Early fall is considered one of the top seasons for hiring. The end of summer means the return to normal working rhythms, and because vacation season is over, it’s easier to coordinate interviews and fill open positions.

That’s good news. In part because it frees you up to dedicate more energy to the next phase of the process, onboarding, which can have a huge impact on how long a new hire stays with your company.

Here are seven tips to help ensure you’re providing the kind of experience early on that encourages employees to stick around for the long haul and bring serious value to your company.

1. Understand Your New Employee’s Mindset

Your work environment may feel routine to you, but for a new employee everything about the way you operate is new. Whether it’s a lunch-bringing culture, dress code guidelines, or communication etiquette (when to use Slack vs. email vs. in-person, etc.), people feel more comfortable when they know what’s going on, so be sure to share key details even before a new hire’s first day.

Just as important: encourage them to ask questions. The kind of things they care about will give you lots of insight into how they tick, which can help you understand what motivates them and how to help them succeed.

Related Article: When Onboarding New Employees, Make First Impressions Count

2. Don’t Stop Onboarding After Day One

If your current “onboarding process” is just a stack of paperwork, your retention rates probably aren’t super high. Even if you don’t have formal training modules for a new hire, make sure you have deliberate processes in place to orient new employees.

These might include:

  • A team meeting to fill the newest member in on everyone’s roles and what to expect.
  • A team lunch or a monthly new-hire lunch to mark the occasion and encourage socializing.
  • Weekly or monthly check-ins with a manager or HR team member to review the new hire’s experience so far.
  • An immediate first project that will get them familiar with the company and their role.

3. Make Introductions

Most managers are great about introducing new hires to their team. But effective onboarding goes a step further to introduce them to important stakeholders on other teams. Skipping this step can lead a new hire to feel isolated in their department and can also slow down their work.

Eventually, they will need to engage with people outside their immediate team. They’ll be better prepared to do that (independently) if they’ve already met these folks.

Encourage leaders from other groups to schedule informal one-on-ones with new hires (coffee, lunch, a walk around the block) within the first two weeks of hire. This not only helps new employees learn about your organization, it also goes a long way to make them feel welcome.

Related Article: Employee Experience Isn't About Mapping Journeys, It's About Bridging Organizational Tribes

4. Assign a Mentor or Buddy

Even if your new employee has a manager and has worked with a member of the HR team, setting them up with a buddy or mentor helps. As a peer, the buddy / mentor can answer basic questions your newest employee may feel uncomfortable asking their manager.

Immediate peer connections can also boost retention rates: employees who don’t feel as if they fit in with their coworkers are 12 percent more likely to look for a new job than those who feel like part of the team.

Learning Opportunities

5. Provide Job-Specific Training

In one survey of new hires, 76 percent said that on-the-job training was the most important thing to them. That’s hugely important to keep in mind. Remember: even if a new team member has years of experience in the industry, they’ve never worked at your company before.

They may need coaching on specific software platforms, file naming conventions, how you use various communication channels, and what level of detail executives like to see in reports. Whether a hire needs training in actual work tasks or the “social skills” of their role, failing to provide it can lead to frustration all around, which can lead to turnover.

Related Article: Mapping Employee Experience Stages to Your Technology Landscape 

6. Review Company Policies

Every business, no matter how small, needs a handbook that details company policies. And part of any onboarding process should be reviewing those policies with a new hire and requiring them to read the handbook and sign a sheet that they’ve done so.

Why a handbook? People like to know where they stand. They want to know how to request vacation days and what happens when they get sick. The study cited above found that 73 percent of new hires consider a review of company policies an essential part of the onboarding process.

7. Encourage Benefits Enrollment

This one’s really important for a new hire’s long-term happiness and productivity with your company, especially if those hires are in the millennial generation (who now make up 35 percent of the workforce).

Here’s why:

  • Last year’s graduating class left college with an average of $39,400 in educational debt, and that wasn’t an anomaly. Given that many younger employees have a significant financial burden from student loans, they may not think they can afford to put money aside for retirement, which seems impossibly far away. Help them understand the value of setting aside money early and how saving a little now can make a big difference down the road.
  • Most people don’t understand the difference between various types of health insurance plans. Helping a new hire pick one that makes sense for their lifestyle can save them (and you) money — and help keep them well and productive.
  • While younger employees are most interested in taking advantage of financial wellness resources, according to a recent survey, they're also the most likely to be intimidated by them. Doing a little hand-holding to encourage your employees to sign up for financial wellness benefits you offer can pay big dividends down the road: one in three employees says financial stress has been a distraction at work.

Related Article: 5 Things Learned From Employee Exit Interviews

Onboarding for the Long Term

While general best practices can make for better onboarding and retention outcomes for any employee, the key to truly successful onboarding is getting to know what’s important to each person you hire and managing them in such a way that they’re able to both perform their job duties and feel personally fulfilled. It’s also important to make sure that your onboarding process is consistent with your company’s mission, vision and values.

All this can be a tall order for a small business. If you don’t yet have an HR team (or even an HR person), consider enlisting the support of an HR services provider like a professional employer organization (PEO). Whether you need help creating a company handbook, training someone to take on a leadership position, or handling payroll and other administrative duties, a PEO can handle the work so you can run your business.

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.