How to improve your employee onboarding

By |2018-02-19T17:26:06+00:00October 26th, 2016|Categories: Advice|Tags: |

Employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience great onboarding however 60% of companies fail to set milestones or goals for new hires. A welcoming, well constructed and efficient onboarding process will benefit both the new employee and the employer in not just the short term, but well into the employee life-cycle.

Employee onboarding is a crucial element in forming a great employer brand and reputation. With 84% of Glassdoor respondents stating that they’d consider leaving their job to work for another company with an excellent reputation, it’s vital to get the onboarding process right.

study of 264 employees published in the ‘Academy of Management Journal’ found that the initial 90 days of employment is pivotal to building rapport with the brand, business leaders and colleagues. When support levels were high from the business, new employees often had more positive attitudes towards their job and were more productive.

Whether you have an established onboarding process or you’re looking to implement one for the first time, below are critical elements to take into account.

1. A seamless journey from social to culture

woman sitting on her suitcase waiting for the sunsetYour talent attraction strategy should already include social engagement. Social media is fast becoming the preferred source of not only active candidates but passive ones too. With 79% of job seekers likely to use social media in their job search, it’s imperative for brands to adopt a social approach to recruitment and onboarding.

Consistent brand messaging is a vital success factor when it comes to your employer branding. From the early stages of candidate engagement on social media to the latter stages of your employee onboarding you should be making efforts to ensure a seamless experience for all those involved.

Starting a job at a new company is daunting for everyone. Presenting your brand in an approachable, friendly and social light will help to put new hires at ease during their onboarding experience and reinforce your company culture.
Some examples of making your onboarding process more ‘human’ can include:

  • Employee success stories
  • Informal meetings with senior members of staff
  • Fun facts about the business and its employees
  • Photos of social activities
  • A video introduction to the business from the head of the company
  • Taking the new hire for lunch on their first day

Instilling a social culture within your company enables everyone to communicate more effectively, be more honest and feel comfortable collaborating with colleagues and peers.
No matter how talented employees are, they will work to the best of their abilities when surrounded by an encouraging environment that values them.

“In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects.

In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.

Importantly, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100% more job applications.”

– Harvard Business Review

2. Every new hire is an opportunity to learn and improve

Every new hire that is ‘onboarded’ is an opportunity to learn what works in the process and what doesn’t. Including a survey, poll or meeting at the end of the process, to obtain feedback, will enable you to continually evolve and optimise the approach, contents and efficiencies.

No one from the business will have the same knowledge or experience of the process as a new hire and so they need to be recognised as the unique resource for improving the process that they are.

Creative business team at a coffee shop with laptopNew technologies, differing recruitment trends and variations in the type of employee you’re welcoming to the business are all factors that change constantly. Continued attention and ‘tweaking’ is required by HR to make sure that the onboarding process is the best experience it can be.

Honesty should be encouraged and all constructive critique taken into account by those involved in the onboarding process.
Asking for such feedback early in an employee’s time with the business will also help to instil a culture of trust and openness among employees.

Focus groups are an effective alternative to one-to-one feedback sessions, many individuals feel more comfortable providing feedback as part of a group discussion than directly.

Some questions you could ask new hires include:

  • What was your overall experience of the onboarding process?
  • Was the company culture accurately reflected by the onboarding approach and content?
  • Was there anything missing from the process that would have made your first few days easier?
  • What did you like most/least about the process?

 “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

– Bill Gates

3. Onboarding doesn’t start from the first day in the office

Onboarding starts before day one in the office. Preparing the employee and those around the business that are involved in their introduction to the company prior to the start date is key to ensuring things go smoothly.

onboarding-before-day-oneAllowing a new starter to input their own details, through a self-service portal, not only reduces admin for HR but improves data accuracy and introduces the employee to a company solution.
Being presented with a raft of documents explaining company procedures to read through on the first day is not only daunting but immediately reduces the time a new employee has to interact with their new surroundings and colleagues.

Enabling employees to read through and acknowledge company documents and policies prior to their first day allows them to use the first few hours to acquaint themselves with everyone while getting up to speed with the daily goings on in and around the office.

Tasks that can be assigned and communicated to a new starter prior to their first day include:

  • Who their mentor will be
  • Sign off of policies and documents
  • Completion of personal data
  • Introduction to the company culture
  • Employee directory with imagery
  • The induction plan
  • Map of the office(s)
  • Local knowledge (where to get lunch, where to park etc.)
  • Questionnaire for use to introduce the new employee in the company update


Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.

keep it simple stupid

“The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.”


Simplicity is a key principle in design. The easier something is to understand and use, the higher the likelihood it is to be adopted and engaged with. Too much information can be disruptive in design.

Ensuring that the onboarding process is streamlined and easy to follow, without sacrificing it’s quality or effectiveness, not only improves the employee experience but also reduces the administrative burden on HR.
If a new employee is unsure of what the next steps are in an onboarding process or presented with unnecessary or overly complicated actions then they’ll not be fully concentrating on completing the requirements to the best of their ability.
As well as adversely affecting the quality of responses a poor onboarding process will also damage the first impressions a new employee has of your internal processes.

Some ways to put KISS into action include:

  • Research: Great design is based on great insight. Gather anything you can to help understand what makes your audience (in this case the new hire) tick and what will drive them to act
  • Question: We all have great ideas. But sometimes we have some not-so-great ideas. Have faith in your convictions and never be afraid to push back and suggest alternatives
  • Design: Colours, fonts, illustration, photography, iconography, animation, shape, space, texture…there are so many elements of design to play with. Take time to get it right
  • Test: Once you’ve got your design, put it to the test and get feedback from as many places as possible. There’s no point having something if it doesn’t work

Source: Shift

Based on source: Synergy Creative

5. Make it visual

65% of senior marketing executives believe that visual assets (photos, video, illustrations and infographics) are core to how their brand story is communicated. Video and imagery are known to attract greater engagement and content containing visual elements is more successful in every area.
Infographics provide an enormous amount of information in an easy to digest and often fun way. A picture really does tell a thousand words.

make-onboarding-visualAccording to Psychology Today: “A large body of research indicates that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information. The research outcomes on visual learning make complete sense when you consider that our brain is mainly an image processor (much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision), not a word processor. In fact, the part of the brain used to process words is quite small in comparison to the part that processes visual images.

One study asked students to remember many groups of three words each, such as ‘dog’, ‘bike’, and ‘street’.

Students who tried to remember the words by repeating them over and over again did poorly on recall. In comparison, students who made the effort to make visual associations with the three words, such as imagining a dog riding a bike down the street, had significantly better recall.”

Including visual content in your onboarding process enables you to reduce the time required for the new hire to absorb the information while making the experience more visually interesting, colourful and rewarding.

6. Get and give value

Cluttering the onboarding process with irrelevant or unnecessary stages or information will only serve to over-complicate the experience at the expense of the new hire and those internally that have to administer the onboarding portal.

Every aspect of the process should benefit either the new hire, you as the employer or both. The way in which you achieve these goals are up to your creativity but the experience should be clouded with non-beneficial content or additional steps that provide no value.

The entire onboarding should be well-coordinated, motivating and inspiring. It should include individual meetings with managers about personal development goals and performance objectives. This ensures that all personal goals and objectives are aligned from the beginning and everyone has a clear development plan from day one.


7. Make things interactive

Interactivity can be presented in a number of ways. From 360 degree videos to fun surveys and questionnaires that the new employee fills in.

Mixing and varying content will help to maintain the interest of the individual progressing through the onboarding process. This is important as you want them to absorb the information presented to them and, at the same time, ensure that the data they enter is accurate.

By using the onboarding experience as an opportunity to provide crucial ‘elearning’ for the new employee has many benefits. Some compelling statistics supporting ‘elearning’ include:

  • It typically takes 40-60% less time than traditional forms of learning
  • Participants learn nearly 5x more material without increasing the time required
  • eLearning can provide an 18% boost in employee engagement

8. Be dynamic with changes and improvements

Having the processes and resources in place to make quick amendments and improvements to your onboarding process will enable you to ensure that your business and new employees get the most benefit from it.
The general nature of the internet means that expectations and best practices will change on an almost daily basis.
Exploiting these trends increases your chances of not only attracting top talent through online sources but also successfully onboarding and retaining them.

9. Tailor as much as possible

tailor-your-onboardingTailoring your onboarding, where possible, is important for a number of reasons. For example:

  • Each location might have a differing floor plan, safety procedures or even places to eat at lunchtime
  • Different departments will have their own processes, business tools or options of where they can work (telecommuting, hot-desking)
  • Every new hire will have their own learning style
  • Every role has different training requirements

Not only does making an effort to personalise the process show that you care about the experience as an employer but it also makes the process more pleasurable.

10. Make sure everyone is aware of the role they play

There’s little point in putting the effort in making the onboarding portal all singing and all dancing if no one in the business is up to speed with the role they’re expected to play.

involve-all-in-onboardingIT should be aware of the new hire in order to prepare hardware and software and advise on security policies. Finance need to know that there’s a new employee to pay and add to company benefits. Senior members of staff need to schedule a time to meet the new hire to introduce them to the differing teams and explain roles within the business.

Starting a new role and being left to their own devices for the day won’t do your employer brand any favours, will damage the employee’s perception of your organisational skills and leave them bewildered and confused.
Not what you want for the first day.

When planning, creating and improving your onboarding process be sure to include everyone directly involved and a nominated champion from every department for feedback and ideas.
Champions can then relay information and expectations back to their teams. It’s important that everyone be aware of when a new starter is being onboarded as, after all, they’ll be the one’s working in direct contact with the new employee.

Buy in from the business will be easier if everyone has a voice and input into the process.

CIPHRCIPHRFree HR news, resources and must-have white papers delivered straight into your inbox

Enter your email address to sign up now and stay informed: