Onboarding is so much more than filling out forms. It’s the welcome wagon, the mentor, the office tour, the team. It’s what to wear, where to go, and what to do when you get there. Strategic onboarding takes things to the next level. It’s the experience you expect your talent to have and the extra push needed to speed talent’s time to value.
Strategic onboarding matters, not in a small way but in a very BIG way, to the business.
So, HR – let’s get strategic. The onboarding process is made up of four parts:
- Timing – When does it start?
- Delivery – Paper or no paper?
- Tactical – What are the must-haves?
- Fluff – How do you engage, and is it necessary?
TIMING. For new hires, onboarding officially starts the moment the candidate signs the offer letter or passes their background check, continues through cross-boarding, internal transfers and promotions, and then ends when the employee offboards and exits the organization.
Some employers choose to hold off on the process initially, then hit new hires with a stack of onboarding forms on the first day of their new role. Best-in-class employers with a strategic process, start sending materials and engaging new hires right at offer acceptance. This allows your just-hired to get a feel for expectations, culture, and the company itself before their first day – shortening time to productivity, reducing anxiety, and creating a better employee experience overall.
First rule of creating a strategic onboarding program: You can’t start too soon. Waiting is a wasted opportunity for engagement, productivity and revenue.
It’s a new world of work. Employees move from project to project, employer to employer, and contract to contract. If you want to attract, retain, develop, rehire, and obtain referrals from your ranks of talent, then you need to provide the experience that they expect – when they expect it.
That brings us to DELIVERY.
Do you FedEx your new hire a massive – and slightly terrifying – stack of papers to complete before their first day? Or do you invest in an automated onboarding solution that’s mobile-optimized, self-guided, and easy? That’s like asking if you want to get directions using your smartphone or using a janky old folding map. Moving to a paperless process reduces overhead costs and increases data accuracy for the company while allowing hires to interact with your organization whenever, wherever, and however works best for them.
Second rule of creating a strategic onboarding program: New hires expect a modern experience that’s consistent, engaging, digital and mobile. Use an automated solution to build that experience.
Now that you’re providing hires with a modern, mobile experience right after they accept the offer – what forms do you actually include in a strategic process? Unfortunately, there’s no super-secret mix of forms that’ll lead to instantaneous success. The tactical content required for onboarding changes for each organization depending on location, size, industry, and stakeholder needs.
TACTICAL content is the nitty-gritty, must-have requirements of employment. Think I-9, W-4, and other standard government or organizational forms hires need to complete to be considered “employed.”
So how do you find the balance of content that meets compliance requirements without bloating the process? We recommend you start with an inventory of forms you think are “required” for the organization and break it down from there. Get together with Legal: Which forms need to be created or updated to be compliant? Can you remove any forms? Then take a look at your other organizational forms. Which ones provide value to the hire? Can you condense or remove any forms to streamline your process without taking relevant information away?
The goal here is to remove the legal and organizational bloat to streamline the experience for hires and free up time and resources for other – more engaging – activities.
Third rule of creating a strategic onboarding program: Less is more. Keep the legalese, long policy forms, and data entry to a minimum. Only include what is absolutely necessary for compliance and the employee’s success.
Side note: If you’re using Click Boarding, your standard government forms are already covered. We’ve streamlined and simplified the Form I-9 and W-4 to increase speed of completion and accuracy. It’s already included in your package – just drag and drop the form into your process, set a due date, and add email reminders for the hire and HR. You can even create different process flows for different roles or locations – which will help streamline further.
Once you’ve got tactical ironed out, it’s time to layer in the “FLUFF“. Fluff is any action – automated or otherwise – that helps build relationships, entrench the hire in company culture, and foster early and continued engagement. This is where you confirm the dress code, provide directions to the office, make introductions to the team, assign a mentor, and so on.
Here’s the deal: while most people think of it as “fluff” this is not just “warm and fuzzy feel-good” content that can easily be ignored. If the powers at be in your organization are know to say things like “Happy hires are great, but is it really necessary in a strategic process?” the answer is: ABSOLUTELY.
“Great talent starts with great onboarding. It is the head-start that puts someone in a position to add value to the business in the shortest period of time. The knock-on effect of smart onboarding is that it shortens the time before they can be eligible for development, where new skills can be added and they can position themselves for promotion.” – James Ellis
Improved retention, deeper connection to employer brand, more qualified referrals, productive employees – talk about direct impact on your bottom line. In fact, it makes the case: a lacking onboarding process is bad for the business.
Fourth rule of creating a strategic onboarding program: Be human. New hires are excited, motivated and ready to engage – share their enthusiasm and show you care. They’ll thank you later through referrals and brand advocacy.
Now that we’ve made it to the end of the list, let’s review our high-level strategy.
- Timing. When does it start?
- NOW. That’s when they expect it, and that’s where you’ll see the highest return.
- Delivery. Paper or no paper?
- AUTOMATED AND MOBILE. It’s not 1997, Karen. Get hires the information they need in the way they expect it to be delivered.
- Tactical. What are the must haves?
- That depends on the company. But whatever they are, COVER THEM. And only them. If an onboarding step doesn’t add value to business or the new hire, leave it out.
- Fluff. How do you engage, and is it necessary?
- The best HR solutions allow HR to focus on people. Tips 1-3 are meant to free up your time for relationships, so build them. “Fluff” isn’t fluff: it’s the EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE you expect your talent to have, and it pays dividends.
Onboarding is the start of a new hire’s journey with your company. The experience they have before Day One and beyond directly impacts productivity, engagement, and brand loyalty. If you provide just the slightest upward tilt to their trajectory, you’ll see fantastic returns throughout the talent lifecycle. The best news? Strategic, modern onboarding is a win-win that’s easier than you think.