Many companies believe that it’s about the first few days at work. Get them set up on their computer, show them the fire exits and introduce them to a few peers and they’ll be fine.

They are hugely mistaken.

Onboarding is an action or process of integrating a new employee into an organisation.

It starts with their first interactions with your company, long before they front up for day one. At the latest this starts once you make an offer, but you need to be thinking about onboarding from the moment you commence recruitment i.e. how well briefed is the recruiter, does the job advert convey the right values, what does the interview process and pre-employment process say about you as a company. We intuitively know how crucial first impressions are, recruitment  and onboarding is the most significant first impressions your employees will have.

As well as first impressions, an exceptional onboarding process can last up to 6 months or longer. In a market where there is a war for talent onboarding is your opportunity to win over new employees. It’s about keeping them engaged and not only attracting them to your business but retaining them and creating loyalty and belonging. Remember in most cases you are also dealing with millennials who are not afraid to job hop. If they don’t feel like they belong or are engaged they will simply move to your competitors

What factors influence a great onboarding process?


Creating your checklists is one thing, sticking to them is another. Make sure HR is on board to help you create a seamless journey through the onboarding process. Hold round table feedback sessions between managers and senior on how the new employee is progressing in the business at 1, 3 and 5 months. This will help you as a manager to clarify how they are doing and provide constructive feedback, to increase the chances of both retention and high performance.

Align it with goals and purpose

The most successful onboarding programs are thorough, organised and aligned with the company long term goals. Create a 6 month roadmap of their role and provide it in advance of their start to set clear expectations so there are no surprises along the way. This is an opportunity to get them started on the right foot, share the values and mission, given them a purpose. People are far more engaged when they understand the “why”. Additionally, ensure you provide valuable training and educational tools that are frequently and easily accessible, so they can keep developing their skills and progressing towards those longer term goals.

Think of your employee as a customer

Having a sense of belong has a has a major impact on performance and retention. Make your employees feel like they belong and that you care. For example, why wait for their first day at work to introduce them to their team. Why not arrange a lunch during their notice period to keep them engaged throughout a timeframe where recruiters are still attempting to lure them to other roles? This also helps integrate them into the company’s culture. Involve them in work events prior to their start and have a buddy system ready and waiting for their start. During their first 6 months of employment make time to meet with the frequently and show them that you value you their input and involvement in the business. It’s the little things that they will remember, the thoughtful things…

Customise it

An interesting topic came up yesterday at our leadership breakfast regarding learning styles. Everyone takes in information learns differently so why wouldn’t you think about this when designing your onboarding program? what about having both video and written options to cater for different learners? Furthermore, there’s diversity in the workplace. Do we need to tailor onboarding for differences in gender, age, sex, ethnicity etc?

Perks and stuff

Yes, the perks work! Who doesn’t feel good about arriving at a desk full of goodies on their first day of work? There are many companies who invest a huge amount of money into the latest MacBook teamed with huge amounts of branded stationary, but you don’t need to be Google to roll this out. If you don’t have a huge budget for something like this don’t worry. It’s about the thought behind the gesture, it’s about how you make them feel.

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Maya Angelou

Why is it important?

An unforgettable on boarding will not only increase your company retention but you will create advocates in the market who will assist you in attracting further top talent by word of mouth. Creating trust and loyalty will increase employee engagement and strengthen alignments with the company vision. It’s not rocket science, but it also prevents bad hires and bad hires are costly.

What does success look like?

So, the big question is, when is someone officially onboarded and how can we measure this? After a round table and brainstorming session yesterday with several leaders in the technology space in Sydney we came to the conclusion that a successful onboarding would be when the person you have onboarded is passionately onboarding another employee.

Additionally, it’s easy to onboard a senior into a company without a successful onboarding process however with juniors and graduates this can be far more challenging. When you feel confident that you can hire and retain good juniors and grads is this another measure of success?

Most leaders in the group also agreed that having a sense of belonging was a metric of success, and this plays out when you begin to observe employee advocacy.

It’s a wrap

It was an extremely productive morning with insights from different domains in the technology space. To summarise, culture seemed to be at the heart to much of the conversations. Creating advocates, loyalty and belonging is critical to retaining top talent. Treating employees like customers can positively impact the growth of a company. To accelerate that sense of belonging we probably should be creating customised onboarding for each individual.

And to answer “where does onboarding stop?” we should be asking ourselves does it ever stop?

Nina Hirschfeld, Principal Consultant