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Onboarding and Offboarding Employees

By Accounting Resources April 27, 2021
A young man have a conversation with a women.

Small businesses and not-for-profit organizations often allocate substantial funds to recruit new talent but then devote little attention to onboarding these individuals. In fact, a recent Gallup study found that only 12 percent of employees feel their company did a good job onboarding them.

Depending on the level of training and expertise required, replacing an employee can cost 90-200 percent of their annual salary; therefore, a strong onboarding process is crucial. In fact, Glassdoor found that a strong onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by more than 70 percent.

It’s important to note that onboarding is more than just completing paperwork. It’s a detailed process that involves multiple steps and different individuals across the organization and should extend beyond the individual’s first day, first week, and even the first several months on the job.

Fill Out Forms Before the Employee’s First Day

With so much to be learned and so many people to meet, why ask your new employee to devote precious time on the first day to filling out paperwork? As a best practice, request that new hires complete as much of your organization’s required paperwork as possible before their first day on the job. This includes:

  • W-4 Forms: State and federal withholding information
  • Personal Data Sheets: Personal address; emergency contact information
  • Direct Deposit Information
  • Employee Handbook: Ask them to read your handbook and attest that they received it
  • Healthcare Benefits Packages: Provide details in advance so the employee can review it at leisure and come prepared with questions on the first day. Most employers require a 30-60 day waiting period for benefits to take effect, so there is time for the HR manager to check back in.
  • Non-compete/Employment Agreement

Distribute an email introducing the new hire. This gives colleagues a sense of what the individual’s responsibilities will be, provides a summary of his/her professional background, and offers a few bits about them personally, perhaps their family situation and hobbies they enjoy. 

First Day on the Job

Anyone who has ever started a new job will attest to the fact that the first day of work can be like drinking through a fire hose. New culture. New people. New responsibilities. New processes. 

Your preparedness as an employer is key to demonstrating that you value the new employee and are eager to welcome them to the team.  

  • Be sure the employee has an assigned space or office, furnished with all of the essentials, including a computer and an email address, and required computer logins. This may seem obvious, but we find many companies subscribe to the “we’ll do it the day of” method which is never a good approach.
  • Allocate downtime. Dole out information in manageable bites and allocate time for the new employee to be alone to read documents, process what they’ve heard, take notes, complete required state or federal training (if applicable), and simply catch their breath.
  • Social interaction is important for a positive first-day experience. Schedule introductions with key personnel and assign a colleague to take the new employee to lunch. This can serve as a helpful introduction to the company culture.
  • File an I-9 form. Employers in the United States are required to verify the identity and work authorization of every employee hired. Form I-9, officially the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, is part of the federal immigration regulatory process. To complete this form, the employee must present two forms of identification which the employer, or an authorized representative of the employer, must examine and record on the form. By law, this form must be completed within three business days of the date of hire.

Considerations When Remote Onboarding  Employees

While onboarding new employees can be a challenge in the best of circumstances, integrating new employees who work remotely – either due to simple logistics or because of pandemic-related concerns, presents a unique set of challenges.  

In this case, consider onboarding new remote employees in pairs or groups. This is a great way for new team members to get to know others and fosters a sense of “I’m not in this alone.” If this is not feasible for your business, consider pairing the new employee with a mentor – someone he or she can comfortably turn to with questions and who can provide insight into company norms and procedures. 

Be sure the new employee has all tools necessary to be successful and productive, including a computer and other necessities for a functional home office. For remote workers, details on home office expenses are often spelled out in the initial offer letter. Some companies pay for their remote employees’ desks, chairs, and computers and institute allowances for WiFi and phone costs. 

Create an easy-to-use guide that explains the business-critical tools your company employs and how they are used. Then, work with the employee to establish login credentials for the systems he or she will need to be successful. Assign someone to walk them through the most frequently used tools, so they can become independent and begin adding value.

Oftentimes, remote workers can feel disconnected from the business, which can affect productivity and job satisfaction. Strive to minimize this by ensuring constant communication takes place. If regular meetings do not occur, consider hosting virtual get-togethers for remote staff. 

For more helpful onboarding tips, check out the Society for Human Resource Management.

After the First Day 

Schedule daily check-ins during the first week to answer questions and assess how your new hire is adjusting to his or her job responsibilities, the culture, and their colleagues. Following that, depending on the circumstance, weekly and/or monthly check-ins may be sufficient. 

HR should provide reminders for certain milestones, including dates that benefits such as health care and 401(k) contributions take effect. 

It is important to note that not only the manager should check in. An HR representative should also touch base and, if your company is small enough, the department director or CEO should take the time to check in as well.

Off-boarding – Managing Voluntary and Involuntary Employee Separations

Separating from an employee can be a challenging time. That’s why it’s best to create and follow an off-boarding checklist detailing who needs to do what and when. 

Involuntary Employee Termination

  • Document all details leading up to termination. Be sure to document all performance feedback given to the employee, including attempts to correct and/or coach him/her through a performance improvement plan. 
  • When possible, conduct terminations in person or, for remote workers, via video conferencing. Do not terminate an employee using email, phone, instant messaging, or voicemail. Even a letter is inappropriate. 
  • In addition to the manager and employee, always ensure a third party is present during termination. Most times, this will be an HR representative. 
  • It is usually best to limit the terminated employee’s access to his or her work area, information systems, and co-workers. 
  • Furnish a separation notice during the termination meeting. Explain that the employee may be eligible to seek unemployment benefits and how they can go about initiating the process. 
  • Be aware that, in some states, including Connecticut, the law requires employers to provide final payment to the employee within 24 hours of termination.
  • Collect company-owned items such as laptops, keys, credit cards, uniforms, etc. IT personnel must render the individuals email inactive and remove permissions to other company-owned systems. 
  • Inform the employee about options regarding healthcare benefits continuation under COBRA and be sure to cancel benefits and other perks. For details on COBRA, refer to the following section. 

Voluntary Employee Separation

Since voluntary separations take place on the employee’s terms, it is often difficult to plan the process. 

  • Note that if an employee voluntarily leaves the company, he or she is generally not eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.
  • Unlike involuntary termination, immediate payment to the employee is not required. Voluntarily separated employees may be paid in your business’s subsequent payroll cycle. 
  • Be sure to conduct an exit interview to understand what caused the employee to leave. Summarize the conversation and share it with relevant members of the management team. Identify and address issues that are within your power to rectify. 
  • Review your organization’s policy regarding paid time off (PTO) to determine if unused time is to be paid out. Confirm the amount of unused PTO with the employee and his or her manager. 
  • On the last day of employment, don’t forget to collect company-owned items such as laptops, keys, credit cards, uniforms, etc. Be sure to render the individual’s email inactive and remove permissions to other company-owned systems. 
  • Inform the employee about COBRA benefits. Under the Dept. of Labor, COBRA (The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) generally requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees in the prior year offer employees and their families the opportunity to extend health coverage in certain instances where coverage under the plan would otherwise end. It gives workers and their families who lose health benefits the right to choose to continue benefits for limited periods under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss.
  • Cancel all employee benefits, including health benefits, and discontinue other perks. 

Let ARI Manage Your HR Needs

Your employees’ knowledge, skills, and experience are your organization’s most valuable asset, but managing them effectively is a time-consuming process. 

The team at ARI has been helping businesses and not-for-profit organizations manage their HR needs for more than a decade. If you would like to learn more about how we can assist you with the many details related to recruiting, employee relations, benefits administration, and onboarding and off-boarding employees, please visit the Contact Us page or call us at 860.430.2002.

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