An ineffective onboarding process not only makes it harder for your employees to succeed, it may even drive them to jump ship.
As one Paychex study finds, 80% of new hires who received poor onboarding plan to quit.
But how do you ensure that your hires don’t fall into that statistic?
Traditional hiring methods can make onboarding feel like a stab in the dark, where you can’t consistently deliver support on an employee’s first day.
This is where a hiring workflow that integrates talent assessments comes to the rescue by providing you with a nuanced, data-driven picture of your new employee, enabling you to personalize their onboarding and supercharge their success from the get-go.
In this article, we break down the steps in the new employee onboarding process, the snags you might encounter along the way, and how you can use skills-based hiring to avoid them.
If you already know how tricky onboarding is, feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to learn how to optimize the process with talent assessments.
New employee onboarding is the process of integrating a new hire into your organization and its culture and establishing the foundation for success in their new role.
The new employee onboarding process generally consists of five stages:
Hiring: The hiring process gives an employee a first impression of their responsibilities within the team and what to expect from your company culture.
Preboarding: The period between accepting the job offer and the new hire’s start date, which involves tasks like completing new hire paperwork, setting up accounts, and giving the employee a clearer picture of their new role.
The first day: This includes sending a welcome company email, and typical orientation tasks, such as introducing new hires to their colleagues, managers, and mentors, giving them a tour of the office, teaching them about your company, and officially welcoming them.
The first month: Further employee orientation and job training period, where the new hire learns the procedures required for their role, gets hands-on experience in their new work environment and team, and steadily grows into their position.
End of year one: By now, the employee is a confident member of the team. The end of the employee’s first year should include a one-on-one review, covering plans for the future and growth and development opportunities.
A weak or rushed onboarding process can leave a new hire with a range of negative emotions. They may feel overwhelmed and devalued, or they may have the impression that this role is different from the job they thought they were getting.
The same study linked above on the consequences of poor onboarding plots these feelings:
Any employee experiencing one of the above feelings is much more likely to start looking for a new opportunity – and they’ve barely just begun with your company.
On the flip side, companies with strong onboarding software and processes see their new employee retention rates improve by 82% and productivity by more than 70%.
Onboarding is a company’s chance to make a strong, lasting impression on any new team members.
So what exactly is making it so difficult to get right?
There are a couple of recurrent themes among poor onboarding processes:
Lack of personalization: Each new hire brings an entirely new person into your organization, and each new person has their own unique experiences and needs.
Lack of engagement: An impersonal or hastily done onboarding process leads to employees feeling unvalued, making them less likely to be engaged in their work.
Culture misalignment: You may find that once you’ve hired someone, they do not match up well with your company’s culture. Perhaps they’re a bit of a jokester while your company is strictly professional.
Poor performance: Some new employees may get off to a rough start, making you fear that you’ve made a bad hire. In reality, these employees could have impressive potential but had a poor onboarding experience and were given unclear expectations.
These issues all stem from the shortcomings of the traditional hiring process. Unlike a more holistic hiring process involving talent assessment, traditional methods tend toward biased, subjective judgments of a candidate.
In such cases, no matter how effective your onboarding toolkit is, a poor hiring process could be setting it up to fail from the start.
The key to successful onboarding lies in the first step of the process we outlined above: You need to hire the right person in the first place.
Organizations that implement skills-based hiring see a 92.5% reduction in mis-hires, and talent assessments form the pillar of skills-based hiring.
These assessments help hiring managers clearly establish the skills and competencies they need for a specific role, ensuring that applicants know exactly what will be expected from them.
Further, talent assessments in your hiring process give you a concrete picture of the skills a new hire possesses. This lets you know which areas of the new hire onboarding process they may need to spend a little more time on to make sure they’re up to speed.
Employees appreciate the skills-based approach in hiring, too: 56% of employees prefer hiring processes that include talent assessments. This means that they help you further improve the candidate experience.
But talent assessments go beyond just hard skills and soft skills. You can also incorporate personality and culture tests for applicants to ensure that they’re able to integrate easily into your team and help you foresee any possible snags that may come up.
For example, you can assess the five major dimensions of personality with the Big 5 (OCEAN) test.
You might see that two personality types consistently succeed within your company – you can review the onboarding process of those prior successful candidates and use it for any future new hires with the same personality types.
Finally, talent assessments within your onboarding process more effectively set your new employees up for job training and development initiatives.
Maybe you’ve hired a salesperson who’s an otherwise perfect fit but isn’t proficient in the specific CRM software your business uses. Rather than lose out on this high potential employee, you know to simply invest a bit of extra time training them in this area.
These training efforts can help keep the new hire engaged, too, by identifying the roles they’d like to move into and the skills they need to develop for said role.
Now that we know the benefits of talent assessments in your new hire onboarding process, it’s time to cover how to onboard a new employee using these assessments.
Used correctly, talent assessments are a powerful tool to optimize your onboarding process and ensure your new hires are set up for success.
Here’s a quick overview of the seven specific ways to use talent assessments to empower onboarding for new employees before we delve into the details below.
How to use talent assessments
1. Adopt skills-first onboarding
Assess your current processes to implement skills-based hiring beyond new employee onboarding
2. Establish performance metrics for each role
Set up milestones to monitor employee progress and inform and personalize the new employee onboarding process
3. Build a detailed job description
Use talent assessments to assess the skills necessary to succeed in a role and clearly outline them in your job description
4. Ensure new hires have the right skills
Evaluate candidates with talent assessments for objective knowledge about whether they can perform the role
5. Assess key starter skills, like motivation and personality
Look for power skills, such as motivation, collaboration, and leadership because these aid in effective onboarding
6. Help new hires integrate by hiring for culture add
Ensure a smooth onboarding process while fostering innovation by focusing on culture-add hires
7. Begin building a career growth plan
Set the tone for your new hire’s time within your organization by creating a developmental roadmap
A skills-first onboarding process is one that focuses on the abilities an employee needs to excel in their role.
For employees, this process helps them get up to speed more quickly, keeps them engaged and motivated, and feels more rewarding than one that does not focus on their skills. For employers, it boosts retention rates and improves hiring efficiency.
Although skills-first onboarding is a powerful tool, it’s only so effective in isolation. To fully maximize its impact, you must embrace a skills-first culture in your organization, which begins with implementing talent assessments.
Take a step back and re-examine your hiring and development practices. For example:
Does your hiring process focus on the things listed on an individual’s resume (i.e., their work experience or what college they went to)? Unlike a resume, talent assessments tell hiring managers whether a candidate truly has the skills necessary to succeed in a role.
Do you offer robust, targeted training opportunities and encourage continuous development in your employees? Talent assessments help you personalize training opportunities to train employees for their desired roles, which is especially helpful in internal recruitment opportunities.
To ensure your onboarding is going smoothly, establish certain key metrics for each role.
These help you gauge the new hire’s performance, monitor their development, and let you tailor their onboarding as necessary, improving the level of personalization that we mentioned above.
Remember that every employee is different. Just because one new employee isn’t hitting their performance metrics doesn’t mean they’re a bad hire – it just means you might need to consider extending their onboarding time.
Talent assessments play a key role here by helping you understand the skills necessary to perform a given role. When you know what the employee needs to be able to do by the end of the onboarding process, you can construct a plan to help monitor their progress.
Clearly outline these expectations for your new employee in their onboarding plan during their first week. These keep the employee engaged by giving them set goals to strive for.
For instance, consider how these metrics might look in the 30-60-90 day plan for a fresh content editor:
30 days: Understand the editorial process within Google Docs; become acquainted with in-house style guides; learn to use team collaboration tools, such as Monday.com or Slack
60 days: Be able to fully edit per in-house style guides; understand how to use any applicable SEO tools; start learning your organization’s content management system (CMS)
90 days: Capability to utilize SEO tools within the editing process; knowledgeable enough to coach new writers to follow writing guidelines; ability to publish content on CMS without guidance
Inaccurate or unclear job descriptions are a major cause of the disconnect between employees and employers in the onboarding process.
Candidates seek out clarity in listings during their job search, with 27% of people citing deceiving job descriptions as one of the most frustrating aspects of their search.
An employee might tick off every box listed in your job description but discover that much more is expected of them than they thought. They get overwhelmed, and you end up scrambling to train them up to a baseline skillset.
The best way to mitigate this trouble is to take a skills-based approach to your job descriptions. Rather than listing vague requirements like “5+ years of experience,” list out the specific skills a position requires, whether that be proficiency in C++ programming, native fluency in Icelandic, or aptitude in people management.
Use talent assessments within your current team to inform this process by measuring what skills past or current employees for the role possessed. Then, be sure to list those skills explicitly in your job description. This ensures all applicants know exactly what will be required of them.
In doing this, you may even identify a skills gap that you didn’t know existed in your team – and can then prioritize the needed skill in your description.
Have you ever hired someone who claimed to have certain skills, only to find out midway through the onboarding process that they were exaggerating their abilities?
This problem crops up time and time again in the traditional hiring process because resumes and unstructured interviews give you only a subjective glimpse of a candidate’s skills.
If you have to spend days or weeks trying to train a candidate on their skills, not only are you losing time, but your cost of onboarding a new employee is going to skyrocket, too.
Talent assessments replace the subjectivity in this part of the hiring process with an objective grade of an applicant’s abilities in a given area.
Digital Care is one example of a business that faced such an issue in its hiring processes.
The company’s typical screening process involved sifting through resumes and interviewing the candidates who seemed most suitable. However, it found that these measures did not produce applicants who actually matched its hiring needs.
Digital Care chose to try TestGorilla because of its ease of use – rather than trying to foresee a candidate’s potential through the wording of their resume, TestGorilla’s talent assessments gave the company a single concrete grade by which to judge applicants.
This led to Digital Care not only making more accurate hires but saving money in the long run, too.
Talent assessments give you insight not only into a candidate’s hard skills but also into their intangible skills.
These skills, such as motivation, personality traits, or leadership ability, play a huge role in a successful onboarding program – they’re known as power skills for a reason, after all.
Your new hire can have all the talent in the world, but if they lack collaboration skills or if their personality type is not a good match for your team, the onboarding process is going to feel like running into a brick wall over and over.
On the flip side, a candidate with high motivation and a collaborative personality is much more adaptable and willing to learn. These candidates engage with the onboarding program on a deeper level, ensuring that they’re being set up for long-term success in your organization.
TestGorilla’s Motivation test is just one example of a test that can assess these key starter skills to help your new hires hit the ground running.
One of the problems we mentioned with onboarding is that of culture misalignment.
You may think this means you should look for hires who match up exactly with your existing company culture – but doing so can lead to a culture of stagnation.
Rather, you should aim to hire for culture add; that is, seek out hires who both align with your company’s current culture and also bring something new to the table.
Hiring for culture add ensures that onboarding a new employee goes smoothly: You don’t end up with a culture misalignment, but you also don’t hire an employee who simply “fits the mold,” ensuring ongoing development and innovation among your workforce.
Onboarding is more than just telling employees who they report to and what time the lunch break is.
It sets the entire tone for your new hire’s tenure with your company. In skills-first onboarding, this means that you encourage the new hire to continually develop their skills even beyond their first year through employee training and development.
Career growth is one of the most important factors for job seekers, with 80% of employed US adults mentioning training and development opportunities as a key consideration for any new job.
Making it clear to your new hires that you’re invested in their career growth even as early as the onboarding process is one major way to keep them engaged in their work.
Ask them what sort of role(s) they’d like to move into in the future, then use talent assessments to see where they need to improve to land their dream position.
From there, you can construct a professional development plan to give them a measurable roadmap for their success.
For example, a new hire looking to move into a management position can benefit greatly from a leadership development plan, where you assess their leadership skills and identify what type of leader you’d need to fill any gaps in your organization.
Talent assessments are integral to successful new employee onboarding, but there's more to onboarding than optimizing the process with the help of skills tests.
In this section, we discuss four more best practices that you should incorporate into your onboarding program to improve employee engagement, loyalty, and job satisfaction.
Here’s a brief overview:
1. Use a new employee onboarding checklist
Follow an onboarding checklist to ensure that each new hire receives the same vital information and keep everything laid out clearly
2. Stay in touch with the new hire
Don’t cease communication after onboarding finishes; instead, check in with the new hire to check that everything is going well
3. Don’t forget preboarding
Use the preboarding period to introduce your new employee to your policies and culture and get perfunctory tasks out of the way
4. Try reboarding former employees or workers returning after a long absence
Make the onboarding process even easier by rehiring former employees, and personalize onboarding for workers coming back after a career gap
Let’s dive into these in more detail.
During particularly busy times or in high volume hiring scenarios, it can be easy to accidentally gloss over or skip steps in the new employee onboarding process.
You may not notice the impact of such a slip-up right away, but the repercussions will crop up down the line. Different employees end up with different information about their responsibilities, leading to frustration, stress, and, eventually, turnover.
Use an onboarding checklist to ensure you are covering the same vital points with each new employee who comes on.
Along with clearly outlined roles and responsibilities, a good new employee onboarding checklist should include:
All forms and paperwork the new employee needs to complete
Details on company policies
Key points on company culture
Once everything on your onboarding checklist has been covered, it’s easy to think your job as an HR professional is done.
However, it’s important, even after the fact, to continually communicate with the new hire. This keeps them engaged and lets them know that they’re valued within your organization.
Follow up with them to see how they’re feeling about their role. Check to ensure they’re still clear on their responsibilities, ask how things are going with their team, or see if they could use anything to help them perform their job better.
Even simply asking them how they’re doing goes a long way to letting them know they’re an important team member.
Google does this through regular one-on-one meetings and “meaningful nudges.”
These nudges come at regular points after the two-week mark and serve to encourage open communication, foster the company’s values, and engage the employee on a more personal level.
Topics for these nudges include:
Invitation to ask any questions
Prompts to get to know team members better
Encouragement to actively seek out feedback
Reminder to accept challenges and don’t be afraid to fail
Likewise, you want to check in with your new employees during the period after they’ve accepted your job offer letter but before they’ve actually started in their new position.
This period, known as preboarding, sets the tone for your entire onboarding program. If you leave the employees in the dark during this time, they’re going to feel disoriented and out of place on day one.
Instead, strive to keep up active communication and give them opportunities to get to know the company before they fully start. This could involve inviting them for a tour of the office or even scheduling a virtual event with other employees so they can get to know everyone.
You can also use this time to get some of the more mundane tasks of the onboarding process out of the way. Send the employee any forms that need filling out before they start on the job, and give them materials covering company policies and culture for them to review.
This way, once they get in on their first day, the employee doesn’t have to spend time doing these minor tasks and can focus on more meaningful things, like learning how to collaborate with their team.
Rehiring former employees carries a host of benefits – and this is especially true when it comes to the onboarding process. After all, they’ve already gone through it before.
This doesn’t mean that you can skip onboarding altogether, though, but it does make it easier as they’re already familiar with your company policies and structure. Remember to still cover every point in your onboarding checklist, in case the former employee has forgotten anything.
You can also stretch the reaches of your talent pool even further by hiring employees returning to work after long absences.
The “career gap” in an applicant’s work history has a stigma attached to it that often results in bias in hiring and results in companies missing out on otherwise stellar candidates.
When hiring returnees, be sure to take the extra steps necessary to personalize their onboarding plan to help ease them back into the working world.
New employee onboarding should not be viewed as a simple rote task – rather, it forms the outline for good talent pool management for your workers.
A personalized, skills-based approach to onboarding sets the stage for your new hires’ continuous development and success within your organization. It also helps keep them engaged and motivated, leading to improved retention.
Use talent assessments to evaluate your new employee’s hard skills and power skills to see where they currently stand against where they’d like to go and use these to inform your development plans.
Learn more about how to spot quality candidates to make the onboarding process even easier for your human resources leaders.
Implement the Culture Add test in your hiring process to find candidates whose values align with your company’s and who also bring new innovations to the fray.
1. “The Effect of Poor Onboarding on New Hires”. (January 16, 2023). Paychex. Retrieved October 21, 2023. https://www.paychex.com/articles/human-resources/the-onboarding-crisis
To address its increased recruitment needs and influx of applicants for roles that include customer support and leadership, Dyninno Group implemented TestGorilla. See how the Dyninno Group of companies improved candidate screening and recruitment productivity by 400%.
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