The overlooked art of Onboarding

Picture this.

It’s your first day at a new job. You’re full of excitement for the new opportunity and sit in your car anxious to make a good impression.

The first person you meet is the friendly but distracted receptionist. You wait in silence for 15 minutes until a guy who calls himself John comes to get you. John turns out to be your colleague and as he walks you to your desk he tells you that the boss is away from the office today. He has been asked to get you settled in.

By lunchtime, you’re wondering if you’ve made the right decision in taking this job.

No one seems to know you’re starting today, your computer access is not set up and John doesn’t know who you need to be introduced to or what you’re supposed to be doing today.

You’ve spent the morning staring out the window.

You eat lunch alone at your desk. John disappeared with some other people a while ago with no invitation to join them.

No call from the boss.

Just you and your sandwich.

I know this reads like an extreme example, but I have had a very similar experience.

More recently, a few clients have shared stories of being left to fend for themselves, to find lunchrooms or toilets and one client told me she didn't have computer access for a week!

So despite being one of the most critical chapters of the employee lifecycle, clearly new employee onboarding is not all it could be in many workplaces across Australia.

Onboarding serves to set the tone for a new employee’s experience with your company.

It can also be the experience that helps them make the decision to stay…or leave.

“What helps people, helps business” Leo Burnett

So what makes a great onboarding experience?

It’s about helping your new team member to KNOW 4 key things about their new workplace.

1. I know why I’m here

Team members can’t be high performers if they don’t understand the company’s vision (what the company’s purpose is and what they want to create) and values (what the company stands for). There are key behaviours that create success in the role and understanding these standards and expectations of the role is vital to the success of the employee from day one.

2. I know how to do my job

The first alarm bell rings in the mind of a new team member when their access to basic tools and resources have not been set up. It reflects how pleased you are to have them starting when the basic resources they need to do their job are set up. When there’s no Laptop or PC for them or their system access is still with IT it says, “we’re not on top of things” and “your work is not important”. The other key ingredient to a great start in a new job is to know how you are to be measured. Often overlooked during onboarding is a one on one discussion about the KPIs and benchmarks the team needs to meet to progress towards each of the company’s goals. Don’t leave this until it's time for the next quarterly review.

3. I know what my role is and how to do it

All new team members need training, time and support in order to become competent. And the time it takes to competency is reduced when you help them understand all aspects of what they are to do – the responsibilities, what decisions they can make and what needs to be passed on and to whom. Work instructions, SOPs, whatever you call them are so important to enable replication of every task in your business. Do yourself and your team a favour and document everything.

4. I know who can help me

The best onboarding plan includes time spent with key stakeholders in all the areas of the business connected to the team member’s success. These conversations are designed to help the newbie to build rapport with business support partners and to understand the upstream and downstream effects of their actions and decisions. I once spent a day in a truck doing deliveries to customers. Spending time with James and experiencing the challenges of his job gave me someone to run ideas by when I was going to make a change that would affect drivers.

Connection creates collaboration and engagement.

So what would you want to feel at the end of your first day in a new job?

I’m fairly sure you wouldn’t want any new team member to be thinking, “Sh*t, what have I done?”.

A great first day has the effect of building a feeling of belonging, that they are a much needed and valued addition to the team. There’s a feeling of excitement to contribute to the company’s goals and vision.

If you want to give your team members a great onboarding experience. Let’s talk.

Don’t know where to start with an onboarding system? Email me


Emma Taberner is a qualified Leadership and Executive Coach, Speaker, Facilitator, author and self-confessed Human Behaviour nerd. With over 20 years Supply Chain industry experience and 10 years coaching and mentoring frontline leaders, she is passionate about helping small business owners and their teams to understand how their behaviours determine their leadership and effectiveness in business, relationships and in life. Emma works One to One, with groups, both face 2 face and online.

When she’s not building future leaders you can find her flying small planes, being in the outdoors, growing her own food and hanging out with her husband of over 20 years.

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