Optimise your onboarding process with the four Cs

9 April 2024

You’ve found the perfect candidate, extended an offer, and they’ve accepted. Hooray! But now comes the real challenge: integrating them seamlessly into your organisation’s culture and workflow.

A disorganised onboarding process is the workplace equivalent of inviting someone over for a fancy dinner, only to serve them a gloopy microwaved lasagne. Let’s face it, a poorly onboarded new hire is unlikely to stick around for dessert.

Why is a good onboarding process important?

According to the well-known psychological principles of primacy and recency, people are more likely to remember the start and end of their experiences vividly.

A positive onboarding experience communicates your dedication as an employer and a leader. It shows how organised you are, how much you value your people, and how you demonstrate emotional intelligence.

Conversely, a negative onboarding process can have an equally strong impact. Research by Bamboo HR found that 70% of new hires decide whether a job is the right fit within the first month—and 29% know within the first week.

So, you have less time than you might think to influence their decision to stay or go – which is why onboarding matters.

The four Cs of onboarding

Mastering the four C’s of onboarding

To ensure your onboarding process is up to par, focus on the four C’s:

 1. Compliance

Ensure all legislative requirements, such as new starter paperwork and inductions, are complete. Also, ensure new hires understand the practical aspects, like accessing the car park, office, security, and other “smaller” things like where to store their lunch or how to access employee benefits.

Tip: If your workplace is acronym-heavy, a list of common acronyms is helpful.

2. Clarity

New hires need to understand their role requirements and how they fit into the organisation. Share what ‘good’ looks like, and start by setting achievable targets, gradually increasing them to build trust, confidence, and loyalty.

Remember: It’s also important that the existing people in the organisation know where the new person ‘fits’ and what their role is. Something many of us probably forget to do.

3. Culture

Help new employees understand the informal rules and ‘how things work’ around here. Share stories and information about the informal dynamics, rather than just handing out a pamphlet.

Case in point: I remember starting a new job in the mines in the Pilbara a few years ago and had to meet my team at the camp car park before work so we could drive to the site. We had discussed that we would meet at 5.30 am, and on my first day, I arrived at 5.26 am. Thinking I had 4 minutes to spare (and proud of myself for getting up so early) I was met with huffing and puffing that we were going to be late to the site. What no one had told me was that 5.30 actually meant 5.20 and that lateness was not tolerated. Thankfully I figured it out pretty quickly, but it would have been nice to have a heads up right?!

4. Connection

The need to belong is so crucial for humans – it’s up there with safety and health on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Despite this, 1 in 5 workers say their company doesn’t do anything specific to help new employees make friends and find support among their coworkers.

Part of a good onboarding process is initiating connections for your new hires, helping them build relationships with key stakeholders, both internal and external to the organisation. I like to think of this as ‘social onboarding’.

Fulfilling this basic human need to belong is crucial before someone can focus on achieving their potential or hitting goals. Plus, the more connected an employee feels to your organisation, the more chance they’ll stick around longer.

Don’t rush it

Make sure you give people enough time and brain space to absorb your onboarding material.

Once they get stuck into the day-to-day work, it’s unlikely they’ll have the time to absorb it.

Onboarding shouldn’t be limited to the first few weeks of a role. Sometimes things come up weeks or months down the line that you didn’t think of initially – so consider onboarding an ongoing process. Don’t just expect people to pick it up as they go once their induction period is over.

Think about your delivery

The way you deliver onboarding materials is just as important as when you deliver them.

Here are some things to consider:

How much information are you giving them?

Are you dumping all your induction materials in a folder and expecting people to read through them? This may work for some people however, it is unrealistic that someone will actually read, absorb and understand the information.

Creating a knowledge bank of information that is available as and when they need it could be a more effective way of delivering crucial information. As well, a checklist of the ‘must know’ information, will help to ensure that the important info is covered, and ensure any compliance obligations are met.

Do people understand the materials provided?

For example, if your employees have English as a second language, they may need a different delivery method or more time to comprehend the materials. Neurodivergent individuals may need information set out in a specific way to maximise learning.

Some people learn best by reading, while others prefer to listen to audio to fully grasp the content. Consider how you can deliver onboarding material in different ways, recognising that people may vary in whether they prefer to learn via reading/writing, visually, by listening (auditory)or through hands-on practice (kinesthetic).

You could have a mix of written documents, as well as short explainer videos, scheduled catch-ups with key people in different areas, a face-to-face induction session, site tours or hands-on practice in a test environment.

Make a lasting impression

While making a good first impression is crucial, a positive last impression is equally important. Remember the point at the start about people remembering the start and end of their experiences more vividly?

Having a solid offboarding process, including a professionally run exit interview, can provide valuable insights for improving your onboarding process and overall employee experience.

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