ITSM

How To (and How Not To) Onboard Employees

March 15, 2018

How To (and How Not To) Onboard Employees

Modern service management strategies use technology to focus on the employee experience. Happy employees are motivated to do their best work. Quality internal service enables them to work efficiently on the things they were hired to do. Even with all of new bells and whistles of modern service management — including the introduction of automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning — it’s important that everything you add to your service desk’s functionality improves the experience for employees.

The first place to start with employee experience is the introduction to your organization. Onboarding may seem like a standard (even simple) procedure, but it can actually make or break the employee experience in many cases. There’s a way to it right, a way to do it wrong, and believe it or not, many places have no organized process at all. In fact, a recent survey from Onboardia found that only 32% of organizations have a formal onboarding process.

Is formal onboarding really that important if so many organizations don’t even have one?

Yes! The same survey found that over half (56%) of disengaged employees said they received ineffective training or no training at all. 53% said they could do their jobs better with better training, and 31% quit their jobs less than six months after hire.

In contrast, 75% of employees who felt satisfied with the onboarding process reported a sense of loyalty to their employer. According to Hosting Advice, new hires are 69% more likely to stay at a company for three years if they’ve gone through proper onboarding.

All that to say, it’s time to get your onboarding process in order, and fast!

How Not-To Onboard Employees

With no formal onboarding process, an organization leaves itself open to some of most common onboarding mistakes. If any of the following describe your organization, it’s time for a new strategy.

  1. Waiting for a new hire’s first day – Onboarding should begin in the downtime before a new employee begins. This applies not only to internal preparation, but also to correspondence. It should never go radio silent after the new hire accepts an offer. Those days or weeks provide an opportunity to inform the candidate of what to expect/bring on the first day, and how to get a headstart on any paperwork or accounts.
  2. *Paper* forms – There’s no reason to wait for the first day, then hand a new hire a stack of forms and paperwork. Most of this can happen digitally in the lead up to an employee’s first day. This makes record-keeping easier for both sides.
  3. Failure to set up workspace/tools – This takes a coordinated effort from HR, IT, facilities, and any other relevant departments. What type of equipment does the new hire need in his/her workspace? Does IT and/or finance need to approve and install applications, software, or other business tools? If your organization waits for the new employee to arrive, you’re wasting valuable days just getting the employee into an environment to be productive.
  4. Failure to set expectations – According to the aforementioned Onboardia survey, 17.5% of employees didn’t understand performance expectations for their position after 90 days of work. Make sure expectations and company processes are very clear from the beginning.
  5. Failure to follow up on employee experience – This goes hand-in-hand with a common stage of ITIL best practice for service management: Continual Service Improvement (CSI). What works best about your onboarding process? Which areas are inefficient for new hires? The best way to find out is to ask them. Use surveys or post-orientation breakout sessions to collect feedback.

Successful Onboarding Through the Service Catalog

With these common pitfalls in mind, you can construct an organized, and largely automated process to make sure new employees are set up for success the minute they walk into the building.

The best way to ensure accountability throughout the process is with the service catalog. With modern ITSM solutions, a licensed service provider (perhaps the Director of HR) can create a catalog item that assigns tasks and organizes workflows from every step of the onboarding process.

If you’re unfamiliar with the service catalog, you can find a quick overview here. Basically, a licensed service provider builds out a workflow, creating concurrent (simultaneous) task assignments or conditional (if, then) task assignments based on the answers to sequential data inputs.

“Does the new employee need a computer?”

(If yes, “Is it a Mac or a PC?”)

This data inputs trigger automatic notifications to IT and facilities for equipment setup, HR for paperwork and training setup, and whatever else you’d like to include in the process. A service catalog item can be very long and complex, which it might need to be for a successful onboarding process. Best of all, there’s accountability every step of the way. You’ll know exactly who you’re waiting on for that Microsoft Office license if you’re getting close to the deadline.

service catalog

For the visual learners, here are a few pieces of an example onboarding request setup through the Samanage service catalog. The mandatory fields will require the requester (most likely the hiring manager) to fill in data for those fields. They’re mandatory because important steps of the onboarding process depend on that information. As you can see, you can account for almost any possible need for a new hire through this “variables” section. This can include dropdown menus for types of laptops or picklists for multiple cloud applications. Of course, this data will depend on the type of organization, and some organizations might even construct different onboarding processes for different departments. But, the point remains, you can account for every little detail by collecting all of the mandatory information up front.

service catalog

This is an example of how dependent and concurrent tasks might look. You can build these out for applications, software, and even training essentials. If the employee deals with dangerous equipment, perhaps that triggers a notification for a required safety course before that employee’s onboarding is complete.

A little bit of implementation time up front can make a world of difference in the onboarding process. Take some time to set up a customized, automated process to create full accountability and visibility into the start of a new hire’s tenure. It could make the difference between the 31% of employees who quit in the first six months and a company culture of low-turnover, satisfied and productive employees.

To learn more about all of the services you can offer through the service catalog, download our white paper: Automating Business Processes With the Service Catalog.


As a Marketing Manager for the ITSM group, Chris works with SolarWinds customers and our internal team of ITIL pros to share best practices and stories of service management success. He leads production of ITSM videos, podcasts, and customer stories with over ten years of professional experience in multimedia content.