Learning Experiences

Onboarding: Getting It Right

Let’s get real: candidates often accept more than one job offer, so how do you make sure your company stands out and gives them an experience worth staying for?
While some companies may think first impressions start and end at the initial interview stage, research from CareerBuilder revealed that 93% of employers believe a good onboarding programme is crucial to retaining a new hire.

This is because onboarding is the time when that recruit will have their first taste of what it’s like to sit within your workforce and to assess the company’s suitability for their career. Which, in today’s candidate-driven market, can be an expensive exercise. And, simply put, if your onboarding experience doesn’t meet the new hire’s expectation, they will ultimately seek that in a competitor.

Recruitment can be costly, especially when we consider expenses such as running job adverts, psychometric tests, agency fees, and temporary staff bills to name a few – not to mention the HR/Talent Acquisition resource required for overseeing the process. According to figures from Glassdoor, the price tag of onboarding a new employee hovers around the £3000 mark, although this varies depending on job seniority and industry.

So, how do you get the best ROI from your onboarding experience, while keeping your new talent happy? Here, I will be sharing 7 of my top tips for ensuring your onboarding process hits the mark for every new hire you welcome through your doors.

1. Start from the beginning

It may seem obvious, but onboarding starts long before the individual joins a company. Consider your presence. Are you attracting the right talent? Is your brand message clear and consistent? Would you apply for a job based solely on your careers page? How are you building your talent pool? How is technology helping you simplify the talent acquisition process?

The recruitment/hiring experience can make or break your company reputation, not just with current candidates but with prospective ones, too. In fact, a Talentegy report has highlighted that 69% of job seekers that who have had a negative candidate experience will rarely or never apply again, minimising your talent pool significantly. And when we consider CareerArc’s findings that 72% of candidates who have a bad experience with an employer will share it either online, or with connections they have, you risk ruling out a huge proportion of great talent for future vacancies too.

2. Preboarding Ps: procurement, places, and people

Besides the mandatory documentation and right to work checks, smooth onboarding means making all the necessary arrangements so the new starter knows where to go and what to do on day one. Do they know which site they’ll need to attend? Who will they be meeting with and when? How will they get access to the building? Will they have a desk? These are a few of the basics you should cover to ensure a good first impression is made and reduce their first day anxiety.

If your new starter is joining a remote or hybrid team, some extra considerations should be made. Will they need equipment sent to them in advance? Have you got their correct address? Do they have your IT team’s details in case remote set-up fails?

According to survey data from the UK Parliament, 22% of the UK workforce is now hybrid and 13% of teams are fully remote, so scheduling welcome calls with other colleagues is a must. Video is always preferred over voice calls when teams are home-based, as this will closer mirror face-to-face communication, fostering better collaboration. A welcome message in the group chat is also a way to make new hires feel valued. If possible, get them into the office or to meet a colleague face to face, preferably within the first month.

3. Shift your mindset from “onboarding process” to “candidate experience”

Would you recommend your employer based solely on their onboarding experience? What can you do to make new hires feel aligned with your company values, embedded into the culture, and welcomed into the team, rather than focusing exclusively on completing mandatory training? How often do managers and team members engage with new starters?

A structured and well-organised onboarding process can be the deciding factor behind whether a new hire stays or leaves, so getting it right is crucial. Not least because figures from Gallup, revealed that replacing staff leavers can cost one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary, which is a bill we’d all rather not foot.

Starting a new job can be stressful, so consider assigning each new hire a buddy within the business who can help reduce some of the anxiety associated with this transition. Offering a consistent experience with plenty of communication, support, and regular checkpoints can ensure the new employee feels safe, valued, and connected throughout.

4. Rethink your onboarding materials

Inconsistent branding messages, outdated clip art images, poor quality photography, and distracting or illegible fonts are among just some of the issues we see cropping up in onboarding materials. And unsurprisingly, these old onboarding materials can turn people off and create a negative image in a new starter’s head about what the rest of their time with you will look like.

Too much reading and not enough doing plus a sole focus on compliance rather than considering the learners’ experience can have a similar effect. As a rule of thumb, if you couldn’t comfortably sit through and be engaged and excited by the material, it’s unsuitable for a new starter.

5. Design an onboarding experience that is fit for purpose

Prioritise the essential knowledge, skills, and behaviours for the role. What should be part of the initial training and what can be learnt on the job? Structure your programme in a logical way, allowing time to practise with systems and to explore and assimilate complex processes.

Avoid overwhelming your learners. Focus on sustainability, investing in digital modules for compliance that can be revisited with ease.

6. Consider the most suitable delivery methods

Onboarding is more than throwing some slides together and talking at people. Individual needs should be taken into account, and this means considering different learning styles and catering for disabilities and neurodiversity. It’s important that you have a variety of media and activities to stimulate and engage with all types of learners and ensuring your important materials are accessible for all. Failing to do this could mean you’re running non-inclusively, which will likely be a huge red flag for a new starter.

Flex your delivery: using a variety of methods including group discussions, reading materials, videos, digital interaction, research, reflection time and peer networks allows for everyone’s needs to be met.

7. Create an inclusive and healthy culture

We can’t stress this enough: culture is everything. In fact, according to BetterUp, a bad company culture is within the top 10 reasons why people quit their jobs. Support and guidance from the onset often result in a sense of belonging and camaraderie. And regular, meaningful feedback and appreciation go a long way.

And with the Harvard Business Review finding that employees are more productive and engaged when they feel valued and listened to, it’s worth considering if and how you’re catering for your workforce’s wants and needs, regardless of their tenure.

Careful planning and the candidate’s journey should be at the core of your onboarding experience, offering support and information along the way. Create ‘wow’ moments that remind them why you are their employer of choice, and provide a logical structure that steers them in a clear direction and reduces the anxieties associated with starting a new job.

Reach out to me or my colleagues at DLX to discuss ways in which we can help you transform your onboarding, and power performance through .