a man and a woman working at a desk
The process of hiring a new employee is no easy feat (though working with Lighthouse Labs’ Talent Acquisition team makes it so much easier): not only do you want to find someone qualified for the role, but you also want to make sure they are a good fit for the team from a cultural standpoint. However, there is one, final part of the hiring process that is often overlooked: onboarding.

Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into a company and ensuring they become familiar with internal processes and best practices. This initial onboarding is arguably the most important part of the process, as once you’ve found the perfect candidate, you want to make sure they stay for a while! In fact, one study found that 69% of employees “who have an exceptional onboarding experience” are more likely to stay at a company long-term (at least 3 years).

Ensuring a smooth and successful onboarding process is especially important when it comes to junior talent. This is because of a growing phenomenon of diminished company loyalty amongst younger employees and Gen Z, with 83% of Gen Z workers considering themselves “job hoppers”. While there are certainly some challenges in the context of junior employee retention, there are also plenty of new opportunities for revolutionizing traditional onboarding processes to better suit modern practices.

Onboarding is also incredibly important for roles that are prone to high turnover, including security analysts. Although SOC (security operations center) teams have been found to have high job satisfaction and engagement, these teams often have heavy workloads and are prone to experiencing burnout, leading to increased levels of attrition.

With these ideas in mind, this article will walk through how to successfully onboard a junior security analyst to improve retention and increase motivation, especially amongst junior employees.

Best practices for successful onboarding

Structured learning path

Although the onboarding process as a whole may seem overwhelming at first, the best thing to do is to make a detailed plan to keep new security analysts on track. Create a phased learning path that introduces the new employee to concepts little by little.

Start by introducing them to the company more broadly: go through the company mission, values, goals, and overall culture. The next phase should cover important technical skills, like the cybersecurity tools (Wireshark, Metasploit, etc.) and best practices used by the company. The last phase should cover company specific-knowledge including internal systems and policies.

Mentorship and support

It is vital to provide a new employee with a solid support system, especially in the first few weeks when they may feel overwhelmed or intimidated. Consider assigning the junior analyst a mentor or buddy that they can go to when seeking advice or one-on-one guidance. Ideally, this should be an employee within the cybersecurity team who is more senior than the junior analyst, but is not at the manager or director level. Finding someone in the middle who can relate to the junior employee is a key part of creating a trusting mentor-mentee relationship.

Integration with the team

On this note, it is also important to make sure the new employee feels welcome and included within the team. In fact, a recent study found that employees who felt a “strong sense of belonging show a 56 percent increase in job performance and a 50 percent decrease in turnover risk”.

To facilitate a smooth integration, consider setting up a team lunch where the new employee can get to know everyone and see how the team interacts on a social level. Make sure to also invite the new hire to any pre-established meetings and add them to email distribution lists so they are in the loop with all company communications.

Feedback and review

As soon as your new hire starts, make sure to schedule a recurring one-on-one meeting with them every week. Having regular touchpoints not only creates opportunities for offering reviews and feedback but also allows them a safe space to raise concerns. This is particularly important for retention, as these check-ins help managers nip any issues in the bud before they become bigger, which otherwise could potentially lead the employee to resign.

Growth plan

Lastly, it is vital to show junior analysts that their career growth and professional development are top of mind. To demonstrate this, create a growth plan with the new employee that includes working on projects, achieving milestones or acquiring new technical skills. Creating this plan from the outset will keep the employee on track and will allow them to understand what they need to improve in order to be promoted.

Onboarding checklist

On the topic of planning, another strategy for preparing to onboard a new hire is to create a checklist for the first week, first month, and first 90 days. This can be especially helpful for tracking progress, as this list should contain actionable and measurable steps that can be marked as completed, in turn quantifying the onboarding process.

First week

  • Focus on ‘learning the ropes’: new hires should be introduced to new tools, concepts and projects and should be assigned small tasks.

  • Before they even start, make sure that the new hire’s workstation and necessary access to tools and programs are all set up for when they arrive, including their email and security badge to enter the building.

  • Set up short one-on-one meetings (15-20 mins) with the new hire and all of their team members or close collaborators so they can get to know everyone.

  • Review security policies, procedures, network architecture and encryption protocols.

First month

  • Assign the new hire with larger tasks and responsibilities to improve collaboration and encourage autonomy.

  • Schedule check-ins with the new hire to ensure they are staying on track and absorbing information.

  • Ensure they are completing internal training and that they are regularly checking in with their assigned mentor or buddy.

  • Encourage the new hire to participate in meetings and share their thoughts and ideas.

First 90 days

  • Begin holding the new hire accountable for their work and limit additional guidance.

  • Review career growth and professional development plans to ensure alignment.

  • Explore and identify opportunities for continuous learning and upskilling that may be of interest. This is especially important if your company offers a stipend/reimbursement for professional development and learning.

  • Encourage the new hire to take initiative, and make suggestions for areas of improvement based on industry trends, latest security threats, etc.

Common mistakes to avoid

When creating your onboarding plan, keep in mind that some typical pitfalls may arise. One of the most common ones is information overload, which is when the new hire feels overwhelmed and stressed by all the new information they are absorbing. Although this is a somewhat normal feeling when starting any new job, it should not reach a point of extreme. This is why having recurring meetings with new hires is important, as it allows managers to review progress and address any questions or concerns.

Another challenge may be underperformance or lack of engagement during onboarding. The key to mitigating an unengaged new hire is to identify them early on, which is why it is important to keep a close eye on them for the first few weeks. When delivering feedback, ensure that it is clear and constructive, and that it is followed with actionable steps and improvement plans that the new hire can easily follow. It is also important to ask the new hire for their feedback on the onboarding process, as it can help identify more interactive or engaging strategies to implement going forward.

It is clear that creating a thoughtful onboarding process, although time-consuming, is a rewarding and fruitful effort to invest in. A strong onboarding experience will not only improve employee engagement and morale, but will also reap long-term benefits in the context of employee retention.

While creating and setting up an onboarding process can be daunting at first, once it is established and set in stone, the good thing is that the process can be followed and used for future new hires to come. Although it is also important to constantly review and update the process based on employee feedback, the bulk of the work will already have been done.

Are you looking to hire top cybersecurity talent? Connect with our Talent Acquisition team to access sought-after, challenge-hungry cybersecurity professionals. We’ll play matchmaker and line up candidates that fit your individual needs. BONUS: No hiring fees and no paperwork.

Secure your future: Learn, earn, and get certified with Lighthouse Labs’ Cybersecurity Bootcamp, partially funded by Upskill Canada [powered by Palette Skills] and the Government of Canada. Learn more about this partially funded opportunity. Download the curriculum to get an inside view of what your learning journey will look like at Lighthouse Labs.