How Arden University Created an Award-Winning Onboarding Experience

Case Study 

Onboarding goes to the top of the class at Arden University, where the people experience team has developed a more creative, engaging new joiner experience — and won the award to prove it.

Arden University's Results By the Numbers:

96%+

engagement with onboarding programs for users and managers

Won

the 2023 In-house Recruitment Award for Onboarding Strategy

4.9

out of 5-star
rating from new starters on excitement and preparedness

🎯 The Challenge: Leveling Up to an Award-Winning Onboarding Experience

When Kevin Cunningham joined Arden University as Head of People Experience in 2022, he was excited about his onboarding experience, which was fueled by Enboarder.

His first thought was that it was unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. His second thought was it could be even better. Enboarder had been in use for over three years and helped the University with its rapid scaling during the pandemic — but no one had taken the initiative to move beyond the basics.

Kevin immediately recognised the potential of the platform. His onboarding experience sparked many ideas about how to use Enboarder to build a more exciting, engaging onboarding experience. Kevin explained to the team his aspirations “I want to take a pretty good onboarding experience and create an award-winning onboarding experience.” And as soon as he was settled in, that’s what he and his team immediately set out to do.

A private, for-profit teaching university in the United Kingdom, Arden University offers a variety of blended and remote programs for undergraduate and postgraduate education — with study centers in Birmingham, Manchester, London, Leeds and Berlin. With colleagues distributed in sites around the UK and Europe, it was important to create a consistent experience and one that quickly welcomed people into the culture.

“When I started here there was a basic workflow that did what it needed to do,” Kevin told us. “I’d never seen anything like it before, and I was intrigued. When I came in it was a very intuitive process, and I was immediately interested in how we could make it even better. I could see what Enboarder could do.”

Before Enboarder, too much manual and admin work was making it difficult for coordinators to be able to have conversations with people, Kevin explains. “It was almost like a checkout line where we're just pushing through the next person bringing someone else in. No human connection, no conversations being had.”

One of his first acts was to pull the team together and begin to brainstorm. It was important to him to involve as many people as possible in the process. They put the workflows up on the wall and asked how they could be made more impactful. “It was a real kind of team effort to understand: What does that journey look like? What touch points do we need?”

After all, Kevin and his team set out to do one thing above all: “We are trying to break the mold”.

💡 The Solution: Using Enboarder to Deliver the Extraordinary

The team took inspiration from the readily available module templates from Enboarder's library of workflows, with modules such as the “3pm Munchie” — which asks new employees their favorite snack.

“We are able to get them that 3pm snack and put it on their desk on their first day,” Kevin explains, “It just makes that point that we are listening, we are taking on board what they’re saying. And this is a nice little start to the day.”

But the team didn’t stop there — they also added entirely new modules. Some of those included:

  • New Starter Care Package: “Everybody that's launched in Enboarder — which is everyone in the business — will get a colleague box and we're not going to miss anyone. So that's a great kind of journey that we put in there.”
  • Ratings and Referrals Programs: “We also put in a workflow for Glassdoor reviews, asking new starters to reflect on their first 60 days on Glassdoor and Indeed. If they score below a 4 it comes back to us.” They also include a referral prompt at three months inviting people to refer a friend to Arden University, for a £500 referral bonus.
  • Executive Introductions: “We use it to share videos that allow people to get to know the execs.”
  • Booking Onboarding Meetings: “We let people access booking software in it, to set up onboarding meetings.”
  • Connection to Learning & Training: “We use it for LinkedIn Learning and eLearning for compliance,” he says, as well as providing connections to resources from other functions such as legal or procurement who also had important information to convey.
  • Early Access to EAP: Dependent on the notice period and specific workflow they are launched into, they get access to Enboarder either from 30 days to 90 days before they start and the very first thing we do after introducing them to Enboarder is to give them full access to our EAP (Employee assistance program). What we're trying to do is ensure that, even before they start, we’re looking after them.”

“I want to ensure that people have a great experience, and I want to ensure that we do a good job as a team” Kevin explains. Thanks to Enboarder’s back-end capabilities, he and his team have been able to keep a much closer eye on their programs and push the envelope on what is possible.

“For every form that we have, there's a dashboard that runs off the back of it. We've introduced lots of touch points of understanding where we get colleague feedback — giving them a voice within the system to be able to hear them and make interventions very quickly,” he shares. “And if anything needs changing, the real-time capabilities of the platform allow the team to act instantly. It’s mapped out in front of you, you can see what you need to drop in or out. If I want to drop something in, I can do it immediately and it’s live.”

“We’re able to make human connections very quickly,” explains Kevin. “And, you know, we are always looking at feedback. It’s that connection between our people experience team and that new colleague.” By leveraging the Enboarder platform for new workflows things have dramatically improved. “It still isn’t perfect. We can do more. But now we have a better way of working — where people are creating connections and building relationships that weren't happening previously.”

👑 The Results: Evolving into Rock Stars

How is it all working? “When I look at where we were, to where we are now, we’re poles apart,” Kevin says, citing a rise in metrics across the board, including:

  • 96%+ engagement with onboarding for users and managers
  • A 7.5% rise in Glassdoor ratings
  • 4.9 out of 5-star rating from new starters on excitement and preparedness

The team is turning its eyes to what is next. In addition to rolling out new manager workflows to extend Enboarder’s reach, they are setting up new workflows for things like well-being, onboarding buddies, and long-term leave. The team has also just launched Enboarder for managers. “We've taken the Enboarder default workflow, and changed that to the kind of support what we need and what I need them to understand.”

As part of that, says Kevin, “We’ve introduced an onboarding excellence award. A new starter will get a survey or question set in Enboarder. And it will ask them ‘Who's given you a great experience or supported you throughout your onboarding process?’” Enboarder will capture that data, he explains, and then the company can encourage and celebrate those managers and their great onboarding outcomes.

The results have been stunning — accompanying an overall rise in employee engagement in Arden University’s annual employee engagement survey results.

“I think Enboarder is a brilliant platform,” said one new hire. “As it is so user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. [...] I had never experienced anything like the Enboarder platform with other roles I have started with different organizations.”

“It made me feel welcomed,” agrees another. “The onboarding process was really positive for me. [...] It was nice to hear from my line manager multiple times before my start date. It meant I wasn't arriving blind on my first day.”

Kevin and his team have also seen a significant impact from turning on new metrics and analytics — which they did not have running before — which allow them to measure and manage their programs on the fly.

And if you’re wondering about that award, Kevin and his team got it.

In 2023, Arden University was awarded the prestigious IHR - In-house Recruitment award for Onboarding Strategy — going up against many larger and more established teams.

“My objective was to have an award-winning onboarding process, and that’s what we achieved in the end,” said Kevin. He posted on LinkedIn, “This recognition is a testament to our commitment to fostering a seamless and impactful onboarding experience for our team. At Arden University, we believe that a well-crafted onboarding strategy is the foundation for success. This award is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of our incredible team, who continuously strive to make Arden University a great place to work.”

“We really believe in Enboarder,” says Kevin. “It is a really important part of a colleague's journey. I'm not saying our onboarding is perfect. This is an evolving process, and I'm not too proud to say it. But that's how we evolve it. That's how we become rock stars."

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