Here’s what a head of HR says about his company, which has the simplest possible philosophy for orienting new hires: “Our goal is to get them into a chair as fast as possible and get them going.” At that company, onboarding new hires means enrolling them in the health plan, handing them an employee handbook and showing them their desks.

Here’s what the head of HR at another company has to say: “Once all the forms are filed for tax and other purposes, it’s time to let new employees get started and get a feel for the job.”

Those opinions express simple views of what onboarding is supposed to accomplish. But is simpler always better?

Then we come to state-of-the art onboarding as it is practiced in many companies today, where it is all about computers. The goal is to set up employees in their learning management system and enter them into the company employee management system, which schedules job reviews and automates a lot of HR details.

That’s thorough. But is thorough always better?

As is the case with many business processes, success doesn’t come from doing a lot of things but from doing the right things – and doing them well. When you are onboarding new employees, this is especially important. An employee’s effectiveness, satisfaction, loyalty, productivity and length of employment are all established in the early days of a job.

Here are some of those “right things.”

1. Deliver Great Training

In today’s business environment, most employees are no longer happy with the idea that they must learn their jobs by trial and error over a period of months. They shouldn’t be, and as an employer, you shouldn’t be either. If an employee is operating at only 50-percent productivity for three months, he or she is probably costing you a lot more than you have calculated.

In nearly all cases, you can invest a small percentage of that money to train those employees and help them become fully productive faster. They’ll work harder, be more productive and happier, and place less strain on their managers, all for a comparatively small monetary investment in training.

2. Talk About Your Company’s Core Values and Mission

Hopefully, you discussed them during the hiring process, and your new employees believe in your company and what it stands for. But be sure to bring up values and mission again during onboarding. Talk about your company’s core beliefs, why you are in business, your history and founders, your customers, the role you play in your community, etc. Most working people today are looking for more than a paycheck. They want to be part of something they believe in.

3. Integrate New Hires Into Their Teams

Are your new employees joining teams that have been in existence for a long time, new teams or something in between? Decide how to integrate your new employees based on the situation. Help them develop lateral mentoring relationships with other team members, create cross-training programs in which current team members work alongside new hires, and maybe offer social outings or team-building activities. It is not difficult to choose the right kind of team integration steps to take; just make sure that you do.

4. Establish Mentoring and Coaching Relationships

Connecting a new hire with a mentor or coach can establish employee loyalty, satisfaction and productivity. Consider matching your new hire with a senior employee who works in a different department or division, not with a manager or supervisor from his or her own functional area. Employees feel freer to interact with employees who are outside their departments and reporting relationships. And do more than just introduce new hires to their mentors. Schedule ongoing meetings into the future, and make sure they take place.

5. Create Individual Career Plans

You don’t need to create career plans for employees whom you do not expect to remain with you for the long term (short-term seasonal workers, for example). But consider creating an individual career development plan for every new employee whose job promises a future with your company. Here are some details to include:

  • What the employee is expected to do to be promoted, like sales quotas or quality standards
  • Training that the employee is expected to complete
  • Specific skills that the employee should master – possibly through outside classes or education programs – within a certain time period
  • Details about how the employee can move from one job track to another, enter management training programs or take advantage of other company opportunities

Every company says it wants better employee retention, satisfaction, productivity and spirit. The onboarding period is the time to lay the foundation for all those desirable outcomes – and many more.