Why onboarding matters (and how to get it right)

Imagine you’ve just landed a new job and you’re super keen for your first day. You walk in the door... and your manager seems like they’ve forgotten you were coming. By the end of the day, you feel like you’ve been left in the dark. When your friends or peers ask about the new gig, what do you say?

Onboarding is an incredibly important step in the employee journey, and it’s essential that People & Culture leaders get it right. Your new hire’s first experiences with your organisation will shape how they perform for you and how they speak about you to their networks. Starting off on the wrong foot can lead to early attrition - or worse, people who stay even if they’re unhappy. If you want your business to succeed, you need the right people in the right roles, performing. So, how do you get the onboarding experience right?

There are four C’s commonly referred to in the onboarding process - compliance, clarification, culture and connection. Getting all four of these levels correct is essential for a positive employee experience. Compliance and clarification are the bare minimum - this includes basic legal requirements and job descriptions. When an organisation also plans for culture and connection in their process, they advance from a passive onboarding strategy to a proactive one. This means new employees are educated on your organisation’s unique cultural norms (both formal and informal), which makes it easier for them to establish relationships with their new team.

Here’s how to figure out if your onboarding process is providing the cultural information and connection that new hires need to thrive with you.

Want a smooth onboarding process? Start with a solid employer brand.

Big surprise, the employer branding nerds think you should invest in your employer brand. We say it because it works, okay! And we see the results of it day in and day out.

Organisations with a strong employer brand enable realistic expectations from the start. By including the good, the bad and the ugly in your employee value proposition - and discussing this in your interview process - your new people will know what they’re getting into. This will result in a better onboarding process, and sets the tone for a positive employee experience.

A memorable onboarding experience is not only good for your new employees - it can lead to higher engagement levels, increased productivity, and faster time-to-competence. It’s a win-win for the long term success and growth of your new employee and your organisation.

3 things we do as part of our onboarding process at EBA

As one of our Workspace and Community Coordinators, Amy Brooks plays a key part in the journey of our new starters. Here are some of the key activities she organises before our new starter’s first day:

1. The ultimate guide to everything EBA

Onboarding that includes days of process-heavy meetings or stacks of papers to sign can result in information overload for newbies. That’s why I send a welcome pack for our new starters to go through at their own pace. It includes everything they need to know (and a bunch of extra information, just in case).

Here’s what we include:

  • An introduction to our cultural heart - our purpose, values and core behaviours
  • Links to work we’ve created, including some of our favourite stories
  • Our vision and goals for the next financial year
  • An introduction to everyone on the team (we’re a team of 20, so this is achievable for us - if you’re a bigger organisation, a “Here’s who you’ll work with on a regular basis” might be more appropriate)
  • Helpful tips: things like our working from home policy, comms channels, office etiquette, dress code - all the little things that many onboarding processes just leave you to figure out on your own!

2. Gift-giving is our (HR appropriate) love language

EBA is a ‘celebrate everything’ kind of workplace, and it starts before people even step foot in our office or dial in to their first virtual meeting. Nothing says “congrats on the new job” like an EBA welcome box! I pack these chock-full of our branded T-shirts, water bottles, notebooks, pens, and the most important thing we promise in our job ads - the beginning of the never-ending supply of chocolate.* For an extra personal touch, we also get the whole team to write a welcome message, but because we’re an eco-conscious bunch, these now take the form of e-cards.

*Disclaimer - the supply is occasionally paused when the boss’s kids raid the office candy jar. Lucky they’re cute.

3. *You’ve received sixteen new calendar invitations*

There’s nothing worse than rocking up for your first day and realising your manager hasn’t prepared anything for your arrival. We’re not saying you need to roll out the red carpet, but you do want your new hire to feel like you’ve put thought and care into their first experience with your organisation.

Our newbies have a very structured first week. I schedule introductions to the people they’ll be working alongside or learning from, as well as meetings to learn about the processes and systems we use on a daily basis. And this one is super important: we also schedule in a little down time in their first week, to ensure they have time to breathe and take in all that new information.

My first week at EBA: Emma Sparks, Visual Storyteller & Workspace Coordinator

Okay, we’ve covered everything you need to do before you welcome someone to your team. But what impact does it actually have? Emma became an EBAuthentic in June of 2023, and here’s what she had to say about her first week.

“From my first interactions with EBA, I could imagine myself here. And the further I travelled through the onboarding journey, the clearer it became that I was right. The welcome resources provided a great way to start getting to know everyone without the pressure. Reading through everyone’s three descriptors meant I could get a sense of their personality and quirks that you wouldn’t usually uncover straight away.

Getting so much information in the welcome deck meant that I could read through it in my own time, and all those pesky questions about sick leave and who to contact were answered before day 1. I’ve never received anything like that before, and it was really helpful.

My first week was really a lot of meetings - my calendar was all scheduled out for me. There were meetings getting to know different members of the team and a lunch out on my first day. I also had time assigned to learn all the systems and processes I would need to get started. I really liked the meeting I had with Elise, who was the newest person before I joined, about “all the things I wish I knew in my first week.” It’s good to get that fresh perspective - I guess I’ll be the next person to deliver that session!

I was also able to get a feel of client work really early, shadowing a few meetings and even being able to start working on a project. I like that I was afforded that level of trust, but with plenty of support.

All in all, there’s a sense of community that I enjoy. It’s clear that everyone wants to help each other, and it’s a very vocal thing - it’s obviously part of the culture here. It’s different from a lot of other workplaces. It’s early days, but I’m already starting to feel like part of the furniture.”

Tahlia Robinson

About the Author

As Employer Branding Australia’s Commercial Marketing Storyteller, Tahlia Robinson communicates our fantastic, imperfect organisation’s story to the world. With a background in PR for non-profits, she specialises in connecting organisations with their audiences in positive, meaningful ways. Tahlia is keenly interested in accessibility, activism, and keeping up with current trends on social media (while constantly wondering if she’s too old to be on TikTok).

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