Best Practices for Onboarding New Staff and Volunteers

Until recently, the process of onboarding new hires and volunteers was often an afterthought or a low priority. Little creativity was put into it and few organizations thought to track its effectiveness.

We now know that onboarding practices affect productivity and efficiency and long-term employee satisfaction and retention. That means, ultimately, that onboarding has a strong business impact on revenue growth and profit margins.

Why a Good Onboarding Strategy is Important

  • Nearly 4% of employees leave a new job after a disastrous first day  (Source: SHRM).
  • More than half of all U.S. employees leave a new job within their first year. (Equivax)
  • 20% of employee churn happens within the first 45 days. (com)
  • Employees in a well-structured onboarding program are 69% more likely to remain at the company after three years (Source: Wynhurst Group).
  • 56% of new hires say having a buddy or mentor is important to them when starting a new job (SourceBambooHR).
  • Effective onboarding programs can improve employee performance by 11.5%. (Source: LinkedIn Talent Blog)
  • With a new hire costing $20,000-30,000, employee retention is vital.

…and all of this wastes your time and money.

Conversely, TalentWise reports that when organizations have efficient, well-structured onboarding processes:

  • 91% of employees stick around for at least a year
  • 69% of them stick around for at least three years

Prioritize Your Time Constraints

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden famously asked. Nowhere is this truer than with employee onboarding.

Time crunches are often a key factor in the failure to efficiently onboard new hires. Hurrying through the process and expecting them to “hit the ground running” is a strategy that will backfire. It takes 8 months, on average, for a new employee to become fully productive (Source: Allied HR IQ), and we now know that “new hires with the longest onboarding process reach full productivity 34% faster than those with the shortest process.”

That means onboarding is not just for the employee’s first week, but consists of a strategy that starts before they begin their first day and continues on some level for weeks or months.

Humanize the Process

Most new hires are subjected to what HR thought leader Dr. John Sullivan calls “a mind-numbing experience” of reading reams of policy information, viewing boring videos, and filling out forms. New employees can feel isolated and unsure of how to get started or where to find help. Most of them – especially if they’re millennials – don’t respond well to a non-humanized process.

When new hires feel welcomed, prepared and supported it sets up a ‘virtuous cycle’. They experience success more quickly and for longer –data shows— within the organization, which leads to satisfaction and retention, which helps the organization meet its goals and objectives more efficiently and economically.

To humanize the process, interject paperwork (I-9s, employee handbooks, payroll forms, non-disclosure agreements) with human interaction. It helps if the HR team – and the entire organization –celebrates an employee’s first day, rather than viewing it as a list of administrative tasks.

After the employee is settled in, HR leadership should circle back around for feedback on the new hire’s experience in order to discover ways it can be improved.

3 Companies with Creative Onboarding Practices


  • Technology is set up when you arrive
  • A dedicated mentor is assigned to help each new hire
  • Top executives, including CEO Reed Hastings, meet with all new hires


The HR team emails managers the Sunday before a new hire starts, asking them to consider five tasks that Google’s data says will accelerate time-to-productivity by 25%:

  • Discuss their role and responsibilities
  • Find a peer buddy to mentor them
  • Introduce your new hire to the rest of the team
  • Check in with your new hires once a month for the first six months
  • Encourage open dialogue


Employees are offered a 5-week course that teaches them everything they need to know about company culture and values. At the end of the course, they are offered $2,000-4,000 to leave if they don’t think they’re the right fit. Only about 1% of new hires take the money and leave.

Tools that Help

We know you’re committed to maximizing resources and putting your best face forward to your community. Talk to a software specialist to find out how ACTIVE Net recreation management software enlivens and facilitates onboarding and training:

  • Online Learning Management system – non-boring curriculum videos and  quizzes
  • Digitizing forms and content
  • Training Gamification
  • ACTIVE Engagement Platform

Humanizing the on-ramp is sure to slow down your organization’s staff exit ramp. We’re here to help!


LinkedIn: Extreme Onboarding: How to Wow Your New Hires Rather Than Numb Them

Top 10 Onboarding Best Practices to Turn New Hires into Lasting Employees

Tiny Pulse: Companies with the Most Unique Employee Onboarding Practices

Zenefits: 5 Best Practices to Improve Your Employee Onboarding Program

TheBalance: Onboarding Before the Employee Starts 

KissFlow: Onboarding Millennial Employees