Make a good first impression with a world-class onboarding experience

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Have you ever questioned joining a company on your first day?

If you haven’t, it’s probably because you’ve never experienced turning up on your first day on the job, just to find out that your manager is not there and no one knows who you are or what you are supposed to do. You probably haven’t experienced sitting on your empty desk for hours, staring at the ceiling because no one was organised enough to sort out a computer for you. Or maybe you were lucky enough to have a computer, but you couldn’t do any work because your username wasn’t set up and you don’t even exist in the system. The best solution they could find was for you to spend all day shadowing someone whose role is completely unrelated to yours, so they don’t care either. It’s all really awkward and it makes you feel very uncomfortable.

I can guarantee you that if you’ve experienced any of the above, you start to question yourself and your decision about joining that company. If they can’t get their act together for you to get the basics sorted, you start wondering how on earth is everything else working, what the culture is like and how are they still in business.

The fact of the matter is that first impressions count and having a great onboarding experience makes a world of a difference. A great onboarding experience is crucial because it enables your new employees to integrate and feel part of a team. It’s your chance to welcome them into your business, to learn about your values and provide them with all the tools and skills they need to perform their job effectively from day one. Now that’s reassuring!

So what does a great onboarding experience look like?

Onboarding is much more than a simple checklist, more than an information package put together and more than an introduction to your company.

We recently ran a session for one of our clients to help them design their onboarding experience. We decided that, rather than let the Executive Team decide what was best, we’d use the principles of the Design Lab and ask their employees via a survey what they thought would make a great onboarding experience. The results were extremely revealing and a big eye-opener for everyone.

What are the 5 critical elements identified for a successful onboarding experience?

Your Culture

Your company values and culture must shine throughout your onboarding experience. The whole process must be a true reflection of what your company stands for, so from day one all employees can identify with the values and culture.


let’s face it, onboarding a new employee doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes an average of 3-6 months for someone to start performing in their role. And that’s if everything’s going well. So it’s crucial to structure the onboarding process in a way that it sets clear expectations and trains the employee in the core processes, procedures, skills and capabilities to perform in their role.


Everyone must have a consistent onboarding experience, regardless of the department or role. This means that everyone must have an induction that has the same core components, e.g. every new starter should learn about your company history, the people and the part their role plays in executing the overall strategy. There will, of course, be variations in some content dependant on the person's role, but the bottom line is the onboarding experience must be consistent and the content flexible.


There is nothing worse than sitting with your arms crossed on your first day because your laptop and/or systems access hasn’t been sorted. The message you’re sending is that you haven’t been organised enough to provide the basics. You make the new starter feel unimportant and they will start questioning their decision of joining your company. This is where a good manager’s checklist comes in handy to ensure they’ve got everything sorted well ahead of time.

Your Leaders

I’ve left this one until last for a reason. Get your Leadership Team involved. This is one of the most critical elements for a successful onboarding experience. Some of the most effective onboarding experiences have had the CEO (or a Senior Executive Team Member) personally welcoming new employees. They are the point of reference when it comes to modelling behaviours, values and culture. Not only it will make it memorable, but it also creates a very powerful connection to the business. It shows that they’ve taken time out of their busy schedule to welcome you, regardless of how big or small your role is. On a different note, a key role that leaders play is around coaching and mentoring. As discussed previously, onboarding is a process delivered over a period of time and having a coaching and/or mentoring programme in place can exponentially decrease the time it takes for a new starter to go from zero to hero.

So where to from here?

The next step would be to reflect on what is happening in your business and determine how effective is your current onboarding experience. It can be just as simple as sending out a survey to ask your current employees what was their experience like. The benefits of spending a bit of time crafting a great onboarding experience will pay off with higher employee performance, better engagement, higher retention and you will attract the best talent to your business. Well worth it!

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