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  • Writer's pictureMark Harbottle

Onboarding matters more than you think

It sounds obvious; do a good job at onboarding people. But I don’t think it is.

I pour everything into providing an unparallelled candidate experience. Even before someone applies to a role, I want every interaction to be positive, and leave an applicant feeling respected and attended to. The journey however doesn't end there. Maintaining that level of care and attention through the onboarding process is crucial. If we don’t, new employees might feel like our initial efforts were just a facade, leading to a shaky first impression and potentially hindering their performance and integration into the team.


Avoid: “Oh this isn’t the impression of the company I had before I joined”
Aim for: “I can’t believe it’s this good”

A company is responsible for onboarding, not just the manager


Regardless of whether you're a massive corporation or a tight-knit startup, the key to a successful onboarding process is helping new employees settle in quickly and get to know their colleagues. At Cronofy, we prioritise new starters meeting with senior managers and key stakeholders early on. It doesn’t matter whether you’re remote or office-based, because these meet-ups should help new hires understand the roles of different team members and what their interactions might look like in the future.


“OK, I’ve met the Customer Success Manager, I know what they do. In the future, if I’m not sure who to go to about why our customers are interested in this feature I’m building, I feel comfortable getting in touch with them to ask”

The quicker this happens, the more comfortable they’ll feel asking questions and building those relationships. If you’re a hiring manager, ask your peers to dedicate time meeting with a new starter.


Personalising the learning experience


Onboarding is NOT one-size-fits-all. It needs to be tailored to the individual (even a teenie bit). For our junior hires, we’d be more likely to set up calls between new starters and managers because it can be quite daunting asking them to reach out to the CEO or CTO for a 30 minute chat.


For more senior hires, we provide the freedom to explore and reach out to those they want to speak with first, but there is some intervention, we may need to encourage them to do so.

Regardless of the role, we also focus on learning in the early days. We’re not looking for a new starter set the world on fire in the first week, that’s unreasonable. It might be as simple as understanding our products, getting to know the people, familiarising yourself with our processes, and embracing our company principles. It could be as case of setting the expectation, something like “in the first 3 months the focus should be on learning, that’s how long we think it’ll take for you to be fully productive in your role”.


Gathering Feedback


We don’t just set up an onboarding process and forget about it. Continuous learning, iterations, seeking out improvements shouldn’t be forgotten.


In the first month, I will always set up a call with each new starter to gather their feedback on the onboarding experience. This has provided invaluable insights and has shaped the way we onboard new colleague. We’re always aiming to make the process better based on real feedback.



Here are some things we’ve improved so far:


Understanding learning styles


People learn in different ways, and understanding these styles has really helped some managers with success onboarding. Some new starters prefer a hands-on approach with our product from day one, while others benefit more from observing sales or support calls first. We've made it mandatory for every new hire to watch a sales call and learn about our support processes, even if it’s not part of their job description. This cross-company understanding adds immense context to their role and helps them see the bigger picture.


Why not ask your new starter “how do you like to learn” or “how do you want your onboarding experience to go”. Showing that interest is a great signal of your intent to make for a great experience.

Overcoming information overload


Historically we’ve had long Notion pages with a checklist for onboarding. While it was comprehensive, feedback told us that it was overwhelming. New hires would read it for the first few days and then forget it ever existed. We’ve learned from this and are now in the process of creating a more visual and interactive workflow (you could also use a project management tool like Monday.com). This will have a standard template but include bespoke areas tailored to the specific role and department. It will guide new hires through tasks like “reach out to X and set up a call” or “watch a sales demo,” but also remind them to “review benefits and decide if you want to opt in” (because everyone forgets to do that). This structured but flexible approach ensures that they can manage their time and learn at their own pace without feeling overwhelmed.


“With a big list it’s too much to take in. What do I prioritise? But with a workflow, I can pick and choose what I do and tick it off as I go along. It means that on day one, I’m achieving something”


Striking the right balance


There is a fine line between giving new hires the space to learn and not overwhelming them with too much information all at once. By creating a blend of standard essential processes with personalised elements, we ensure that every new hire has a tailored experience that focuses on their specific needs and the overall employee experience. A well thought out onboarding process can make all the difference in how quickly and comfortably a new employee settles in, leading to better performance and collaboration.


In summary


I really do think that people view onboarding as an administrative task sometimes, and forget the bigger picture. It’s the bridge between “I’ve accepted the job” and “I’m doing the job” and it’s easy to see that the quicker someone is fully integrated the more impact they’re going to have, and feel like they’re having.


Prioritise personal connections, give space, look for accomplishments early on, seek feedback, and personalise the standardisation!

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