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The Ultimate Onboarding Cheatsheet- The 6 I’s of onboarding like a Pro

“A poor onboarding experience is hard to come back from and is the fastest way to lose a customer. It’s critical to actively think about the entire customer journey. Define it. Map it. Document it.” — Paul Philip

Onboarding is to HR what service is to Marketing. It is the stage where we have the opportunity to reinforce our value offering, culture, mission & values to new hires, establish long-term meaningful relationships, agree on mutual expectations, and set performance standards. If done well, it’s the perfect foundation to get started on the right track to long-term careers through planning, preparation, and progress tracking. However, unfortunately, most HR teams overlook this aspect of talent acquisition and leave it to chance, much to their detriment as the statistics on the impact of onboarding speak for themselves as shown below. With proper onboarding. companies get employees who are happier, more engaged, and more loyal;

90% of new hires make the decision to stay or leave an organisation within their first 6 months.

New employees that go through a structured onboarding & training program are 58% more likely to stay with the company for more than 3 years.

48% of people who quit in the first year say it was due to unrealistic expectations of the job.

56% of disengaged employees said they have received ineffective training or none at all.

31% of people have quit a job after less than 6 months. With turnover costing as much as 50–60% of an employee’s annual salary.

Imagine courting someone for months or even years(esp for some hard-to-fill roles in tech). And after all your hard work and finally getting a YES, you drop the ball and get complacent. You can also recall a time you got excited about trying out something new eg an app or service. But your first interaction and introduction to it put you off and you uninstalled or quit before a week. This is how some employees have recounted their onboarding experiences at new companies. One of my friends even decided to quit her job at a big tech startup after her first week! And to those who choose to stay despite a terrible first month, it’s usually out of other reasons like “I need the pay or medical insurance” and they end up being the ‘working dead’. It’s also the fastest way to lose new staff. It’s also a guaranteed way to lose new relationships that could have benefited you even through the exit process. Poor onboarding is setting the company up for failure. And we’ll see this as we look at the world’s most famous boss Michael Scott on how NOT to do onboarding. But there’s a way to overcome this.

Goal Setting

Successful onboarding begins with a game plan. The performance follows strategy. Doing things day by day hoping it will all add up or make a difference is a spray & pray technique we always advocate against in this blog. You have to be intentional about the employee journey and the ‘moments that matter’ of which onboarding is one of them. Every aspect of the employee life cycle is connected & influences the next. Just like pieces of dominos. The best organizations are those that know & apply this to their HR design.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The 6 Is of Onboarding

  • Impression (Pre-boarding)- Onboarding starts during the selection process. So make sure all interactions after you’ve selected the successful candidate create a positive first impression of your organization. This is where the employee experience officially starts. This stage is about clarifying the role & offer, negotiating, setting a start date, easing anxieties & assumptions, starting a relationship, etc It’s also important to note that you should also find ways to engage & empower the new hire even during their notice period. Use this time between offer & Day 1 to not only prepare step 2 but also to continue reinforcing your employer brand, team, culture & values etc Show your enthusiasm & excitement even before the person joins the team officially. Prep your welcome announcements & shout outs during this time too. This will reduce your no-shows greatly.
  • Induction (First 30 days)- Design a comprehensive journey map highlighting the key housekeeping touchpoints in your new joiner’s map. Use a checklist with all the tasks & goals for the month to ensure including welcome gifts & party, workstation & IT, access to facilities, devices & systems, lunch & buddy, complete office tour, HR paperwork, etc. At the end of the first 30 days, a check-in from the supervisor and HR is essential to determine if everything is going on well and if the new employee seems to be happy to have accepted the new job.
  • Integration (Next 60)-This focuses on the organization's social side as the new staff gets familiarised with their teams, leaders & culture. This phase is about connecting with the right people across the company eg extracurricular activities, team/department, company directory & useful contacts. The check-in here is to establish a sense of belonging, team fit, relationships, & culture matching. And please ensure your team or colleagues aren’t pulling inappropriate welcome pranks like Dwight putting a raccoon in the new HR’s car on day 1. (see end for reference)
  • Immersion (Next 30)-Once the new hire is acquainted and set up correctly in the company, the next focus should be facilitating learning on the job and understanding performance expectations. The check-in here is to see if a new employee feels challenged & engaged enough in the new role & department.
  • Independence (Post 120)-Despite a complete first 90 days, learning for a new joiner never stops and it may still be difficult to recall or reuse all the info or resources that were passed down during these first 90 days. Hence it's necessary to have a plan for continued learning, check-ins, and sharing even after you feel one is settled down. Provide independent self-directed learning through access to your e-learning platforms or HRIS. The check-in here is to evaluate job performance as well as create a career development plan for the new joiner.
  • Increase(Day 180)- If everyone is happy, this check-in will discuss and prepare the new employee for job enlargement opportunities within the org & outside. If possible, create a 365-day onboarding plan.


  1. A clearly written job description, offer letter, benefits package, pre-boarding program, and employment contract shared online in good time(even 2 weeks before their start date.)
  2. Proper organized HR documentation process & forms including an orientation pack, quick guides, checklists & employee handbook.
  3. A spectacular Welcome package and Day 1 including a welcome (video) message from the CEO and a gift box or card on the workstation. Let them feel like the star of the day.
  4. Company-wide communique- Imagine excitedly arriving on your first day only to be told that security or IT wasn’t informed or having to re-introduce yourself to every staff you meet because the group-wide email or post didn’t go through in time.
  5. Company info- A lot of HR teams and companies usually either brush through or have no introduction whatsoever about the company. This is a huge gap especially because it’s not like employers share much during the recruitment process. So don’t miss out on the chance to show off & guarantee the new staff that they made a good choice joining your company by highlighting aspects like your size, leadership, teams, impact, products, etc.
  6. Get aligned on who owns the onboarding process and the different roles & responsibilities of the stakeholders. Schedule automated check-ins daily within the first week & monthly thereafter with them.
  7. The earlier you prepare the better. Have clearly defined process maps & responsibilities well beforehand. This includes also conducting training on onboarding, especially for new line managers. Do not assume people understand the process or their roles.
  8. Company policies & procedures with emphasis put on most impactful info eg health & safety during the pandemic around the office, remote work resources & guides, etc. Go further by using your bots or e-learning systems to track this & measure this knowledge. Otherwise if you just forward a zip file with your 10 policies, chances are most people won’t go through them. You can also create a mini new joiner handbook such as this that can share the key HR info in a portable way.
  9. 360-degree evaluation tools for use during & after the official process especially from the new joiners who provide a fresh pair of eyes on the process. For every stage & process, have SMART goals to be assessed at the end of it. In addition to this, use tech to encourage the new joiner throughout each phase. Humanize it by using humor, emojis or Gifs to easen it all and create a sense of achievement through small wins. Here’s a free onboarding feedback form.
  10. The role of the supervisor during the first year cannot be understated. It’s commonly said people don’t leave companies they leave their bosses. HR should align with line managers once a successful candidate has been chosen all through to the first year to define strategy, goals, expectations, deliverables & feedback periods. Most of the time, HR hands the new joiner to the team after week 1 and doesn’t follow up. Don’t make this mistake. Have a Manager’s Toolkit highlighting the key company messages, responsibilities, empowerment tools & performance management.
  11. Overcommunicate. Overcommunicate. Overcommunicate. I know a lot of managers fear overburdening the new hire with too much new info but the opposite is far worse. Through the build-measure-learn loop, you can get feedback from your new hires and keep adjusting the info delivery, schedules, timings, etc. You can also use cloud storage & your HRIS to store this info for the new hire to make this info available & accessible to them at their own pace and convenience.
  12. Leadership should be visible & accessible to your new hire. Reduce bureaucracies & hierarchy for your new joiner as much as possible. Push for group activities & interactions with senior leaders across the company throughout the first year and not just on Day one.
  13. Make the process more customizable for each employee and position.
  14. Make the process fun, creative, interactive & engaging for all involved.
  15. Bring it all together. Let your company values, brand values & Business/HR strategy guide your new hire’s onboarding. Likewise, ensure consistency in messaging & quality across all your HR teams & all the different functions.

“You want to set expectations with customers so they know what to expect every time they interact with you. Silos lead to an inconsistent approach when you’re interacting with customers. Know your company’s values & cross reference all your actions against those core pillars”- Wes Kao(Agile Rebranding Linkedin Course)

New Trends

  • New HRIS software that empowers us as HR to integrate the employee into the company remotely or online before their first day & afterward. End-to-end HRIS and team communication tools also smoothen the tasks for HR such as payroll & benefits enrollment so the chain is never broken. Use Product Hunt to keep an eye on new HR tech products.
  • AI & Bots that ease the process and make it faster to capture new hire info, answer frequently asked questions, set reminders, gather instant feedback, and make the tech experience more enjoyable & human especially for remote teams. Bots ideally eliminate the need for checklists, forms & papers. By automating onboarding, you can also test your process through web or app analytic tools & pop-ups that allow you to gather a lot of insightful info about things like most used to hard to use features, tasks taking the longest to complete & why usability & mobile-friendliness of HRIS etc. Your onboarding tech can automate & track 4 key things- process, to-dos, communication, and tasks/activities. Keep track of new tech and how you can apply them to improve your processes & keep innovating.
  • Gamification, VR & Mixed reality is completely transforming how large companies with global operations & offices introduce a new hire to the bigger co. With VR, gamification & AR, you can give your new employee a better picture of the company’s locations, products, teams, and processes all across the world. You can also incorporate this tech for the online onboarding training i.e e-learning instead of using traditional training tools only.
  • Remote onboarding has been brought to the forefront this year because of companies shifting to remote workplaces & gig communities. Remote presents unique challenges to HR though because of emerging issues like tech security, the confidentiality of info, the humanization of the online experience, access & affordability to devices & internet, sense of belonging, zoom burnouts & measuring productivity online, etc. As for your welcome package, you can be creative to identify what gifts you can still offer online to your remote staff.
  • Paperless? Can you completely go paperless during onboarding? Yes. Whether for saving the environment or because of tech capabilities HR going paperless has now become a norm. You can easily set up new staff with IT using Jira, attach & sign documents online with DocuSign, protect them, move the hire through stages in Asana, then store your new ‘employee file’ on cloud storage solutions like Dropbox. Project management tools help streamline & track process and ensure steps aren’t missed. Our current Ops team uses Asana to track onboarding schedules & check-ins. PM tools allow you to create templates that can then be reused for new purposes, assign tasks & deadlines, comment & attach files, track progress & organize processes.
  • Learning technologies as we’ve discussed is a rapidly growing HR sub-sector. With new offerings every year including personalized & AI-driven courses, there’s a tremendous opportunity with continuous innovation in the area, to streamline & enhance onboarding and your new joiner first year by incorporating personalized & relevant learning, together with a mashup of modern techniques((such as VR), video & gamification and get the most out of their first year. For instance, instead of spending precious employee time by repeating the same info about your company history or departments, could you instead make videos that you can easily share to new joiners & they can easily go back to? This saves up time and you can focus on more performance driven aspects of the new joiner’s job description.
  • Immersive onboarding- Combining the 3Bs- bundling, buddy & bootcamps- some companies have transformed their onboarding to fun interactive off campus full week event & retreat. This can be a good idea if you’re handling a large group of new comers. Apart from making their first week with you fun & positive, it reinforces a sense of belonging and reduces the fear associated with most new joiners during their first month.
  • Social media and the continuous innovation in the space have given employers abilities to supercharge their branding & new hire experiences. It’s also the best way to get free social proof by encouraging staff to post their journey online and new hire milestones. One of my recent Day One posts on Linkedin garnered over 30k impressions in just a week with many reaching out on social media to inquire about the employer & open roles. I’ve also noticed a bigger trend, especially with tech companies, where people proudly share their offer news, welcome kits, day ones, work anniversaries, custom stickers & posters, etc. Linkedin has also recently introduced new options when posting company updates. (see below) that you can use. So create shareable posters & custom announcements that your HR & the new hire can share throughout their employee journey. This goes a long way in building public confidence in your brand & online presence. For more on social proof and the future of professional networking, check our earlier articles out.
Linkedin Company Posting options you can use

Next steps

There’s still much HRPs can do during this covid period as things slow down within the company. Our goal with this blog is to help people learn how to work smarter not harder. One of them is working on your onboarding. Many of these suggestions are free and will cost you very little financial investment. The biggest impediment to change is usually internal through bad culture, rigid structures, poor communication & lack of top management support & willingness. If you require more guidance on onboarding, email us at for onboarding form templates, guides, process maps, checklists, toolkits & other materials you may need to be tailored to your business.

For an incredible example of what a terrible onboarding & exit exercise looks like, enjoy watching the popular TV show The Office season 4 episode 4(Goodbye Toby) where one HR Rep is being replaced by a new one and Michael Scott the Manager says "I believe that the Human Resources department is a “A breeding ground for monsters!” 😆😆😆😆

Read the whole script here or just watch the episode online. It's funnier! All the best.

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Stella Ngugi

Stella Ngugi


HR Generalist| Founder @JobonicsHR | Where HR, Tech& Entrepreneurship meet| Eat. Pray. Code. Blog. Hire | 🇰🇪 IVisit for more info.