Company Culture

Six Tips for Effective Employee Onboarding


Written by Pierce Lydon • August 17, 2023

Six Tips for Effective Employee Onboarding

There’s nothing as powerful as a first impression. We almost always remember our first day in a new job, especially those poignant moments of joy when you see your company’s seltzer water machine.

When onboarding employees, getting off on the right foot means more than simply a successful start — effectively onboarding employees means aligning on expectations and providing a sense of support to lean on when they need.

Here are six tips for effective employee onboarding.

Use the buddy system

Starting a new job can be lonely, so having a buddy can make a big difference. When it comes to the buddy system, try pairing your new starter with someone who has been around the company for at least a year. Ask the buddy to show the new starter around the office, pointing out where the key amenities are, including the kitchen and the bathrooms.

The buddy can also talk to the new starter about different elements of the job and the company. While it doesn’t have to be this way, it’s best to pair together people on the same team. This gives the new starter a familiar face and a point-person for all of their questions. It can help them feel more grounded, to avoid overwhelming them.

Set clear expectations from the word go

Before your new starter gets stuck into their work, having an intentionally designed onboarding can give everyone time to align on expectations. This includes expectations about the work that they’ll do within the company as well as expectations for how to work together.

As the manager, align with the new starter on your expectations during the first week or two that they’re part of your team. You might discuss the following expectations during these conversations:

  • Work quality
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Communication, including how best to communicate with leadership
  • Risks, including when to escalate issues
  • Flexibility around time and location, including the WFH policy

Create opportunities for social connection

Social connection is one of the most meaningful experiences for humans, especially when they find themselves in new environments like starting a new job. You might consider throwing a welcome breakfast for your new starter or arrange a catered lunch. By making introductions between the new employees and established members of the company, you can help them feel more at ease so they can start to settle in. This is also a good way for them to experience firsthand positive company culture, which can make a huge difference for their tenure with the company.

When creating social opportunities, be sure to keep in mind how to be inclusive. It can be difficult for many people to speak up about their needs when they’re in a large group of new people, so be sure to ask about dietary restrictions ahead of your welcome meal. By having this conversation, you’re explicitly showing your support for their individual needs, setting a supportive tone.

Showcase your company mission

Onboarding is a time when newcomers learn about the company, sometimes for the first time, making it a natural opportunity to talk about what’s important within the company. This could include the company values or the mission. Talking about these topics makes it easier for the new employees to integrate them into their work and it sets a strong foundation upon which they’ll work.

Healthy living and wellbeing, if that’s a company value, is a good place to start for new starters. When you show new starters that wellbeing is important to your company, they can begin to relax into the idea that they are supported, valued, and respected. If your company’s positive culture aligns with the company’s values and mission, this can influence how much energy and dedication they bring to work each day. How you portray the company in their first few weeks may permanently set their mindset.

Remember that it takes time

Adjusting to a new place to work, not to mention a new role or a different type of job, takes time. Even with comprehensive orientation and onboarding programs, settling in cannot be rushed. It happens naturally, so give your new starters plenty of time and space to get used to their role. For many, it takes months before they feel comfortable with a new role.

Be sure to check in with each new starter on a regular basis and ask them if there’s anything that you can do to help them adjust. This gives them the chance to ask questions and learn more in an approachable, collaborative conversation.

Keep up the good work

Even after you’ve designed the onboarding program, each time you onboard another team member, check to make sure that each element of that program continues to make sense. It might be helpful to realign all onboarding practices to your company values or your company mission to keep what’s important to you at the heart of how people join your team.

Intentionally designed employee onboarding has the potential for huge impacts. The most important element of effective employee onboarding is authenticity, so as much as you can plan, don’t forget to be yourself and to connect with new starters in a way that’s genuine for you.