What does onboarding mean?
Onboarding is the process of getting someone familiar with a new job, practice, or skill.
What is the purpose of onboarding?
The purpose of onboarding is to familiarize oneself with new information. This process is designed to help employees understand their position, job requirements, and their company.
Different types of onboarding
Many people in the HR space use the term onboarding as it relates to new employees, but there are different kinds of onboarding that don’t necessarily have to deal with new hires. Let’s take a moment to focus on 3 types of onboarding:
- Employee onboarding
- Customer onboarding
- User onboarding
Employee onboarding is the process used to introduce a new employee into an organization.
Employee Onboarding Tasks
Even though the focus is on the new employee, the onboarding process usually involves a variety of people in different roles. Here’s a rundown of what can be expected during employee onboarding by roles:
This is a time for employees to soak up as much information as possible, and there are plenty of different ways to accomplish this. This can involve completing paperwork, meeting colleagues, and doing work that’s designed to help them acclimate to their new work environment.
HR is around to handle the legal and practical aspects of onboarding an employee. HR can help provide important forms for employees to fill out related to taxes, insurance, payment, and employee policies.
Managers play an interesting role in the onboarding process that can blend together a lot of what we just covered. Whether they’re ensuring important paperwork is complete or are assigning tasks, managers should be doing their best to make their new employees feel welcome. They’re around to answer any questions new hires may have and have a plan in place for the first few weeks and months of an employee’s time at work.
Customer onboarding is the process companies use to introduce new customers to their business, products, and services. Ideally, the process should be designed to foster a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship for the business and customer as well as set expectations around their working engagement.
This entire process can play a critical role in customer service and the overall customer experience. Companies should do what they can to ensure that their customer's needs are met during this important time.
Examples of customer onboarding
The onboarding experience for customers can be as simple as a 5-minute intro call or as involved as setting up a regular meeting cadence. There’s no set length of time for customer onboarding, so the process can be as involved as the engagement needs to be.
User onboarding is the process new users utilize to learn how to use an application or software program. Despite what you may think, user onboarding isn’t solely about teaching a user how to “use” a product.
The main goal of user onboarding is to help people get better at what your product allows people to do. For Guru, that means helping people seek and share the knowledge they need to do their job.
Example of user onboarding
Since we’ve already used Guru as an example, let’s keep the trend going! We like to go above and beyond the usual welcome email and link to FAQs page. We’ve set up Guru Academy and Guru Community so people can continue to learn best practices and tips.
Onboarding vs orientation: What’s the difference?
It may seem like you can use the terms onboarding and orientation interchangeably, but semantics matter in this situation. Onboarding and orientation may all be related to getting someone up to speed, but they differ in key ways.
Whether it’s done during one day or over the course of the week, orientation is a one-and-done kind of thing. The main goal of orientation is to get new employees/users/customers ready for whatever comes next.
Onboarding, on the other hand, is an ongoing process that can last for weeks. Onboarding is much broader and designed with a focus on productivity and deep learning. Essentially, orientation can be seen as a necessary precursor to an in-depth onboarding experience.
Best tools to utilize while onboarding
Regardless of who you’re onboarding, having the right tools can play a big role in whether or not everyone has a successful onboarding experience. If you want to create a stellar onboarding experience, make sure to include these tools in the process.
1. Company wiki
Employees, Users, Clients: it doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re in a new situation questions are going to come up. Make it easy for people to find answers to some of their most important questions by having a single source of truth in a wiki.
Your wiki can go beyond listing the usual FAQs. Listing out basic how-tos, org charts, and notes on culture can be incredibly helpful. Feel free to get a little creative when you’re thinking about what information someone new would want. Details about work and meetings can be helpful, but recommendations for lunch spots and a coffee break can make someone’s day.
2. Training modules
Onboarding shouldn’t be a one-and-done thing. People can have questions after they’ve gone through exercises and talks. Make it easy for people to continue to learn on their own time by finding software that can help you put together training modules.
The right software can do a lot to help facilitate, organize, and even track learning. People can revisit old modules, move on to new ones, and learn at their own pace.
3. Contracts and e-Signatures
Most companies may have gone paperless, but that doesn’t mean that paperwork has disappeared. There are plenty of contracts, agreements, and other important documents that need to be signed. Make things easier for your company and new people by finding the right software to help you manage your most important paperwork.
Software that can help distribute and organize paperwork as well as collect e-signatures can make document management easy. You’ll also have the added benefit of easily tracking paperwork.
4. Feedback and surveys
Gathering feedback should be an important part of any process, and onboarding is no different. You’ll want to learn how the process worked for new people and for the people driving the process.
Don’t feel like you can only wait until the end of the process to see how it went. Asking for feedback throughout the process can help you gauge how well things are going.
5. Communication tools
Staying in touch is important during the onboarding process. Find a way for people to stay in touch with others by finding a dependable communication tool.
Some people prefer to work through e-mail, others like messaging apps, and there are some that prefer a phone call or text. Give people different options so they can communicate the best way they see fit.
How to create the best onboarding experience
The reasons for onboarding a new employee, user, or customer can be different, but the principles of a successful onboarding experience are the same. If you want to create the best onboarding experience possible, make sure you take these things into account.
1. Prepare the onboarders
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the employees walking people through the onboarding process are up to speed on everything that needs to be done. If you want to ensure that onboarding goes smoothly, take the time to connect with the people running the process first.
Make sure they’re up to speed on the latest onboarding practices and get some insight into their plans. Now is the time to answer any questions they may have and ensure you’re aligned on expectations and outcomes.
In some cases, it makes sense to have your own orientation and onboarding for people that are frequently involved in the onboarding process This can help keep the onboarding process unified and set expectations for the entire organization.
2. Set expectations early on
Nobody likes going into a situation not knowing what to expect. If you want to have a successful onboarding, take time to set expectations early on so it’s easier for everyone to meet them.
Make sure that a new employee understands the full scope of their role. In the case of a customer, set expectations around the ultimate outcomes they want from your engagement. If you’re training new users, let them know what they should know how to do with your software once training ends.
This is a great time to mention the benefits of a 30-60-90-day plan. This way of thinking allows you to easily set and work towards milestones and clearly outlines what needs to get done to get there.
3. Strike a balance between learning styles
Some people love to sit and listen in order to learn, and others tend to be more hands-on learners. A great onboarding plan should be able to cater to both ways of learning.
There can be plenty of time for lectures, quizzes, and training modules along with side-by-side work and hands-on activities. Don’t try to pack their day with too much of one thing. A little variety can add balance to the day and give overtaxed brains a much-needed break.
Remember, there’s something to be said about the value of flexibility in an onboarding process. Giving people enough time to reflect on what they’ve learned and giving them different ways to handle knowledge is important.
4. Create opportunities to give feedback
Learning that your onboarding process wasn’t helpful at the end of everything isn’t helpful for anyone involved. If you want to avoid unsuccessful onboarding experiences, make sure you build in plenty of opportunities for feedback along the way.
Build-in time with onboarders and the people in charge of the onboarding to ensure that you aren’t missing anything. Don’t just outright ask them if there’s anything they don’t understand. Ask them what they think of the entire process, their latest onboarding activities, and how comfortable they feel with what they’ve learned.
Scheduling weekly check-ins are a great way to ensure that people are getting what they need without risking a potential interruption to their learning.
5. Prepare for the unexpected
You may have a carefully thought-out onboarding process, but even the best-laid plans are no match for life’s random surprises. People get sick, last-minute projects pop up, and priorities can change even after you think everything is set in stone. Make it a little easier to roll with the punches by giving yourself some wiggle room in your onboarding program.
Consider planning for “catch up” days if people have had to miss important parts of onboarding. This can be helpful for last-minute emergencies and to help get people up to speed on concepts they don’t understand.
This is the perfect time to bring up the benefits of having a flexible onboarding that has an asynchronous side to work. Being able to review materials, watch training videos, and look up FAQs makes it much easier to manage problems and keep people on track.