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08.09.2021 Organisation

The art of employee onboarding

The art of employee onboarding

It can be easy to forget what it was like to be the newbie, organisation and preparation are key to the success of your onboarding plan. 

Planning an enjoyable and useful onboarding process will do more good than you might first imagine. According to the Brandon Hall Group, if companies get this important step right, it can improve employee retention by up to 82%, and even improves productivity by more than 70%. That means if you give people the warmest welcome you can, teach them the right way, and give them useful information, you’ll get a lot more out of your employees and they’ll be much happier and more satisfied in both the long and short terms. 

Onboarding doesn’t take place just in the first day or the first week, a study by Deloitte made clear that 90% of new hires decide if they will stay at a company long term during the first 6 months of starting. First impressions aren’t the only thing that counts when it comes to new hires, onboarding is much more important and goes on for a much longer time than we used to assume.  


Even before a new starter walks through the office doors, communication should have been a priority. They should feel comfortable that they know where the office is before they arrive after a busy commute. Maybe your office door is a little tricky to find, or it’s in a courtyard that you walked straight past on your first day. You can put all these little tiny queries into a first day email to put your new team members’ mind at ease. 

Other things to include in your pre-first day email: 

  • Copies of signed contracts and agreements
  • Company handbook with details on company culture and regular events 
  • The names of the people that will meet them when they arrive 
  • Their first weeks schedule with meeting titles and times
  • A dress code, either casual or formal

A few days before their arrival, send a company wide welcome email to let everyone know who exactly is starting. You should ask the new starters a little bit about themselves, what they like doing in their spare time, or what their favourite lunch spot is. This will create positive situations when they join and the team members will have something to talk to them about besides work and deadlines and give the whole office a more friendly, warm feeling.

Getting to know the culture

One of the most important parts of employee retention is the company culture that you foster. You should have a handbook that outlines the journey you’ve taken together to arrive at this point in the company – your story, expectations for communication, who they should go to if an issue arises and any regular events that are organised with the team like lunches, celebrations, or presentations. 

Once you have your shiny new employees in the office there is some more housekeeping to do, of course it goes without saying that you need to introduce them to everyone in the office and show them around. They definitely won’t remember everyone’s name, but they’ll see some friendly faces throughout the next few weeks while they’re settling in. All the other team members will also know who the newbies are too, which makes it easier to start new conversations. 

It might be a good idea, especially if you have a small team, to do a welcome coffee hour. This can be really casual, ideally in the kitchen instead of a meeting room so that no one feels like they’re in ‘work mode’. Here everyone can do a little networking and find common interests. Sometimes, depending on your culture, this takes the shape of ‘after work drinks’ at the end of the week. 

The first few weeks

Setting up a Buddy system is a pretty invaluable tool, have some volunteers sign up to the program, or ask certain members of the team that you think would be a good fit as a person to welcome people and serve as a support system for their first few months. Buddy’s should arrange a few lunches with the new starter over the first few months. It’s nice for them to let the new starter know that they have an open door so they can come to them with any ‘stupid questions’. Buddy’s should also make sure they know their way around and show them where all the coffee mugs and communal items are. Generally they should be a source of positive energy for the new faces.

Something similar you can do is to also assign a mentor within the team that the new starter will be working within. This is a little more professional than a Buddy, and allows them to teach them the ins and outs of their new daily life. They’ll teach them the systems they use, how the team usually organises themselves, and make sure that they’re invited to all the relevant meetings.

One thing that can be often overlooked is letting your new joiner take all the initiative. Your other team members, who are all settled and comfortable, should be the ones to invite your new person to meetings. It can be a little awkward to be asked to join something, or not know if they should be the one to set up a meeting. 

Keep in mind all of the mental capacity that starting a new job uses up. They’re meeting a bunch of new people, trying to remember names and positions, they’re sometimes learning a whole new skill set or getting to grips with doing the same job in a different way. Maybe they’re getting used to new tools and tracking systems. Not to mention the small stuff, like remembering where the bathroom is, or how to use their key card. You should allow your new starters some space to process all the information that’s inevitably going to be thrown at them. They will possibly want to take some time to write down some notes, organise their time schedule, personalise their hardware and generally just get comfy. 

Reflection and feedback

Feedback will be the most useful tool for you when adapting your onboarding process. After the first week you should invite new hires to a feedback session where they can talk about what they liked, but more importantly what didn’t feel right to them. This is great for change and will make the next batch of new hires even more prepared for their venture into your company. 

Think about what you’d want when starting at a new company, implement those feedback changes for next time, and slowly you’ll have the most kick-ass pre-boarding and on-boarding experience that will help with productivity and happiness, and drastically improve your employee retention rate.

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