Maxwell Stephens

Top tips for creating an effective onboarding program...

What is onboarding and why is it important?

In it’s simplest terms, onboarding is the process by which new employees are introduced and integrated into an organisation. Although it may sound like a relatively minor aspect of employee attraction and retention, the onboarding process can have a significant impact on new employee attitudes. It can be the difference between nurturing a dedicated and motivated future leader; or a complete waste of time and resources from everyone’s perspective when the new hire leaves within the first month! Onboarding is the foundation for your new employee’s future success. It gives them an insight to an organisation, how it works, and how it treats its staff. A 2018 study showed that around 30% of job seekers have at some point left a job within the first 90 days of joining an organisation, citing company culture and the fact that the job doesn’t meet up to expectations. Funnily enough, the research also suggest that around 30% of organisations take a passive approach to their onboarding processes!


Recruitment – The foundation of an effective onboarding program

The onboarding process doesn’t begin when the employee steps foot in the office on their first day, it should be happening well before then. Recruitment is not just a case of putting a basic job advert online and waiting for all the best candidates to come to you – to get the best possible response, there needs to be a lot more thought put into the recruitment strategy. First impressions count, and the recruitment process is where these initial perceptions of your organisation are established. Here are just of the few of the things you need to consider when developing your recruitment strategy:

– Review all possible candidate touchpoints (website, social media channels, job adverts, job descriptions) to ensure you have the right content, you use the correct tone, and that you accurately describe the vacancy comprehensively and persuasively.

–  At some stages of the recruitment process (maybe not at the initial application stage) you could give prospective employees a task or test to provide both the organisation and the candidate an opportunity to see how each other work. 

– Provide copies of policies that may significantly impact employees, such as appraisal policies, remote work policies, and vacation policies.

– Review your employment processes, procedures, and policies with your human resources team.


Meet and Greet (before they start)

As we all know, the first day at a new job can be a daunting prospect, so an office visit prior to the new employee starting can be a great way to ease any potential anxiety from everyone’s perspective. If you can, try to schedule some time for your new employee to come in when other members of their team are available. Obviously the context and plan for this visit will vary greatly depending on your organisation, but try to cover these basics:


– Give them a tour of the building, making sure to show them their office/location where they will be working.

– Try to introduce them to everyone you pass on your way around the workplace (within reason).

– Plan a team lunch/informal meeting for the new employee. Remember this isn’t a surprise birthday party – try not to put too much focus on the new employee and don’t make them the centre of attention, this should be more of an informal get-together rather than a chance to exhibit the new employee.


The First Day

Chances are that your new employee has put a fair bit of thought and preparation into their first day, it’s only fair that the employer should too. A good idea would be to put together a new starter pack to give them on their first day (or beforehand would be even better). This pack could include information around the following:


– An itinerary for the first week

– The new employee’ company email address and phone number, along with access details for your company’s communication tools.

– An overview of ongoing projects the new started will be involved with.

– Copies of important company policies and procedures.

– General information about the business premises and it’s surroundings (onsite facilities, canteen menus, information about nearby transportation, a site map etc).


As well as arranging the welcome pack, you should also fully plan out their first day in the office (at least). The first day should re-affirm the new employees decision to take the job, not make them run for the hills. Make sure it’s not too intense, but also make sure they’re not sat on their own twiddling their thumbs! Arrange meetings at the start of the day with their line manager and/or other appropriate senior colleagues at the start of the day. During this meeting you can address any initial questions or concerns and run through the primary expectations of the role for at least the first few months. In addition to introductory meetings there are a few other things you should consider to make your new employee’s first day as good as possible:


– Properly introduce them to the colleagues/team they will be working most closely with. This could be done via an informal team lunch or even use the dreaded ice-breaker activities.

– Make sure that their individual workspace is all set up and ready to go (computer is on the network, employee email is up and running, phone is connected, office supplies provided etc). If applicable, it may be good at this point to show them important digital assets that may be needed for their role (e.g. show where to find software and important files, ensure they have access to any shared drives etc).

– Run through points from the employee handbook/policies which may be most pertinent to the new employee. In addition you could provide background information and statuses on relevant projects/clients/accounts etc if applicable.


Ongoing support

The first few weeks and months of employment are critical for effective employee retention. From the employees perspective, these first few months will have a significant impact on their career aspirations. Is your company one where they can see themselves growing and developing their career? Or will it merely be a stepping stone onto something better? Any onboarding programs you develop will need to continue throughout this period, focusing on areas such as:


– Meeting important stakeholders from across the organisation.

– Providing information about the potential progression of their role in the future, or career development opportunities across the company in general.

– Arranging/conducting any appropriate training required.

– Establishing clear expectations/targets/KPI’s etc for the new employee and review these on a regular basis.

– Regular catch-up meetings to discuss any initial issues and ensure the new hire has the equipment, resources and support they need to carry out their job efficiently and effectively.

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