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We’ve all heard the horror stories.

Or maybe you’ve been there yourself.

You start a new job, but nobody has anything for you to do.

The first week is just hours and hours of dated training videos.

Or maybe the company even got your start date wrong…and is confused why you’re there at all.

If that sounds exaggerated, it’s not. These are all real onboarding stories we’ve heard from candidates.

Let’s be real. Most companies suck at onboarding.

It’s a serious problem because onboarding is HUGE for retaining employees and driving performance!

Why Onboarding Matters

If you don’t provide a strong onboarding experience, people will quit – and they’ll quit fast.

In fact, nearly 33% of new hires quit their jobs within the first six months.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. If you screw it up, it’s hard to course correct. And when someone quits or gets fired, you just wasted all of the time and money you spent recruiting them.

So what do employees really want from onboarding? Bamboo HR surveyed 1,000 U.S. workers a few years back and came up with some great insights for us on the topic.

Here are the actionable takeaways.

On-the-Job Training

More than anything else, new hires want clear, guidance on how to do their job. They don’t just want to know the essentials; they want to know how to EXCEL in their position.

On-the-job training is important to making sure new hires thrive. However, it’s easy to overwhelm new hires with too much information.

Therefore, it’s important to think of onboarding as a process that occurs over several months versus just the first week or two.

By onboarding over time, team members can learn at their own pace and truly absorb the information. Cramming information into the first week is often counterproductive.

Review of Policies and Procedures

This one is easy – new hires want to know what your company policies are and how they should operate in the workplace.

How do they take time off? Who should they talk to if they have any issues with another team member? How do they access their benefits? What happens if they’re late to work one too many times in a month?

Make it clear how you handle these policies and procedures.

An Employee “Buddy” or Mentor

Have you ever felt anxious in a new environment and found a friendly smile made all the difference?

There’s a lot to be said for having a friend or mentor you can count on to show you the way. An employee “buddy” or mentor system is easy to implement but anchors a new hire with a friendly face.

It gives them a jump start toward building relationships in the office and finding a social circle. A buddy can also be a more approachable person to ask questions than management or HR.

Guidance From Their Leader (Not Just HR)

It’s easy to let HR handle the onboarding process from start to finish. But onboarding is most effective when their leader is involved as well.

After all, new hires know that leaders will be evaluating their performance. As a result, it’s crucial for leaders to step in and make it clear what their expectations are for the role.

What does it look like to do a good job in this role? Use SMART goals. It’s important to make sure you’re on the same page from day one so that new hires know what you expect from them.

Investing in Your Company’s Future

It’s easy to think of onboarding as a chore, or something that gets in the way of more important work. But you never know which hire could be your next top-performer, or even tomorrow’s awesome leader.

Onboarding is ultimately about investing in your company’s future. By taking the time to ensure someone can integrate with the company today, you’re giving them a chance to flourish and add HUGE value to the team later!