gap intelligence is a small business that puts a huge emphasis on culture. We’ve historically had a fairly casual onboarding program, but as its grown, the company decided nearly two years ago that it needed to revamp the program by formalizing it, creating a process, and having someone in charge of executing that process. I was fortunate enough to be tasked with that execution for the Data Division of the Research Group.

Employee retention is one of the most important things that a company can do to help not only its bottom line, but also its culture. And one of the most effective ways to retain employees is to have an effective onboarding program. Statistics show that it costs roughly 1/3 of someone’s annual salary to replace them, and if you aren’t regularly retaining your employees, that cost will add up quickly. Not to mention, it’s hard to establish a productive culture when employees often come and go.

Developing, evolving, and executing the new onboarding program at gap has been something that I have truly enjoyed. I moved away from San Diego and gap intelligence’s San Diego HQ over four years ago and had a hard time knowing who was coming in to be a part of the gap intelligence team because I didn’t have much interaction as a remote employee. However, once I took over the onboarding program, I started meeting and getting to know all the new employees a little bit which helped me feel a lot more connected.

Since gap intelligence’s new process has been in place, I have helped onboard five new gappers. As I’ve gone through the process there are five main things that stick out to me that are essential to a successful onboarding experience.

1. Have an Onboarding Plan

As with most things, having a plan is imperative. You don’t want a new hire showing up with nothing to do or learn. It is important to not just lay out the first days or weeks of a new hire’s employment, but to plan out the days leading up to their start date. Making sure that the team is ready to train and explain will ensure that everyone involved is prepared and ready to help the new employee succeed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Creating milestones and having regular check-ins are an important part of the plan. Milestones make clear what is expected of the new hire and when. And having regular check-ins and providing feedback allows them to correct mistakes and move forward in a productive manner.

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2. Provide Proper Equipment and Login Credentials

In order for anyone to succeed, they must be equipped to do so. Having a proper set up of equipment, whether it be in office or in a remote setting, needs to happen before the first day in the office. New employees should be able to start their first day and hit the ground running, not spend the day trying to get a workstation set up. Assign someone the task of setting up a workstation and establishing an internet connection. There should also be someone who sets up an email address for the new hire as well as login credentials for all pertinent websites and programs. This equipment and login set up can take a considerable amount of time, and you don’t want to have to be dealing with it on someone’s first day when there is already so much other stuff going on.

3. Communicate Like Hell

This happens to be one of gap intelligence’s core values because lets face it, good communication is critical to business success (and any success in life). There are often multiple people involved in one employee’s onboarding. Typically, at a minimum there’s the onboarding leader, a manager, a trainer, and a buddy on the team – and the new hire themselves of course. It is so important to make sure that everyone involved is on the same page, knows what is supposed to happen and when, and knows who is in charge of making each thing happen. Creating agendas, calendar events and reminders, and daily and weekly workflow checklists are all great ways to make sure everybody knows exactly what is going on.

4. Be Kind

This is my favorite. It sounds so easy but for some reason some people have a hard time with it.

Have you ever started a new job and walked into the office on your first day and felt really awkward? I have had one “real” job in my life (gap intelligence if that isn’t obvious) and I still remember my first day roughly nine and half years ago. People were kind to me, they were welcoming and friendly, and I knew from that day that gap intelligence was a place that I wanted to work and something I wanted to be a part of. If I had gone in that day and people were rude or standoffish, or just didn’t care that there was a new girl, I’m sure I would have left feeling much different.

Your attitude as an existing employee can have a make or break influence on new employees. First impressions are so important, and to make someone feel welcome on their first day or week at a new job can mean so much to them and make such a lasting impression. Especially in these times when your first day(s) (and weeks and months at this point) is completely virtual.

5. Gather Feedback

When you gather feedback, it allows you to be continuously improving on the things that really matter to the people who are going through the process. Once someone has gone through the onboarding process, it is important to ask them for their feedback and learn what went well and what might need to be adjusted.

It is also just as important to solicit feedback from current employees who were involved in onboarding the new hire. These people have had their workflow disrupted during the process and it’s important to make things as easy as possible on them so they can continue to do great at their own job while also helping the new hire do great from the very start.

The goal of onboarding shouldn’t be just to get a new employee in the door and ramped up to speed to take on work independently as quickly as possible. It should be just as much, if not more, about creating an environment for that person to feel comfortable, welcome and confident that they are going to succeed. Because lets face it, an employee that feels comfortable and confident will be much more successful, and much easier to retain, than if they are left on their own or feel like they can’t ask questions and get help.

The ROI of a good onboarding program shouldn’t be understated, and it should be a top priority for every organization. gap intelligence takes pride in being a PaaS (People as a Service) company and there is no better way to get your people to buy in and become an effective member of your team quicker and more efficiently than a well-run onboarding program.

Do you have what it takes to be a gapper? We’re hiring! Head over to Culture and check out available positions.