanding the company’s Operating System and Foundational Materials, then the new hire is much more likely to succeed quickly and significantly.

If a new hire joins the company and is unclear about what to do, who people are, what’s expected of them, and how the company works, then you’re setting them up for a long and difficult path to success.

Here are 9 tips for having a well-planned, well-executed, successful onboarding process, with templates to help.

1. Like everything you do, your onboarding process should have objectives to achieve and metrics to know you achieved them.

We won’t go into detail on why and how to set goals because we’ve already done that, but here are sample objectives and metrics for your onboarding process:

Objective: Do the legal and administrative tasks that have to be done.
Metrics: The completed tasks.

Objective: Educate the new hire, and give them the tools they need to succeed.
Metrics: Goals for scores in the new hire onboarding feedback survey (see point 8 below).

Objective: Make the new hire as productive as possible as fast as possible.
Metrics: New hire completed every task in their self-onboarding checklist by the deadlines. New hire completed one task for their job on their first day, as listed in their self-onboarding checklist (see point 5 below).

Objective: Maximize the likelihood, speed, and level of success of the new hire.
Metrics: Set goals for retention rates, performance review scores, and job satisfaction of new hires. That will give you something. But to truly measure your onboarding process, you’d need a control group to compare various versions of onboarding processes. That’s difficult to do. If you’re converting from a disorganized, incomplete, onboarding process to one that you believe achieves your goals, then you can compare those metrics before and after the change. And if you do that, please share the results!

2. Be patient and give the new hire time to learn, but besides the things they need to learn, treat them like every other employee.

No need to wait to start managing the new hire with your management system. Start 1-1s in their first week. Give them feedback as soon as you have it. Don’t compromise on your values or what you expect from people just because they’re new. Holding back feedback, or letting them make mistakes (unrelated to things they shouldn’t know yet, of course) that you wouldn’t let a current employee get away with doesn’t help them or you.

3. Conduct a mini, development-focused 30-day review.

Help new hires succeed by telling them how. Related to the previous point on managing them right away, also review them right away. It won’t surprise you to hear that if you tell someone what they’re doing right and wrong, they’ll do more right and less wrong.

But do it the right way. Have a “performance review” system that’s less focused on measuring the person and more focused on measuring the results and developing the person.

Here’s an explanation of that kind of review system, with templates.

That review system is better for all employees and even works for employees who have been there for only 30 days. A review system that’s more like the ones we’ve all been subjected to for years, where it’s a once-a-year report card that goes on our permanent records and will be held against us, might not create the environment you’re hoping for.

Here’s a template for a 30-Day Results and Development Review.

4. Have each new hire learn your company values by living them.

No better time to learn the company values than during onboarding. No better way to learn the company values than by living them.

Have your onboarding process demonstrate those values. 

If your company values include action and ownership, for example, then get the new hire taking action and ownership right away by getting them completing work tasks on day one and having them onboard themselves where possible (see point 5 below).

5. Let new hires be active participants in their onboarding process.

One way to get new hires taking action and ownership right away, and feeling an immediate sense of accomplishment, is to split the onboarding process into two parts, one for the internal team and one for the new hire to own. Below, you’ll find a template for the internal and self-onboarding checklists.

6. Project manage onboarding like any other project.

Put the internal onboarding checklist into your project management software. Have the new hire put their onboarding checklist into the project management software. Assign owners. Set deadlines. For all tasks in both checklists, have detailed documentation that will allow the new hire and team to complete the tasks quickly and efficiently.

This approach is good project management, but also demonstrates for the new hire how your company works, and that your company values project management, ownership, efficiency, and documentation.

7. Keep your current team informed and involved.

Obviously, the protagonist of the onboarding process is the new hire, but don’t forget about your current team. Involve them in the process. Make sure they know the new hire’s start date, job description, title, manager, and anything else valuable. Keep the team up-to-date on the new hire’s onboarding progress.

8. Ask for feedback from the new hire. 

As discussed above in point 1, to have a good onboarding process you need to set goals and measure success against them. One of the best ways to accomplish that for onboarding is to survey each new hire on the onboarding experience.

Each new hire should score the process on a scale of 1-10, and you should set targets for those scores. Include a request for qualitative feedback on what they liked or not and how to improve. Here’s a template for the new hire onboarding feedback form.

Additionally, one of the best times to get feedback on all parts of your company is when you have a new hire. That’s when the new hire notices all the differences between your company and their previous experiences. After they’ve been an employee for months, all the weirdness and differences become normal. So, ask new hires for feedback on everything else too.

9. If it’s not going to work out, take action as soon as you know.

Hiring is hard. You’re going to make mistakes. If you know you’ve made one then fix it quickly and let the new hire go. Don’t wait. It only gets harder for the manager, the new hire, and the team.

Here are the templates for the internal onboarding process checklist and self-onboarding process checklist.

And here are the templates in action:

Internal Onboarding Checklist

Self-Onboarding Checklist

Hope that was helpful.

Please share this resource with anyone who might find it valuable.

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