How to Create Effective Employee Onboarding Materials

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by viperk's , last updated on


First impressions are everything.

It's cliche but true --- making a strong first impression on your new hires can prove meaningful. Conversely, a negative first impression that permeates throughout the onboarding process can result in serious consequences, including reduced respect for the company, diminished pride in the company, decreased engagement and productivity, and increased employee turnover.

The opportunity to create a strong first impression explains why leading companies are willing to spend more than $5,000 per employee to onboard successfully (don't worry, your objectives can be accomplished without spending this much). The hope is that a positive first impression equates to retaining top talent.

Motivational speaker Cameron Herold challenges the traditional workplace practice of throwing a party when an employee leaves, yet not celebrating new hires on their first day. By reversing this practice and instead honoring new employees, Herold contends, your company can demonstrate the value it places in new hires from the onset of their employment, and incorporate an innovative retention strategy.

Remember, most employees decide whether they feel "at home" in the first three weeks at a new job. Failure to produce a strong first impression among your new hires during the onboarding process could mean the joke's on you. But if you can get it right, firms that onboard successfully have 14-percent better sales and profit objective achievement.

So how do you successfully onboard new employees? We asked four awarding-winning companies (Bernie Moreno Companies, Budget Dumpster, Cohen & Company, and Hyland Software) and one renowned thought leader (Kevin Kruse), just that in the eBook, You Wouldn't Believe How Awesome My First Day of Work Was at..., and each one of them suggested starting with an effective onboarding program.

Preparing for the Onboarding Process

Before any new employees come walking though the door for day-one onboarding, you need to be prepared. HR preparations should begin as soon as an employee signs the offer letter, and sometimes, even sooner. Of course you'll want to review your training materials and collaborate
with various departments to ensure basic logistical matters have been handled, but also make sure you've taken care of all the "little things" --- assigning key cards, parking passes, desks, laptops, email addresses, etc.

Paperwork --- benefits enrollment, health insurance processing, 401(k) registration, payroll setup, non-compete and confidentiality agreements, and workplace policies --- should also be finalized prior to a new employee's arrival for day-one onboarding.

Taking preparation one step further, Cohen & Company utilizes a collegiate internship program to gradually integrate entry-level employees as far as two years prior to their first day. At Budget Dumpster, new hires are brought in for orientation before their actual start dates, affording both parties an opportunity to better determine whether the fit is right. Hyland Software sends a welcome email to engage new hires prior to their arrival. This email introduces new employees to their teams, provides a biography regarding the HR professional who will oversee their first three days, and offers an overview of how the first day and week will transpire.

What to Do on Employees' First Day

Companies should go to great lengths to ensure new-hire training is conducted in an optimal location. Have a double-booked main conference room on a day featuring new-hire onboarding? The other group should relocate, even if it's the executive leadership team. Also, the training area utilized for first-day onboarding should be inviting (think good lighting and comfortable chairs), technologically-equipped for electronic presentations, and easily accessible to other amenities your new hires will need, such as restrooms and the cafeteria.

Besides having the right location for onboarding, you also need the right date --- always onboard new employees on Mondays. Starting on Mondays fosters a consistent process, increases productivity and makes it easier to ensure availability of all contributing constituents: HR staff, IT staff, department heads, senior leadership, employee mentors, etc. Sticking with the theme of efficiency and consistency, regardless of what hours your new hires will work once onboarded, have them work a standard 9-5 shift on their first day. This, too, will maximize consistency and availability for all involved.

Now that you've got the right time and place, focus on the human element --- you are dealing with people after all! New hires are often nervous and stressed on their first day. Combat this by opening your onboarding process with an activity that calms your new hires, introduces them to fellow new employees sharing the room, and even induces a laugh or two.

At Cohen & Company, this means hosting a "New Hire Breakfast" on the first day of onboarding. Meanwhile, Hyland Software has new hires partake in a scavenger hunt that sends them outside and across its expansive campus on foot, introducing them to the many on-site amenities available, while also providing a lay of the land.

Creating Your Own Onboarding Materials

It's important to note that onboarding processes and materials will vary by individual company and industry. Therefore, its vital that you research best practices relevant to onboarding within your industry, then let your creativity and originality shine. Many onboarding leaders opt to construct and present their own day-one training materials rather than outsourcing this responsibility.

By crafting your own onboarding materials, you'll ensure you maintain control of the process. If your company's fast-paced environment necessitates frequent updating of your theme and message, you won't be at the mercy of a third-party vendor to make hasty changes prior to your next new-hire start date.

Both Bernie Moreno Companies and Budget Dumpster lacked standardized onboarding procedures just a few years ago, but rapid growth by both companies sparked the creation of in-house onboarding materials. Today, Bernie Moreno Companies has its own e-learning modules that are tested before being presented live. They didn't take somebody else's curriculum and attempt to put a square peg in a round hole, they developed it all fresh. Likewise, Budget Dumpster's onboarding process has evolved over the years, and now, a new hire is trained and brought up to speed within a week or less.

At Hyland Software, a sophisticated three-day onboarding process complete with original materials has been refined over the years. Here's a look at their onboarding checklist. Again, this will vary based on your company and industry, but this will give you a good guideline to create a list of your own.

Hyland Software OnBoarding Checklist:

  • Enroll in Benefits (
  • Open your Health Savings Account
  • Enroll in your 401(k) Savings Plan (
  • Complete Health Risk Assessment by ________
  • Schedule Health Screening between ________ & ________
  • Schedule Ultipro single sign-on
  • Acknowledge documents in HSIDB
  • Create Challenge Question on Mindshare
  • Fill out Concur profile
  • Setup account
  • Complete "Harassment Awareness" training within 30 days
  • Complete "Global Anti-Corruption" Training
  • Have your profile photo taken
  • Fill out OnBoarding survey
  • Complete Scavenger Hunt

To  learn how you can engage new employees effectively, get them up-to speed quickly, and reduce your company’s new-hire turnover rate check out the eBook:

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At viperks, maximizing employee happiness is at the heart of everything we do. Our employee discount and appreciation program optimizes employee engagement, putting smiles on your staff members' faces and boosting your company's bottom line.

Want to learn more about how you can help your employees be happier and more productive? We're here to talk.

Topics: onboarding

blog author

Eric Golubitsky

Eric brings 18+ years of entrepreneurial experience. Eric founded S.M.I.L.E. Inc. in 1998, which was a Consumer Electronic Pro Top 100 home automation provider and was recognized as the #1 fastest growing company in NE Ohio by CWRU Weatherhead School of Management in 2003. As an Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year" finalist in 2005, Eric's accomplishments have been recognized multiple times including the Consumer Electronics Association's national "Mark of Excellence Award." Eric is also a 5 year member of EO (Entrepreneurs Organization).