Effective onboarding sets new hires up for success to increase productivity and engagement and lower employee turnover.

Onboarding is a really important topic and I have spoken about different aspects of it in a podcast episode, Episode 6: Getting New Hires Up to Speed Quickly, and also in my previous post on Standardising Onboarding

In this post, I want to focus on how we can emotionally connect with new starters during the onboarding process. To discuss this with me is David Larter from Jolly, which makes it easier for companies to sort and distribute high-quality branded merchandise to their team and customers. Welcome, David. 

David: Thanks, Karen

The Experience of Onboarding

Karen: David, we all have onboarding stories. Normally, they’re terrible. But do you have a good one or a bad one that you would like to share?

Good Onboarding

David: I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty memorable onboarding experiences that set the tone for the kind of experience I try to create for my team. Probably the most memorable was my time at LinkedIn. Right from the interview process, the recruiter was very personable, very empathetic and kept me informed all the way through. 

And that translated through to day one. I came into day one feeling very prepared, knowing what was expected, knowing where I needed to be and what I needed to be doing at each moment. 

The team dynamics were also focused on celebrating the new starter. So I felt very welcomed and part of the team from day one. That was definitely a memorable experience.

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Disappointing Onboarding

I do have a funny story, which was actually my first job when I was 18. I responded to a job ad on Seek and I was called straight away and told to come to an interview. I put on my formal suit, and I told my mum, I was so excited. 

I went to the office and went through a pretty quick interview process, all nervous and sweaty for my first-ever interview. And then I got home and got a call that night from the hiring manager saying that I had the job and asking if I could start the next day. There were lots of high fives and excitement at home, I was feeling very good about myself. 

I went into the same office the next day and I saw that all of the people that had interviewed had also gotten the job. I realised there was a bit of a churn-and-burn culture. I decided pretty quickly that this wasn’t the right environment for me. 

I decided pretty quickly that this wasn’t the right environment for me.’

Karen: Yes, unfortunately, I remember being in one of those experiences as well, because you don’t realise, particularly when you’re young and you’re going for those first interviews, that some organisations have a terrible interview process. They hire everybody because they know that no one’s going to last, which is just awful. 

Onboarding as a Company Touchpoint

It was nice to hear about your experience with LinkedIn. Part of that is the fact that you still remember it. I imagine that at the time you told your friends and family all about it. You probably said ‘hey, I’m starting in this organisation. And look what they’ve done for me already!’ That’s quite powerful as well, isn’t it?

David: Absolutely. The employee experience in the first 30 days really sets the tone, and new starters should leave with their cup feeling full and feeling excited, this is a big part of a successful onboarding experience. And yes LinkedIn definitely achieved that.

The employee experience in the first 30 days really sets the tone.’

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Top Tips for Emotional Engagement

Karen: What have you found to be effective ways to emotionally engage with new starters?

Emotional State

David: To emotionally engage new starters, it’s important to recognise the emotional state they are going through. There are really two core emotions at play. On one side you’ve got nervousness and anxiety. You’re thinking:

  • am I going to be successful? 
  • am I going to fit in with the team?
  • will I be accepted? 
  • what work am I going to be doing? 

As humans we all crave personal connection, we all crave a feeling of safety and security. A simple thing that can tap into the emotional side of that experience, as LinkedIn did, is to set the tone and the expectation so that the person knows exactly what they’re going through.

As humans we all crave personal connection’

Importance of a Map

Everyone’s been on an aeroplane before and you know that you end up checking the map of where you are in the flight journey and how long is left. Now imagine how things used to be on a long-haul flight, when you didn’t have that way to measure your journey. You could get pretty agitated sitting in your seat wondering, where am I? How long do I have left?

I think about that in the onboarding experience. To really help people feel secure, it’s great to give them a map and guide them through

Personal Connection

Another part is personal connection – making people feel welcome. It means constantly checking in, and I like the idea of a buddy system. I also like the idea of getting people from the immediate team to connect with the new starter on LinkedIn before they start. It means from day one, there’s already been a bit of a touch point. 

Clear Vision

Those are things that can help deal with things on the nervous anxiety side. But starting a new job is also really exciting and we want to bring out that excitement and have people leaving with their cups full and feeling passionate

The way that I like to do that is to be really clear about the mission and the vision of the organisation

Karen: That’s a really good point because when you can see where the organisation’s going you feel more connected. Using your analogy of the plane, you feel like you’ve got a seat on the plane.


David: Absolutely. The feeling of connectedness is also really important. That’s one of the big missions for us at Jolly. It’s not about sending merchandise, it’s really the feeling that we’re trying to create. We’re helping people feel welcome, connected, and part of the tribe from day one. I think it’s a great way to build excitement.

Candidate Qualities

Karen: Awesome. You’ve talked about the map on the plane and the direction for the onboarding process, but onboarding starts well before that, doesn’t it? You touched on the recruitment process. Is there anything you think works well in the pre-onboarding stage?

David: During the interview process, I try to be really thoughtful about the person, not just the role. I look at the behavioural type of the candidate. As an example in our business, we want to bring on people that are very customer-focused and action-orientated. 

We went through an interview process recently and I put together a little take-home task that I wanted people to complete. It wasn’t so much about the actual task (though that was a part of it) but how people responded to being given it. 

I’d asked at the end of the interview, ‘hey, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of other things going on in your life. When do you think you’d be able to get this completed?’ A lot of people said, ‘oh, you know, it’s the end of the week, I’m not sure’. That was fine. 

But the person that we gave the job to was the person who said, ‘I’ll look at this tonight and I’ll get it done for you’. And at 10 o’clock at night, he responded with the task. Not that we need people to work at 10 o’clock at night, but it just shows the personality type of being really action-orientated. 

Karen: It’s important that you’ve identified that level of enthusiasm and service needed for the role and you’re testing for it. And in your onboarding process, you need to make sure that the person is able to understand the importance of that in the workplace, as well as testing for it. 

You’ve given us some great tips and we’re going to continue this conversation in our next post, when we’ll talk about some practical steps to improve onboarding programmes. 

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