Onboard to thrive, a guide to best practices

If there was ever any confusion about where onboarding begins and ends the Oxford English Dictionary offers the perfect definition. 

It’s – the action or process of integrating a new employee into an organisation – followed by – after the initial onboarding is complete, continue to offer new hires relevant training and development opportunities (induction).

The Dictionary uses the word “integrate”. In terms of recruitment, the integration process literally starts when you offer the successful candidate the job. And it continues until they’re happily embedded in your business. They’ve successfully completed their induction, training, and probationary period and they’re ready to work independently, making the role their own.

Viola Lloyd’s article for The HR Director goes a step further, discussing what onboarding and integration mean. In addition, she highlights the importance of making the best possible impression on new hires – “Onboarding is crucial for success. From recruitment to signing on the dotted line, to onboarding, a company has an opportunity to make a great first impression and convince valuable new hires they made the right decision. When industries are vying for talent in order to remain competitive, keeping every skilled person within the business is a must. Onboarding starts from the moment the candidate is in the interview room and doesn’t finish until each is truly embedded in your organisation.”

There’s lots of talk about how business-critical it is to impress candidates during recruitment marketing If there was ever any confusion about where onboarding begins and ends the Oxford English Dictionary offers the perfect definition.  and onboarding processes. Yet recruitment teams can so easily fall short in one or both of these areas.

A Recruiting Times survey of 3,000 people revealed that “50% of workers had a bad experience in their first day on the job”, claiming –  “Nearly 3,000 employees were surveyed as part of a study, and the results revealed that while many new staff members had a plan for their first day, things going wrong made that initial foray into a dream job a total nightmare.”

Looking specifically at onboarding in this article, let’s remind ourselves of the most common mistakes recruitment teams make when onboarding new hires:

  • Loss of engagement in between job offer and start date – The period in between accepting an offer and arriving on-site for their first day at work can be new-wracking for new hires. If you fail to keep them in the loop on a regular basis during their notice period or garden leave with their existing employer, it’s no wonder they might get edgy.
  • Poorly managed induction and training performance – If you don’t have a robust onboarding process in place it’s likely your new hire won’t have a good starter experience. They might end up with some form-filling and a handful of poorly delivered introductory sessions with team members who are clearly pushed and unprepared. In businesses where this happens, new hires are largely left to find their own way with limited assistance and supervision. 
  • Either or both of the above scenarios can understandably cause candidate disenchantment and disengagement.

Loss of engagement in between the job offer and start date can result in a complete non-starter. Ghosting by a new starter who finds alternative employment elsewhere in the meantime doesn’t justify the time, effort, and money you’ve invested in the recruitment process. Nor does it reflect well on your employer branding.

The same applies when a new starter who isn’t given a great start with your business quickly decides they’ve made a big mistake. It’s understandable they probably can’t wait to get out of the door quickly enough.

Furthermore, considering that onboarding has largely been remote for the past year, and with businesses offering “work anywhere” and flexible working patterns, it is really easy to stay one step ahead and continue to be remote for some time ahead. There’s now a roadmap to the future in place. But it’s only a guide that might change at any time as the pandemic situation continues to unfurl. 

Add to that that businesses and teams have acclimatised to working from home so successfully that many will never return to their workplaces full time.

You can see how those stumbling blocks that marred the onboarding process pre-Covid have the potential to be major howlers for operations that continue to be remote or partially remote moving forwards.

In order to look at what a great onboarding process looks like we’ve broken this article down into 8 key takeaways.

8 Effective Steps to Onboarding Now and for the Future

1. Call your successful candidate to make a verbal job offer in person.

Call your successful candidate at the first possible opportunity to congratulate them for being the stand-out applicant you’ve decided to offer the job to. It’s more personable than making them wait for a written offer arriving in their inbox or letterbox. That will follow. But an initial call eradicates waiting time when the candidate might be on tenterhooks to find out if they’ve been successful or not. 

2. Email a written job offer no longer than an hour after verbal acceptance.

Do what you say you’re going to do by following up a verbal acceptance with an immediately written offer.  

3. Transmit essential new starter paperwork for candidate self-service.

As soon as a job offer has been formally made and accepted you should request essential and any other paperwork from your new hire. Be clear about what you need from them, e.g. their bank details, medical history, and tax documents. Making this process digital, e.g. enabling your new starter to e-sign and submit contracts and documents, is the most efficient method for you them – and for your team, too.

4. Request external documentation and checks.

When you reach the reference checking stage keep your new hire informed where you’re up to with such as DBS, Right To Work (RTW), and references from their current/previous employers. Clear communication from you will help alleviate new starter nerves and ensure complete transparency across every touchpoint.

Having DBS checks done within an Applicant Tracking System makes this process seamless. 

5. Introduce your new starter via your staff intranet.

Turning up for the first day at the office isn’t usually the case anymore under Covid restrictions. This lack of face-to-face interaction makes optimum pre-engagement invaluable for intrepid new starters. Give them the opportunity to remotely ‘meet’ their colleagues-to-be on a social basis in the absence of being able to meet for after-work drinks.

6. Plot a calendar of the first week, month, or three months.

Plot a new starter calendar in conjunction with the Line Manager who will be responsible for your new hire. Providing your new hire with a time-lined schedule gives them insight into what’s happening in the business, what meetings they’ve already been invited to, and what their future work life looks like in real-time.

7. Provide access to early training and other key online documentation.

Provide your new hire with access to key pieces of documentation such as your employee handbook, staff benefits scheme, job description, and early training modules. It’s a great way of making them feel like they’re part of a bigger picture before they’ve even set foot through the door (whether that’s literally or proverbially).

8. Pre-schedule a series of welcome emails to your new hire.

These little reassurances mean a lot and can make a big impact on your new hires. You don’t need to be gushing or over the top. Messages such as, “One week to go, we’re really looking forward to you joining us” will make nervous new hires feel really welcomed into your business.

Don’t forget the minor details

So that’s onboarding 101 covered. But it’s not everything. Think about really going the extra mile in ways that will super-charge a great onboarding experience to a best-in-class one. We’re referring to those “total nightmare” matters that can be the bane of a new starter’s life, including:

  • Dress code
  • Location and where to report in to
  • Parking and Traffic
  • Not having a desk and computer equipment ready
  • Coffee/tea making facilities and Lunch provisions

What information can you provide new starters with in advance that might ease them in gently and make their first days with you a little less daunting?

Do you have an onboarding checklist to run through? We’re suggesting the inclusion of things that might seem trivial but matter to new starters who don’t know about them, e.g. where the toilets are, dress down days, what everybody tends to do for after-work drinks on Fridays, any notorious traffic hotspots in the area to avoid at particular times.  

And don’t forget that great onboarding continues after appointments are made. In fact, it’s key to mitigating potential new hire unrest, from the point of accepting your offer right through to the end of their probationary period.


At HireRoad, our exceptional Applicant Tracking Systemhas been purpose-developed with perfectly integrated recruitment marketing and onboarding in mind. With expert automation of key touchpoints from the start to the finish of the process, you’re freed up to ensure you make the best impression on your new hires befitting the high standards of your business.