Human Resource & Leadership for Small Business Blog

Why Is Onboarding Critical To The Success of Your Small Business?

Posted on Fri, Feb 23, 2018

onboardingSome small businesses say that they HAVE an onboarding process because they have the new employee fill out their I-9 and their payroll and benefits forms on their first day at work. Other owners tell me that they do all those things and also have their computer all set for the new employee’s first day of work. Others say that they are not a big company and so don’t have time for onboarding that the big companies have. Other small business owners don’t really know what it all involves. Some small businesses have mastered the onboarding process and have success in keeping the folks they hired engaged in their roles as well as the company!! Which one sounds like you??

What is the big deal about onboarding? What exactly is onboarding and why it is critical to the small business organization? Let’s examine these aspects of onboarding and why it can be a big benefit to your small business. writing

What is Onboarding?

In a general sense onboarding is a process that helps the new employee feel like part of the team and the company by going through a process that integrates them quickly and easily into their new role, the company and with their teammates. A good onboarding program can help to shorten the ramp up time of new employees while engaging them quickly in job related activities.

The new employee gets oriented to the role, the staff, the office and gets training so that they can be set up to be a productive employee. With this support, they can understand what is expected of them and what it takes to do a good job and to be considered a productive employee.

Onboarding actually starts before the hire of the new employee and often will include things like setting up their new work area, including their computer and continues from there.

It involves easy things like a welcome aboard letter from the owner of the company. Perhaps the first day or within the first week, the new employee is taken to lunch or pizza is ordered in and there is some socialization during the lunch hour; a kind of get to know session.

It could involve an office tour and of course an introduction to teammates. Being sure that their computer and desk is set up and ready to go, with some orientation on the network and various software programs that they will be using would be included in that list as well. So tours of the network, office, break room, overview of office/company security, and obtaining keys to the office where they can store their lunch, etc. An explanation of work hours, breaks, signing in and out of work via time cards or other time keeping system is helpful as well. There are more add-ons that really can customize it to your company and your core values.

Yes, it does include the initial first day paperwork, documents, and a review of the employee benefits and employee handbook and their job description as well.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals Discussions

clipboardHand in hand with a successful start in the employee’s new role, would be a discussion of S.M.A.R.T. goals. A first day, week, 30, 60, 90 days, 6 months, 9 months and 1 year goals can be discussed, reviewed, edited and planned out between the small business owner or supervisor and/or the new employee. Clear expectations are very important to a successful start in a new role.

It may be advantageous to speak of some goals prior to hiring a new employee as well. Have they had goals on other new jobs and how have they achieved them? Have they been successful in meeting their goals in other organizations? Did they meet and or exceed achieving them? How did they do that? Have they accomplished similar goals in other roles? Can they give you examples of how they would meet these goals at your company? What steps will they take?

The supervisor should have a good idea of what the ramp up should look like and a timetable of what needs to be mastered and when. The supervisor will want to have a plan for who will be doing the training. Consideration to whether learning components would be in-house or be administered by an external training group or be self-taught should be addressed. As part of the training plan in regards to the different responsibilities in the job role as well as a deadline of when each part of the role should be mastered needs to be well thought out.


Some people confuse orientation with onboarding. Onboarding can last a year. Orientation does not. What are the goals and objectives you want the new employee to hit? Have they been clear and communicated well? How will you measure success with your onboarding program? These are important considerations in providing a successful onboarding experience. A lack of a good onboarding program can easily result in your new employee leaving your company within 45 days of hire according to statistics below.

Evaluate the Onboarding Program

Naturally, there needs to be follow up with each goal and their success in ramping up in the new role. Clear expectations yield the best results and the best performance. Accountability early on will help ensure that it they will take responsibility for their role and will be responsible for continuing accountability as their employment continues.

There should be some kind of evaluation of your onboarding program so you can see if it is matching up with the work environment you are intentionally creating? What do other employees think of their onboarding and is there anything they would add or change? What does your onboarding program say about your company…and is it reflective of your vision and mission and your company culture? If the answer is no then a review and enhancement may be needed.

new hiresThese are some of the basics that can help a new employee get ramped up more quickly. Studies show that there is a big difference between how engaged, how long a new employee will remain at a company and productivity/performance of someone who is on boarded well and without any thought to onboarding.

If not…it needs to be tweaked. How is your onboarding seen by employees and those who have been there a while? It is necessary to ask these questions in order to have an effective onboarding program.

Others can confuse onboarding with training. Yes, training should be a part of onboarding and should continue at all points of employment where information needs to be rolled out efficiently and in a specific way. Some learning can be self-taught while other in-house training is preferred. Some training can be webinar based and on demand to keep up with the changing skill set needed today and going forward in their work roles. With good training programs your employees will look and sound like they all work for the same company and can be good way to carry forward on your small business vision, mission and core values!! A blended training program can be a good investment, effective and does not have to break the small business budget.

Some Statistics and a Case for Good Onboarding

And yet, according this article (and much research) in the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW “the latest research suggests that onboarding may be the most critical time in an employee’s experience at a company — one that has a long-lasting impact on engagement, performance, and retention.”

Also in the same article:

Nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job. (Among Millennials, that percentage is even higher … and it happens earlier.)

Twenty-three percent of new hires turn over before their first anniversary.

The organizational costs of employee turnover are estimated to range between 100% and 300% of the replaced employee’s salary.

It typically takes eight months for a newly hired employee to reach full productivity.

Although this article is pointing to larger companies….the small business organization is subject to the same issues!!! Can you as a small business owner NOT pay attention to onboarding? If you want to keep your new employees and keep engaging them a good onboarding program is critical. High turnover is CRIPPLING to the small business.

There are many more statistics that validate the importance of a good onboarding program, for those business owners who need more information, although the above article is certainly clear on the benefits and the downfalls without a solid program.

Next Step

The small business owner wears a lot of hats.

If you need help with an onboarding program there are consultants who can help you. They can help you set one up, measure its success and get feedback from your employees to validate its effectiveness. Taking these steps can help with employee retention, which is critical to the success of both small and large business organizations.

Your onboarding program doesn’t have to look like or be as expensive as the large organizations can afford. There are options for small business which can be realistic, effective and work with the small business budget!! A relatively small investment can reap big rewards!


accurate resource group incFor over 30 years, Accurate Resource Group Inc. is Your Small Business Solutions' Strategist for small businesses (under 250 employees) with a sweet spot of fewer than 50 employees. Kathy M Barron is founder, president and a principal consultant. For more information visit and view the HR Consulting support for small businesses OR email

Tags: Small Business Leadership, Onboarding