When it comes to promoting culture and retaining team members, an effective onboarding process is crucial. Oftentimes, companies have a well-honed hiring process but drop the ball once they get new workers in the door. Leaving team members high and dry within their first weeks of starting a new job has the potential to seriously undercut the success and profitability of your company.

According to a Gallup State of the American Workplace report, 70 percent of American workers say they dislike their job, 50 percent of workers say they’re uninspired, and 20 percent are completely disengaged. This disengagement is estimated at $500 billion a year in lost productivity. And most of it happens in the first 45 days of employment.

Putting the time and energy into onboarding pays off in long-term engagement and productivity. Here are three ways to build a better onboarding process.

1. Focus on people, not papers. Stop thinking about the new hire process simply as the time to fill out forms and instead as a team-building opportunity. Have new hires complete as much paperwork as possible before their first day, so that time can be used toward activities that foster engagement and, ultimately, success.

Listen, you’ve found someone that made it through all your hoops, passed the tests and has chosen to spend a great portion of their waking hours working with you. Celebrate! Take them out to lunch. Load their desk up with company swag. Roll out the figurative (or literal) red carpet.

From the very first day, let your new team members know just how much you value them and the skills they bring. Also, never start new hires on a Monday. Mondays are bad enough already. It’s much better to start folks on a Friday when we’re all generally in a better mood and have more time to focus on people.

Mentor or buddy programs are a great way to assimilate new hires onto a team. Knowing whom to turn to when you have a question is essential for mitigating some of the inevitable stress of starting a new job. They can help answer the questions you can’t Google and provide insights on company standards and resources. Just be sure mentors or buddies are similar in age. Starting a new job is intimidating, and pairing someone with significantly more age or experience only adds to that. Having company buddies close in age helps facilitate honest, open and, ultimately, productive dialogue.

2. Share the big picture. Have clear company goals, stick to them consistently and articulate them to new hires. Everyone in your company will work better when they understand the big picture and how their individual work affects it. And these core values, mission statements and vision for the future should come straight from leadership.

Leaders, your company’s success depends on empowering your team members. Take 20 minutes on their first day and let them know where the company is going and how their work will play into that. There’s no better way to get folks fired up about the job they have and work they’re doing.

3. Make time to lead. People don’t just quit a job because of the job. They quit because of people — particularly their leaders. Leading a team is time consuming, but providing thoughtful and consistent feedback could be the difference between an engaged and productive worker and one who’s looking to leave the first chance they get.

Create systems that allow for consistent sharing, both for team members to management and management to team members. Investing the time to check up on morale and engagement with your team always pays off in the end.

And new hires, remember to soak up and speak up. Be a sponge during your first several weeks on the new job and absorb as much information as you can. Take the time to observe others and build up awareness for how things operate. And if you don’t understand something, ask! Asking for help may feel awkward, but pretending you know something when you’re out of your element won’t do anyone any good.

This story was originally published in The Tennessean.