Companies with a standard onboarding process had 54 percent greater new hire productivity and 50 percent higher new hire retention rate. 1 Many employees make the decision to stay or leave during their first six months of employment. Given the rates of attrition in tech among employees from underrepresented groups, having an effective, inclusive onboarding process is even more crucial.

Ideally, onboarding should take place over the first 12 months, from the later stages of the hiring process to the end of the probationary period. When designing an inclusive onboarding process, employers need to develop a comprehensive set of practices.

What are our recommendations

Train new hires from day one on the company’s code of conduct

Reading and agreeing to a code of conduct is not enough to ensure that an employee will understand it, remember it, or take it seriously. A robust, well-designed training program focused on the code of conduct will help clarify its contents, solidify abstract concepts, and communicate the importance of the code to the organization.

An effective training module would be customized to the organization’s code of conduct. It should: explain the value of the code, including the business case for its adoption; provide examples related to the guidelines contained therein; delve deeply into reporting and enforcement procedures; and test the knowledge of participants through a survey.

Set and communicate performance goals from the start

Managers can set performance goals early and work with new hires to identify and communicate about the resources they need to successfully achieve these goals. Managers should think about setting clear goals on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. These goals can involve social integration (having lunch with team members, grabbing coffee with a member of another team), skills development, and project milestones.

Use a buddy system to onboard new employees

During the negotiation and hiring process, consider matching candidates to a buddy  —  a person within the company, preferably someone working in a related role, who has been there long enough to be able to help the candidate make the transition into the company. Ideally, a buddy would be matched during the last stages of hiring and stick with the new employee through their first six months.

Specifically, the buddy would offer guidance on the everyday aspects of working with the organization, connecting the new hire with other team members, leadership, and administrative support personnel. Buddies should also be tasked with guiding new hires through the organization’s working methods and culture.

Buddies should be trained on how to properly assist new hires. It is important to note that the role of a buddy is different from that of a sponsor. Sponsors are more experienced persons concerned with the overall development of their sponsees. Buddies are more like internal allies who serve as primary points of contact during the orientation process. 2

In addition to buddies, employee resource groups can be a great resource for guidance and advice on diversity and inclusion initiatives in the planning and execution of your onboarding process. Discuss ERGs with new hires, provide them with information on the best ways to engage with them, and offer to connect them directly with the ERGs of their choosing.

Encourage shared values while also respecting individual experiences

It is important that core organizational values are clearly communicated with new employees and linked to working practices throughout the onboarding process. However, adopting core values should not be confused with subverting identity or perspective. 3 For employees from underrepresented backgrounds, the pressure to conform with company culture can be emotionally and cognitively draining, detracting from their job performance. An inclusive working environment is one in which employees feel encouraged to share their unique perspectives, leverage their strengths, and act authentically. During the initial months of employment, employers can help new employees identify their unique strengths and find ways to apply them to their work.

This investment in the first year of an employee’s lifecycle should pay dividends through longer tenure and more contributions.

  1. Lombardi, M. (March 2011). “Onboarding 2011: The Path to Productivity.” Aberdeen Group. Retrieved December 2016 from: [http://www.talentwise.com/files/Onboarding_2011-_The_Path_to_Productivity.pdf](http://www.talentwise.com/files/Onboarding_2011-_The_Path_to_Productivity.pdf) 

  2. “New Employee Onboarding: Buddy Guidelines.” New York University. Retrieved from: https://www.nyu.edu/content/dam/nyu/hr/documents/managerguides/BuddyGuidelines.pdf 

  3. Cable, D., Gino, F., and Staats, B.R. (March 19 2013). “Reinventing Employee Onboarding.” MIT Sloan Management Review. Retrieved April 2016 from: http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/reinventing-employee-onboarding/