How Long Should the Employee Onboarding Process Take?

Proper onboarding can improve employee retention and boost engagement. Use this onboarding checklist as part of your employee retention strategy.

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How Long Should the Employee Onboarding Process Take?

New employees have a lot to navigate. They need to learn your company’s policies and procedures. They’re also getting integrated into your company culture and forming relationships at work. The onboarding process can ensure a smooth transition from a new employee to an engaged team member.

As we covered in our post on how to assess your company’s onboarding program, poorly managed onboarding doubles the chance of your employee leaving. Effective onboarding, however, can drastically increase employee retention.

A positive onboarding process keeps nearly 70% of employees working with a company for over 3 years. Our research on onboarding best practices also found companies with strong onboarding improve new hire retention by 82%.

How long should onboarding employees take, exactly? Learn how to create an onboarding checklist that works with other strategies for employee retention.

What is the ideal onboarding process?

First off, let’s establish that onboarding, in general, matters. As Harvard Business Review points out, the onboarding process could significantly impact employee retention strategies. That’s because:

  • Nearly 1/3 of new hires start job searching within their first 6 months on a new job
  • Nearly 1/4 (23%) of new hires quit before they’ve been with a company for a year
  • It takes an average of 8 months for a new hire to reach full productivity

Plus, Gallup reports, that employee turnover can be as high as 50% during the first 18 months of employment. Onboarding throughout the first year or even up to the first 18 months helps companies develop relationships with new hires that may motivate them to stay with the company.

Yet, only 12% of employees strongly agree their employer does a great job onboarding new hires. Gallup analytics show nearly 1 in 5 employees say their onboarding experience was poor or that they didn’t receive any formal onboarding at all.

A consistent, yet personalized, approach can help deliver better onboarding results. Your business can craft an onboarding experience for 12 to 18 months that provides specific information at specified times. This can help keep employees engaged during onboarding and beyond.

only 12% of employees strongly agree their employer does a great job onboarding new hires.

What should be included in an employee onboarding?

No matter what kind of company you have, and in whatever industry you operate in, you should always include certain elements in an employee onboarding process. These include:

Hiring paperwork completion

This includes filling out paperwork for things like health insurance, an onboarding essential. Get employees set up for other benefits, like a 401(k) plan and direct deposit. Make sure they have access to a welcome packet and an employee handbook as soon as they’re hired.

Workspace checklist and training

Onboarding should include training on how to use work-specific technology. Point new hires to an online “new hire resource library,” where they can access articles, webinars, and other training media. During the onboarding process, you might have new hires read or watch specific material at certain times.

Office tour

Show the new hire where they can locate common areas, like bathrooms and kitchens. Explain where they can find certain departments and teams.

Company introduction

A company introduction should include meet-and-greets with the new hire’s manager, mentor, and teammates. It should also feature a new hire’s introduction on internal communication channels and company social media channels.

Some companies have a “buddy system,” where they pair a new hire with an established employee during onboarding. The new hire can shadow the employee, check in with them about their progress, and connect with them outside the office, like during team lunches.

Employee development plan

top reason why United States workers quit in 2021 was a lack of opportunity for advancement.

Have the new hire’s manager collaborate with the employee on what their professional goals are and how they might achieve certain milestones during their careers with your company. During onboarding, explain all the potential areas where an employee can contribute. Learn about an employee’s strengths so that they can work on projects where they can provide meaningful benefits.

A March 2022 study by Pew Research Center found a top reason why United States workers quit in 2021 was a lack of opportunity for advancement. The study found that 33% cited this as a major reason, while another 30% said it was a minor reason. Throughout the onboarding process, continue to reinforce how a new hire can grow with your company over time.

Learning and volunteer opportunities

Speaking of employee development, be sure to use onboarding to teach employees more about the company’s history, values, philanthropy, and leadership. This can help strengthen the connection a new hire feels to the company culture.

Highlight any employee programs that provide additional value. These could be a mentorship program or a lunch-and-learn program. If your business has volunteer opportunities or supports specific nonprofit organizations, educate new hires about these, too.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

How to evaluate your onboarding process’ effectiveness

Get input from your current employees as you evolve your onboarding process. Ask questions like:

  • What do you wish had been included?
  • As a new hire, what did you want to learn?
  • What could have made your experience better?

Some employees will prefer highly structured onboarding that provides a clear timeline and expectations. Others will crave flexibility and the ability to customize their own program.

Gather feedback from your employees to find the right balance. Even a flexible onboarding process that’s customized for each type of role should still have an outline so new hires know what to expect along the way.

Make managers a prominent part of employee onboarding. Be sure they frequently check in with their employees about how the onboarding process is going and what improvements to make. Aim for check-ins every 30 days during onboarding to continue to show you’re invested in employee feedback.

Continually update your onboarding process as your operations develop. As work has become more remote, many of your onboarding tasks may go virtual, as well.

Whatever changes you make to onboarding, make sure to track key performance indicators such as:

  • Employee engagement over time
  • New hire satisfaction
  • Retention
  • Time to productivity
  • Training completion rates
  • Voluntary and involuntary employee turnover

Continue to get feedback from employees on what’s working for them, what’s not, and what your company can do better. By shifting onboarding to a people ops perspective, you can learn how to better use onboarding to engage your workforce.

Download our free onboarding checklist

New hire onboarding matters to both employees and your business employee retention strategies.

To ensure you’re creating an onboarding process that works, download our free onboarding checklist.

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