Employee retention starts the day you hire. Why? Because life is about to change for your new employee. The change starts with driving a new route to a new office. There will be new faces, new procedures, maybe even a new city. Things that can look like tiny glitches to you can feel like big problems to your new-hire. Doubts can accumulate and slow the rapid climb to productivity that you’re expecting.

Also, remember that your staff are wondering: Who is this new person? Will they be successful? What does this mean for me and my job?

Onboarding smooths the wrinkles of adding an employee by paying attention to the simplest of human emotions: the desire to be welcomed and appreciated. The best onboarding kicks in when the offer letter is signed. Here are some steps you could think about including in your process:

  • A welcome package that opens with a warm, personal letter from the person at the top. Include copies of employee policies and benefits, and forms to be returned for payroll and benefit enrollment. Momentum inoculates against second thoughts.
  • Office announcements with the new-hire’s email address and/or phone number to encourage welcome calls. Industry announcements in papers and trade publications. TIP: Make sure the candidate is clear that a signed offer letter triggers these announcements.
  • Make your new-hire’s work space look like it’s ready for this important first day. Stock it with a fresh supply of pens, pencils, notepads, obviously. Newly minted business cards can say “commitment” like nothing else. As a bonus, add a gift card to a local restaurant, or bookstore.

Onboarding shifts to a higher gear on start date.

  • Arrange a brief welcome/orientation from the same person who signed the welcome letter. In-person when possible, on-screen as an option. If a phone call is the only choice, it’s still better than nothing. Assign a “guide” to answer the inevitable questions about things everyone else probably takes for granted. The guide role is short-term and isn’t necessarily a mentor.
  • Schedule a special lunch. Invite the new-hire’s direct supervisor and as many up the chain of command as can be available. Include as many peers as reasonable. Use the lunch to share the culture of the practice and goals and strategies for the practice. At the same time you orient your new hire to the culture of the firm, you can re-orient the team on goals and strategies.
  • Brief but focused check-ins at the thirty and sixty day mark. As part of the conversation, urge your new-hire to self-evaluate. Acknowledge and encourage the things that are going right. Add corrections if necessary. New employees perform better from immediate feedback on how they’re doing and changes they need to make.

Managing your onboarding process can be as simple as a checklist of activities, or as detailed as one of the many off-the-shelf software options. The key is to do something. Onboarding is an investment with dividends in higher job satisfaction, accelerated time to high productivity and improved retention rates.