Hiring and onboarding new employees is a constant challenge for growing digital marketing agencies. 

According to a recent Databox survey, only 14% of agencies say they’re great at onboarding new hires. 

Agencies run at a fast pace. Finding the right candidates and conducting interviews takes at least a couple of months. By the time a new employee starts, you’re so excited to have another person on the team; it’s easy to overlook the importance of onboarding. However, failing to invest in onboarding new hires can have disastrous consequences for agencies. The last thing you want to do is put an employee who isn’t familiar with your culture, technology, or business in front of a client. 

So, if you’re in the majority of agencies who say they’re not so great at training and onboarding their new employees, consider adopting these best practices.

New employees onboarding best practices for digital marketing agencies

1. Encourage team building

New hires need to create meaningful connections with everyone on the team, especially those they will be working closely with on their accounts. Introduce new employees to their team in the first week. Before COVID-19, a team lunch was an excellent way for everyone to get to know each other while in a more relaxed environment. If all or some of your teamwork from home, encouraging social connections and team building is more challenging, but not impossible. The most important thing to remember is not to place the burden of introductions on the new hire. Expecting them to reach out to people they’ve never met in person to schedule an introductory video call is overwhelming. Encourage the new hire’s team members to reach out to them to set up one-on-one chats. To deliver the best experience to your clients, you need to make sure your employees work together as a team.

2. Use mentors

Mentors are such a vital part of success, but not enough people know where to look or ask somebody to be their mentor. Take away that hurdle by assigning mentors to new hires. A mentorship program makes an onboarding program more efficient and effective and demonstrates a company’s commitment to employee success. Mentors can help answer questions that new hires have, help them build a network, and just be a shoulder to lean on during the somewhat nerve-wracking first weeks and beyond. 

Mentoring is also a great way to pass on institutional and cultural knowledge. Hopefully, you’ve documented your processes and have training materials for your tech stack, but your new hire also needs to know how to work with clients. Mentors can give insights into a client’s preferences and other context for the account to help the new hire represent the agency well. You may need to assign a couple of mentors to a new hire, so they have a go-to-person for understanding each of their accounts.

3. Map out a training plan and schedule

There’s nothing worse than those first few weeks of work as a new hire in an unorganized environment. You float from desk to desk, sometimes sitting alone in the corner or staring at your blank computer screen, not really knowing what to do next or who to ask. Take away the awkwardness and make new hires more efficient by implementing a training plan and schedule. This way, new hires will know when and where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing. Create personalized training agendas that outline what the employee will learn and who will teach it. Ask the trainers to clear their schedules so that they can give their undivided attention to the new hires without their phones or email or another employee asking questions or chit-chatting with them.

4. Schedule regular check-ins

Regular check-ins will let your new hire know that you are not just a “set it and forget it” type of environment and that you genuinely care about them, their work, and how they are adjusting to their new role.

Consider asking:

  • What can I do to help you be successful?
  • How do you best learn?
  • What type of management style do you prefer?
  • What do you feel is essential for me to know that I may not already know about you as it pertains to your work?
  • Do you have any questions or feedback about the company or the onboarding process?

You should continue to check-in with new hires regularly to make sure that the job fits their expectations and that they are meeting yours. Also, you want to be sure that any issues or concerns can get addressed before they turn into bigger problems. Aim to check in every day for the first week, followed by weekly check-ins for the first 90 days. This will help lay a foundation of trust and respect while also establishing open communication with your new hires from the get-go.

5. Provide the right tools and training on your martech

Most digital marketing agency’s new hires will work in your marketing automation platform. Understanding how to leverage the system to build and deliver successful campaigns is a core competency for any agency employee. Even if your new hire has used the tools before, they won’t be familiar with how you use the systems for your clients. Make sure your training plan covers both how to use and navigate your marketing automation tools, but also your company’s best practices. 

Your tech stack runs most of your campaigns, so every minute your new hire spends struggling to use the system is a waste of time. Investing the time in training new employees on your technology will pay dividends in increased productivity over the employee’s entire tenure.

The takeaway: Onboarding makes employees better

A good onboarding program requires a significant amount of planning and resources, but it is well worth the effort. Onboarding helps increase employee engagement and productivity. Engaged employees are more likely to stay at a job longer. High turnover on a team servicing an account could make clients leery. Investing in onboarding ensures you’ll have a confident and competent team ready to meet your clients’ needs.

About the author

Nathan Altadonna is a former journalist and product manager, Nathan is a proud tech geek who blogs about digital transformation, employee productivity, and enterprise software for Apty, a leading Digital Adoption Platform. In addition to his work with Apty, Nathan runs his own consulting company, helping companies develop content and get the most out of their marketing tech stack.