Employee Onboarding Orientation

4 quick tips for successful employee onboarding — even on a budget

6 min read
Tracy Ring

Average U.S. employers spend about $4,000 and 24 days to hire a new employee, according to Glassdoor. And that’s just for acquisition! Then there are the costs and resources involved in onboarding an employee. For example, it’s estimated that for a mid-level engineer making $110,000 per year, employee onboarding costs tally approximately $7,500.

Whatever the salary level for your organization, one thing is certain — hiring and onboarding is a serious investment of both time and capital.

Combine this with the fact that recent studies have found 40 percent of employees who leave their job within the first year say that it is due to poor training, and all signs point to the importance of employee onboarding.

The key to successful employee onboarding is to plan ahead.

Let’s explore a few strategies, as well as cost-friendly tips for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Related: Build your team — from hiring the best in-house talent to outsourcing 

1. Send digital employee onboarding and welcome kits before they start

No one enjoys filling out forms and reading documents as the first task at a new job. Prior to the first day, digitally send paperwork to new hires in a comprehensive welcome packet. The employee can then fill out forms on their own time, as well as compile any questions they might have. This will also give the new hire time to read through NDAs or codes of conduct and properly comprehend and digest information, away from the nerves of the first day.

Bonus: You aren't paying a new employee to read handbooks and fill out forms.

In your welcome packet include a "What to Expect" fact sheet detailing useful information for the employee’s first week regarding office culture and environment. Ask current staff for candid input and add a little levity, for example:

  • “About half our staff brings their lunch and half eats out. Here are a few food options that are in walking distance. … We have a strict no fish in the microwave rule; the team thanks you for abiding by this rule :-)”
  • “Our dress code is casual. The tech team celebrates Aloha Fridays by wearing tropical shirts. We ask that you wear business casual during client visits, which we will tell you about beforehand.”

This can be a living document that you continue to update for employee onboarding. You can even ask your new hire for feedback after her first week.

Employee Onboarding Meeting

Small business tip: If your new hire paperwork is manual, consider going digital. You can utilize the free version of Adobe Acrobat, which allows for digital signatures on PDFs, or programs like DocuSign (an industry standard), which starts at about $10 per month. If going digital is not attainable for your organization, you can still send a welcome email that outlines what paperwork the new hire will have to fill out on their first day, as well as any documents they should bring to do so, IE- IDs for I9, or bank account info for direct deposit. Include the ‘What to Expect’ section in your welcome email.

Related: 5 things to remember when you write business emails

2. Welcome them to the team with lunch and swag

Welcome activities and company swag are definitely dependent on your organization’s budget; however, any type of reception is a major part of employee onboarding and beneficial for new hires.

A first-day lunch is standard practice and allows other employees the opportunity to meet their new team member in a laid-back environment.

If you take an employee out to lunch, it’s also a good opportunity to give a tour of the neighborhood or campus. If your company already has swag or branded options (think: T-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, etc.) include those on your new hire’s workspace to welcome them to the team!

Small business tip: Even a simple sign on a desk or a gift card to a local cafe will show your new staff member that you’re excited for them to join the company — first impressions make a difference! if a company-hosted lunch is out of your budget, just ask your staff to plan on eating together with the new team member. This will still give your new hire time to get acquainted with the organization and team.

Related: The value of in-house employees 

3. Outline a schedule for their first week

Create a framework/schedule for the first week of employee onboarding to make sure training goes smoothly and stays on track. It doesn’t have to be incredibly detail-oriented. You might include:

  • An overall plan on how the week should flow
  • When they should train on certain systems
  • Schedule for tours
  • Days and times to attend seminars
  • When they will sit-in on meetings
  • When they will shadow other employees.

New employees will appreciate the structure and understand what the first few days have in store for them.

Small business tip: It is often difficult for small organizations to plan ahead for training, especially when they do not have an HR-specific team or staff member. However even coming up with a loosely structured schedule for a new hire will make for a more organized employee onboarding and training process.

Employee Onboarding Journal

4. Incorporate a buddy system

If your organization has the capacity, incorporate a buddy system — designate one staff member as the new employee’s go-to point of contact when navigating their first week(s). The buddy can be the new hire’s supervisor or another peer.

Codementor offers an employee onboarding practice of allowing junior developers (someone who has been there for about one year) to mentor and train new developers. This not only allows new hires to relate to someone who was recently in their shoes, but also promotes leadership skills among associate-level employees and tests the knowledge they gained in their first year on the job.

Small business tip: Even if you have a smaller staff with less time available, a new employee will always appreciate having a point of contact to ask for help. This might be as simple as making sure a senior-level employee is available and accommodating during the onboarding process.

Related: Proven tips for hiring a junior developer 

Bottom line: When it comes to employee onboarding, don’t be reactionary

Employee onboarding is a process that should be well planned and thought out, not done on the fly as you train a new employee. Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking, so be thoughtful to your new team member and help them feel as prepared as possible to take on the challenge of their new role. Effective employee onboarding will not only protect your company’s investment in the new hire, but create a happy, engaged and motivated team member, as well as significantly boost employee retention.