10 Quick Wins for Better Onboarding Today

Posted in Talent & Onboarding

You’ve got big plans for your onboarding, we know. But somehow, there are a million-and-one reasons those plans are slow coming to fruition. Lack of buy-in. Lack of time. Sheer overwhelm. (And that was before the whole pandemic thing).

But don’t let perfect get in the way of progress.

Realising your entire vision for onboarding might be months away. And even if your onboarding function was pretty mature pre-pandemic, the shift to virtual (or part-virtual) has meant everyone’s racing to adapt.

Forgive the cliché but any journey starts with the first step. Individual actions ladder into momentum and soon you’ll barely remember where you started from.

So – that’s the idea behind this quick wins list. Start anywhere, with any of these ten actions, and you’ll have a better onboarding function than when you started. Some might take ten minutes, some half-an-hour, some a little longer.

Pick something you can squeeze in this week and get cracking.

In no particular order…


1 – Create an onboarding mood board

If you don’t have a vision for onboarding, now’s your time to create one. Get in a room (or virtual space) with other onboarding advocates and throw ideas around.

Some thought-starters:

  • How do we want new hires to feel after day one, week one, month one, year one?
  • What five words would we like new hires to associate with our onboarding?
  • What are our must-do tasks? What could we cut?
  • What’s the best and worst thing about our current onboarding?
  • Think big: what’s one amazing, memorable thing we could do?

At the least, you’ll leave inspired by ideas for better onboarding. But likely, you’ll also have a blueprint to start moving forwards.

2 – Refresh your org chart  

Org charts can be super handy for new hires to conceptualise how your company works and understand where they fit. If your org chart is a corporate, out-of-date dusty affair hiding somewhere on your intranet, now’s a great time for a modern refresh.

For example, could you embed a fact or story about different teams or team members? Even the odd “Make sure to ask Ted about his junior water-skiing days” or “June’s your person for any technical issues day-to-day, grab her on june@mycompany.com

It helps to imagine your driest, fustiest internal documents are actually external client-facing stuff. If you’re making more of an effort for customers than your employees, you’re doing it wrong.


3 – Create a buddy program 

OK, so, strictly speaking this isn’t one thing. It’s two: assign a buddy and set expectations around the buddy relationship. (The second is how you make sure the buddy dynamic is actually valuable.)

In other words, make sure your buddies know how to do a great job. Should they email new hires? When? Should they set a meet? When? Can they take new hires for a coffee, or lunch?

Even better than developing this stuff yourself: ask someone who’s been a buddy before what their biggest questions, concerns and issues were. Then create the resource they wish they’d had.

4 – Map out an onboarding pilot 

If realising your vision for onboarding feels overwhelming and you’re struggling to get buy-in, a pilot can be an excellent first step. If you have regular hiring intakes, that’s a great starting point but if not, choose a department that have plenty of hires forecast over the next, say, three months.

Ideally a department where you’ve got a good sponsor who’ll have your back, and help you make roll-out a success.

Then set your goals, decide which metrics you’ll track and outline exactly what your pilot onboarding program will involve, when. Schedule regular alignment meetings to gather feedback, resolve concerns and pre-empt issues.

Then use your progress to galvanise support and your lessons learned to start planning your next phase.


5 – Schedule a manager empowerment session  

Signal your commitment to onboarding by pulling managers into an empowerment session, to discuss their challenges, reservations, ideas and wins.

It’s a chance to educate about the crucial role managers play, sure. But it’s also a chance for managers to connect vulnerably with other managers, learn from one another and start unpicking any deeper barriers to action.

6 – Build a new hire questionnaire 

Getting new hires to complete a questionnaire before they join you helps you get to know them, so you can personalise their experience.

At the least, their answers can be rapport-building leaping off points for early conversations (“you do WHAT in your spare time?!”)

But you could go a step further too.

Like, ordering company swag in their favourite colour or sending them a pre-start welcome pack with their favourite tea/coffee/biscuits. Making introductions to other employees with shared interests. Letting them know about specific employee groups or activities that might be interesting.

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7 – Ask each team to send you About Us info

It’d be really awesome to send your new hires’ a brief personality-led blurb about the team they’re joining – maybe with an adaptable template welcome message too.

Whiz team leads a quick note now, asking them to put something together. A thought-starter questionnaire can make the whole process easier. Something like:

  • What’s been your favourite team project in the past year and why?
  • What do you love most about the team?
  • What do you think the team’s biggest strengths are?
  • How do you think the team has evolved over the past year or so?
  • Why do you work well together?
  • What three words would you use to describe yourselves as a team?
  • What would your perfect team social event be and why?
  • What’s the funniest thing that’s happened in the team in the past year?

8 – Send your senior executives an onboarding ROI cheat sheet

Lack of senior sponsorship is a major reason we see HR teams struggling to move the needle on onboarding. So – pop open your email provider or unearth the relevant Slack channel and send across this ROI cheat sheet. You might want an intro something like this:

Hi folks – 

We’ve been talking at various points about addressing our onboarding (obviously especially important right now, given the shift to virtual). Came across this short article and thought it was a nice summary of the ROI of onboarding, if we needed a nudge…!


9 – Draft a welcome message from your CEO

Starting a new job is an enormous decision for new hires. New relationships, new responsibilities, new routine, new risks – it’s one of the biggest changes someone can make.

New hires’ want to feel you recognise and appreciate their decision and that you’re excited for them to start. A welcome message from the CEO – ideally personalised, even if you template most of it – works wonders.

Draft something for your CEO now, highlighting where you’ll add personal detail that’ll need separate approval. (“We’ve got a vibrant social calendar here. Mark mentioned you’re a passionate camper – our annual forest trip is coming up, I hope to see you there?”)

10 – Start researching vendors

If you haven’t got a dedicated onboarding tool, onboarding is taking you way longer than it should and delivering a less-than-ideal experience.

That might mean investigating in-built onboarding functionality within your HRIS, HCM or talent acquisition technology, although in-built components typically lean more towards basic workflow building than engagement.

They’re great for consistency and reducing admin – but if you’re imagining something more WOW, you’ll probably be best served by built-for-purpose engagement onboarding software.

But either way – start collating your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves so you can start weighing up your options. Even if you haven’t got budget sign-off yet – or ultimately decide your current set-up is fine for now – having your list means you can move faster when you are ready to hit go.

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