New employees are often quite happy to share their views on how successfully their firm “oriented” them to their company.

I was recently in a conversation with a few folks who had just joined a company. They were venting their frustrations with how little they were told about their jobs, responsibilities and company practices. They lamented that, based on their experiences, most companies just do not take this seriously, and yet it would be so beneficial for both the employees and the company if new employees were given a more realistic preview of what was to come.

According to research by expert Talya Bauer and some of her work with the Society for Human Resource Management, about 25 percent of the working population undergoes career transitions each year, which means a lot of “onboarding” should be taking place. What do we mean by onboarding? It refers to the process of getting new hires adjusted to the social and performance aspects of their new jobs quickly and smoothly. It is the way new hires learn the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics needed to effectively function within an organization.

The extent to which organizations make new hires feel welcomed and prepared for their new jobs, the faster they will be able to be productive and contribute to the organization’s mission. In addition, good onboarding leads to higher employee engagement and greater retention rates. As Bauer noted in her research, new employees at Corning Glass Works who attended a structured orientation program were 69 percent more likely to remain at the company up to three years.

Overall, good onboarding can lead to fewer costs associated with learning on the job, and also saves additional time that colleagues would have had to spend training the new employee.

Bauer also notes that onboarding has four levels, or building blocks, and companies vary in how much of these they incorporate into their new employee training. The four levels are:

Compliance — the lowest level, and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.

Clarification — ensures that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations.

Culture —includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms, both formal and informal.

Connection — refers to the relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

Here are some ideas to be truly effective in onboarding. Most important is that your company has a formal orientation program and a written plan that clearly defines expectations and goals that are expected of the new hire.

Before an employee’s first day, you can:

Create a comfortable work area for him or her and provide the necessary resources (paper, pens, computer, printer, phone, keys, business cards).

Set up any voicemail, e-mail and other technology accounts.

Make sure he or she feels comfortable with the directions to the office, parking, public transportation, expected arrival time, dress code, etc.

Leave a copy of an organization chart, employee handbook, administrative forms, staff list and critical phone numbers on his or her desk.

Once they show up on their first day, you can:

Provide them with company swag (company pen, pin, T-shirt, hat and mug).

Schedule a particular staff member to be available to greet the new employee.

Provide a brief office tour so you can show him or her where the restrooms are, lunch areas, mail room, copy machines, etc.

Introduce him or her to other staff members.

Arrange for him or her to be treated to lunch on the first day by a group of staff members.

Schedule a meeting with the employee’s supervisor for the first afternoon to review the responsibilities of the position and to give an overview of what the first 30 days in the position will look like.

During the first week and beyond, you can:

Assign a mentor or coach to the new employee.

Have him or her meet with the supervisor to discuss plans, goals, and expectations.

If the hire is in a supervisory role, also ensure that he or she meets with any direct reports one-on-one and as a group within the first week in order to build the team.

Set up meetings so he or she can also meet with other staff members who may not be on his or her immediate team.

Companies can also use technology to help onboard new employees, such as sending welcome messages, establishing new training classes in an online portal for new hires; allowing them to complete administrative paperwork online; and connecting them to the company LinkedIn or other social media sites or intranet.

Ritz-Carlton is a company that really focuses on the importance of onboarding. The company wants to make sure its new employees leave orientation feeling strong positive emotions — welcomed, comfortable, secure, proud, excited, inspired, and confident. The hospitality company spends time and resources to ensure a successful onboarding experience. Can you say the same thing about how your employees feel after leaving your onboarding sessions? Do they feel excited to be part of your community and do they have a good idea about what they will be doing?

It will be worth your while to ensure they do.

Joyce E. A. Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management. She can be reached at