Step by step guide to an engaging employee onboarding

Date: 30 Aug 2021
Employee high five

A first day at work can be daunting for everyone. There’s a lot of pressure on both sides. The employee needs to make that all-important first impression, to reinforce that they were the right person for the job. There’s also a lot of pressure on you, the employer. You’ve promised them the world. Now they’re expecting you to deliver it. As recent research and trends suggest, employees are acting like consumers; they’re being choosy about where to work, especially when it comes to aligning their values and beliefs with that of their employer. 

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and when it comes to employee onboarding, it really does have to be a positive one.

Disappointingly, according to Gallup, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organisation does a great job of onboarding. This is a serious drawback for those that want to turn new recruits into the work-stars of the future.

During the onboarding process, the employee is actively looking to see if the job they actually applied for is the one that is being delivered for them. It’s a super-critical time; a time when you really need to affirm the reasons they accepted your job offer and a time to avoid giving anyone second thoughts. Recruitment costs are significant and once you find the perfect people, you need to bend over backwards to give them the onboarding that they deserve.

Employee onboarding doesn’t have to be dull or a drain on people’s imaginations. With a bit of thought, you can turn your ideas into a slick, impressive onboarding machine that scales. Meaning that every new starter gets the same consistent experience from beginning to end.

Here’s our step by step guide to delivering the type of onboarding that employees want and that you need:

1. Paperwork can be dull — but it matters!

Contracts and other documents are certainly not the most exciting things in the world, but they are crucial legal documents that both you and your employees will want to refer to now and into the future. It can be challenging when there are multiple versions of your employment contract, according to the type of role and its location. Then there are things like non-disclosure agreements. As your HR team gets busier, the onboarding process can become piecemeal and you can easily lose track of which documents have gone to who. Before you do anything else, create a good process for creating, sharing and tracking these documents. The same goes for collecting bank details and tax information as well as all that’s needed to enrol people in benefits, pension and wellness schemes. This will save you time and avoid duplication of effort. Better still, automate this process; now that’s a load off your plate.

You've got this employee motivation

2. Equip people and make people feel gifted

Have you seen those photos on LinkedIn when people post all their new ‘swag’ on their first day in their new job? Have you seen how many likes those posts get? Now imagine it was your own first day in a new job. You’d want that day to be exciting — you’d want your laptop to be all shiny and new. Give your new people the best you possibly can. If you can give them a shiny new laptop then do it! - but if you can’t do that, at least give their equipment a good clean and polish. Nobody wants to receive the remnants of their predecessor, complete with coffee stains and a few old hairs. With COVID-19, take extra care to clean and sanitise any equipment with alcohol and other anti-bacterial products. You can go the extra mile too and make people feel gifted. Don’t be shy with your branded company swag. Plastic ‘rubbish’ has become socially irresponsible these days — so if you are doing a run of products, try and keep them as sustainable and re-usable as possible. One of our favourite promotional items is a branded international plug adaptor. They’ll be super handy for people when they go on their hols (offsetting the carbon from any flights of course). Don't forget people who are working from home — send them everything in a beautiful package with a handwritten note - and include a nice cupcake or some chocolates, so they can do one of those obligatory LinkedIn posts.

3. Get all your ducks in a row

There’s nothing worse than a messy onboarding. You know — the one where information comes through in ‘drips and drabs’ — when everything isn’t presented upfront and in full. To the employee, it can feel that their new employer isn’t very competent or doesn’t actually have a defined process. In brand new businesses that are to be expected — but in more established organisations, an employee expects their onboarding to be a well-oiled machine. There are so many things that need to be taken care of, you can easily lose track of where you’re up to with each person. It might be time to throw away that paper-based checklist and upgrade to an employee onboarding system. Your life will be a lot easier when you can sort all the little things in one fell swoop — and automate the ordering of most of these things via smart workflows:

  • Ensure people receive important documents such as your employee handbook, health and safety documents and policies around expense claims and travel.
  • Access to all your critical systems. There’s email, your intranet, your internal messaging systems such as Teams, your ERP system, your CRM and your IT Helpdesk. Then there’s granting the right level of access to all the other platforms and systems that are appropriate for someone’s role.
  • Ordering copies of criminal records, background checks and police checks take time. It’s so important to order these promptly — otherwise it could delay your new recruit being able to join your business.
  • Does your building have smart-cards and key fobs? — remember to get those ordered and configured ahead of time. There’s nothing worse that getting locked in the wrong part of the building.
  • Will your new recruit drive to work; and therefore need a parking space? Or will they take the more eco-friendly option, opting to cycle? — do you need to reserve them a space for their bike or electric scooter even?

4. Let's go back to school — it's training time!

New recruits will be impressed when they arrive and have a training schedule already mapped out for them. What could be more professional than that? Some companies leave their new talent hanging — literally having to ask around and book their own sessions. If you were in their shoes, you might feel confused and a little befuddled. Some training you’ll need to deliver back-to-back so that people have the right skills (and licenses or qualifications to actually do their job). With other forms of training it probably makes sense to spread it out over the first month or two. It’s down to your own unique needs and situation. HR Onboarding software can really help here — automatically diarising key training modules and delivering each module on-demand, whilst keeping HR managers informed about progress against the plan.

Man spending summer vacations at home alone, he is sitting on the deckchair in the living room and working with a laptop.

5. Give people the warmest of welcomes

Make someone’s first day feel like an event. Roll out the red carpet. Let it be special — and memorable for the right reasons.

Be prompt and punctual and allow them to familiarise themselves with their new environment (assuming they will be working from a physical space or office). An outstanding first day often starts with a tour of the building — and a walk-through and introduction to every department. Not only is it an opportunity to say hello, but it also’s a great way to really orientate someone as to how the nuts and bolts of your operation come together - and how the business works as a team. Whilst meeting the CEO or Managing Director can cause heart palpitations for some, a chance to meet the leadership team in person is an opportunity for you to share and reinforce the purpose and culture of the organisation.

Whatever you decide to do — it needs to be authentic and be true to your culture. Some entrepreneurial ventures might hold a ‘mad hatters’ afternoon tea party to welcome someone new. For others, it’s a slightly more formal affair. It doesn’t really matter — as long as it’s warm, welcoming and genuine. For remote workers, your afternoon tea can become a virtual one.

Give new-starters the opportunity to introduce themselves — in a standup or huddle, or even visually on a Teams call. Encouraging people to share something about themselves is a terrific ice breaker. One nice idea we’ve seen is getting people to write down ’10 amazing things you didn’t know about me.’ It’s a great way to encourage people to get to know each other and makes first introductions less stuffy or formal.

If you have one of those pinboards with a photo of everyone, don’t forget to take a photo of your new talented star. And include their introduction as a highlight on your intranet or as a post or blog shared internally.

6. Ensure they understand your purpose, culture AND brand

Culture and purpose have never been more important. Whilst nearly all businesses exist to create revenue and generate a profit — there are those higher level goals and objectives that go towards fulfilling some kind of higher purpose. If you’re a food company, your purpose might be about helping people to live longer, healthier, happier lives. Or if you’re in the construction sector - your purpose might be about helping turn old derelict “brownfield” sites into thriving communities. Whatever your purpose — ensure you take time to onboard people so they understand what this means for their day-to-day activities. Your values and company philosophy are not just there for the sake of it - they are there to act as a north star or compass; to guide people on how to make the right decisions for the good of the company, its people, its customers and its stakeholders.

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7. Spread the love with your socials

It’s always nice when someone asks you out for a drink. It’s even nicer when your new team asks you out for a drink. Don’t forget to invite your new people to your upcoming socials. Whether you’re going bowling, sea-kayaking or just for a good old pint of beer down the pub, get your new people involved with the fun. Do you have a company basketball team? — or your very own e-sports league? — get those invites out… Pronto.

Get them involved from day one!

Business today was born global. You’re just as likely to have a colleague in Bogota as in Brisbane these days. Introduce people to their colleagues all over the world — in a meaningful way. It’s especially important to make these introductions where people will be collaborating as part of cross-functional teams. This should extend to making introductions to partners that you work with as well as the clients and suppliers that your new recruits will be working with on a day-to-day basis.

8. Let technology do the heavy lifting for you

We live in an age where there’s no need to struggle with managing employee onboarding programs. Platforms are available that combine all your HR needs into a single cloud-based system. Here you will find your recruitment software, applicant tracking system and HR onboard all seamlessly joined together. These applicant tracking systems will help you find your ideal candidate, manage the recruitment process and then deliver the onboarding digitally. It’s time to say goodbye to pulling your hair out and trying to manually deliver the myriad things that need to be tracked. Let the software automate it for you — sending the right messaging to the right people at the right time. People are prompted to enter exactly the right information, so contracts, documents and other IT setups can be delivered in a timely and predictable fashion. Plus you can schedule those all-important catch-up sessions at 30, 60 and 90 days, ensuring people are settling in just right.

Let’s be honest — onboarding is just the beginning of a whole holistic employee experience. Get it right and you’re setting the tone and building the right relationship from the very beginning. Now go and make your amazing onboarding experiences happen!

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