Starting a new job is a scary and vulnerable experience. Often, you choose to leave a familiar and stable environment (old job) with hopes that your opportunity will provide a brighter future. In reality, it's a gamble--but, it doesn't have to feel that way

The best onboarding programs account for feelings of doubt and anxiety. They address those feelings by building a process that ensures every new hire's decision to join the organization is reinforced throughout the assimilation process.

There are a lot of differing opinions on how long an onboarding program should last. At my company, we started out building a year-long process before realizing that we were overthinking it. Google, for example, was able to increase new employee productivity by 25 percent with only one email. 

In any case, the first month is undoubtedly the most important. Research shows that one in five new hires will leave within the first 45 days of starting a job. Early turnover is bad for everyone: It disrupts your team, costs money, and damages your company's reputation.

The reasons for investing in a structured and systematic onboarding process are clear, but where do you start? The concept as a whole can be overwhelming.

Back in 2018, I discovered a helpful resource from LinkedIn titled "The Complete Guide to Onboarding New Hires." It did a great job of breaking down and simplifying the five important milestones in a successful onboarding plan.

Since then, I've slowly implemented those insights into my organization's process. Here's what I've discovered about those five phases:

1. Pre-arrival

The pre-arrival stage is your organization's first chance to leave a positive impression. In my organization, we send new employees first day and arrival instructions, have our managers reach out and welcome their new team member, share important company information, and take care of all necessary paperwork electronically before they step into the office. 

Knocking out the paperwork before day one leaves room to focus on the value-added activities and the fun stuff. Sitting down and spending a couple of hours filling out paperwork is a terrible first-day experience.

Taking the pre-arrival stage seriously signals to employees that you're excited and prepared for them to start. 

2. First day 

The first day is all about master the basics, making important introductions, and getting the new employee comfortable with their new environment. 

Even if you're new employee hated their last job, they still knew what to expect. To help to familiarize their new environment, my organization: 

  • Facilitates an office tour and introductions to key stakeholders, colleagues, and resources. 
  • Provides an overview of technology and tools they'll need to do their jobs.
  • Solidifies the company's position in the market and clarifies its strategy and vision for the future. 
  • Defines important values, culture, and describes any unspoken norms that govern employees. 
  • Establishes the chain of command and who employees should go to with questions and concerns. 
  • Discusses new employee expectations, lays the groundwork for a healthy manager relationship, and establishes goals for the first 30 days on the job. 

3. Second day 

The second day is the first day of the new employee's learning plan. It should include the training necessary for them to complete their first project or assignment.

In the beginning, tasks should be selected based on the goal of building self-efficacy. Or, in other words, the task-driven version of self-esteem. Give new employees work that intentionally builds their confidence and competency. 

You can create a great learning plan by asking yourself: If I were to look back a month from now, what would my new employee have needed to accomplish to make it a success? Break down this answer and add structured learning opportunities to ensure employees can reach significant milestones.

4. First Week. 

This one's simple: The first week should wrap up all essential resources, tools, and cultural training needed to develop a self-sufficient employee. They should know who to go to when questions arise, where to access learning and training materials if needed, company values and how they govern employees, and where they fit into the organization.

5. First month. 

The 30-day mark is a great time to provide formal feedback, assess experience and their quality of work, and establish performance expectations moving forward. 

The key is to foster growth by getting new employees into the habit of receiving and giving feedback regularly. Doing so helps employees better understand the expectations of their managers while also discussing any additional support they may need. 

The first 30 days for our new employees is nerve-racking and often creates vulnerabilities. Investing in a structured onboarding plan that deliberately addresses these will set your new employees up for success and reduce the harmful byproducts of early turnover.