When you hire a new employee for your IT team, a successful onboarding process involves more than just free food and a new-hire packet. According to a survey of more than 1,000 U.S.-based employees conducted by BambooHR, a human resources software and services provider, 52 percent of new employees crave a structured and organized process, relevant and well-timed content, and continuing on-the-job training.Reduce the Learning CurveThe survey also finds that new employees want an onboarding process that helps them reduce the learning curve in becoming an effective, contributing team member. Image credit: Topp_YimgrimmThat could mean extending the time spent to onboard new hires beyond the first week, says Ryan Sanders, BambooHR's chief operating officer and co-founder.\n\nRelated: Get New IT Pros Up to Speed Fast With This Onboarding Checklist\n\n"Onboarding is more than just the first day or the first week, so having a set process that extends beyond that is critical," Sanders says. "For new hires, there's a learning curve and a ramp-up time when they don't feel productive. If the company has everything organized, strategized and streamlined, they feel like the company wants them to succeed and 'has their back.' When that's the case, their performance is greater and their satisfaction and loyalty increase, too," he says.Use the Buddy SystemWhile paperwork plays a key role in onboarding, new hire orientation is much more about socialization and acculturation, and that can take weeks or months after the employee's hire date. That's why it's important to have a mentoring or 'buddy' system in place to take over after the HR manager's part of the process is completed, Sanders says.\n\nRelated: CIOs Opting for IT Contractors Over Hiring Full Time Staff\n\nAccording to the survey, 76 percent of respondents said on-the-job training is the most important aspect of onboarding, since it allows the new hire to come up to speed much more quickly and become a productive member of the team, he says."HR managers play a crucial role in onboarding, but our research shows that employees feel their managers have the greatest influence on whether or not their new-hire orientation is effective or not," Sanders says. "Managers should be responsible for providing adequate on-the-job training and proper employee socialization activities that could last weeks or even months into a new job." In fact, 53 percent of respondents said "review and feedback of early contributions" is one of the most important things a new employee needs to get up to speed and begin contributing quickly. And 33 percent of respondents said management has the greatest influence on whether or not a new-hire orientation is effective.How to Achieve Effective OnboardingTo make sure your onboarding process is as effective as possible, Sanders recommends first taking a look at your current process and documenting every aspect to see where changes should be made."Some companies fly by the seat of their pants, but you really need to figure out where you're lacking and take steps to fill in those gaps," Sanders says. "For instance, intuitively, you know new people will need computers, phones, paperwork to fill out, but those processes and rules can't remain unspoken. You have to write down every step and explain how and by whom it will be done," Sanders says. If you're relying too much on certain HR managers or other management, it may be more effective to delegate tasks among a larger group of people, he says.There should also be extensive follow-up and feedback to identify any aspects of the onboarding process that aren't effective for current and new employees, he says, with a focus on new-hire satisfaction and on making sure the mission and values of the company are aligning with new hires' experiences."You also should test and refine the process constantly; it shouldn't be static," Sanders says. "You want to make sure it's smooth, simple and that every employee is buying into the process and seeing positive results."While onboarding can be expensive, it is one of the most crucial aspects of retention, and 75 percent of survey respondents said that thorough onboarding processes were well worth the time and energy spent. "Onboarding is tricky, but if it's done right, the business reaps the benefits and employees are more likely to stay," Sanders says. "For new hires, those first few days and weeks can seem like they're 'drinking from a firehose' as far as getting and absorbing all this new information, but good employers can make sure employees aren't drowning."Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at email@example.com Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.