An onboarding upgrade: where do I start?

Illustration 9 08/02/2024

Completely revamping your whole onboarding experience might sound like a daunting exercise.

Streamlining systems, processes and practices that may be used by thousands of new starters a year, across multiple locations, countries and cultures can take time. And, balancing essential legal and admin elements, with a welcoming, informing and inspiring new experience from offer does require commitment and vision.

But, we're by your side and these five key steps are a great place to start though.

Define your onboarding vision

Start by defining what you want to achieve with your new onboarding experience. This isn’t a detailed plan. It’s a sentence or short paragraph that clearly explains your objectives – why you want to change, and where you want to get to. Then, throughout the process, as you research, plan and scope out exactly how you’re going to get there, you can continually refer back to your vision, to ensure you’re still on track.


Understanding where things stand with your current onboarding process is vital. Data is the great revealer. Use existing MI coupled with online surveys and focus groups will help you find out the good, the bad and the ugly. Make sure you’re getting a diverse range of views, from graduates to senior managers, new starters to the line managers who run the process. Make sure, also, to canvas views from multiple locations. Surveying new joiners at the end of their first day, first month and third month can be particularly useful in helping you define exactly which parts of your process are working well, and which aren’t.

Discovery could also involve external benchmarking to help you understand exactly what good and bad onboarding looks like. Don't just invite businesses from your industry though - diversity is key.


We’ve yet to find a company whose existing onboarding process wasn’t needlessly complicated - one of our financial clients had over 40 different forms for their new starters to fill out (now they have eight). This is your chance to simplify your whole process, but it has to be done with the needs of the new joiner in mind. Remove all unnecessary stages, jargon, red tape and legacy complexity. Make it a simple process for all involved, not just your new starters, as that will help with buy in.

It's more than likely that you’ll get challenged here by the certain areas of the business (and certain people within them) who ‘have always done it this way’. Change doesn’t come easy for some, but stick to your guns and keep your vision front of mind, as well as the data from your discovery phase.


Ensure your new onboarding experience is designed in collaboration with your people, not for them. This is particularly key if you’re introducing a global system, because of the inevitable cultural differences. Don’t assume you know what people want. Be guided by your discovery phase, and be willing to create an experience that can be personalised and tailored for different audiences. That’s where the right onboarding tech can help.


Finally, don’t assume that the rest of the business will automatically be onboard (if you’ll pardon the pun) with your big onboarding plans. A robust change and communication strategy is crucial for success.

Yet again, this is where your vision and the vital information you’ve unearthed in the discovery phase will be invaluable. Presented compellingly to key stakeholders, they will provide concrete proof of how much change is needed – and the benefits those changes could bring to the business in everything from talent retention to enhanced performance and cost-savings.

And, as the launch date nears, ensure the rest of the business knows about it too, especially your line managers who should really own the experience.

We’ll leave you with a quote from one of our favourite onboarding consultants, Sonia Mooney, who helped us define and deliver our first two global initiatives (Aviva and Rolls-Royce). “Dream big, be bold, and never let anyone tell you it can’t be done". Wise words for anyone creating something unique and special.

For more advice on how to overhaul your onboarding experience, check out our suite of top tip videos in the insight section

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