Onboarding: just business jargon or a long-term process with tangible benefits for both the employer and employee?


What Is Onboarding?

The term onboarding originates from the aviation industry. When you board a flight, you are welcomed in by the cabin crew, shown your seat and served that first refreshment. Although flying can be exciting, the unknown can also be a little scary. Therefore, this initial ‘hand-holding’, as you embark on your journey, is appreciated. Over the years, airlines have expanded their on-boarding services to offer pre-flight support. These include reminders to check-in online, automated airport check-ins and bag drops, all of which have extended and enhanced our customer experience.Passengers onboard a flight

Changing jobs and joining a new company is no different. Some organisations out there excel in onboarding whilst others start and finish with making the new recruit a cup of tea on their first day.

How does a lack of engagement impact new joiners?

If you have no idea what to expect when you join a new company, it will take longer to adjust to a different way of working. As a hiring company or recruiter, you need to assess a candidate’s suitability to the culture of a company during the initial interview stages. Failure to do so, increases the risk that your new joiner doesn’t align to the firm’s culture. Organisations want new hires to swiftly ‘get’ the culture and start contributing to it, yet building relationships with new people takes time. If you have been reassured during the interview process that you have been hired for being you, you are likely to share more of yourself and adapt swiftly, whilst hopefully enjoying the experience along the way.

The ever-increasing importance of employee engagement can’t be overemphasised. Those companies who understand this are reaping the benefits of high-performing staff and high retention.

Introducing Gate One

We were lucky enough to meet Sonia Cochet and Melanie Dickinson from the HR team at Gate One to talk about their onboarding strategies.

Gate One is a London-based consultancy specialising in Digital and Business Transformation. Having recently made it on to the LinkedIn’s Top Start-ups List as the #12 Hottest UK company to work for, they are clearly doing something right.

What Makes The Gate One Recruitment Process work?

Candidates waiting for an interviewGate One describe their interview process as fairly typical, in that it often involves three-stages. Where the company differs is their intention to deliver an outstanding candidate experience. As Melanie explains, “it’s what enables us to hire top talent and retain them.”

As a recruitment consultancy who has worked with Gate One, the candidate feedback we have received echos this. Values and motivations are explored early on in the process to assess whether joining Gate One could be a perfect match. They ask themselves, “is Gate One going to be the place where this person will deliver their best work?”.

All offers are made verbally by the Partner or Client Director met at interview. Once an offer is accepted, touchpoints are sketched out. As Melanie commented, “Three-month notice periods can feel long and the love can wear off”.

Getting creative with Onboarding Touchpoints

Gate One map out the range of communications to be shared before Day One. Examples include inviting the new joiner to team get togethers (including full day ‘Gate-away’ workshops), sharing company news and arranging coffees. The Gate One team have even created a hilarious spoof video on internal ‘policies’. The purpose being to inject some humour along the way to help their new joiner feel part of the team, before they start, plus offset what can be an administrative-heavy phase.

Building the candidate’s trust and understanding is key and two-way communication is essential. This ‘journey map’ of a candidate’s experience, is one of the reasons Gate One’s recruitment process is so successful. No-one wants to be inundated with emails from lots of people they don’t know. Melanie clarifies, “You need to ask yourself, if I was a candidate, how would I want to be treated? We’ve all heard it’s a candidate driven market. If you want to attract the best talent, you need to be confident your team can deliver a consistently positive recruitment and onboarding experience.”

From Preboarding To Onboarding – How The Journey Continues

“Onboarding isn’t just someone’s first day.” – Sonia Cochet, Head of People and Talent at Gate One.

Once onboard, the touchpoints continue. The new joiner is ‘buddied up’ with a peer. A three-month probation period can feel daunting; like it’s a one-way review controlled by the employer. Gate One’s newly refined probation process has three checkpoints at 30, 60 and 90 days to establish two-way communication. Meeting the new joiner’s expectations, planning how further support can be offered and identifying any obstacles to success early on, are the priorities.Gate One Three Month Probation System

Connecting with colleagues is also key; an annual trip to Europe plus quarterly ‘Gate-aways’ are on offer as well as internal projects and an in-house ‘Incubator’ programme. The Gate One Incubator provides consultants with a unique opportunity to take their own business idea to market. So far, they’ve launched over 60 business ideas – everything from bespoke balcony planting, to dog day care for commuters and online watch repairs.

Gate One identified that the mind-set and activities of an entrepreneur are entirely additive to growing Gate One. Just this innovative idea alone, helps attract people to the organisation.  Although a huge company investment, the Incubator is one of their differentiators.

Measuring Success

Gate One 'Gater-Way' team get togetherSo, how does Gate One know if their efforts are paying off? Over the last two years, staff attrition has been around 5%. All staff are invited to take part in an annual survey. Regular ‘fire-side chats’ with Partners and the leadership team offer insight and a chance to ask questions. Last but not least are the Gate-aways, where the entire firm workshops together to contribute to the business plan and shape the company.

What you come to realise when you speak to Gate One, is that what they are doing around onboarding isn’t rocket science. However, what makes them stand out is that candidate experience is at the core, kicked off at the start of the interview process. In return, their new joiners buy into the company and the culture.

The Cost To Companies Who Fail To Onboard New Employees

Although the cost of employee turnover varies, the approximate cost to an employer is around £11,000 per person. However, the more specialised and niche the role, the higher the costs can be. It might also be harder to find an equally competent professional to replace them.

Considering cost alone, surely strategies to improve employee retention is something all employers should be implementing into their core business operations?

How We Can Help

Who is ultimately responsible for onboarding success or failure? The hiring company? As a recruitment consultancy, we aim to work with our clients during the recruitment process and beyond the initial placement, to make sure the right onboarding strategies are in place. We always endeavour to ensure our recruitment style echoes our clients’, guaranteeing a seamless process from start to finish.

Greybridge are search and selection specialists within the interrelated field of Strategy, Change Management and Digital Transformation. We work across a wide range of sectors including retail, life sciences, manufacturing and technology/engineering. We pride ourselves on building trust with our clients and candidates, allowing us to develop mutually successful long-term partnerships. Please get in touch, If you would like to find out more about working with Greybridge or speak to one of our experienced consultants.