First impressions count: Why your employee onboarding experience is key to engagement

First impressions count: Why your employee onboarding experience is key to engagement

The first few days, weeks and months an employee spends with your business are pivotal to their ongoing happiness and success in their role. Those first impressions they make about everything from your business’s work processes and people to its culture and core values will stay with them long after they’ve settled in and will determine whether they see themselves staying long-term. That’s why your employee onboarding process is so crucial – it determines how seamlessly new team members integrate into their roles and connect to their work, their colleagues and the wider business goals.

The employee onboarding process has the power to vastly improve or jeopardise employee engagement. In fact, according to a survey from BambooHR, organisations with effective onboarding had 33% more employees who felt engaged. However, far too often, companies don’t invest enough into their onboarding process. Whether new team members aren’t properly introduced to their colleagues or there’s a delay in new starters receiving new equipment – any weakness in your onboarding process can have a negative impact on the way your new team members feel about your business. 

There’s no doubt that the remote world of work has added a number of extra hurdles to the employee onboarding process too.  It’s now even harder to integrate new employees from afar, but it’s just as – if not more – important to ensure your whole team is happy and engaged, wherever they’re working. Ultimately, building an employee onboarding journey that is memorable for all the right reasons and tailored to meet the needs of both remote and in-office employees is crucial in laying the foundation for a strong culture and long-lasting employee engagement within your business. Let’s find out more…

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of welcoming a new employee to your business over the course of a few months and is a crucial part of building a positive employee experience. Onboarding provides them with relevant training and resources, introduces them to their new role and the expectations of the business, helps them connect to their colleagues and the business’s culture and, ultimately, sets them up to thrive.

Good onboarding practices include:

  • Communicating with new employees before day one to help them prepare
  • Ensuring Line Managers are available to greet their new team members and arranging regular touchpoints 
  • Introducing new employees to their colleagues, implementing a buddy or mentor scheme and providing plenty of social opportunities
  • Providing prompt and seamless access to workspaces, training, resources, programmes and software they’ll need to get started as well as any internal comms channels, additional benefits, perks and support schemes


Why is employee onboarding key to engagement?

1/ It helps new employees integrate into workplace culture from day one

An employee onboarding process that helps new employees transition into a new workplace culture, as well as into a new role, is one that will foster positive social wellbeing and long-lasting satisfaction and engagement. Regardless of how great of a ‘cultural fit’ they are, you can’t expect new employees to be in step with the unique culture, character and social norms of your business from day one. There’s a process of ‘fitting in’ which comes from meeting and collaborating with colleagues in a professional sense, as well as getting to know them on a personal level too. 

An onboarding process which sees new employees introduced to lots of their colleagues within their first few days, and provides plenty of opportunities for them to connect with them outside of a workplace setting, is key for helping them to build strong relationships. When an individual gets on with the people they work with and feels like a member of a team, their social wellbeing – and therefore overall engagement – will be boosted.

2/ It aligns new employees with business goals and ensures they understand how to be successful in their role

Effective onboarding is crucial in ensuring new employees are aligned with the purpose, goals and values of your business from the very beginning.  In fact, Gallup finds that employees who give their onboarding a “5” are about twice as likely to strongly agree that they feel fully prepared and supported to excel in their new role. The sooner they understand the expectations of your business and ‘buy in’ to the bigger picture, the sooner they can begin contributing to those end goals. Plus, once an individual knows exactly how their role can help the business succeed, it will give them a heightened sense of fulfilment and engagement.

During onboarding, it’s key that new employees get the chance to meet members of the C-Suite, are invited to company-wide meetings and are looped into your internal comms right away, to really drive that message of vision and direction. On top of this, an effective onboarding process will ensure new starters have all of the practical tools they need to get the ball rolling straight away, such as office supplies, access to training programmes and login credentials. All of this positively impacts employee productivity, alignment and engagement from the very first day. 

3/ It brings your business’s EVP to life from the very beginning

Your employee onboarding journey is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the various components that enhance your business’s employee value proposition (EVP). This includes flexibility and autonomy around work arrangements and schedules, opportunities for personal and professional growth, additional perks such as discounts and wellbeing tools and environmental social governance (ESG) initiatives among many other things. 

Alongside salary, it’s your EVP – the commitments your business has made during the recruitment process – that will draw new employees to your business in the first place. If you’ve got an employee benefits scheme, for example, ensure part of your employee onboarding processes involves providing them with access and a demonstration, so they can start getting value from it from the very first day. Showing them from the very beginning and throughout their onboarding journey that you’re a genuine and credible place to work and that they made the right call choosing to work for you will do great things for their long-term engagement, retention and advocacy. After all, your business’s EVP is nothing but an empty promise to employees unless it’s tangible – and you only get one chance to make a first impression.

In summary, your employee onboarding process is a crucial element of your overall employee experience and engagement strategy. It sets the precedent for what it’s like to work for your business from the very start and is the first – and only real – opportunity to demonstrate to employees that your business is the place where they’re going to have a long and happy career ahead of them.

It’s important to note that onboarding is just one element of the employee experience. To truly build a happy, fulfilled and engaged workforce, you must consider how to bring that positive experience to every stage of an employee’s journey with your business. 

Perhaps it’s time to review your business’s employee onboarding journey to see how you could optimise it to engage your people, retain top talent and benefit your business? 

Read next: How to avoid the horrors of a poor employee experience

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