Talking about onboarding today can quickly get tricky. On one hand, everyone is really big on notions like company culture and candidate experience. On the other hand, it’s not hard to get stuck in a rut, repeating the buzzwords and slowly eating away at the actual value you’re providing to your candidates. 

It’s great that onboarding moved into the limelight and got its fair share of attention, but what does it actually mean to ‘onboard’ an employee?

Here’s the thing: when you mention onboarding, you’re likely to get as many ideas of what it actually entails as there are people listening. From 1-day run-throughs of software and the facilities to month-long deep dives into the team and the culture, onboarding has a broad range of what it can be. And what it definitely can be — and this tends to get overlooked — is a big thing for your existing team members.

Orientation vs. Onboarding

First of all, onboarding is much more than just showing people where they sit and how to use the tools at their disposal. Naturally, you hire the person to do a job, and you’re inclined to make sure they do it well. However, don’t forget that you most likely hired them because you have reason to believe they actually will do it well.

Therefore, onboarding should focus on non-productivity matters at least as much as on productivity training. And this is where your team members can step in.

There is research backing the claims that new hires benefit significantly from a peer mentoring program. It can be anything from a buddy system — a person they can turn to at any moment, with any kind of question — to a full-fledged mentor. 

A team member who is skilled at their job, as well as in transferring knowledge, can do wonders for a new employee, and this can include: 

  • getting to know the building and the office, 
  • setting up their workplace, 
  • presenting formal and unwritten office rules and regulations, 
  • introducing tools for project management, internal comms, staff scheduling software, etc.
  • filling out the paperwork required for the job.

As new hires work closely with their mentor or buddy, they have a unique opportunity to do something that brings even more value to the table.

Transfer of the Company Culture

No one is a better fit for transferring your company’s culture to new hires than the people forming it and bringing it to life day after day. Peer mentorship is like a one-on-one with your company culture personified. This means you need to choose a team member who really carries these values close to their heart, in terms of both worldviews and personal integrity.

Brand books and culture memos are great, but there’s only so much they can do. Having someone who is a walking example of what you meant in those documents will do a much better job of instilling those values in new hires.

Keep in mind that this is closely connected to productivity, personal accountability, and responsibility — but in the end, it’s much more a cultural thing than a productivity hack. This is how you should approach choosing the right person for the job.

Integration in the Workplace

At one point in their trajectory, your new hires will become team members. This is the point at which they will need to be integrated into your team and collaborate on deliverables. A peer can guide the candidate to this point, but remember — you need to prep your team for a new player as well.

A great way to do so is by standardizing your onboarding process. Not only does research show that having a standardized onboarding process can be a shortcut to a 50% increase in productivity, but it’s also an excellent opportunity for the team to make a team effort.

Lay out the phases of the process, and set up clear goals you’re aiming for the new hire to reach. Then choose different people from the team to help with various goals based on their strengths and experience. The more people your candidate works with from the beginning, the more they’ll feel integrated once the onboarding is officially over.

Remember, candidates feel special because you chose them for your new employee. You can play into those feelings and boost them by providing a great and inviting onboarding process; have it delivered by a number of different people who are projecting the same message, and you’re setting yourself up for retention and loyalty going through the roof.

Diversification of Team Members’ Workday

Integrating a new player into the team might get stressful. Maybe you just designed your processes, set them in motion, and they’re doing great — so why risk it by bringing in someone new?

There can be a number of reasons: increased workflows, promotions in the team, etc. However, it’s also a chance to work on your team’s agility, as well as give some of your current employees a chance to shine.

Working on the same old tasks can get boring — we’ve all been there. Being a mentor, or just a part of the onboarding process, provides the opportunity for your current employees to diversify their workday, while transferring the very skills why they’re on the team in the first place.

When you design the process, take hints from your employees. See how they went through the process, what they’d like to do differently, what they lacked, and what was overly emphasized. These are your most valuable survey respondents, especially the last ones to go through the process.

After that, see who you can match with which new candidate. Not everyone is a people person, and that’s ok. However, some people indeed are, so let them take charge. Make sure you provide the materials and the budget for them to do a good job.

On top of that, create a reporting process for all team members included in the onboarding, as well as a feedback loop from your candidates — after onboarding and possibly a few months down the road. And naturally, have someone use the data to improve the procedure continually.

Onboarding as a Handful of Opportunities

Keep in mind that, when onboarding, you’re not just getting a new employee.

As much as you need to focus on your new hire, don’t forget that integration happens on the other end of the spectrum as well. 

You’re also giving your current employees a chance to contribute via a new channel, and you’re opening the door for working on team dynamics. 

Whether you end up keeping your candidate or losing them to a better offer, having your team go all in into onboarding with their effort is a sure way to make sure you come out of the process a more tight-knit and motivated team.

Rob is a content marketing manager at Deputy, a robust scheduling software that can be used to manage your workforce in a wide variety of different industries. Aside from helping businesses reach operational efficiency, he keeps up to date with the latest trends in SaaS, B2B, and technology in general.