Onboarding for Ag Retailers: 5 Tips Your New Hires Will Thank You For

Successful onboarding is the most important and most overlooked step in talent management. Research has proven that effective onboarding programs significantly reduce turnover and increase employee engagement. Despite this, it’s estimated that roughly 36% of companies lack any onboarding program at all, with another one-third admitting they are falling short in what they should be doing. Investing in onboarding can save your company tens of thousands of dollars each year, as well as foster an engaged, productive, and happy workforce.


The benefits of implementing an onboarding process are substantial. A recent Career Builder survey of 2,300 organizations reported that companies with a consistent onboarding strategy are seeing the following results:

  • Employees are more engaged (49%).
  • More employee confidence (46%).
  • Employees have greater trust in the organization (45%).
  • Greater efficiencies (44%).
  • Higher productivity (42%).
  • Higher morale (38%).
  • Lower employee turnover (31%).
  • Contributes to meeting revenue targets (21%).

Still not convinced? A recent study by the Aberdeen Group found that 66% of companies with an onboarding program report a higher rate of success in assimilating employees into the company and gain a faster time to productivity.

In my last article we discussed how integrating a 100-day plan into your hiring process will improve your hiring success. In this article we’ll discuss the keys to onboarding success and how that plan can become a valuable resource for getting your new employees onboard, engaged, and meeting expectations as quickly as possible.

Consider these five key tips when building your onboarding program:

1. Plan Ahead

Success requires preparation and practice in everything we do: athletics, hobbies, sales, public speaking, etc. Onboarding is no different. To ensure your new employees integrate smoothly into your company, it’s important that you start preparing for them before the first day. The planning starts with engaging them in some way as soon as they accept. Walk through their 30-day expectations and use that to create the agenda for their first day and first week. This step keeps the excitement and anticipation of joining your team at a high level and eases any concerns they have about what to expect. They will be more comfortable and ready to learn right away.

2. Take Responsibility for Training

The training portion of onboarding must include three key subjects: organizational clarity, role clarity, and social clarity. Odds are the expectations discussed in the 100-day plan give you the training needs and timeline to fulfill the role requirements. What you will need to build into the training plan is organizational clarity and social clarity. Organizational clarity is ensuring the new employee understands the vision of the company, what is working, where the company is going, the leadership structure, etc. Providing social clarity during training is ensuring your new employee understands the core values of the organization and how they are reflected in their work each day. Examples include helping them understand what a typical work day looks like for co-workers (what time do they start, their schedule, etc.) what meetings/activities are they expected to participate in, how do they best communicate with other employees, how does the company reward their results, etc.

3. Set Clear Expectations

It’s hard to meet goals if you don’t know what they are. When you reviewed the 100-day plan with the candidate in the hiring process, you agreed upon a set of expectations and meetings. Use that plan as your guideline to keep things on track. Setting clear daily, weekly, and monthly expectations for the first 90 to 180 days, as well as setting dates on the calendar to meet with you are important in helping a new employee get up to speed as quickly as possible. Review the goals and lock in the review appointments on each of your calendars as part of their first day.

4. Assign a Peer Mentor

Learning a new role is hard, and even the best training plans will have some gaps. Those gaps, as minor as they may be, require each employee to reinvent the wheel each day. In most cases, new employees see asking questions as a sign of weakness and are often reluctant to ask their supervisors for help. Assigning a peer to that new employee gives them a resource they can feel safe in taking their questions and concerns to and will likely result in faster integration with the rest of your team. Research has proven employees who have the opportunity to work with a peer or mentor viewed it as a positive experience, and companies find employees with peer mentors are more knowledgeable about their organizations, require less daily oversight by supervisors, and are much quicker to understand and internalize a company’s processes and values.

5. One Size Doesn’t Fit All

A good onboarding program should be designed to accelerate your new employee’s productivity. Each employee has a different set of past experiences and expectations when they join your organization. Therefore, each employee needs a different curriculum and set of goals in their first year with the organization. By using the 100-day plan in your hiring process, you can focus on your new employee’s goals from the start, which will make them feel valued and that they have earned autonomy in their role. You will also be leveraging their own outline of the skills they need to work on to hit their goals.

Investing your time and resources into the onboarding of your employees may be one of the best investments your organization can make. While there are many other steps and checklists that include things like payroll forms or safety training that need to be used on an employee’s first day, following these guidelines for the overall program will kickstart the success of your new employee and equip them with everything they need to meet your expectations and exceed their goals.