1 April 2014

Want A Good Employer Brand? Get Your Onboarding Right


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Recruitment and retention Talent management


Wikipedia defines ‘onboarding’ as “the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organisational members and insiders”. Onboarding isn’t just about getting the employee through the door on their first day, it includes everything from the first update through social media to the employee’s end of probation, and sometimes beyond. Not planning your onboarding process, or worse still, not having a structured onboarding program, will damage your employer brand, as well as the effectiveness of new employees.

There are many elements to a successful onboarding strategy, from the different departments, managers and employees involved, to the systems and resources used to optimise the experience of prospective talent, active candidates and new employees. Onboarding also has an impact on existing employees, whether actively involved in the recruitment process or not.
Enabling your business to successfully attract and onboard talent using online resources and technology will reduce recruitment costs, increase productivity and improve your employee brand. Knowing what makes a successful onboarding strategy, and how to implement the various tools and processes needed to achieve it, is key; below are the areas you should be including in your process and discussions, and the advantages that they can each bring.

Online presence

Your brand should ideally have a strong online presence already. Social media, online marketing and SEO are no longer ‘nice to haves’, but should instead be considered essential parts of any brand’s marketing strategy. As part of your online marketing efforts, your business should already be actively doing the following:

  • Targeted social networks are being updated regularly with engaging, fresh and unique content relevant to your brand’s industry
  • Questions, polls and quizzes are being used to invite engagement from potential talent and consumers
  • Clear and informative website design with easy to navigate menus
  • An active company blog, sharing informative, trustworthy and fresh content
  • A clear mission statement included on the company website as to ‘why’ your business does what it does


social presence

Maintaining and constantly improving your online presence is key to attracting talent. Over 90% of recruiters say that they check social media for the profiles of candidates, but how many candidates check out the website of a potential employer? I would say that it’s a very high percentage, and these visitors will want to see an active, modern and user-friendly site explaining exactly what the business does, as well as providing all other necessary information, such as their ethos and pedigree.

Images of the day to day activities, social outings or charity events also show that the brand is happy to be transparent and allow a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what they do.
Customer and employee quotes provide an individual endorsement of the business, which allow visitors to build a positive interpretation of the company.
Not being able to find out about a business, such as the services or product it offers, is both frustrating and time consuming.
A website that clearly hasn’t been updated in a number of months, is vague or doesn’t really contain any useful content reflects a poor online strategy and effort, and also provides a negative impression of the company brand.




One of the aims of having an online presence is to build a talent pool of brand advocates that you can tap into whenever you run a recruitment campaign. Building this invaluable resource of talent will potentially negate the requirement for using recruitment agencies, job boards or adverts in other media.
Another benefit of building a loyal following online is that you’re able to inform those people engaged with you about your brand, and what it’s like to work for you.

Social talent attraction and recruiting

Social media is an effective tool in a brand’s search for engaged talent. One mistake that businesses may make is only using social channels when they are actively looking for candidates. In order to build a community that interacts with you as a business, and therefore would potentially apply for a vacancy, you need to have a consistently active profile or page.
Sharing engaging content through social media, and encouraging comments or other calls to action, will all increase your brand’s visibility online.
Brands should always ensure that comments and questions do not go unanswered, especially negative comments or complaints. Actively dealing with complaints and negative comments can be used to your advantage and to emphasise that your brand is happy to accept, and act upon, feedback provided through social networks.

Social media is an excellent medium by which to show the human side of your business. Photos of employees, ‘sneak previews’ of upcoming events, publications and fun quizzes that anyone can join in on are great ways to attract followers and enhance your employer brand. Showing a human side makes your brand more approachable, increases trust and shows that you’re at ease being transparent in what you do – all traits of a social brand.
Don’t be afraid to plug the good deeds that your brand may do like local community work, charity drives or employee awards for a job well done, if you’re proud of your employer brand then let everyone know.

Running recruitment campaigns through social media should be properly planned and executed, according to your end goals. You should have built up a talent pool from which you aim to attract candidates, but when promoting a vacancy, not all of these followers will be an appropriate fit.
Targeting a certain demographic can be achieved on certain networks, such as LinkedIn or Google+, by choosing the audience you wish to share to. Other networks don’t allow you to choose who sees your updates, they are either global or nothing. For these networks you may want to start sharing certain updates relevant to the vacancy being advertised among your usual content, which are targeted specifically to the type of person that you wish to apply, such as:

  • Tech news for developers
  • Latest seo/social strategies for marketing executives
  • Sales techniques for salespeople

By sharing targeted content you can start to invite specific interest from potential candidates, for a targeted vacancy. Quizzes, group discussions and competitions can all also be used in a similar targeted way to attract talent with a particular skill.

Providing a clear call to action, directing candidates to the next stage of the recruitment process, is a stage that is crucial to the success of your onboarding process. It’s no good to run a superb campaign through social media, attracting huge numbers of qualified candidates, if they don’t know where to actually apply for the vacancy. Publishing a clear, easy to understand and inviting call to action, directing candidates to your applicant portal (as well as any other information they may require) will ensure that the percentage of candidates that are referred from social media is maximised.

Online candidate portal

Your brand’s candidate portal is the first impression your potential employee will get of your direct recruitment process. It’s important that this process be as clear and intuitive as possible, the candidate experience is of crucial importance to the overall onboarding process. Some elements to consider when designing an applicant portal are:

  • Is it easy to find online? There should be links to the portal on both the main business site and also your social profiles/updates regarding any vacancies
  • Is the process clear and easy to understand? If an applicant becomes confused or bewildered by your portal then they may abandon their application (the opposite of talent attraction!)
  • There should be constant 2-way communication, in order to inform the applicant of their progress and allow any questions to be asked and responded to efficiently
  • The use of purpose-built recruitment technology, such as Ciphr iRecruit, will provide the functionality, automation and efficiencies required to make the onboarding process smooth and successful
  • The portal should be branded so as to become part of your brand’s online presence. It should be instantly recognisable by an applicant as your unique brand


The interview process

The interview will be the first time that an applicant communicates with your brand verbally or face to face. Making a good first impression is just as important for a brand as it is for the applicant. Many businesses make the mistake of allowing their position of power to cloud their judgement of how to treat applicants. In order to avoid such a situation, you should consider the following:

  • Have you allowed enough time for the interview? Cutting an interview short can not only mean that vital information relating to the applicant is missed, it’s also rude and unprofessional
  • Being polite and respectful, as you would be to any other person you meet, is imperative. Being rude, overly aggressive or not giving your full attention to the applicant is, again, unprofessional
  • To make the best use of the time you have with the applicant, prepare your questions prior to the interview. Ensure that they are relevant and specific to the role you’re interviewing for
  • Do your research on the candidate, such as online profiles, reviewing their CV and reading any blogs or articles they may have published online. The more you know about them the better, but don’t make the mistake of assuming you already know everything about them and not bothering to ask them about their interests in person
  • Get the right people involved; this may mean asking a member of the department they are interviewing for to sit in on the interview, as well as the manager. Prior to the interview, involve people who have skills and attributes in certain areas such as social media, current employees with similar interests or employees who may have worked in the same company as an applicant. These people can provide valuable input and should be consulted.


Before the start date

The more preparation that you can do prior to a new employee’s start date, the better. Using onboarding solutions, like Ciphr Onboarding, it is possible to allow new employees to complete certain details prior to their first day. This devolves the data entry responsibility to the employee, benefiting HR by removing the admin normally associated with entering the new starter’s record, but also improves data accuracy as the individual concerned is entering their own details.
‘Welcome to the business’ material can be displayed in the onboarding portal, including images, video and documentation. This will help to inform the new starter of the company culture, important things to know and who their colleagues will be.

Ensuring that physical resources, such as a PC, availability of key staff and security key cards are pre-arranged will help the first day to run smoothly, and also make a good first impression in the office for the new employee. A business should show that it is fully prepared and investing in new staff, meaning that everything should be ready and taken care of as a matter of course.

Many businesses employ a mentoring program for new employees. This type of scheme has many advantages for both the employee and employer alike, as detailed in our previous article. Prior to the employee’s start date, the mentor should be prepared and happy with their responsibilities.

The first day and beyond

Once the employee has started with the business, their induction should include:

  • A meeting with a company representative – this can be either the line manager of the new employee or a member of HR. The initial meeting should be sincere and welcoming as this will help to put the employee at ease and calm their nerves on their first day in a new environment
  • Introductions to managers and colleagues should be conducted, but can be quite daunting and most people would struggle to remember all the new faces and names immediately. Allowing access to a company intranet, which includes an employee directory will help a new starter to ‘put names to faces’ as well as looking up colleagues job titles and responsibilities
  • Any training required to fulfill certain role requirements should be scheduled and completed as soon as possible to maximise their productivity and ensure that the employee is happy with the tools that are needed in order for them to be an effective member of staff
  • Regular performance reviews should be scheduled throughout the employee life cycle, for the benefit of both the employee and business
  • Employee wellness schemes, ongoing training and the ability to display total reward statements are all ways in which a business can promote their investment in their employees and increase employee satisfaction, happiness and retention


employee satisfaction