A people first approach starts with onboarding

We were recently happy to be partners at Onboard Amsterdam - an afternoon dedicated to discussing onboarding and the important part it plays in the employee journey.

As Alan Walker said: we always talk about the “war on talent” when we should focus on how to retain people, and onboarding is part of that. A person’s journey starts with their very first interaction with the organisation even before the hiring process begins, going all the way through to the exit interview. If you manage this experience well, not only will people be more engaged at work, but they can become your brand ambassadors after they leave, which is extremely valuable.

Here are our top 8 takeaways:

1. Pre-hire communication

For People Enablement to be effective, companies need to apply people first practices very early on. The impression companies give starts during the hiring process, which means we should set onboarding up for success, so people feel a sense of belonging as soon as they start. As Lee Andrews from IBM said, creating ways for new hires to connect with each other before they join (Slack channel), or giving them internal points-of-contact to reach out to with questions, helps them feel comfortable and welcome.

2. Tools to support process

Technology can help create better workplace experiences, for example as at IBM with virtual chat rooms or learning portals for new joiners. Or at Bynder where they use Impraise to support career growth and development after the initial onboarding phase, encouraging a learning culture within the organisation.

Lee Andrews - IBM

3. Use analytics to adapt

Use technology to become more data driven, not just to improve people’s experience. Watch user behaviour to gain insights, or use the analytics offered by the platforms. This will help you make more informed decisions when it comes to your people about what they want and anticipate what they might need.

4. Ease of use increases adoption

Don’t forget adoption! When thinking about the different touch points in which people are engaging, we should make the experience as easy as possible with a low barrier to entry. Things to support this are: making tools accessible anywhere at any time, a UI that makes platforms easy to use, and delivering insights that are valuable for the user.

5. Provide mentoring

Further on in the employee journey, on the job learning is still the primary way of learning. An audience poll from Bynder, revealed that 65% of people rely on “on the job learning/learning from peers and managers” vs. workshops, personal training, or courses. If so, we should improve this experience for example by investing more in developing managers, or a mentoring programme.

6. Create and live the company values

Feedback should be ingrained in your culture, not a stand alone process. To build a sustainable feedback culture that scales with your business: first define your culture (what are your core business values and why are they important), then identify where to start (prioritise), and focus on getting buy-in at all levels of the business. Your initiatives are only successful if people are actively using them.

7. Develop cross-company relationships

Don’t replace human interactions with technology. While it can help improve experiences, we still need face time. According to Adobe, more than 75% of US office workers fear professional relationships may deteriorate due to use of devices. A good example of creating opportunities for interaction were the Yes!Weconnect badges at Onboard - encouraging people to find their common points and network.

8. It's a long-term strategy

Don’t stop at onboarding and leave people to their own devices. A people first approach is long-term strategy not a one off project, and should be ingrained within the organization.


Onboarding, company culture, continuous feedback… all of them are closely intertwined. We should stop viewing them as separate individual topics. Together, they help us create more meaningful experiences for people, and ultimately add business value by retaining your top talent.

We should continue thinking in a People Enablement approach: creating a holistic employee experience, supporting people to feel empowered in their careers from the moment they start. In order to do that, we need to continue sharing knowledge and help each other apply best practices across the board.

Download our Guide to People Enablement Programs to understand how to best set your people and business up for success.

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