How to provide the best onboarding experience

Home How to provide the best onboarding experience
8 Oct 2021
For HR professionals

Onboarding is one of those catch-all phrases – it can mean many things to different companies, but at its core, an employee onboarding process is the systematic and purposeful transformation of promising candidates into top-performing employees. By carefully planning your company’s onboarding programme, you give new employees the information, relationships and tools they need to be comfortable and confident enough to do outstanding work. Like any other complex process, successful onboarding demands well-documented and deliberate steps. One common theme remains – onboarding is the process that ensures new hires are ready for whatever comes at them, from procedural to cultural learnings. Studies show new hire productivity comes faster with an efficient and engaging onboarding experience, with 90% of employees deciding whether to stay with the company within their first six months.


Here’s how we think you can create the most effective onboarding programme for your teams.


Before the first day


Delays during onboarding give the impression your new hire is not expected to be productive immediately or that you can’t be bothered ensuring they are set up for success. Two vibes you don’t want to be giving out after expending so much time, energy and money getting them on board in the first place!


Paperwork: Paperwork is arguably the most boring, confusing and frustrating part of the onboarding process (for you and for your new hire!). Get the paperwork efficiently and accurately out of the way as soon as possible after your new hire has accepted the position so you can focus on the engagement side of onboarding and to tackle any legal or financial-related hiccups that arise before your new hire is physically due to join you.


Desk and equipment: Make sure you have everything logistically and practically in place before your new hire arrives for their first day. Things like security logins and access keys; an allocated (and cleared out!) desk; a computer, tablet and/or phone (or other equipment necessary for the successful performance of their role from day one); monitors, cables and adaptors; logins for hardware, password management tools and role-specific software; a fully created user profile and logins ready to share on any time and attendance tools; specialist tools and equipment; and any uniforms or personalised name tags.


What to expect on the first day: Make sure all the information they need to confidently arrive on their first day is provided. You could send out a welcome letter containing full details on dress code (including mentioning any dress down days or charity fancy dress events), advice on car parking or travelling in to the office, how to physically access the building, equipment and facilities for food and drink, and clarity on exactly what time you want them to arrive on day one and who to ask for when they do. We’ve seen some companies share a welcome video with their new hire introducing members of the team and giving them a quick tour of their new working space, which makes for a pretty memorable and effective first step.


On the first day


Buddy system: Engaging a 'buddy' is a great way to show the new starter the ropes. In fact, Gartner research shows that 74% of new hires consider their peers to be the most helpful source of support during onboarding. Consider appointing a teammate rather than a direct manager. They’ll feel more comfortable asking those mundane but important questions about the office, culture and quirks of the team. The buddy is also a great person to introduce the new employee around and do a tour of the office to build rapport and relationships. Gartner suggests setting up both a ‘peer’ buddy, to help guide the new hire through their individual role and to acclimatise to their direct team, as well as a ‘connector’ buddy from another business unit or team, to help the new hire navigate the wider organisation and to better understand company culture.


Scheduling: Scheduling a new hire’s first day (and, arguably, their first week or two) has several benefits. For one, they’ll never be left wondering what to do next and you can ensure their first hours are productive, positive and set the tone for the rest of their experience with you. Perhaps most importantly, it also gives the right impression about your company: “Trust us, we know what we’re doing.” Make sure they’re set up on any company communication and planning tools and have their full schedule booked in to view from the moment they arrive.


Little extras: Consider what little extras you could do that reflect your company brand and ethos. That might be a welcome package on their desk that includes gifts or messages from new colleagues, or perhaps a (paid for) lunch with their co-workers. You could send a company-wide email introducing your new hire to everyone and welcoming them to the team within the first couple of hours. Twitter has an elaborate 75-step process for their new hires on the first day. When employees arrive, the company has their email ID, a t-shirt and a bottle of wine waiting at their desk. In addition, new hires have breakfast with the CEO and a tour of the office before they get into first-day training.


The key objective on their first day is to create an epic welcome and workspace orientation experience. You want your new hire to leave at the end of the day feeling valued, motivated and appreciated, with all the tools, connections and equipment they need to do their job well right from the start.


Beyond the first day


The best onboarding processes take the employee experience right through to their first anniversary. Studies show that up to 23% of new starters who receive a poor onboarding experience leave in the first year. There ought to be regular, well-conceived touchpoints and activities along that journey to ensure your employees are set up for success over time. This requires clear goals, objectives and succession planning. This is where probation management is key. It’s simply not enough to hire a superstar and expect them to constantly shine. All top talent has a great support network to help them thrive.


Meeting people: Now's the time for a wider meet-and-greet, with colleagues in other teams and departments, and relevant people external to the company. You might want to develop a job shadowing scheme which helps your new hire to familiarise themselves with company policies, practices and processes, and better understand responsibilities and skills across positions and departments.


Training: A fundamental part of your long-term onboarding programme will be training, enabling new employees to perform their job well right from the start. You might want to consider creating e-learning modules for new hires to allow for standardised training and the ability to easily track completion of various sessions. Solicit feedback from your new hires on the onboarding training to better understand what worked and what needs further fine-tuning; you could even provide train-the-trainer sessions to strengthen the delivery of your corporate training initiatives, including onboarding training.


Feedback: Checking in regularly with new hires is important to not only build communication and employee relationships, but also to track progress and performance. Your new hire must understand what is expected of them in the new role and feedback must be based on these set expectations. In addition to giving feedback, the first month is a great opportunity to also solicit feedback from your new hire. Involving them will provide the most accurate and up-to-date intel on what’s working and what isn’t. The data collected is your opportunity to close gaps identified for the next group of new hires.


Performance management and setting goals: With the new hire settling into their role, it’s an opportune time to review performance measures, processes and goal setting. Providing a thorough review of the performance management cycle and respective paperwork/documentation is critical.


Review the job description: To keep job descriptions up-to-date, revisit the description with your new hire within their first year. At the time of hiring compared to one year into the role, the responsibilities may have evolved. It’s important to accurately reflect these responsibilities and the full scope of work in the job description. Involve your new hire and solicit their feedback on the job description to decipher what is still relevant and what needs to be added or omitted.


Celebrate first year anniversaries


The first anniversary is a great time to reflect on achievements, plan for future development and, of course, celebrate! Teams who focus energy on ensuring employees are happy, challenged, being heard and have development opportunities foster a positive experience and greater likelihood that the employees will want to stay with the business for the long haul.


How can we help you?


If you're looking for exceptional new talent in Surrey, we can help. Here's how we can work with your business to support your recruitment as an extension of your HR team. You can call us on 01932 355000 or email

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