All You Need To Know About Onboarding New Employees

Insight & Opinion | Recruitment Advice | Workplace


A term first coined in the 1970s, Onboarding is the process of welcoming a new employee into the ranks.  More than just a desk full of corporate gumpf, onboarding takes many different forms and is often seen as a good reflection of company culture.

What is Onboarding?

The main goal for onboarding is to ensure a seamless transition from new starter to an integrated member of the team. In a recent report published by the Harvard Business Review it showcased how an effective onboarding process directly contributed towards improving long term staff retention.

Who’s Responsible for Onboarding?

Depending on the size and structure of the company onboarding is managed by Line Managers or Directors (within smaller companies) or HR / Talent Acquisition (within medium to larger companies). Finance and IT departments will also need to get involved.

Onboarding is often a cross-functional process, as each department enters the process at different times it’s important to have clear communication and transparency between different hierarchies to ensure a smooth and professional outcome.

How Long Does Onboarding Last?

Onboarding begins once a verbal offer has officially been accepted by a candidate.  The first step is to send out contracts and relevant paperwork to be signed whilst requesting reference information.

If serving lengthy notice periods it’s important to ensure candidates remain engaged prior to their start date, companies should regularly contact their candidates, making future employees feel welcome, in the loop and up to date on everything happening.  Many employers neglect to do this, resulting in a higher chance of a candidate not actually starting.

Once a candidate has joined the ranks a typical onboarding process lasts anywhere from 2-12 months depending on probation periods, training, responsibilities etc.   Each role and company are different, so work out a process that works best for you.  Onboarding isn’t a process that is mastered overnight, and it is often something that evolves over time through trial and error and first-hand experiences.

Make it Personal

Good onboarding relies on knowing what makes your new employee tick.  Conducting group meetups in social settings (like the local pub) are great ways for everyone to introduce themselves, ask informal questions and settle in.   For example, different people prefer different management styles, so why not ask a new employee how he or she wants to be managed?

Utilising this information is a great way to customise the onboarding process to suit each employee, the more personal you can make it the better the engagement and enthusiasm levels will be.

It’s also worth noting that how vested an employee feels to a company is interlinked with the social relationships that develop with co-workers.  Onboarding should consider these relationships and actively facilitate them from the start.  Initiating a buddy system early on is a great way to do this.

Onboarding Check List

Before they arrive:

  • Send out a “countdown to joining” email 2 weeks before they are due to start.  Highlight key information and pre-empt questions covering starting hours, parking arrangements, lunch facilities etc.
  • Follow up your email with a phone call 1 week before they are due to join checking they have everything they need.
  • Organise a desk for them to sit at, along with all the necessary notepads, pens, welcome basket etc.
  • Ensure IT have setup their PC, phone, email, shared folders etc.
  • Relevant permits have been setup (parking, security etc.).
  • Assign a buddy to help the new starter settle in.
  • Send a companywide email informing everyone a new employee is about to start.
  • Print out and prepare any user guides for their role and related software.

Once they’ve started:

  • Buy them a coffee, some lunch or take them for a beer after work – make them feel special on their first day.
  • Ask your new starter to complete any additional company paperwork (you may need them to provide bank details, passport etc.).
  • Send another company wide email reminding everyone to make the new starter feel welcome.
  • Make a calendar appointment with the new employee for the end of their first week to see how they have got along.
  • Speak to your assigned buddy and work closely with the line manager to tweak the onboarding process to make it as personalised as possible.