How to get onboarding right

July 21, 2020
Level Up

Getting your onboarding process right can be tricky. You want your new joiner to feel welcomed but chances are there are other more urgent projects you need to work on.

I've found onboarding to be the most effective when it is a key part of the employee experience. In this article, I'll share my tips for developing an onboarding process where the new joiner is front and centre.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

First things first: when does the employee experience start?

A. Pre-interview

B. Once you've made an offer and your new joiner has accepted it

C. On your new team member's first day

For many companies, the answer is B: anything that happens before an offer and acceptance is separate to the full employee experience. In fact, the answer should be A.

A candidate will make a decision to apply for a role for two main reasons:

  1. how interesting it sounds
  2. whether they think, based on everything they've heard and read about the company, that they will be a good fit

So by thinking about the employee experience as beginning before the first interview, you will attract candidates who are a better fit and more likely to remain engaged throughout the onboarding process.

With that in mind, the employee experience can be split into 5 stages:

  1. Pre-interview
  2. Interview
  3. Onboarding and first day
  4. Business as usual
  5. Exit

In this article I'm going to focus on stages 1-3.


Put your best foot forward as a company

Do future employees know what they could expect if they were to work for you? Is your mission clear and do you talk about your culture on LinkedIn and your Career page?

Notion is one of my favourite examples of this for three reasons:

  1. their mission is front and centre
  2. they include photos of the team making it feel inclusive
  3. they answer key questions about benefits, relocation and remote work in the job description.

Acknowledge applications & don't "ghost" applicants.

If a role is no longer going ahead, or the spec has changed, let the applicants know. This will avoid them needlessly chasing you or recruiters or feeling let down.


Be clear what the stages will be and how long you expect the process to take

Interview timelines will always fluctuate, whether that's competing business needs, unexpected travel or an additional interview that needs to be scheduled. By being upfront with candidates - and keeping an open line of communication - any setbacks or extra steps can be taken in stride.

Respect your candidate

If someone isn't a good fit, that's fine, but when rejecting someone, make sure you do so quickly and, if possible, with actionable feedback. Unsuccessful interviews, can be an ideal learning moment for a candidate to go on and improve. Candidates are also much more likely to speak highly of your company - even if they were ultimately unsuccessful - if they felt respected throughout the process.


Treat each new joiner as a mini-project, either with a checklist or kanban board

By creating a kanban board or checklist you can track your new joiner from acceptance through to first day, ensuring nothing is missed. You could include -

  1. grant access to email, Slack/Teams and Dropbox
  2. order tech
  3. set up on payroll and HR tool

Ensure everyone involved is prepared and knows what is expected of them.

Share the onboarding process with managers, tech teams and buddies. By doing this, everything remains on track and any issues can be dealt with promptly.

Be explicit about what needs to happen between job offer and your new joiner's first day.

Develop template emails that you can use each time and, to avoid forgetting anything, incorporate your new joiner checklist. Ensure your new starter knows what they need to do for example confirming preferred tech or sending documentation.


New joiners will never complain about too much communication. This doesn't have to be every day, but appropriate check ins will ensure both your new joiner feels looked after and part of a team. If appropriate, you could also invite them to any socials or all hand meetings happening before their official start date. Make sure your new starter knows how excited you are that they'll be joining the company soon.

Develop welcome packs that answer any frequent questions and prepare your new joiner

Spending the time to create a welcome pack has two key benefits -

  1. you can share any key information in a digestible way
  2. your new joiner feels like a valued member of the team, even before their first day

I like to think of welcome guides as an easy to follow "how to" for your company. Focus on what your new starter needs to know to have a successful first day and leave the nitty gritty to your employee handbook. You could include:

  1. schedule for first week
  2. office etiquette and dress code (if applicable)
  3. brief explainer of key Slack or Team channels
  4. org chart or team layout (especially useful for open plan offices)
  5. work hours and office access hours (especially if these are different)
  6. best places to get lunch or coffee

Day 1

First impressions count and your joiner is likely to be a little nervous about their first day. Anything you can do to smooth the transition will do wonders.

Every company will have a first day routine but there are a few non-negotiables:

  1. desk set up - make sure your new joiner has a screen, laptop and stationery waiting for them
  2. swag bag - I love branded swag, it's an easy way to make sure someone feels part of a team. If you have hoodies, t shirts or tote bags, ensure your new joiner also gets one!
  3. team lunch or coffee - make sure your team member feels welcomed
  4. team leads and buddies ready to greet them and help make them feel at home

First days are can be daunting but by spending the extra time to ensure your new team member's first day goes well, you lay the foundations for success.


Getting recruitment and onboarding right is iterative. You won't get it right first time and what works in one office might not work in another. The key is to focus on the new joiner and their needs. Remember: the employee experience begins the moment they become aware of your company.

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