How Long Does Onboarding Take?

employee onboarding process

Did you know that a good onboarding process improves employee retention by 82% and boosts productivity by 70%? An effective onboarding program is one of your company’s biggest assets when it comes to training new hires into top team members.

However, most companies don’t spend long enough onboarding.

In fact, most companies in the US only spend 1-2 weeks on the employee onboarding program, which is a huge mistake. Poor onboarding programs lead to low retention, employee dissatisfaction, and even toxic work environments that bring the existing team down.

Here we look at how long onboarding should take, why longer programs are better, and we give you some tips for perfecting your process.

Let’s get to it!

How Long Should The Onboarding Process Take?

Generally speaking, the onboarding process should take at least 3 months. HR professionals and Hiring Managers generally agree that 3 months is the minimum amount of time it should take to onboard new employees.

Research suggests that onboarding should continually happen within the first year of an employee’s new role, helping them to familiarize themselves with the company culture, ask any questions they may have, and just settle into the learning experience properly.

1-2 weeks is not long enough!

Employees learn a lot about their new role in the first six months, so if a year sounds too long for you, consider a development and onboarding program that tackle’s the first six months of the new job. After that, most new employees will be settled in enough to fly solo.

employee onboarding process

Why Does Onboarding Take So Long?

When you’re used to working at a business, it can be easy to forget how alien it all seemed to you when you got a job offer and started at the organization.

As well as filling out your new hire paperwork, meeting the team, and speaking to management, you also need to come to terms with the layout of a new environment, suss out the personalities of your fellow employees, and just generally find your place in the company.

HR Professionals agree that new employees don’t feel fully “at home” in their new jobs for at least six months or so.

The Advantages Of A Long Employee Onboarding Process

Okay, so hiring managers and HR staff are telling you that your employee onboarding process should be longer. But what are the advantages of stretching out this process over the course of the new hire’s first year?

Higher retention rates & lower employee turnover

As we mentioned, a good onboarding process improves employee retention by 82%, so you’re almost twice as likely to keep your new hire in the company if they are introduced to the company with a thorough onboarding system.

If you’ve got a serious turnover problem at your company, a poor/short onboarding program could be what’s causing the problem. No one wants to feel lost and scared in a new job.

You create a better, more productive work environment

A thorough onboarding process stretching through an employee’s first year can boost productivity by 70%, leading to better and more effective work produced more quickly.

This also tends to have a knock-on effect with other employees, as the new employee has higher engagement levels and it’s easier to swap ideas when everyone is feeling productive and confident.

You can teach ongoing soft and technical skills

Most job roles require a combination of soft skills and technical skills.

Soft skills might include:

  • Creative thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Problem-solving

However, depending on the company, technical skills could include things like:

  • IT skills
  • Programming skills
  • Data entry
  • Engineering
  • Coding

Effective onboarding processes leave enough time for the new employee to really acquire both sets of skills required for their role – most companies require their staff to have a unique combination of these skills.

The longer your onboarding program, the longer the new hires have to develop the set of skills necessary to fulfill their role to its fullest potential, making your organization even stronger.

New employees feel much more comfortable

As new hires become more familiar with different co-workers, managers, systems, and touch points in their role, it’s natural that they’re going to feel happier and more comfortable.

As any good manager knows, a happy employee is an efficient employee!

Longer onboarding processes help to improve the mood of the workplace as the new hire feels content because they don’t need to “rush” and “learn everything quickly”.

Collaborative learning becomes part of the employee experience

Any HR professional worth their salt will tell you that an employee handbook and new hire paperwork will only go so far. Yes, these things are important, but they cannot replace on-the-job experience and learning tips and tricks from fellow employees in the company.

In fact, it’s estimated that employees learn 90% of their skills from other team members rather than from books or formal teaching materials.

This is when collaborative culture really takes off.

While this can seem frustrating for the HR team that spends time creating HR handbook and designing formal training materials, the reality is that a combination of formal and informal training is what most new hires need. The longer your onboarding program runs for, the easier it is for new employees to experience collaborative learning.

collaborative learning during onboarding

Employee Onboarding Best Practices

The onboarding process is different for every organization, and some employees take to the onboarding process better or worse than others. Nonetheless, well-run onboarding programs almost always lead to improved synergy and workflow going forward.

Here are some employee onboarding tips that can boost employee engagement and learning in the first year!

Try pre-boarding welcome materials before their first day

Some new companies are now doing “pre-boarding”, a sort of “onboarding light” that takes place before the person actually starts on their first day.

The idea is to supply the new employee with materials that give them an insight into the workplace and what they can expect.

Materials may include:

  • Books
  • Emails
  • Guides
  • Welcome videos
  • Podcasts

Feel free to get creative and give the new hires an answer to some of the questions they probably have before they start. Make them feel more relaxed about the scenario.

Shoot a quick video introducing the team

A lot of companies now include a short video introducing the team as a stage of the onboarding process. This can help to introduce the new person to other people they’ll be working with at the organization, giving them the comfort of recognizing some people on day one.

But it doesn’t have to be Spielberg!

Your introduction video doesn’t have to be super professional and well-made. In fact, a low-key YouTube vlog-style video is probably the warmest, most non-intimidating way to introduce the new hire’s fellow employees in a casual, fun way.

Make sure you create a schedule for day one

Make sure your HR team creates a schedule for your employee’s first few days at the new workplace. HR teams recommending strictly scheduling the first few days, as it gives the new employee a sense of structure in a turbulent, overwhelming time.

Most onboarding programs don’t structure employee time too much, but definitely do it in the first week or two.

Give them a “buddy” employee

Taking the stage alone can be scary, so consider pairing your new worker up with a fellow “buddy” employee for a few days. This gives them a person they can talk to when they want to ask questions and learn how to do new things.

It can also help to facilitate new friendships and bonds – an essential yet overlooked stage of onboarding employees.

strengthening employee bond

Facilitate a blended learning process

Most of your staff will learn via a combination of training manuals, online courses, and on-the-job experience.

Learning is rarely one-dimensional.

Employees need to learn on their terms, as all of us have a unique learning process that can be hard to standardize with onboarding.

It’s a good idea to have lots of online, book-based, and on-the-job learning vocations for new people. This blended process allows people to pick and choose the best methods for them.

Hold regular check-ins with managers

Support for management is a key aspect of any successful onboarding process. Regular feedback and 1-on-1 meetings with supervisors can help to boost engagement, satisfaction, and productivity.

These meetings give the new person the opportunity to clarify processes, ask questions, give their feedback, and generally get the lay of the land.

It also gives the management a chance to give the new person feedback, helping them to improve their performance and tailor it toward the long-term goals of the organization.

We hope you enjoyed this guide to how long the onboarding process should take! Onboarding is a complex process that moves at different paces for different people. Your HR department just needs to build in enough time and leeway for people to learn at their own pace and in their own unique way.

Good luck in your HR onboarding journey!