If you don't know where to start onboarding new employees, you're not alone. Only 12% of employees think that their employers have an effective onboarding process, Gallup reports.

A positive onboarding experience can set new employees up for success and make them feel right at home. A good onboarding experience, Glassdoor says, can increase employee productivity by 70% and retention by 82%.

Even as a small business owner, you can deliver a smooth onboarding experience that focuses less on paperwork and process and more on engaging new hires and introducing them into your company culture. Here are five steps you can take to get new hires onboarded and comfortable.

1. Start by onboarding new employees online.

You can start the onboarding process before your new hire even steps through the door.

Create a welcome packet for new employees and email it to them before their start date so they have time to review the materials and ask questions about it. Include documents like your employee handbook, information on company policies, and a schedule for their first day that includes who they'll meet and when. Be sure to also include any forms they need to have ready on their first day.

2. Use technology to your advantage.

New hires typically have to fill out mounds of paperwork before they start a new job. If you're making them fill out forms by hand, it could signal that you're a little old-school.

No new hire wants to spend hours filling out paperwork, so simplify the process by offering an integrated online process. Digitize the experience with virtual training videos or modules. Ask your software vendor to provide demos for your employees. Let new hires submit their paperwork to an online document management system. Use an online payroll solution where employees can upload their W-4 withholding form, set up direct deposit, and access their W-2s and other tax information once they're onboarded.

3. Harness your talent.

You need technology in your arsenal, but you may also lean on your existing talent to showcase your company culture.

Pick one or two exemplary employees who'd be willing to show new hires around on their first day. These employees can serve as cultural ambassadors and share with new hires what it's like to work for you.

New hires also can shadow them as part of their onboarding experience, so choose employees with similar job responsibilities. That way, new employees can start getting acclimated to their new roles on day one.

4. Get social.

If you have a group of new hires starting on the same day, organize social activities to help them bond with their new team members.

Some businesses put together welcome lunches during new employees' first day or week. You could also host a virtual happy hour with ice breaker activities or an employee trivia game.

The most important thing to remember is that your onboarding process doesn't have to be stiff and formal. Think of it as a welcome event for new hires, one that showcases your company's culture and gives new hires a small taste of what it's like to be a part of your organization.

5. Follow up.

Onboarding new employees isn't a one-time or one-week event. It's an ongoing process.

Check in with new hires every once in a while during their first few months on the job. You can just send them a short check-in email or stop by their work area for a quick chat, or you could take them out to lunch to see how they're getting acclimated. These interactions are also valuable ways to get feedback and identify opportunities to improve your onboarding process and enhance company performance and customer service.

Delivering a better employee onboarding experience.

You might feel like you don't have the time or resources to improve your small business's onboarding experience. But it's well worth the effort.

An effective onboarding process can improve employee engagement, productivity, and retention. Following these simple steps will help new hires have an onboarding experience that gets them excited about joining your team.

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