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What is Good Onboarding?


My work at Edify centers around how to improve onboarding programs to help companies succeed.

I’ve seen through experience how thoughtful, strategic onboarding helps companies retain employees and reach new levels of success.

The key to onboarding is to help the people of a company to thrive.

People produce their best quality work when they are happy and supported in their workplace, and good onboarding essential to nurturing a positive employee-company relationship.

But what exactly is good onboarding?

Here’s the definition we follow at Edify:

The best onboarding programs ensure that everyone involved in the process is having an experience that is positive, useful and usable.

There are two key parts to this definition:

1 — Good onboarding programs support everyone who plays a role in bringing on a new employee, not just the new hire.

So a good onboarding structure will consider:

  • The folks in HR and administration
  • The IT professionals setting up the new hire’s tech
  • The managers guiding the new hire’s experience
  • The team that will work directly with the new hire
  • And of course –– the new hire!

That’s at least five different groups that are directly involved in the onboarding of one new employee.

A good onboarding plan will understand the needs of each group and also take into account how they work together.

If that sounds excessive, consider how each of those groups interacts with your new hire in the early stages of their employment. Those interactions will influence how the new hire perceives their new workplace and can impact how they feel about the job overall.

Considering all of the groups involved in onboarding a new hire is essential to retaining that employee for the long term.

2–Good onboarding programs provide useful AND usable experiences.

The important distinction here is that useful and usable are not the same thing.

Information from the onboarding process can be useful or interesting…but is it usable? Will it help the new hire gain a deeper understanding of their role, and provide practical knowledge to support their work?

These are the types of questions we ask when building high-quality onboarding systems.

There are of course some things that must be included in every onboarding program, for example, a meeting with HR to go over benefits.

But the best onboarding programs make a point to go beyond the basics and tailor their onboarding program to each new hire’s needs.

If you’re not sure where to start discerning between what is essential and what is useful, but not usable, information, go right to the source.

Ask your most recent new hires about their onboarding experiences. Do they have feedback about what was helpful and what wasn’t? What information or processes do they wish had been included in their first introduction to their new role?

Take a step back to look at your onboarding program objectively, and it will reveal what needs to be improved, and what’s already working.

Whether you’re building a new onboarding program from scratch or updating an existing program, I highly recommend taking this holistic approach.

The experiences your new hire has in their first days at your company — and for as many as the first 90 days — can heavily influence how long they stay with the company, and how productive they are in their role.

The extra investment in your onboarding program and supporting those involved will make all the difference.

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