So, what is onboarding? If you want a textbook onboarding definition, you could describe it as the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders. In short, it’s the process that businesses put in place, often facilitated by HR, to equip new hires with all of the necessary information, so they can hit the ground running.

Why is onboarding important? I’m sure that some will argue that, so long as employees are taught how to do their job, they have every reason to be successful. But the process and its benefits run much deeper than that.

A well-thought-out, properly executed onboarding strategy has a tremendous psychological effect on new hires and should lead to greater employee retention. For example, recent stats from Clipboarding.com show that 69 percent of new hires are likely to stay with the company for three years if they have a positive onboarding experience. That’s quite an opportunity.

With that in mind, I’m sure you’re wondering what the repercussions are for companies that do not invest in their employee onboarding process. Clipboarding.com also offers the following, eye-opening statistics.

Did you know that 20 percent of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days of employment? Or that the average cost of replacing an employee is 16-20 percent of his or her annual salary? Or how about that a whopping 33 percent of new employees look for a new job within the first six months of being hired?

The numbers suggest not only vast benefits for companies that invest in robust employee onboarding processes, but also an opportunity to make significant cuts in turnover costs.

So, we know that a solid onboarding process can provide significant retention benefits for businesses. But how do we craft one that ensures the long-term success of our new hires?

In Brian Westfall’s recent article on Software Advice (a company that compares onboarding software), he lays out a pragmatic series of steps that will give your new employees the best shot at success.

1. Reach out to new hires before their start date

The key to a new hire’s success, according to Westfall, is preparedness and excitement.

By reaching out and keeping new hires engaged before they start, you have the opportunity to equip them with necessary info, while also building momentum and excitement as they start this new chapter of their career.

2. Make their first day memorable

Westfall tells us, “More than half of all U.S. employees leave a new job within their first year, which is kind of a staggering number.”

New hires treat the first day as an indicator of what to expect for the rest of their time with a company. Small things – like a gift bag of company swag or ensuring their workspace is ready – can really influence their perception of the company.

3. Keep their schedule tightly structured (at least to start)

“Structure ensures that new hires are never left twiddling their thumbs and wondering what’s next, and it gives off the impression that you really know what you’re doing,” notes Westfall.

Talent management platforms, like PeopleMatter (now a part of Snagajob), that include onboarding checklists can help tremendously. This gives Managers and HR the chance to post to-do lists and tasks, which keeps things compliant, organized and straightforward.

4. Form a cross-departmental onboarding team

It’s important to remember that every member of your company occupies a special place within the organization – both professionally and personally.

By creating a cross-departmental onboarding team, you will allow your new hires to experience the diversity of their workplace and foster relationships with those outside of their own department.

5. Spread out the paperwork

Unfortunately, when people think of onboarding, their mind is immediately flooded with endless amounts of paperwork. Signing off on company policies, W-2s … the list goes on. However, again, using talent management software to complete all the paperwork online, can alleviate the stress for both employers and employees, while also ensuring company-wide compliance.

Remember, your employee’s perception of the company is being shaped by how efficient your processes are, making this process seamless is the best way to make a great first impression.

6. Get the whole company involved

Keep in mind that it’s important to expose your new hires to individuals from around the company. This leads to greater transparency, communication and collaboration.

By getting as many people as possible involved, company-wide, you are inviting your new hires into something that feels welcoming and positive – something they are much more likely to make a connection with, and want to remain a part of.

7. Set expectations early and often

A good way to keep a new hire excited and motivated is to put in place a set of goals, both long-term and short-term.

Having something to strive toward will give them reason to invest themselves, and achieving success in these goals will keep them motivated to continue in their work.

8. Allow new hires to give their own feedback

One of the best ways to increase employee engagement, Westfall argues, is to give new hires certain degrees of autonomy over their own work and career.

Though it is important to have a structure for their work, it is important to allow them to give feedback also, thus giving them a sense of autonomy. If they feel their voice is being heard, they will respect your company more and be more likely to stick around for the long haul.

9. Communicate the culture early and often

In order for a company to define its culture, Software Advice suggests answering these questions:

  • How do you conduct meetings … if you conduct meetings at all?
  • What is valued more: analytical thinking or creativity?
  • Do employees hang out together outside of work?
  • Is competition encouraged or discouraged?

Once you fully understand what the culture of the company is, it is important to make sure your new employees are aware of the standards that need to be upheld. Their previous jobs may have operated very differently, so it is recommended to lay the ground rules out as soon as possible.

And don’t forget, your company culture is often your strongest asset in recruitment. There’s a reason your new employee chose to work for you. Use that to your advantage, and foster a culture that is palpable, something they can connect with both professionally and emotionally.

10. Don’t expect too much from new hires

Even though expectations for new employees should always be high, they also need to be realistic. It takes people time to acclimate and really find their niche in a company.

Westfall adds, “To sum up our best practices, I’d distill them to three key factors: structure, communication and patience. But patience is really the most important thing.”

Always make sure that you are providing a support system to your new employees and keeping them energized and motivated to hit their first milestones. No one should be expected to excel from the get-go, so give them some time, offer as much support and advice as necessary, and watch as your new employees flourish in their journey with your company.