Onboarding Cheat Sheet

The Official Onboarding Cheat Sheet

Chris Ronzio

July 23, 2020

The answers to every onboarding question you’ve ever asked, wondered, or stumbled to answer – now in one cheat sheet!

(No calculators or ball caps required.)

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of equipping new employees with the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed, both in their role and at the company.

When your new hire arrives on Day 1, they are scared. And they are trying to figure out where they fit into it all. But your employee onboarding process shouldn’t just welcome them to your company, it should make them gungho about what you do and pumped to be a part of it.

By the end of the onboarding process, your new hire should not only know what’s expected of them but be adding real value to your company as a whole.

But what does “onboarding” mean?

When someone is onboarding a new employee, they are:

  • Helping them get up to speed and confident in their new role
  • Making sure they feel like part of the team
  • Setting clear expectations around what they will be doing

In other words, onboarding means that you’re getting a new hire on board (see what we did there?) with what your company does and how they contribute to it all.

What is the onboarding process?

The onboarding process is every step your company takes to get your new hire up to speed. And it starts when your new hire signs their official paperwork and ends when they can do their job all on their own.

For most companies, the onboarding process includes lots of official paperwork, reading the training manuals, going through your employee onboarding software, job shadowing, maybe a few ice breaker games, and meeting everyone.

It’s a lot. And it can quickly become overwhelming!

But you can make sure that you, your onboarding team, and your new hire are all good by spreading out the pieces of the onboarding process.

For example, on Day 1, we like to stick to a high-level overview of the company and benefits, meeting some teammates, and a few fun activities to get to know each other. We save everything else for Day 2. ?

What are the 4 phases of onboarding?

Employee Onboarding vs. New Employee Orientation Timeline

The 4 phases of onboarding are (in order) the signing, new employee orientation, the actual onboarding (sometimes referred to as onboarding training), and the transition.

Phase 1: The Signing

As soon as your new hire accepts your extended offer, their onboarding process begins. This starts with them accepting the offer and signing any of the paperwork needed to legally get them on your team.

As soon as you get a verbal “yes” on your extended offer, send the candidate your next steps in an email, along with the documents they need to digitally sign. (We love HelloSign for this!)

Pro Tip: In your email, be sure to answer any questions your new hires could be asking! This includes when they should show up, who to ask for, and what they will be doing their first few days. (It will take some of the nerves out of a very nerve-wracking situation.)

Some companies will even sign paperwork in-person at the beginning of orientation on Day 1. That’s fine, too (as long as it gets done)! But if you go this route, be sure to still send a next steps email.

Employee Onboarding Email

Phase 2: New Employee Orientation

As soon as the papers (or digital onboarding forms) are signed, the orientation process begins. This is when you officially welcome your new hires to your company and share how excited they are for them to start. You can think of this as the first day of class when the teacher goes over the syllabus.

You spend the day getting to know each other and giving them a hint at what working for the company will be like. But you don’t just jump right into the work.

Phase 3: Onboarding Training

After the orientation process, when everyone is acquainted, you get into the onboarding training. This is when you share all your company’s how-tos and need-to-knows. And when you get them up to speed so they can contribute to the company.

Phase 4: Transition to Fully Productive

Your new hire went through all the big onboarding tasks (like signing paperwork, meeting everyone, and completing their onboarding training).

Now, it’s time to officially transition them out of onboarding and into their new role. And if your onboarding process was a success, your new hire should already be contributing to the company as a whole, and this transition should go seamlessly.

How long should onboarding last?

Depending on the company, this process is timed to take anywhere from a day to 2 years. But in most cases, a new hire is successfully onboarded in 6 months to a year. This depends primarily on how challenging the role is, how quickly your new hire learns, and the quality of your onboarding process.

But with a solid employee onboarding software, you can get your new hires up-to-speed and fully productive faster.

Why is onboarding important?

Onboarding is important to your company because if you have it down, you’re more likely to have a better company culture and retain top talent longer!

Seriously – it is the difference between engaging employees for the long haul and constantly reinvesting resources toward filling your roster.

Every time you hire someone, your company spends an average of $3k and a hundred hours on the onboarding process.

And those numbers don’t include the added costs if your onboarding process fails to bring your new hire fully up-to-speed or if they decide to go in another direction. When this happens, you’re back at square one, and building a winning roster becomes more expensive.

What is the best employee onboarding process?

The best employee onboarding processes balance the work of getting up to speed with the fun of your company culture.

But there are a few things that they all make sure to do, including:

  • Sign digital copies of the paperwork before Day 1 (like HelloSign and DocuSign)
  • Keep new hires in the loop on what’s happening and when they start
  • Have what they need ready to go on Day 1 (including all things hardware and software)
  • Onboard new hires in cohorts so they instantly feel like they’re part of things
  • Lean on a solid employee onboarding software (call us biased, but Trainual is the best available)
  • Plan plenty of awesome activities to break up the learning (we’ve done everything from hikes to team lunches that double as cooking classes)
  • Set clear expectations from Day 1 (employee scorecards and 30-60-90 goals work great for this)

Employee Scorecard

What happens during onboarding?

Short answer: A lot happens during onboarding. And we mean a lot!

Minimum – signing paperwork, keeping your new hires in the loop, setting up all things tech, taking them through your employee onboarding software, sharing their scorecards with them, and setting their 30-60-90 goals happens during onboarding. Plus, everything in between.

But before you freak out, remember that all this happens over weeks, if not months! Spreading it all out will keep you and your new hire from getting overwhelmed. And it will help get them up to speed faster. It’s a win-win!

What is a supervisor’s role in onboarding?

A supervisor’s role in onboarding is to show the new hires the ropes when they first start. And to make sure they get up to speed so they can do their role on their own.

For supervisors, your role is similar to how you teach someone to ride a bike. You make sure they have a bike, a helmet, and that they know how the breaks work. And you’re basically pushing them along the street as they pedal. Then, when they get the hang of it, you slowly let go.

Similarly, in the first few weeks of onboarding, a supervisor should take a more hands-on approach, walking them through each task. But as onboarding goes on, you slowly let them take control and do the work on their own.

What is the purpose of onboarding?

The purpose of onboarding is to get your new hires up to speed and fully productive. And while this experience should include a ton of fun activities, it should primarily be focused on learning about the company and the new hire’s place in it.

What is an onboarding experience?

An onboarding experience is every aspect of your employee onboarding. From signing all the legal paperwork to the little extras that make them feel warm and fuzzy to bringing them up to speed – and everything in between.

And if done right, your onboarding experience can make your new hires feel like they really belong and can succeed at your company. This can help you retain the top talent you just spent weeks – if not months – finding stick with your company longer.

The best way to do this is to make sure your company culture shines through. And the non-work-related activities you plan (seriously – don’t skip these) make all the difference.

How does orientation differ from onboarding?

When you hire someone new, orientation is the one-time step welcoming them to your company. Meanwhile, onboarding is the process of getting your new hire up to speed and fully productive in their role (part of which includes orientation).

We know – it can be confusing and easy to use orientation and onboarding interchangeably. But they are not the same thing.

We like to think of this as employee onboarding’s very own Ketchup-Condiment Debate. Meaning, while every ketchup is a condiment, not every condiment is ketchup. Similarly, orientation is part of the onboarding process, but it is not the whole onboarding process.

What is onboarding software?

Employee onboarding software is by far the best way to get your new hires up to speed. The best software even lowers your onboarding costs, increase your retention rate, and get new hires up to speed faster.

(And while Google Docs or your old training manual work might be free alternatives, they’re nowhere near as impactful!)

That’s because the key to a successful employee onboarding (and all the benefits that come with it) is consistency. If your company doesn’t have a standardized process, chances are good that the results are inconsistent.

But by documenting all your processes, policies, and procedures in one place, every new hire learns the same things the same way!

So, what should you expect from a top-notch employee onboarding software?

Bare minimum, that it:

  • Organizes all your business knowledge in one, centralized place
  • Allows you to assign content directly to new hires
  • Quickly gets new hires up to speed in their new role (and keeps them there)
  • Tests for both retention and understanding
  • Tracks who knows what so you can hold people accountable

What’s the best onboarding software?

World's Leading Employee Onboarding Software

Hands down – Trainual!

Trusted by over 50,000 users in 100+ countries, Trainual is the only employee onboarding software that allows you to document all of your tribal knowledge in one, searchable app. By seamlessly creating, editing, and rolling out content, your team stays aligned and accountable from anywhere.

You can even assign content directly to employees, track that they went through it, and test that they understood it all. That way, there is no question of who knows what – or if everyone is on the same page!

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