Six Tips For Building An Effective Onboarding Plan

December 21, 2022
June 26, 2023
Employee Onboarding

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way most companies do onboarding!

How do we know? We read the latest reports, and the numbers weren’t pretty. According to Cezanne HR:

🚩 Nearly two-thirds of employees found their onboarding experience to be stressful!

🚩 Only half of all new hires said they felt productive and capable of doing their jobs.

🚩 20% of new employees felt they’d been left isolated or alone during their onboarding.

And there are common pitfalls that cause this! Information overload, unstructured process, not being connected with the right people…

So, without wittering on, let’s get into six tangible tips for building an effective onboarding plan – the type of advice that you can take away and apply today.

1. Understand the problems at hand and jobs to be done

Bonus stat, over a fifth of new hires said their onboarding made them question their choice in jobs.

And this is because there’s typically a lack of clarity, not only in the job description but of what the job entails.

Think about two things:

  • The problems and challenges that led you to make the hire.
  • The jobs that need to be done.

Use that to build a job description that’s reflective of these, but also to set up an onboarding plan that gives them the skills and knowledge to tackle them.

Quick example, let’s say you’re hiring new sales reps because you’re currently not creating enough pipeline to meet targets. Prospect outreach and social selling could be key parts of your job description and onboarding process. Yes, other stuff will follow that, but we can set that rep up to build those skills first and foremost.

2. Set milestones that allow you to deliver relevant content at relevant times

Let’s pick that back up with our sales rep example. What are the key tasks they need to complete, and how can we structure onboarding to build those skills?

Well, in this case, it would be things like: outreach and cold prospecting, then it might be holding a kick-off call and then handover to a more senior colleague.

Those are milestones we can set and tasks we can build up to through the delivery of the right knowledge and low-pressure practice scenarios.

If you’re a first-time sales rep, a kick-off call with a difficult prospect is not the time you want to be applying what you learned in theory.

3. Push people, recreate real job scenarios and show them it’s okay to fail

Now, when you are building those practice scenarios, you need to remember one thing.

Yes, we want people to be confident, but we want them to be competent – so it should feel like the real thing, not an easy ride.

When AND Digital, winners of Onboarding Programme of the Year at the 2022 Learning Awards, joined us on L&D Disrupt Live, they explained how they approach this.

They intentionally move goal posts and add obstacles so that practice tasks feel like the real thing:

“That’s the most fun part… we’ll encourage people to be a cheeky product owner or not very available to recreate client interactions. ‘Can I put in a meeting?’, ‘Well, I’m not available until Wednesday’ – short little responses to test them.

“We want to push people outside their comfort zone… So when it comes to particular roles, we might ask for people who’ve never done a Scrum Master role before. It means you’ve got people who are less experienced mixing with people who are more experienced.” – Daragh Gillen, Europe Academy and Onboarding Lead.

4. Leverage your brand

Another great tip we picked up from Harriet and Daragh at And Digital was to use your brand in the onboarding process! This can not only make the experience more enjoyable, it can connect people to the culture sooner.

“One of the things we do with our brand specifically is create a visible, tangible community. Even in the language we use… Every person who joins our company is an ANDi… we have AND titles, ANDiversaries. Our inductions are actually called ANDuctions.

“We have this semantic field around what it is to be in our company, that really makes you feel like you can be part of it quite quickly.” – Harriet Perks, London Academy and Onboarding Lead.

5. Tap into your external experts

This links back to steps one and two. If there are jobs to be done or challenges to overcome as part of a new employee’s role, it’s worth thinking about internal experts who’ve tackled them before.

Think of our sales rep again, there will undoubtedly be people internally who’ve been in the same position.

And they not only have wisdom to share, they have relevant knowledge that’s been built in the context of the company.

Connecting new employees to those people and their knowledge gives them information they can apply more easily because it relates specifically to their role, industry and company.

If you’re new to internal content creation, we’ve got a great podcast episode for you

Podcast | 5 Golden Rules For Creating Great Learning Content

6. Think about when you collect feedback

Feedback collection is unfortunately another broken part of the traditional onboarding process.

Think about the purpose: To get people up to speed and able to perform their role.

And when do we collect feedback: At the end of the onboarding process.

But we rarely collect it when people are actually performing the role. That feedback would be invaluable!

Now that you’re in the job, was our onboarding process missing something, or did it fail to set you up for a particular task effectively?

Your job is to work out a frequency/timing that makes sense based on your company and the roles in question.

Check out our other employee onboarding resources