Employee training and retention is the backbone of any successful business, regardless of size or industry. After all, your staff defines your company and their performance drives your ultimate prosperity. But all too often business owners and office managers drop the ball when it comes to the onboarding of new employees. 

After spending so much time and energy finding the best and brightest candidate for a position, it’s vitally important to follow through with the integration and training they need to succeed. When it comes to new hires, the onboarding process sets the stage for that employee’s future and ultimate performance with your company. 

The Importance of Onboarding for Small Business 

A well organized and efficient onboarding process is essential for every small business. New hires need to be integrated into the workplace as seamlessly as possible. Not only to make them feel welcome and comfortable (though that is a vital part of any onboarding process) but also to ensure that they have the necessary tools and information to become a productive member of your team. 

A sound onboarding process should strive to deliver the following key benefits: 

  • A Solid Starting Foundation – First impressions are critical to to the successful integration of new hires. An uncomfortable employee is a tentative employee, and a tentative employee will struggle to learn the ins and outs of their new position
  • A Pathway to Increased Productivity – The training of new hires is a key component of any successful onboarding program. The more supportive the training the quicker your employee becomes a productive member of your company’s team.

With these benefits in play, let’s look at some simple tips to help improve your company’s onboarding process.


Clearly Define Your Onboarding Plan 

The first step to the successful onboarding of new hires is to have a clearly defined plan in place. This should address all aspects of the employment process from the initial screening and interviewing of applicants to the final hiring and training of new employees. 

While this may seem obvious you would be surprised how many small business owners tend to simply wing it when it comes to bringing in new employee. Spend some time developing your onboarding plan and keep it consistent for all new hires. Tweak it as necessary, and update as required, but follow the plan for all new employees. 

Streamline the Hiring Process Itself 

Many small businesses benefit from using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to streamline the front end of the hiring process. An ATS helps you to organize job listings, collate and review resumes, and schedule and assess candidate interviews. Utilizing an ATS keeps the hiring process tidy and ensures that all applicants are treated and assessed fairly. 

Small business owners should also have a set of standardized onboarding documents ready for each new hire. This will help to speed up and simplify the employee’s transition into the workplace. Onboarding documents typically include: 

  • W-4 and I-9 forms
  • Employee Handbook
  • Benefits Package
  • Emergency Contact Information

Start New Hires Off Slowly 

Multitasking is common to all small businesses. A limited number of employees naturally means that there will be some overlap in responsibilities. Having said that it is important not to overwhelm new employees with too much too soon. Start new hires off slowly. Give them time to acclimate to their new work environment. Add new responsibilities as appropriate and allow time for questions and feedback. 

Implement a Formal Training Program 

A formal training program is essential to the smooth and successful integration of new hires. If you want new employees to succeed they need to fully understand their responsibilities as well as your expectations. Don’t leave new employees to find their own way through the training process. That only leads to frustration for both of you and can result in the premature loss of a potentially valuable employee. 

It’s worth noting here that a ‘formal training program’ doesn’t necessary need to be extensive or daunting. It just need to be thorough. Assigning a current employee as a mentor is often the most productive option. The established employee can help explain business operations in detail, answer questions about the job at hand, and ease any social anxiety on the part of the recent hire. The social aspect of a training program should not be overlooked. New hires have a lot on their plate, and part of easing their transition into your workforce is helping them transition into the office community. 

Keep it Consistent and Invite Feedback 

Consistency is one of the keys to a successful onboarding process. Once you have developed a program that works for your business make it a point to implement it with every new hire. This will help ensure that all of your employees understand their responsibilities within the company while creating a common bond between all of the members of your staff. 

Finally, invite feedback from new hires and long-term employees alike. Informed feedback will help you tweak your onboarding process until it functions as smoothly as possible. Ultimately, the better you become at onboarding new employees the better your business team becomes. 

Onboarding in a Tight Job Market 

The labor market in the United States is tighter than it’s been in decades, and businesses of all shapes and sizes are having to work hard to attract the best and brightest to their companies. Implementing a well structured onboarding process for new employees is an important part of finding, hiring, and retaining an exceptional team. Remember, it has become a sellers market and potential employees have more options than ever. If you fail to successfully integrate and train an employee they may choose to move on to one of your competitors. 

Before you put that new job listing on Indeed or ZipRecruiter take some time to review your existing onboarding process. Does it tick all of the boxes? Can it be improved or streamlined to ensure better results? The onboarding of new hires is critical to the success of your employees and, by extension, the ultimate success of your growing business

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