Blog EAs: 5 steps to a successful onboarding process

EAs: 5 steps to a successful onboarding process

May 27, 2023

5 min read

A bad hire can cost your company more than just money. The wasted time, impact on team dynamics, and lost productivity can be an even greater loss. If you’re gonna hire a new executive assistant make sure you have a strong onboarding process up and running.

Table of contents

  • The importance and hidden costs of a successful onboarding process
  • The negative impact on team dynamics
  • Why hiring quickly is wasting your time and why do employees quit
  • Keep an eye out for candidate’s red flags and when to know Is it time to cut the cord
  • Building a 5-step onboarding process


The importance of a successful onboarding process

An effective onboarding process can either make or break an employee’s experience. This first approach to the company is critical and can either be the beginning of a long professional relationship or the first step towards the exit. Research shows that 93% of employers understand the importance of a positive onboarding experience, and realize that it directly influences a new hire’s decision to stay with the company. Unfortunately, 29% of employees feel their organization did not adequately support them during the onboarding process.

The initial 60 days of employment play a pivotal role in shaping an employee’s perception of the organization. 72% of employees who had a positive onboarding experience during this period are likely to refer a friend to join the same organization. This showcases the potential impact of a well-executed onboarding process on both employee satisfaction and recruitment efforts.

The hidden costs of a faulty onboarding process

We all want to move fast, but the one time you should stop in your tracks and take your time is when you’re looking for a new role, especially if it’s a hard one to fill. Hiring the wrong candidate can have severe financial implications for startups. The costs associated with recruiting, training, and onboarding a new employee are wasted when the hire is not performing to expectations. Poor onboarding contributes to lost resources, as employees struggle to acclimate to their roles and the organization’s culture.

“Founders should look at the onboarding process. That’s gonna have a direct impact on the ROI the new hires are bringing to the company”. James Mackey, Founder & CEO at SecureVision

The costs associated with bad hires go beyond the immediate impact of losing an employee. Employee turnover comes with a significant financial burden that employers must address. While the exact cost of turnover can vary, it is crucial for organizations to recognize and manage these expenses. Studies have shown that replacing an employee can cost an average of 6 to 9 months’ salary.

For instance, if an employee earns $120,000 per year, the recruiting and training expenses alone can amount to $60,000 to $90,000. However, the cost of turnover differs based on factors such as wage and job role. The costs of replacing an employee vary depending on their position and type of contract:

  • For technical positions: 100% to 150% of the salary.
  • For C-suite executives: up to 213% of their salary.

The impact on team dynamics

When a new hire joins your company there are a lot of boxes they need to tick. They need to have all of the skills you’re looking for. But the extent of what they have to offer doesn’t end with what’s in diplomas or previous work experience. How a candidate fits in the company’s culture and what they contribute to the social fabric is just as important as their qualifications.

We’ve all been there: having an underperforming employee that doesn’t deliver and, on top of that doesn’t connect well with the rest of the team is bound for disaster because a bad hire not only affects the individual in question but also has a ripple effect on the entire team.

When a new team member does not operate effectively or align with the team’s dynamics, it can lead to decreased morale, strained relationships, and reduced collaboration because the rest of the team might show some resistance to working with someone that becomes a bottleneck for their own performance. This negative impact can interfere with overall team productivity and slow the success of collective goals.

For Janine Yancey, founder & CEO at Emtrain, what a candidate might add to the social fabric of the organization is just as valuable as how skilled they are.

“Does this candidate have the skillset to take us to the next level and just as importantly, does this person connect well and will they be additive to the team?”. Janine Yancey, Founder & CEO at Emtrain

Why hiring quickly is wasting your time

There is no arguing that a huge part of running a successful business is driving revenue. Time is probably the most important resource for every company, especially for startups.

We all want to see value from our new hires almost immediately, but there is a learning curve that the new additions need to climb. The duration of this curve varies depending on the role and the individual’s experience. According to Allied, it takes about eight months for a new employee to become fully productive. However, a well-designed onboarding process can significantly shorten this period by providing the necessary training, resources, and support.

If the onboarding process is less than desirable, and the first few months are not satisfactory, nothing stops your new employee from looking for job openings while still climbing the learning curve. That would turn that hire into wasted time, and if you need to fill that position again, time keeps moving and your productivity keeps on being stranded.

Why do employees quit?

Employee retention is a critical concern for startups, and an effective onboarding process plays a pivotal role in addressing this challenge. When new hires receive proper guidance, support, and a positive introduction to the company culture, they are more likely to feel engaged, motivated, and committed to the organization.

Attracting candidates is only the beginning, the real challenge is to retain that talent, making sure that they’re happy and fulfilled. The first step you need to take in order to achieve that is to figure out what they need and what would be a deal breaker for them. Some of the most common reasons employees quit are:

  • Insufficient training and development opportunities.
  • Ineffective communication between management and staff members.
  • Understaffing that leads to overwhelming workloads.
  • A lack of managerial recognition for a job well done.
  • Ambiguous job descriptions that fail to define responsibilities clearly.
  • The absence of constructive feedback on performance.
  • The need for greater work-hour flexibility.

At startups, the average duration of employment is shorter compared to other industries. On average, employees stay with their current employer in the broader US economy for about 4.2 years. However, for employees working at startups, the median job tenure is only 2 years.

The turnover rate is particularly high in the early stages of an employee’s tenure. During the first two years of employment, the probability of an employee leaving a startup is significantly greater. This period is crucial for both companies and employees to determine if their relationship is mutually satisfactory. As time goes on, the likelihood of termination decreases, indicating that long-term employees and companies have established a stable and productive working relationship.

Keep an eye out for red flags

Diplomas, master’s degrees, or years of experience can be great but are not necessarily a success indicator for a new hire. You know how it goes: ask an AI to generate a cover letter, describe a past experience in a fancy way, and all of a sudden it sounds like they have changed the world. The first interview, on the other hand, can tell you more about a candidate than any piece of paperwork they may have sent your way.

When assessing executive assistant candidates, there are several red flags that indicate they may not be the right fit for the role. One major concern is poor communication skills, as an executive assistant must effectively interact with executives and other team members. Additionally, candidates who haven’t taken the time to research the company or the specific opening demonstrate a lack of genuine interest and preparedness. Similarly, a candidate who fails to inquire or show curiosity about your company’s culture may struggle to adapt and align with your organization’s values. Furthermore, the absence of intuition and critical thinking abilities could hinder their ability to anticipate needs, problem-solve, and make informed decisions.

Building a 5-step onboarding process

1. Pre-boarding

The moment after the offer has been laid out is more important than you may think. The fact that a candidate has accepted an offer is no guarantee that they will actually show up on the first day; for all you know they may still be waiting for a better opportunity to come along, so make sure your new hires don’t feel like they’re left alone and keep momentum going.

  • Send them a quick email telling them how excited you are to be working together.
  • Save valuable time by setting up the new hire’s corporate email and providing them with essential reading materials.
  • Send a pre-boarding checklist they can complete before starting.
  • Send a list of software tools they need to download to get them started.

2. Schedule and itinerary

Ensure your new hires know what is expected of them each day by providing a roadmap for their onboarding journey. This proactive approach helps the new hire feel more prepared and reduces anxiety by eliminating uncertainty. A well-defined schedule (broken down day by day, hour by hour) and itinerary with clear objectives not only provide structure but also ensure that the new hire knows what to expect, fostering a smoother and more productive transition into their new role.

3. Onboarding Buddy

Appoint a designated onboarding buddy that can help your new EA get started. A senior executive assistant or chief of staff would be the ideal candidate to do so. By having a dedicated buddy, your new EA will feel more comfortable and confident in their new role. The buddy acts as a supportive resource, providing guidance, answering questions, and offering insights into the company culture and processes. This pairing helps accelerate the new hire’s integration and fosters a sense of belonging.

4. Shadowing

Allowing your new executive assistant to shadow you brings numerous benefits. It enables them to gain a deeper understanding of the company culture and processes by observing first-hand how you navigate and operate within the organization. This immersive experience provides valuable context, empowering them to make informed decisions and contribute across various areas. By sharing your expertise and insights, you bring your EA up to speed, equipping them with the necessary knowledge to add value in multiple aspects of their role.

5. 1:1 Meetings

Scheduling regular 1:1 meetings with your new executive assistant is crucial. We recommend 3x per week and then as onboard is completed, the cadence naturally calibrates to an equilibrium that makes the most sense (usually 1 time per week). It allows for building strong relationships between the executive and the EA, fostering trust and open communication. These meetings provide an opportunity for the new EA to discuss their role, responsibilities, and any challenges they may be facing. Additionally, it enables the executive to provide guidance, feedback, and support, ensuring the EA understands their role within the broader context of the company.

Lastly, keep in mind that team integration is key. Ensure your new hire meets with as many team members as possible. Foster positive relationships by using strategies like donut chats, sharing business context, and making sure the rest of the team is helping your new EA understand the team dynamics. This creates a sense of camaraderie and belonging, something especially important for remote hires.

Is it time to cut the cord?

Knowing when it’s time to cut the cord with someone can be challenging but necessary. If an individual consistently fails to meet expectations despite clear guidance, training, and support, it may be time to consider parting ways. Ask yourself these five questions and find out if it’s time to let someone go:

  • Is this person delivering the expected results?
  • Have they violated company or customer policies?
  • Are customers, vendors or co-workers complaining about them?
  • Have they settled with what they have and are no longer trying to go the extra mile?
  • Do they keep on overpromising and underdelivering?

If the answers to these questions point out the obvious, don’t hesitate. It’s not good for a business to have an employee that is not doing their job, and the same applies the other way around: there is no point in staying at a job a person cannot or will not do.

Final thoughts:

To sum up, a well-executed onboarding process plays a vital role in setting new hires up for success while benefiting the company in the long run. By providing comprehensive onboarding support, companies can minimize costs associated with turnover and maximize productivity. A successful onboarding process ensures that new hires quickly acclimate to their roles, understand their responsibilities, and become productive contributors to the organization.

At Viva, we drive the entire onboarding process, from executive to executive assistant, ensuring it is properly set up and completed correctly. We go through the onboarding process slowly so you can hire fast.

We hope that these tips are helpful. If you give them a shot, let us know. We’d love to hear your feedback on how it went.

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