Research has indicated that a good onboarding experience can improve employee retention by 85%. The question, then, is what makes a good onboarding experience.

When I worked at Walt Disney Company, onboarding occurred over the course of several months of classes. We learned the foundations of what to expect on the job as well as Disney’s history and traditions. The goal was to help us get to know other new hires through a day in the parks and become familiar with the leaders who would guide us through the transition process.

Not every company needs to deliver the Disney onboarding experience, but knowing what other organizations offer can give us a great start before exploring the basics of good onboarding:

The Foundations of an Onboarding Experience

Onboarding has three goals: to inform, to welcome and to guide new hires. By focusing on these goals, you can help ensure that your onboarding program is consistently effective. If these goals sound basic, it is because they are. The best way to create an effective onboarding experience is to start with a firm foundation.

Informing new hires involves providing any legally required information as well has helping them understand the technical side of their position. This part of onboarding tends to be viewed as the “boring HR” part, which means that new hires’ retention and interest are at a low point here. One way to engage learners is to use video, which can improve retention rates when following these best practices:

    • Keep each video short — no longer than five minutes.
    • Keep content (including visuals and actors) up to date.
    • Make sure learners can download and play the video without buffering.
    • Avoid simply putting a traditional lecture in a video format.

Welcoming new hires involves socializing them into their working environment. Help them make connections with their colleagues and the social networks that they will need to be successful. One effective strategy is to use a buddy system. Assign each new hire a “buddy” who has experience in the new hire’s role and can help contextualize what he or she needs to know. By having an assigned buddy, new hires can learn directly from peers about their new workplace and its spoken and unspoken norms. This constant communication also helps speed up socialization with the new hires’ colleagues.

Finally, guiding the new hires relates to practices that prepare them for their role. In addition to having a trainer or manager go through the role’s, a period of job shadowing and observation of peers in similar roles can empower new employees with the practical know-how to succeed, build their confidence, and clarifies their goals and responsibilities.

Additional Best Practices

These three goals are the foundation of an effective onboarding experience, but don’t stop there. Here are some additional best practices for onboarding your new hires: Encourage new hires’ commitment and dedication to the job by making their first day special. The simplest things — from having their work station already prepared when they arrive to taking them out to lunch — go a long way in making them feel welcomed and giving them a sense of belonging. Finally, keep onboarding mandatory. Voluntary activities will likely receive less attention, no matter what the content is.

By keeping the foundational goals of onboarding in mind and focusing on new hires’ empowerment and integration, you can help ensure that new employees have higher job satisfaction, are more committed to their work and perform at their best. Here’s to more effective onboarding and team building!