The Smarter Startup

Employee Onboarding Roadmap for Startups

Essential onboarding activities should be concentrated in the first month and quarter, and gradually taper off over the next twelve months.

A startup’s employees are one of its largest expenses and most valuable assets. Great onboarding practices help ensure companies receive the most value from their employees, and employees have a positive, engaging, and rewarding work experience.

Consider these stats from Gallup:

  • 70% of employees who had exceptional onboarding experiences say they have “the best possible job”.
  • When the manager takes an active role in onboarding, employees are 3.4 times as likely to feel like their onboarding process was successful.
  • Only one in ten employees strongly agree their organization does a good job of onboarding new employees.

How Long Should Onboarding Last?

Data and experience show that, on average, employee productivity hovers around 25% for the first month, and takes a full year to reach its peak. For this reason, I recommend most employee onboarding programs last one year. Essential onboarding activities should be concentrated in the first month and quarter, and gradually taper off over the next twelve months.

An Employee Onboarding Roadmap

Before Starting

  • Send a welcome package: Once a new employee has accepted a job offer from your company, consider them sending a personalized welcome package before their first day. You can include things like a welcome letter from the head of the company, snacks, fun gifts, and branded items. A care package like this is an excellent way to let employees know that you care about their experience, you take their role seriously, and you’re ready to get started.

Day One

  • Provide new employee paperwork: This includes items such as tax forms, direct deposit forms, insurance forms, and any other documents required for compliance.
  • Provide onboarding materials: This may include items like your employee handbook, organizational charts, and key contacts.
  • Set up computers and accounts: Ensure your new employee has the necessary tools and appropriate access to perform their job and begin to acclimate to their new role.
  • Tour the facilities: If your startup has physical space like an office, datacenter, or factory, take your new employee on a tour. Make sure they know where to find their workstation, their manager, co-workers, bathrooms, emergency supplies, parking, and anything else they may need. This is a good time to make sure that the new employee has any necessary keys or access codes.

Week One

  • Provide an orientation: Orientation should focus on ensuring the new employee understands their job responsibilities, expectations, and the dynamics and culture of the workplace.
  • Introduce the new employee to colleagues: Introducing the new employee to colleagues is a crucial step for them to become acclimated to the team and to ensure a successful transition into their new role.
  • Consider assigning a buddy: Assigning buddies is a great way to provide support and guidance for the new employee.
  • Begin training: This initial training should include topics like company culture, company history, and company mission, vision, and values. On the job training may also start to begin in week one.

Month One

  • Establish goals and benchmarks: Employees know they’re valued and perform their best when they have clear and measurable goals established.
  • Continue training: Training should evolve from general company training to more specific job training after the first week. Employees should start to get a grasp of their role and responsibilities.

Each Quarter up to Anniversary Date

  • Quarterly reviews: Many companies consider an employee to be “ramped up” at the 90-day mark. At this point employees should be able to do their job with minimal support. This is a great time to use the quarterly review to address any obstacles or areas for improvement. Doing a quarterly review each quarter is a great way to stay in tune with the employee’s journey.
  • Buddy check-in: Check in with their buddy each quarter to see if they may have any insights into the employee’s day to day. Do they need support? Are they doing exceptionally well at a particular aspect?

One-Year Employment Anniversary

  • Annual Performance Review: This is a good time to look back on the employee’s journey since their start date. What went well, and what didn’t? Is there any feedback that can be used to improve the onboarding experience of future hires?

Employee Onboarding – A Few Closing Tips

  • Fund your onboarding: Despite the importance of onboarding and its obvious benefits, many companies don’t budget any dollars to fund it. Considering the time and expense that goes into finding a good hire, and the cost of employee turnover, it’s well worth it to establish an onboarding budget.
  • Evaluate the onboarding process: It is important to evaluate the onboarding process to ensure it is effective and to make any necessary adjustments. After each new employee, step back and ask yourself, your team, and your new employee what went well and what could be improved.
  • Make it a team effort: Onboarding programs are more likely to be successful when more parts of the organization are involved. Involving existing employees as buddies, and getting leaders to participate in orientations and trainings makes for a well rounded program that doesn’t just rely on HR or their direct manager participating.

Poor onboarding practices can lead to employee misalignment with the company’s goals and values, decreased employee engagement, and higher turnover costs. Taking the time to develop a comprehensive onboarding program can help ensure that new hires are quickly integrated into your company culture, understand their roles, and are productive from the start. These benefits are well worth the costs and efforts associated with good onboarding practices.

Startups that commit to a world-class onboarding experience can gain a strong advantage in any labor market. Burkland’s People Operations team can help. Contact us to request more information.