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Setting up new employees for long-term success

By Piyush Patel  bio

So you’ve finally found the perfect candidate to fill that role. You’ve spent endless hours reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, and now you’ve found a great person who is ready to join your team.

Now you need a plan on how to get them set up, trained, and assimilated into the company—a process known as onboarding.

While holding a basic orientation-day for new employees is a well-established HR practice, onboarding is a more thorough undertaking where new employees are socialized into a company’s culture, and oriented to their specific job tasks and work expectations. The primary goal is to help new hires quickly feel success and develop a sense of belonging within their new tribe.

Where I work, our onboarding process usually lasted several months.

Why put so much time into onboarding? Because onboarding programs can increase employee retention by 25%. You want to keep that great new hire for the long-term, right?

Here are some tried-and-true approaches that we used during our onboarding process, with great success:

Start with preboarding

A new hire’s first day should be filled with meaningful introductions, engagement, and basic learning. But this isn’t possible if you’re having new hires fill out tax forms and non-disclosures, or having them study a 20-page employee handbook. The majority of HR paperwork can be sent to the candidate as soon as they have accepted the job offer.

We send new employees a welcome box containing a friendly handwritten letter from their new manager, a bright-orange picture frame to use at their new desk, and some stylish company-branded apparel to wear on their first day. When done right, the preboarding packet should make new hires feel like they’ve already been accepted into the tribe when they arrive. That can be a very powerful thing.

Use tailored projects to train employees

One principle of adult learning theory, known as andragogy, states that adults learn best when new concepts are taught using real-world scenarios. This same theory also suggests that adults need the big-picture view of what they’re learning. They need to know how the small parts fit into the larger landscape. For this reason, it’s important that training be as relevant as possible to each employee.

A small-scale project is a great way for new hires to become familiar with their various roles and responsibilities. Train them on the first stage of the overall process, then give them time to apply the knowledge to their project. When they are ready to move onto the next stage of the process, train them on those steps, using their project as the example. Continue this gradual process until the small project has been completed. This may sound time-consuming, but in the long-run, it will actually save time and money training your new hire. He or she will learn the whole spectrum of their job, and gain first-hand experience of how they fit into the bigger company goal.

Be sure check in with the new hire on a regular basis and respond to any questions they have. Provide quick feedback on their initial work deliverables along the way. This will help set the parameters for success right out of the gate.

Carve out time for socializing and team-bonding

To feel a sense of belonging is an important psychological need for all of us. One of the greatest ways to build a sense of belonging is through shared experiences. Organizing team-specific lunches or after-work bonding activities are a great way to bring new and old employees together. The quicker an employee bonds with their co-workers, the quicker they’ll want to do great work.

At my company, we set up a Navigator Team to help new employees navigate their first month. This team was made up of four to five volunteers who would set up social activities designed to help the new employee bond with their co-workers. These could be group lunches, optional happy-hour gatherings at the local pub, or fun get-to-know-you games with others around the office.

By including social activities as part of your onboarding program, you’ll see much greater engagement from the new employee, as well as buy-in from the rest of their team, leading to higher levels of productivity and retention over the long term.

Set clear goals and objectives

According to one study by Allied HR IQ, only 39% of companies establish any goals or milestones for new hires. With no clear goals to meet and no path to success, it’s virtually impossible for a new hire to feel any sense of progress. Statistically, employees in this kind of scenario are much more likely to leave the company within their first year.

Be sure to set clear goal and performance objectives for your new hire’s first 30/60/90 days. Share a three-month road map for key projects they’ll be working on. Establish management expectations for their performance. Schedule regular 1:1 check-in meetings, and be sure to respond to any questions they have along the way.


A solid onboarding process is proven to have a huge impact on job satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty felt by new employees. Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

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