Boot Camp Basics: How to Create a Great Onboarding Program

Today’s companies face the challenge of attracting and retaining top-tier talent during an employee Sansdemic. This shrinking talent pool has led to a paradigm shift in how organizations approach their new hire onboarding process. It’s more crucial than ever to provide an engaging onboarding experience that makes your new hires feel valued, appreciated, supported, and successful.

Enter the concept of the “boot camp” approach to onboarding, a structured and intensive method aimed at igniting—and sustaining—new employees’ enthusiasm to build a high-performance workforce.

Bruce Tulgan at RainMakerThinking has been tracking the impact of the talent war for decades, analyzing data from a wide range of sources to improve hiring, onboarding and retention. In his whitepaper, “Winning the Talent Wars: Building a Winning Culture of Attraction, High-Performance & Retention,” Tulgan explains why a “boot camp” approach to new hire onboarding is necessary during prolonged periods of low unemployment.

Tulgan’s approach goes beyond administrative tasks and routine orientations; it creates a culture of engagement, purpose, and shared success. How can your organization develop candidate onboarding best practices to successfully integrate new hires into the culture and values of your company? Consider the following onboarding tips:

Ignite Enthusiasm BEFORE Day One

The words “boot camp” probably evoke a strong image or concept in your mind, even without further explanation. This response is due to strong Marine Corps branding. Employer branding has emerged as a powerful tool to not only attract potential candidates but also keep them engaged and committed over the long term. Your company’s website and social media platforms are two of the most potent channels through which you can shape and communicate your employer brand.

Ignite enthusiasm in potential hires with the following tools:

  • Company website. A visually appealing and informative website gives candidates an initial positive impression, encouraging them to consider your company as a potential employer.
  • Social Media. Social media platforms are windows into your company’s culture, values, and activities. Regularly post content that showcases your team’s authentic accomplishments, philanthropic endeavors, team-building events, and behind-the-scenes glimpses.
  • Preboarding resources. Successful onboarding begins before the employee even starts their first day. Provide your new hire with some preboarding steps to make them feel connected to the company before they begin work.

Create a Great First Day

First impressions matter. In the realm of candidate onboarding best practices, the impact of the first day cannot be overstated. When new hires walk through the doors on their first day, they’re brimming with excitement and anticipation. The key is to channel this energy effectively and set the tone for a fulfilling and productive journey ahead.

Design an onboarding program that goes beyond the mundane paperwork and introductions. Instead, focus on providing attention, information, and support to fuel their enthusiasm. A warm welcome from the team, a personalized orientation plan, and a clear overview of the company’s mission, values, and goals can serve as the “gasoline” that sparks a fire of engagement within new employees. By making them feel valued and connected right from the start, you’re laying the foundation for a lasting commitment.

Infuse Intensity into Onboarding: A Lesson from the Marines

The idea of infusing intensity into onboarding might conjure images of obstacle courses and rigorous training. While not every workplace needs to adopt a military-style regimen, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the Marine Corps’ success in retention. Their approach revolves around creating a strong sense of belonging, shared experience, and a mission-driven mindset among recruits—and their washout rate is so low it can hardly be measured!

  • Explain the mission. Employers can replicate this approach by aligning new employees’ roles with the company’s larger mission. When employees understand how their work contributes to the overall success of the organization, it fosters a sense of purpose and dedication.
  • Build a strong team. Promoting a feeling of camaraderie among new hires, whether through team-building exercises or mentorship programs, can help establish a supportive network to help them gain comfort in their new work environment.
  • Create a challenge. Providing immediate opportunities for learning is another essential aspect of intensifying onboarding. Engage new employees with hands-on experiences, interactive training sessions, and real-world challenges that allow them to apply their skills right away. This approach not only accelerates their learning curve but also instills a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Sustain Intensity Beyond the First Day

The boot camp approach isn’t a one-day endeavor; it’s a mindset that needs to be sustained throughout the onboarding process. Successful onboarding takes weeks, yet many employers deposit new hires into a demoralizing, no-support work environment after just a day or two of orientation. All too often, companies commit resources to a robust first-day experience only to leave new employees to fend for themselves shortly thereafter. This abrupt transition can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration, ultimately hindering their performance and retention.

Set your employees up for success by offering ongoing guidance, direction, and support. Encourage managers and coworkers to provide regular check-ins, constructive feedback, and a structured framework for growth. A mentorship program can also be instrumental in nurturing new talent and helping them navigate their roles effectively.

How long should you sustain your onboarding process?

As the intensity and support are sustained over time, new employees become increasingly proficient and aligned with the company’s culture and values. The more invested you are in their success, the more likely they are to reciprocate that investment through their commitment and dedication. Consider an onboarding process with the following checkpoints:

  • Day One. Your goal is to create a fantastic first-day experience that your new hire can’t wait to talk about with friends and family. Set expectations across the board, introduce objectives, build rapport, make sure they are settled in their work environment, and provide an onboarding buddy to answer questions.
  • First Week. Familiarize your new hire with training programs, complete paperwork, introduce senior team members and supervisors, and ask if they have any questions or concerns.
  • One Month Check-In. Use this check-in to make sure your new hire is engaged and happy. Find out if they have any lingering questions and use this opportunity to give and receive feedback.
  • 90 Day Check-In. Ensure that the employee is beginning to feel at home. Set new training goals and review expectations.
  • 6 Month Check-In. Review progress and discuss future goals. A professional development plan is a powerful tool for keeping employees engaged. Consider asking your employees what new skills they would like to develop and begin discussing their trajectory in the company.
  • First Year. Review performance and KPIs. Celebrate successes and offer recognition for achievements and effort. Discuss goals and learning opportunities for the next year.

Embrace Inclusivity

Inclusivity is of paramount importance in today’s diverse and interconnected workforce. A welcoming and inclusive onboarding experience ensures that every new employee, regardless of their background, identity, or abilities, feels valued, respected, and empowered from day one. By recognizing and celebrating the unique perspectives and contributions that each individual brings to the table, organizations not only foster a culture of belonging but also enhance collaboration, creativity, and overall team performance. Inclusivity in onboarding goes beyond compliance; it sends a powerful message that the company is committed to creating an environment where everyone can thrive, grow, and reach their full potential.

Boot Camp Reboot

Do you have remote or hybrid employees? Are you still integrating employees into the workplace post-pandemic? As work dynamics evolve and employees navigate periods of absence or remote work, there’s a potential for a disconnect from the company’s mission and values. Reboarding serves as a vital tool to realign individuals with the organization’s core principles, ensuring a cohesive and united workforce. By providing a refresher on the company’s mission, values, and overarching goals, organizations help employees regain a sense of purpose and direction. This process reaffirms their commitment to the organization’s mission and rekindles a shared sense of identity and belonging.

Want more practical ideas for winning the talent war?

Leveraging Tulgan’s onboarding tips is only one way to improve hiring and retention in your organization; in his whitepaper Tulgan shares four more ideas you can begin implementing today. For more insights and tips, get the full report.

Partner for Success

Implementing a boot camp approach to onboarding requires dedication, resources, and expertise. This is where a partnership with a national staffing agency like PrideStaff can give your company a competitive edge. By collaborating with a reputable staffing agency that specializes in talent acquisition and onboarding, you gain access to recruiting and assessment tools that deliver the high-performers you need—quickly and cost-effectively.

  • Stay On Target. PrideStaff’s On Target Process leverages sources of high-performing individuals who are poised to make a significant impact from day one.
  • Stay Connected. PrideStaff Connect®, our associate care program, nurtures a more engaged talent network—and provides faster placements, happier associates, and higher assignment completion rates for you.

Contact your local PrideStaff office to learn how to improve new hire productivity, performance, and retention today with unbeatable staffing solutions.