Onboarding is more than simply helping a new employee understand the culture of the business and their duties within it. It needs to be an emotionally engaging process, where their personalities are celebrated, not suppressed.

Businesses that ignore this run the risk of alienating their new recruits – before they’ve even sat down at their new desk.

New starters are faced with a series of often overwhelming and stressful activities on their first day. But if businesses engage with them, rather than lecturing to them, new employees have the opportunity to express their individuality and convey their unique set of skills, which will help them carry out their duties, while giving them a sense of belonging.

Increasingly, employees are looking for roles where they can be themselves; using their personalities – rather than subordinating them – in order to carry out their role. This means businesses need to change their approach to onboarding, so that new recruits feel they aren’t being asked to ‘fit in’ or ‘knuckle down,’ but rather, they are given the opportunity to thrive using their own, unique skill set.

A Two-Way Street

Successful onboarding is a process of engaging the individual, not forcing that individual to conform to a rigid set of doctrines. Any new employee acts as a walking sponge during these first days, soaking up information and trying to become part of a new business as quickly as possible. But this is a two-way street and employers don’t get a second chance to make a positive first impression, so it needs to be right, first time.

Informing a new starter of their duties is one thing, but ensuring they feel their identity is being nurtured will create a deeper level of engagement, a higher level of retention and a stronger platform for them to springboard their career. It is vital to show that a new recruit has been hired because of their idiosyncrasies, not in spite of them.

Paving the Way for Long Term Engagement

Rather than simply improving the first day for new recruits and giving them a more positive impression of their new employer, allowing them to express themselves openly and define their goals, skills and strengths will drastically increase an employee’s long term engagement and sense of fulfilment.


The Three Rules for Successful Onboarding

1)     Think outside the Staff Handbook

Remember that Onboarding is not only an important way of communicating the culture and objectives of a business. It is where that new recruit forms their first and lasting impressions of a business. Make it a conversation, not a lecture.

2)     Organise tailor made staff introductions

Make sure your new recruit is meeting business critical colleagues. But don’t forget to link up your new starters with people who are like-minded, with similar attributes and skill sets. This will go some way to reassuring and instilling confidence in your onboarders that they have made the right decision. Make the introductions personal, varied and tailor-made for the individual.

3)     Making their strengths part of their jobs

Understanding an employee’s unique strengths is one thing, but making those strengths part of their role is another. Knowing how a member of staff will approach a problem, and welcoming their unique way of finding a solution, will lead to a far greater sense of personal satisfaction. Integrate their strengths into their role.

These findings are based on research carried out by London Business School’s Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Dan Cable. The research focussed on the process of welcoming newcomers to the workplace and ensuring best practice. Professor Cable teaches on the Essentials of Leadership programme, designed to educate students on managing organisational change, creating high performance teams and understanding how to influence others.


Editor’s Note: This post is a special guest contribution by the London Business School