20 July 2022

Setting up new starters for success: secrets for better employee onboarding


Louis Wellings

Louis Wellings

Louis Wellings is a content marketing executive at Ciphr.


Employee experience Onboarding


A great onboarding programme for new starters can drive higher employee engagement and retention. Here’s Ciphr’s advice for how to do it

There’s a common misconception about what employee onboarding actually involves. Many people make the mistake of considering onboarding simply as the process of sending out a contract and telling a new starter where they need to be on their first day. But there’s much more to it. Onboarding encompasses several different elements that start with that first congratulatory phone call.   

The time between making that offer and your new employee being fully up to speed is vital. Getting this preboarding and onboarding phase spot on will contribute to higher employee engagement, better employee retention, increased productivity, and, ultimately, easier talent attraction.

In this article, which shares some of the discussions from a 2022 Ciphr webinar, we’ll look at some of the best practices for creating a greater experience for your new starters. 

In this article 

Why is employee onboarding so important? 

Let’s take a quick look at some of the data that highlights why onboarding is so critical. There isn’t a huge amount of research into the importance of the onboarding phase, but what research there is makes for some sobering reading. It’s clear that onboarding is crucial for long-term staff retention. Nearly 70% of employees are more likely to stay with their company for at least three years if they have a great onboarding experience, while a separate survey found that the vast majority (93%) of employees believe their onboarding experience will determine if they stay within the organisation. We know that the risk of staff turnover is high during an individual’s first days and weeks: up to 20% of turnover occurs within those first 45 days. Meanwhile, it appears that the general quality of onboarding programmes is poor. Two-thirds of companies don’t set goals or milestones for new starters, and just 10% of workers say that their onboarding programme is any good. So, why does it matter? UK job vacancies hit a record high of 1.3 million at the start of 2022, with almost half (45%) of employers reporting that they have vacancies that they are finding hard to fill. This is a proportion that’s set to rise to nearly two-thirds (65%) later in 2022. These shortages are having a significant negative impact on existing employees, nearly half of whom say that the hiring of extra staff would ease their stress and prevent burnout. We also know that the cost of having to rehire someone leaves is high – up to 20% of a role’s salary. 

Key milestones and risks in the onboarding phase 

With these statistics in mind, there are five key milestones and associated risks in the onboarding journey that we need to consider. 

  1. Job offer

The first stage is the offer. For this stage to be a good news story, hiring teams will have to put the groundwork in place to ensure that every bit of information is covered and that there are no surprises for the candidate. You should have open and honest conversations about salary expectations and working hours, for example, from the very start of the recruitment process. You need to find out what is important to that candidate and show that their expectations match up with the reality of the role and the organisation. The biggest risk employers face at this stage is that of counteroffers. Your candidate might have received a counteroffer from their current employer, or they might be in an interview process for another organisation. The best way to handle this risk is to ensure that you understand the person behind the candidate. Candidates’ motivations for roles change, such as their salary requirements, or working hours. Give them everything they need – information and time – to make the right decision for them.

  1. Contract

For the contract stage, it’s important to follow up that good news story with the actual paperwork in a timely manner. Nothing will give your future employee cold feet at this point than a contract that doesn’t appear for weeks, or just an overall lack of communication. The key here is simple: communicate, be prepared, have a streamlined process, and ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to expected timelines and information sharing. You should know, for example, how long it takes between requesting a contract, to the candidate receiving it, and the key people involved in making that happen. You need your future employees to feel secure and confident in their decision from the get-go. As soon as your candidate receives the offer, give them a step-by-step timeline of everything they can expect from the moment they are offered the job, to what they will encounter during the whole of their onboarding process, to what they need to do on their first day. That way, you’re able to give them as much information as possible and provide them with a platform to ask as many questions as they like.

  1. References

Depending on the type of role or industry you’re working in, referencing and background checking might be an integral part of the hiring process. Having a candidate fail such checks after making an offer is not just frustrating but can also be costly in terms of resourcing costs and time. To mitigate this, it’s best to use recruitment technology that incorporates background checks, and filters out candidates who won’t meet your requirements. For example, if you require a criminal record check, create an application process that not only informs the candidate from the very start, but allows anyone who would not be eligible to de-select themselves. Understanding your must-have requirements and building them into the onboarding process is key to ensuring the candidate is fully aware of what’s required of them.

  1. Period between offer and start date

Depending on the roles you’re recruiting for, you may experience a large gap between offering a contract and the candidate starting, probably due to lengthy notice periods. Your goal during this time is to keep your future employees engaged and, more importantly, excited to join. By engaging with new starters through onboarding software such as Ciphr Onboarding, you’ll help them get a taste of what life is like at your organisation in a way that doesn’t overload them with information, but keeps them engaged and informed. A good platform – one that’s integrated with your central HR system – will give candidates access to information that allows them to get a feel for your systems and documents that they will eventually work with.

  1. First day information

There’s no worse feeling for a new candidate than not knowing what to do, where to go, or who to ask for on their first day. This has become an even more common in recent years with the growth of hybrid working and increased number of new starters joining teams remotely. It’s imperative that you tell all your new starters what their first day will look like, and that you are in constant communication with them to make sure that any questions or queries they have are answered by someone who has been a consistent part of their journey.

And it doesn’t stop there. Another part of the onboarding process that is sometimes overlooked is that of your organisation’s online presence. Your new starter may be spending more time than usual researching their new organisation as a way of validating their decision. If your Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Twitter is either not up to date, or reflecting a version of your organisation that doesn’t match up with your ethos, then you need to take some time to work on those channels to ensure they’re aligned with your vision. How do you want to be seen by not only your customers, but also your new people that are joining the organisation?

A typical first week 

First impressions are everything for your new starters, and their first day with the business is the perfect time to confirm that they’ve made the right choice. This is your best chance for them to get set up for success in your in their new role. By the end of their first day, they should have a good idea about your key processes. Whether they are starting in the office or remotely, make sure to orientate them with the basics of being your organisation’s employee. Processes like how to book time off and where to find company policies are all important pieces of the puzzle in getting them set up for success and confirming to them that they’ve made the right choice.  

The rest of the week should be well thought out by planning their time and arranging meetings with key people (including senior leaders). The first week or so with a new employee is the golden opportunity to make those first impressions, so make sure line managers work with the HR team to create an appropriate induction programme for your new starter. The individual will, hopefully, feel reassured by this level of planning, and it’ll give them confidence that they’ll be supported in their new team.  

Make sure your new hire’s first week goes to plan with our free onboarding checklist for HR.

How Ciphr revamped its induction process 

In 2020, Ciphr moved to a remote-only model for onboarding new employees. While it was necessary because of UK lockdowns, it was also an opportunity for our people and L&D teams to rethink our onboarding programme. We collected feedback from new starters on what was working well and what wasn’t, and relaunched our onboarding programme in 2022 with a renewed focus on putting people at the forefront of the whole process. The goals were to improve our people’s understanding of the company and the customer journey, and to make sure everyone is having a consistent introduction to the company. The focus for the induction was to connect people on a variety of levels and get them excited and engaged with what being a Ciphr employee it was all about. We wanted everyone, no matter the role, to get the same start. Since the relaunch, the feedback from our teams has been unanimously positive.  

Supporting line managers with onboarding 

Onboarding is very much a team-focused activity, and it works best when everyone is working together towards the same end goal. It’s not just a product of the people team’s work – everyone in the organisation has to be involved to make onboarding a successful experience. Your new employee will be scrutinising every process and communication (or lack of) and will be making micro judgments along the way to confirm they have made the right decision in joining your organisation. A quality onboarding process should allow you the opportunity to shape — from the get-go — their vision of your organisation’s values and working practices.  

Supporting line managers and offering the best onboarding journey for their team member is essential. Here are six ways for HR teams to support line managers with onboarding new starters: 

      • New starter checklist it can be as simple or as detailed as you need and is a great tool for easing the stress off the line managers to focus on planning and direction in those pivotal first weeks  
      • Create an induction plan – HR teams can create templates and guides that can be easily added to by line managers to tailor the induction to their new starter. Encourage new hires to meet as many people from across your organisation as possible  
      • Provide an easy-to-access space for resources and information – use your HR system to individuals self-service access to vital information (such as policies) and tools (such as booking training courses and leave)  
      • Introduce and update management training regularly – ensure that your line managers are giving new starters the best experience by providing them with the right tools, such as communication and listening skills. You may have people in your organisation that are new to people management, and it’s important to give them the right support  
      • Use technology to support the onboarding process – use eRecruitment and onboarding software that allows you to effortlessly create a new starter experience and gives managers information at the click of a button. It’s quick, and it’s effective 
      • Adapt and embrace the hybrid working experience – create an onboarding plan that allows for flexibility for remote joiners, and plan for how you’re going to be engaging and retaining new starters who are joining remotely 

How integrated HR and onboarding software can help 

A key part of making new employees feel like they are a valued part of your organisation is familiarising them with your brand, ethos and values all before their first day. Ciphr’s integrated HR, recruitment and onboarding technology helps to standardise that preboarding and onboarding phase for your new starters, ensuring they get all the information they need – whether that’s a welcome video from your CEO, a timeline of your company, or an introduction to their new team. It also helps to streamline your manual processes and administration tasks, empowering new starters to complete tasks before their first day – whether that’s verifying contact details, entering emergency contacts, or simply just updating their bank details, this information can be stored within Ciphr Connect.  

For more information, or to see how Ciphr’s onboarding functionality takes the strain so you spend less time on paperwork and more time supporting your new starters, book a demo today. 

Watch: webinar featuring how Ciphr revamped its own induction process