A lot of start-ups and small business owners don’t think they need an onboarding process because they have a welcoming culture or they are a small team or everyone needs to “hit the ground running”. Well that is all lovely but won’t happen if you are not consistent and clear with every person you welcome to the company. On the flip side, many large organizations have formal complicated programs but still fail to execute them well.

Years ago I worked in an office that had a few small departments that were managed, and hired for, by a support team on the other side of the country. This was a large organization – 1000+ employees. However, on more than one occasion, we would have someone show up at our office for their first day and we had no idea who they were or that a person had even been hired. Can you imagine walking in excited for your first day of work and no one knowing who you were or why you were there? Instant disengagement, total deflation. It was a simple mistake. Someone on the West coast forgot to send an email to someone on the East coast. However, the result was detrimental – no computer, no desk, no supplies, and nothing for this person to do until those in the Western office arrived to work – 3 hours later.

The issue was the process was too complicated and changed based on the location. Onboarding needs to be simple, clear and easy to execute. More importantly, this is why onboarding is a must have to any size business.

Set them up for Success

Onboarding should really start before the first day. I know in many cases people have given notice and are busy trying to tie up loose ends with their last employer but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start. Set them up with email and have people start booking their calendars. Send them project material that they can start reviewing or at least your organizational chart and/or policies. Send them payroll and benefit paperwork to complete prior to their first day. How many times have your employees spend their 1st morning filling out forms and reading policy?

Acknowledge their Existence

Have you ever started a new job and felt invisible? Everyone was so busy you didn’t want to bother them with silly questions like where is the washroom? Or, what is my login password? Assign them a buddy that can show them around the office, introduce them to colleagues and be available to help with some of those basic 1st day issues. The buddy should check in everyday at least for the 1st week depending on the size of your organization.


This is new member of your team, of your work family, so celebrate it! Go out to lunch as a team, send out emails, bring in flowers or swag bags – whatever fits within your culture and your budget but show them you appreciate them.

Get from 0-60 in 60 days

Onboarding is about more than the 1st day, week or even month. In some roles onboarding can take up to a year. Think of an Accountant for instance. They are not completely onboarded until they have completed their 1st year end with you. Be sure to create a plan by week for the first 60 days and then monthly thereafter, and outline what needs to be covered and by whom. This may be simple for some roles and more complicated for others but it is worth mapping out to ensure your employees hit their maximum potential as soon as possible.

Consistency and Fair Treatment

In many offices, individual work teams and supervisors look after onboarding. This is great until you have a really fun supervisor and a, ummmm, not so fun supervisor. Someone starts and feels fairly welcome until a week later the “fun” team welcomes their new member with wine, balloons, a team lunch and what seems like a parade through the office. All of a sudden you feel really underappreciated – who is to blame? Have a consistent process and this won’t happen.

Just remember that this isn’t as complicated as is seems. Obtain some assistance in creating a simple but effective repeatable process that won’t overload you or your team. A solid system will be easy and efficient to apply to all employees.

Sarah Mullins is the founder of uptreeHR, a Halifax based human resource consulting firm that is passionate about helping business owners manage their people, set clear expectations and increase performance. We truly believe you can treat your employees well, create an amazing culture and not break the bank.

To book a complimentary 30 minute consult with Sarah, click here.

Share This