5 Best Practices to Improve Your Employee Onboarding Program [Webinar Recap]

April 25, 2016

Category: Culture, Talent

Great onboarding programs champion company culture, while giving new hires the tools and resources to navigate their role. Moreover, companies are 82% more likely to retain talent when they take the time to educate employees.

On Thursday, April 21, I had a chance to talk onboarding best practices with Erika McGrath, VP of Human Resources at The Channel Company and Jake Morton, Director of Operations at Mercy for Animals. The topics ranged from company philosophy to ice breakers and got right down to the nuts and bolts of creating a new hire resource library. Here are some of the highlights from the discussion.

Want more? You can watch the full recording here.

Top Tips To Maximize The Impact of New Hire Onboarding

Connect With Remote Employees

During the webinar, we hosted a live chat for attendees to send in questions. The most common ask: How to onboard remote employees? With staff in 6 countries and across 5 time zones, Mercy for Animals has faced this challenge more than once. For onboarding, Jake recommended video conferencing to connect face-to-face.

“We do orientation with [remote employees] on a video screen via Google Hangouts—everyone is in the room, we have the new hire on a screen and there’s great audio. It allows [the new hire] to get connected into orientation and with the folks starting with them.” —Jake Morton, Mercy for Animals

Instilling your company culture is especially important with virtual workers. Connecting remote employees with peers in another work location can help bridge the physical gap.

Share Onboarding Ownership

We polled attendees to hear who is responsible for onboarding at their organization. From the 283 respondents, here’s what we learned:


At most small businesses, onboarding ownership is shared. Managers, executives and individual contributors are working together to provide new hires with the tools and education to hit the ground running. Looking for suggestions to maximize the team’s impact on new hire experience? I’d recommend:

  • HR/Recruiting: Initiate pre-boarding, sending out a warm company wide welcome and collecting feedback on the new hire experience.
  • Executives: Share the company mission and values with a focus on creating a sense of community.
  • Manager: Focus on day-to-day responsibilities, setting goals and assessing performance.

Create a Resource Library

For a new hire, day 1 is full of learning processes, meeting new people and digesting information. The questions come later on when training is put into practice.

To empower employees, Erika recommends having an easy-to-use resource library ready for when questions come up. This could be a robust learning management system, or as simple as an internal wiki.

If you’re creating new hire resources for the first time, Erika suggests:

 “Start small and create resources that can be easily updated with new information whenever it’s needed.” —Erika McGrath, The Channel Company

At The Channel Company, the library includes tactical information on how to complete day-to-day tasks, but also video interviews with executives on company values and history.

Related blog post: How much do hiring and onboarding cost?

Make It Fun and Memorable

When a new hire goes home, the first question their friends and family are going to ask is, “how was your first day?” The best way to guarantee a positive answer is to have made it a memorable day.

At The Channel Company, every new hire walks in to find a big bowl of their favorite candy waiting on their desk. Throughout the day, employees will come by, introduce themselves and take a piece of candy. Erika loves this light-hearted icebreaker because it’s a great conversation starter.

At Mercy for Animals, Jake saves the best for last. To wrap up Day 1, each new hire gets a branded water bottle, t-shirt and backpack. Giving new hires SWAG builds a sense of camaraderie and underscores that they’re officially part of the team.

Get Feedback

To ensure that your onboarding program is hitting the mark, reach out to new hires, managers and colleagues for feedback. There are several methods to collect the information:

  • Survey: Include a combination of rating, ranking and open ended questions.
  • Roundtable: Onboarding several people at once? Bring new hires together to discuss their experience.
  • 1:1: Go on a walk or meet for coffee to check in.

Make sure to show employees that their feedback is valued by putting it into action. If there’s a suggestion that isn’t going into play, let the employee know that their ideas are appreciated.


Maria is a Product Marketing Manager at Zenefits. She loves sharing the ins and outs of all things related to benefits, HR, and compliance.

Category: Culture, Talent

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