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BLOGSet Up Your Onboarding Program (and Your Employees) for Success 


a smiling man takes an onboarding program for his new job from home.

Creating or updating your onboarding program to be engaging and effective prepares every employee for their new position.

When new employees join your company, they have to figure out the specifics of their job, unfamiliar communication systems, and how to build coworker relationships. In many cases, onboarding training is their first step toward understanding company-specific processes. 

A solid onboarding program improves retention and employee engagement. It efficiently outlines expectations and showcases company culture and values. In short, it gives the employee all the tools they need to feel secure in their new role.  

Despite all this, many onboarding programs seem to be stuck in the early 90s—slide after slide of click-through PowerPoints interspersed with dated videos and information that is so wholly generalized it’s often irrelevant. This is not only ineffective; it can also be detrimental to the new employee’s success on the job. 

So, how can you create an onboarding experience that is effective, individualized, and engaging? How can you ensure your new hire enjoys and retains the first educational offering your company provides? 

Step 1: Make sure your onboarding program aligns with your company values 

Good onboarding can put your company well on its way to achieving the glowing retention statistics reported by Brandon Hall while ensuring your new hires feel supported and set up for success. In order to achieve these outcomes, though, your company values need to be front and centre throughout the program. 

Don’t make your new employees guess; clearly communicate those company values early in the onboarding process, and don’t stop there. Strategic questions and prompts will help your new hire consider how the business’ principles align with their own.  

Make sure you weave your core values through the program, reinforcing them and giving clear examples of these values in action, such as how your company came back from a tough year without major layoffs (resilience) or how a junior employee identified a gap in the market that turned into your greatest offering (innovation).

Step 2: Check off these vital components 

Once you have designed a course that incorporates your company values, consider the following three components essential to any onboarding strategy: 

1. Set clear expectations

This is a great example of why a one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding often doesn’t work. Every onboarding program should clearly explain job responsibilities and performance expectations. Unless you hire only one type of employee across your entire organization, your onboarding needs varied streams that new hires will travel depending on their job descriptions.  

Some aspects, such as vacations, holidays, salary negotiations, and data protection, will overlap for the entire team. Ideally, these chapters will be woven through the individualized components to ensure employees can transition seamlessly from one learning segment to the next. 

2. Ensure comprehensive training

Onboarding needs to feel comprehensive. This can be tricky to accomplish when the people building it out have been immersed in the company for years. Reaching out to recent hires—for both their feedback on the existing training and their thoughts on which components are less self-explanatory than they appear—goes a long way to building a program that hits all the right notes.  

3. Check in regularly

As comprehensive as your training program should be, nothing can take the place of one-on-one check-ins with the newest members of your team. Only they can give you on-the-ground feedback about the course. Make sure to schedule discussions and constructive criticism from everyone involved in the program. Ask them what really resonated, what didn’t quite make sense, and what might be missing. 

Two business women discuss the results of an onboarding program on a computer in an office.

Step 3: Review and adjust

Getting your employee onboarding set up and running is a big undertaking, and the job doesn’t end when the program goes live. To develop the most impactful and successful course plan, be sure to make the most of those check-ins described above. Review some important metrics and adjust the content as needed. 

BambooHR outlines some of the best measures of your onboarding program’s success: 

  • The results of new hire job satisfaction surveys – What do your newest recruits think of their jobs? Did the role requirements they encountered line up with what they were told to expect? 
  • Time to productivity (TTP) Your onboarding should be comprehensive and engaging but not endless. The ideal TTP is a balance. Focusing too heavily on keeping the program as short as possible can result in a waste of time later. Both the new hire and their manager must go over the missing components. On the other hand, onboarding that stretches on and on might cease to teach employees anything new. This can also make it difficult to remember what they were taught long enough to implement it. 
  • Measure turnover – Many factors can affect turnover, including onboarding. The Society for Human Resource Management found that more than 50% of organizations note a direct connection between quality onboarding and improved retention.

Optimize your onboarding to give new hires as much salient and transparent information as possible. This way, they will be well-equipped to dive in, with minimal growing pains. They’ll know what’s coming in terms of tasks, performance expectations, and opportunities. As a result, they’ll go into their new role with open eyes and a great feel for the job and the company.

Let Harper Learning help build your company onboarding experience

At Harper Learning, we know the best workplace training places employee satisfaction and performance improvement front and centre. From onboarding to advanced skill-building and performance improvement programs, we help our clients create effective and engaging education courses that ensure the strongest company culture and the best possible return on investment. 

Whether you need assistance strengthening and implementing your existing onboarding program or you’re looking for a ground-up rebuild of your intake strategies, our multi-faceted learning and development team is here to lend their expertise at every step of this collaborative process. 

Our team in action

Read our case study to discover how we helped FamilySmart develop a creative and engaging staff onboarding program. 

Now that you know the basics of an effective and engaging onboarding strategy, we would love to partner with you to help you really ensure your program’s success.