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“Onboarding” an employee goes far beyond a new hire completing reams of tax and benefits forms on the first day at a new job.

And it should not be confused with “orientation.” At some companies, the onboarding process lasts a year, and it’s a critical time to assure both parties they made the correct employment decision.

Here are five tips for a successful onboarding process, which can ultimately be key to retaining talent and ensuring the highest level of productivity:

1. Develop an onboarding plan. What is the process? How long will it last? What will it accomplish? Articulate your company’s goals for the process.
2. Start the process immediately. Consider providing useful company links after an offer is accepted. This will get the employee engaged before he or she even formally starts the job.
3. Be prepared. Make sure your company and its employees anticipate the new employee’s first day, and ensure a work area is good to go. Providing a phone number, business cards and log-in information on the first day engages the employee immediately. If they feel like a business was unprepared for their arrival, it can take a while – if ever – to unring that bell.
4. Set expectations. Make sure new hires completely understand their role in the organization and their objectives. This will not only reinforce what is expected of a new employee, it can assuage concerns of existing personnel that the new hire may be intruding on their turf.
5. Communicate. Managers should check in with the new employee 30 days after hire to ensure things are going smoothly and that the new hire has the resources and tools to meet goals and expectations.

While following the guidelines above can lead to long-term success and a loyal and happy employee, there’s no substitute for a personal touch. Take the new hire out to lunch the first day and make sure you make a round of the office with introductions.

If a new employee feels welcomed and appreciated from the first day, he or she will be loyal in return, reducing turnover and allowing managers to focus on expanding the company rather than filling positions.

AtWork provides companies with flexible employment solutions with the highest level of service available. For more human resources and staffing tips, visit us online.