Tools & Education

Check out the latest news and resources for small businesses covering topics such as human resources, employee engagement, and management.

4 Employee Onboarding Phases that Lead to a Successful New Hire

Employee onboarding

A well-thought-out employee onboarding program can help increase employee retention, engagement, and productivity within an organization. Integrating new employees with all facets of their new workplace is the foremost goal of onboarding as part of a multiphase process that unfolds over time.

The 4 Phases of Onboarding 

Phase 1 - New Hire Orientation
This juncture is about introducing new hires to the company, which they are now a part of. New hires get to meet and hear from senior leadership. They learn about the mission, goals, and policies of the organization. New hire orientations tend to be standardized for all incoming employees across the board.


Phase 2 - Job Specific Training
New employees learn about the nuts and bolts of their specific jobs during training. Training covers the technical, safety, and soft skills necessary to succeed in the job and the organization. Job-specific training is an individualized process that takes place over days, weeks, or months.


Phase 3 - Transitioning To Competency
This is the point at which training converts into competency. New hires become comfortable and confident enough to tackle their tasks on their own. Employee productivity climbs to optimal levels. The organization harvests the benefits of increased worker productivity at this phase of onboarding.


Phase 4 - Continuous Development
Continuous development assists employees in keeping current with the changes that occur in any industry over time. Investing in training over the long haul helps in maintaining and even boosting worker productivity. Continuous development improves employee engagement as well as employee retention.


Factors of Onboarding

The success of employee onboarding depends on factors such as:

  • The structure or design of the onboarding program.
  • The cohesiveness of the 4 phases or steps of onboarding.
  • The competency with which the onboarding program is implemented.


In addition to the factors mentioned above, how engaged new hires feel throughout the onboarding process also affects the success of onboarding. Employee engagement affects productivity and turnover in an organization.


The Purpose and Benefits of Onboarding

Starting a new job can be stressful for most people. Trying to master the job description while adjusting to the company culture can make things even harder. All this stress without any guidance can lower productivity and lead to employee burnout. The bottom line of any organization suffers when productivity lowers due to employee stress and burnout.


Therefore, employers have been investing time, money, and other resources into addressing the challenges mentioned above. This investment of resources translates into employee onboarding programs. Robust onboarding programs help new hires to learn and perform their job duties well. In addition, they help new hires to feel welcome and accepted by the people they work with.


The results and benefits of healthy onboarding programs are:

  • Increased productivity Increased employee loyalty
  • Increased employee motivation
  • Increased employee engagement
  • Increased employee retention
  • More inclusive company culture


A Closer Look at the 4 Phases of Onboarding

Employee onboarding is a complex process. While onboarding on-site is a task in itself, onboarding remotely is even more challenging. Organizations can simplify the process of onboarding by utilizing HR tools from industry experts.


Let's examine the individual phases of onboarding to understand how the fabric of onboarding is woven together.


1) New Hire Orientation

New hire orientations usually range from a few hours to a whole workday. They can be conducted in-person or virtually for the benefit of remote workers. The orientation is where organizations make their first impressions on new hires. Employers must be punctual and organized. They must present current and relevant information. The technology must work too.


Introductions - The Human Resources department usually conducts new hire orientations, but this responsibility typically falls on supervisors as a small business. Exceptional supervisors can replace HR in this role and inject energy and enthusiasm into orientations by starting with ice breakers or social games. Asking attendees (new hires) to share a piece of information about themselves will direct their attention to the meeting, and asking simple follow-up questions will keep them engaged longer.


When senior leaders present at the orientation, they should be asked to share something about themselves, too. Having new hires ask senior leaders follow-up questions will help new employees feel like they can approach their superiors.


Company Mission/Goals - Orientation is the best time to impress the organization's mission, goals, and vision to new hires. Quiz new hires on this topic. Ask them to restate the mission and goals of the company in their own words. Such exercises will help new hires to memorize and understand the mission of the company.


Company Culture & Diversity - Company culture is the personality of the company. The group's collective values, goals, beliefs, and actions can be defined as company culture. Educating new hires about what it takes to fit in and thrive during orientation will help them adapt to the organization.


Organizations need to make new hires feel welcome by communicating that they do not expect employees to be clones. There must always be room for inclusion and diversity. Tolerance for the diversity of thought, race, religion, and culture must be communicated clearly to all new employees. Tolerance goes a long way in building trust and respect between individuals.


Employee Benefits - Familiarizing new hires with the perks and benefits available to them will help them view their new employers favorably. Highlighting company benefits during orientation can sometimes make the difference between keeping or losing a new hire. New hires must be educated about how they can access their benefits. Guides and directions should be provided for their personal use.


Departmental Overview - Educating new hires about the different departments within an organization will help them understand how the departments work together like a symphony. Making these connections will help to reinforce the mission and goals of the company.


Employee Handbook - The employee handbook is a reference guide for the most important things about the workplace. Distributing employee handbooks to new hires is probably the most important thing to do at new hire orientations. Employee handbooks formally state the policies, expectations, and benefits at the workplace. New hires are usually required to sign an acknowledgment about receiving, understanding, and abiding by the policies outlined in the employee handbook.


Some payroll and HR platforms, like Symply, allow employers to upload a copy of their handbook and distribute it digitally to employees to review and acknowledge by e-signature. These tools help alleviate HR-related questions by giving employees easy access to their handbooks from their payroll profile. 


Safety - Orientations cover many aspects of safety in the workplace. If new hires are going to be working on-site, they should be informed about emergency exits, fire extinguishers, and what to do during earthquakes and flooding. Preventing harassment and assault and how to report such incidents are outlined during orientation. Educating employees about what to do during robberies is also an important aspect of safety training.


How to prevent and report work-related injuries are also discussed during orientation. Educating new hires about ergonomics and safe work practices can help organizations to reduce the cost of injuries down the road. Remote employees need to be thoroughly educated about ergonomics and safe work practices.


Administrative Tasks - Tasks related to requesting badges, gadgets, uniforms, and tools are handled during orientation. Pending new hire paperwork is also completed during orientation. Organizations can simplify these administrative tasks by going paperless.


Successful orientations are conducted in a warm and welcoming manner. They are peppered with icebreakers, games, breaks, and refreshments to prevent overwhelming new hires with information. Since orientations are standardized by nature, some aspects of orientations can be presented as pre-recorded videos. Mixing videos with live presentations can add variety to this phase of onboarding.


2) Job Specific Training

Job-specific training is the bread and butter of onboarding. Well-trained employees are productive and contribute to the bottom line of the organizations that they work for. The many aspects of job-specific training will be discussed below:


Job Skills Training - This training pertains to the skills required to perform the actual job that one is hired to do. New hires must demonstrate competency in job skills upon completing the prescribed period of training. Expectations and standards must be clearly outlined to the new hires at the beginning of skills training. Realistic expectations and standards will help new hires to succeed in their training. Using multiple modes of training keeps the new employees engaged during the process. For example, training can include watching videos, performing tasks under supervision, and simulating tasks on a computer.


Safety Training - This training stresses the importance of working safely. Tools and gadgets must be used as directed and stored away properly. Using ergonomics to prevent injuries.


Job Shadowing - This type of training allows new hires to observe experienced employees in action. Watching experienced employees perform the same job that one is hired to do paints a realistic picture of what the job is about. Job shadowing encompasses observing, assisting with tasks, and asking/answering questions about the job. Job shadowing is very helpful for picking valuable tips from experienced employees.


Soft Skills Training - Part of mastering one's job is to learn the soft skills related to performing one's duties. For example, having the appropriate facial expressions and body language when interacting with customers. Or how to approach coworkers when you need something from them to complete your tasks.


Employee Feedback - Trainers and supervisors must set up new hires for success by getting regular feedback from them. This can help trainers and supervisors to customize the training process to the needs of the new employees. Focusing more time on the tasks that new employees are struggling with and vice versa is the best way to use training hours.


Job-specific training is the second phase of onboarding. To avoid losing employees at this stage of training, ensure that new hires get adequate training. Employers must have realistic expectations and standards to retain employees at this phase of onboarding.


3) Transitioning To Competency

The third phase of onboarding is where new hires become increasingly productive. At this juncture, new hires can work pretty independently. They make fewer mistakes, need less hand-holding, and can work productively without supervision.


Employee Engagement - At this stage, new hires become confident in performing their duties. Confidence leads to an increase in employee engagement (and productivity as a result). This is also the point at which new hires start focusing on adapting to their workplace culture. They feel confident about their job skills and want to fit in with others. They feel that fitting in will help them to progress in the future.


Evaluation - Employees are usually evaluated at this stage of the onboarding process. Honest and clear communication about the strengths and weaknesses are noted in evaluations.


Growth - Evaluations serve as reference points for new employees to grow from. Employees are encouraged to focus on the areas that they can improve on to become completely productive.


Mentoring - This is a great point for new employees to find mentors at work. Some organizations have mentoring programs or lean on HR to match employees with mentors. In a small company, employees can reach out to managers or experienced employees they admire and respect.


This is the most exciting phase for new employees. They are highly productive and feel good about the progress that they are making at work. Employers are equally happy because their investment in onboarding is translating to high worker productivity.


4) Continuous Development

The 4th and final phase of onboarding is about maintaining gains and updating job skills to adapt to the organization's needs.


Skills Assessment - Employers want their employees to have the skills they need to perform their jobs adequately. Advancements in technology, changing industry needs and, complying with regulations spur the need for continuous development in the workplace. Employers can use training, assessments, performance reviews, and feedback from those within the organization to determine if employees have skills gaps. Skills-gap is the skill that an employer needs that the employee is missing.


Updating Skillset - Ongoing training at the workplace helps employees to polish the skills that they have and to acquire the ones that they lack. Employers find it cheaper to provide continuous training to their employees than to hire new people that they have to train from scratch. Providing training that covers the skills gap improves employee retention and reduces employee turnover.


Goal Setting - At this stage of onboarding, employees are considered to be experienced. Employers want to keep their employees, and employees do not want to start over at another workplace. Therefore, employers and employees can set goals to ensure that employees always have up-to-date skills. For example, companies can inform employees about the skills they will need in the future to remain competitive at work. Then employees will be motivated to undergo the training that they need to remain compliant with the needs of their employers.


Employee Development - Sometimes, employees take the initiative to learn and develop their skills. They express an interest in growing within the organization. Since they are proactive about learning and upgrading their skills, their employers support them along the way. That paves the way for promotions and progress at work.


Continuous development at work creates a healthy relationship between employers and employees. This helps employees to remain competent at their jobs. It helps with job security. Employers benefit from having productive and knowledgeable employees. They also experience the benefit of increased employee retention or lower employee turnover. That is a win-win situation for both parties.


Simplify Onboarding With Symply

The 4 phases of onboarding require a hefty investment of time and resources by employers. Employers will be well-served if they lighten their loads by outsourcing their onboarding and administrative tasks to Symply. Symply simplifies the process of onboarding by making it quick and easy to onboard employees. It can also automate administrative tasks and make them paperless at affordable rates.


Ready to try out Symply's free onboarding tool? Sign up here and start using  the tool today >>