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The Importance of Having A Structured Onboarding Process


Round these parts, we talk a lot about the things that you can do to become a world-class sourcer.  Ways that you can search for the best candidates, how you can woo them with a killer inMail, how you can improve your candidate experience, the list goes on. Today, however, we’re going to explore the topic of onboarding and just how important it is to have a structured onboarding process in place for your organisation.  Because it’s all well and good getting a candidate to sign on the dotted line, but it’s what you do to welcome them that’s going to play a monumental role in how quickly they’ll fit in as well as how long they are likely to remain with the company.

Regardless of what level a person is at in their career; the first days and weeks in a new job are nerve-racking, to say the least. From trying to remember everyone’s names to getting to grips with new systems, it generally takes a while for new employees to get settled in.  Some things just simply come with time, but there are others that you as a recruiter can easily take control of to ensure that your new hire is comfortable, confident and happy in their position.

Reports show that more than 25% of employees leave a new position within the first 90 days.  But there must be several different possible reasons for this, not just how well they’ve been welcomed into the company, right? Well, check out this next statistic – when employees go through a structured onboarding process, they are 58% more likely to remain with the company after three years. So there must be some sort of correlation between the two!

What Exactly Is ‘Onboarding’?

First things first.  Onboarding is not the same thing as training.  It goes without saying that there is a need for all new employees to receive relevant training in order to do their job successfully, but it’s not what we are focusing on here.  Onboarding, on the other hand, is the management of the early stages of a relationship between an organisation and a new employee.

This often gets overlooked, especially when you’ve been trying to fill a position that’s been vacant for some time, and are under pressure to get the new hire to start working on the huge backlog ASAP.  However, the funny thing is that the time that you spend investing in new hires through onboarding greatly benefits their ability to succeed at an early stage. This idea of ‘get them in and get them working’ without a doubt does more damage than good.  Onboarding is more about nurturing the new employee, about checking in, about the personal approach.

Some of the most important factors that contribute to a successful onboarding process are the practical ones. Have you ever arrived for your first day of work and it’s clear to see that the company hasn’t even thought about where you’ll be sitting in the office? Or you do have a designated desk, but there isn’t a computer or phone set up for you, so you have to sit idle while the IT team fiddles around with equipment and cables in your workspace?  Way to make a person feel like a burden on their first day!

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In a survey carried out by OfficeTeam, a staggering 54% of employees said that they’ve experienced a mishap in their new job. 15% didn’t get introduced to their co-workers, 22% didn’t have the necessary supplies ready for them and 14% didn’t even get a tour of the office.  Yet 92% of HR managers questioned in the exact same survey felt that their onboarding process was effective!  See the full survey results and infographic here.

To help you to create a standardised onboarding process so that all new hires have the exact same experience, here are some of the things that you can do ahead of their start date, within their first day/week of work and throughout their first 90 days.

Before They Start

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

Connect them with their new team  

There could be a month-long gap between when the new employee is hired and when they actually start.  There’s no reason why they can’t get to know the people that they’re going to be working with during this time.  Add them to a private company forum or WhatsApp group to join in the conversation as soon as they’re hired.

Send details for their first day

Be sure to email the new hire their start time, directions to the office (if required), a list of what they need to bring in and an agenda for their first day at least 2-3 working days ahead of their first day.

Email forms to be completed

Instead of overwhelming them with a stack of forms to fill out on their first day, email these over once they have signed their contract.  Payroll forms, insurance, tax forms – this can all be done ahead of time.

The First Day

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

Have all new employees start (late) on the same day 

If possible, this should be a Monday because it means that the new hire can get right into the swing of the working week. There’s also no point in having a new hire arrive at 9am if there won’t be anyone available to get them started! Instead, get a headstart on your own work for the day and have them show up at least 30 mins after everyone else has.

Have a desk set up and ready to go

This includes a functioning computer and phone, as well as basic tools like pens, notebooks, a calculator, etc.  For a personal touch, you could also have a welcome gift waiting for them, like a company-branded coffee mug or hoodie.

Show them around

Give a tour of the building so that they know exactly where everything is, including the restrooms, the canteen and the boardroom.  This is a good time to give the new hire information about on-site parking and bicycle storage.  Make sure that you also give them a swipe card to get in and out of the building, as well as any security codes, if needed.

Bring them up to speed on company policies

Explain what the situation is with payroll, insurance, holidays, expenses and sick days.  A lot of new employees feel that they can’t ask questions about these things until they are really settled in, so put their mind at ease as early as possible.

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

Schedule one-on-one time with their manager

Most of day one will be spent getting settled into the office, but it’s important that you set aside an hour for the new hire to sit down with their line manager to chat about their role, the team that they’ll be working with and what their first couple of days and weeks will entail.

Give them a list of achievable tasks to be working on 

The new hire should have something to do from the get-go.  Setting up their email signature, updating their contact information in shared docs, setting up profiles on various software platforms – tasks like these will keep them busy to the point that they feel like they are actually doing something productive without having to deal with the stress of being thrown in at the deep end.

Go home early

Let them finish up at least 30 minutes early.  You’ve more than likely given them a LOT of information to digest on the first day, so it’s a nice gesture to recognise that and let them go home a bit earlier than scheduled.

The First 90 Days

18Have regular check-ins

Make sure that regular meetings are happening between the new hire and their team/manager to discuss future projects as well as to get feedback on the work they have been doing. Having to play guessing games as to whether of not you are doing a good job is a stressful thing for a new employee to have to deal with, so let there be no question or doubt about this.

Ask for their feedback

It’s important to ask how the employee is getting on in their new role. Do they feel that their workload is too heavy/light?  Do they have any ideas on how to do things better, or more effectively? A fresh pair of eyes can bring really innovative ideas to the table, so encourage them to make any suggestions or share any ideas that they have.

Shadow all departments

Schedule a couple hours into the new starter’s calendar over their first few weeks to shadow different departments.  Regardless of whether or not they’ll be working directly with these teams, it’s a great way to get to know people outside of their own department. It will also help them to further understand how the company works and where their own role fits into the overall structure of the organisation.

Companies That Get Onboarding Right



New hires at Netflix get to choose what type of laptop they would like, are assigned a mentor for their first few days and start working on real projects in week one.  They also get to meet with the CEO for a small, informal meeting.



The onboarding tactic that Zappos is renowned for is “The Offer”. Once new hires complete their training with the company, they are offered a payout of $4000 to leave the organisation at that stage.  The idea behind ‘The Offer’ is that if a new employee doesn’t feel that the company is a good fit for them, they don’t need to feel trapped into staying by the financial strain of becoming unemployed. Employees get three weeks to try out their new position before they decide whether to stay or take the payout and leave the company.


As soon as a new employee is hired at Mastercard, they get an email welcoming them to the organisation that includes links to videos to help them learn more about the company.  They are also granted access to a section of the website where they can upload a photo for their company badge, as well as complete their payroll, tax and benefits forms in advance of their start date.

By the time the new hire has completed his or her first 90 days, they should feel totally confident in terms of understanding their role as well as what the company stands for and what their long term projects and goals are.  By creating a standardised onboarding process, you are not only ensuring that every new staff member has the same experience when joining your organisation, but you’re also giving yourself the best chance having your employees be part of the 58% that are likely to stay with the company after 3 years.

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