The Guide to Modern Employee Onboarding

Employee onboarding is one of the most crucial steps you can take to welcome new employees and set them up for success in your organisation. An onboarding program helps new employees settle into their role, team and organisation. With the help of training, the right resources and a plan, you can reduce the stress and anxiety of new employees’ first days, while at the same time, improve business outcomes.  An onboarding program is the number one factor in increasing productivity, keeping employees engaged and retaining talent in the first 90 days of an employee’s new job. When done well, it promotes a sense of belonging, loyalty and excitement.

This guide is for modern teams that want to level up their HR operations through better onboarding programming, practices and experiences for their employees. Download the book for additional onboarding checklists and templates — designed for Australian teams.


The milestones
of onboarding

Planning & Preboarding


Planning and preboarding are the foundations for your onboarding program because they set the tone for employees’ early experiences with your organisation.

Consider the impact that an effective or poor onboarding experience has on every new employee who enters your organisation. Investing time to plan out your employee onboarding program can have a positive ripple effect on your employees and organisation. The onboarding experiences you create will impact business metrics, such as employee retention and turnover, and your reputation as an employer of choice.
So, what are some steps you can take to build a modern onboarding program for your organisation and for your employees?

Outline your onboarding goals

Building an onboarding program with the end in mind means working backwards from day 90 to your new employee’s first day. Putting new employees first makes them feel that they made the right choice by joining your company. Onboarding isn’t a race, it’s a journey. Pace and spread out the information over time.

Map out the employee onboarding journey

Mapping out the employee onboarding journey is the starting point for a strategic and experience-driven onboarding program. When you thoughtfully craft your onboarding program with moments for check-in, digital touch points and experiences, you begin to build consistent, feedback-driven and measurable experiences for all new employees.

Engaging managers in this process will lead to a smoother transition into your company and reduce the anxiety that comes with change for both new and existing employees.

Automate your onboarding

Automating your onboarding program helps streamline efficiency, reduce costs and create more meaningful work for your teams. When you eliminate manual onboarding administration processes with automation, you free up time to focus on higher value tasks.


Onboarding starts before day one. In fact, it begins the second your new hire has officially accepted your offer.

“Best-in-Class” companies are 54 percent more likely than others to start the onboarding process prior to the first day.
We call this stage the preboarding process — everything you do to get your new team member situated prior to walking in the door for their first day. This sets expectations, allows new hires to adequately prepare, and instills comfortability and confidence as they know what’s to come.

New hire paperwork

Compliance is important for every business, and you can begin filling out required documents and forms before they enter your store. You’ll need basic information, including name, address, date of birth, email, and emergency contact. New for 2020, employers must provide new hires a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement, and it’s also recommended to provide a copy of the awards documents.

A quick note on types of retail employees: In Australia, employees can be classified as full-time, part-time, and casual. In the retail setting, these employees are typically casual workers. Full-time and part-time workers have a fixed term contract and are scheduled consistently each week. Casual workers have a more flexible arrangement — instead they have no guaranteed working hours, may be scheduled irregularly, don’t receive paid leave, and can end employment without notice (unless otherwise agreed to in writing).

You’ll also need to provide the following in the onboarding process for new employees:

You can also distribute, or make available:

  • Official job title and description
  • Employee handbook
  • Code of conduct
  • Store policies and procedures
  • Information about your brand, products, and customers
  • Store and working hours
  • Break schedules
  • Benefits
  • Health declaration outlining special medical requirements
  • Holidays and leave
  • Where to go on day one and who to ask for on arrival
  • Dress code
  • Keys or access card
  • Schedule or agenda for first day
  • Store map
  • Employee portal access
  • Working visa (for non-Australian citizens)

Important: This can be incredibly tedious, boring, and uninspiring for your new hires. It’s important to spell out why you need this paperwork, and how it benefits them specifically. For example, if they provide their banking information ahead of time, they’ll get their first pay check more quickly.

In fact, businesses that do increase onboarding efficiency by 85 per cent. You can then centralise all of the documents and onboarding materials for easy access by both managers and associates. Not to mention, a digital onboarding programme ensures confidentiality. Workplace regulations company Employsure uses Flare HR’s digital onboarding tools as an end-to-end employee onboarding process to track employees throughout their tenure.

Get to know your new hire

Ask new hires to fill out a questionnaire with some information about themselves, including where they’re from, their interests and hobbies, and career aspirations. You can also conduct an entrance interview on their first day. This information will serve as a base for many onboarding steps to come.


The milestones
of onboarding

First Day

Can you recall a first day at a new job?

Every person has only a limited number of first days at a new job in their lifetime, so you have a rare opportunity to create a memorable moment in your new employees’ professional lives.

Personalise their welcome

Create personalised welcome experiences for new employees, based on the knowledge you have of them that has accumulated throughout the interview process, from hiring managers or from personal fun facts acquired through your digital onboarding processes. Here are some ideas for personalising your welcome experiences:

  • In your employee welcome address or message, include a positive acknowledgement or funny experience that stood out in the hiring process
  • Build a set of common questions that all new employees answer. For example: ‘Tell us about a highlight in your life, or ‘what’s your most embarrassing story?’
  • Create a moment of delight with a gift or experience that is unique to them

Whether it’s a gift or a kind gesture, your thoughtfulness and the delivery of a personalised welcome experience demonstrates appreciation for the employees joining your organisation. That’s what will be remembered. Personalising the welcome for new employees shows that your organisation cares about them. When employees feel cared about and experience a sense of belonging on their first day, you’re off to a good start.

Introduce a buddy

Introducing an onboarding buddy system is one of the most effective ways to help new employees quickly learn about the company’s culture, its social norms and nuances that only come with experience and insider knowledge. An onboarding buddy is like a new employee’s first friend: a different relationship to that between a manager, coach or mentor and a new employee. An onboarding buddy is most likely to be a peer or someone in a different department or team.

Benefits of a buddy system:

  • Increases the ramp up and productivity of new employees
  • Enhances the experience of new employees
  • Fosters friendships and a sense of belonging
  • Gives the buddy an opportunity to lead, develop peers and share their knowledge

Setting up an onboarding buddy system will help your employees acclimatise to their new roles quickly. By ensuring a clear point-of-contact that can guide them through their first few months in the job in an informal setting, you’re providing a structure for new employees to feel more reassured, confident and comfortable in the workplace, which ultimately leads to better productivity and greater employee satisfaction.

Complete onboarding documents

Address the importance of completing compliance documents and onboarding paperwork, before the start of the second day (if not already completed prior to their first day). There’s nothing more tedious and uninspiring then doing the back and forth dance of employee documents between new employees, HR and payroll. Encourage the completion of those documents and get them out of the way. You want your new employees motivated, enthused and focused on the onboarding program ahead of them.

If you’re an Australian business, there are ways that you can automate document completion through paperless onboarding for free and store all signed contracts and employee documents in one place, prior to an employee’s first day.


The milestones
of onboarding

First 30 days

First 30 Days

The first 30 days are about setting your new employees up with the foundations of success, by creating the right opportunities for them to learn and develop.

Learning and development requirements and timelines differ by organisation and by role, but there are ways to foster faster learning and development that offer value to all workforces and organisations that you can lead. To shape the first 30-day experience, your new employee onboarding goals should be as follows:

  • To facilitate an environment that new employees feel they can thrive in
  • To ensure employees gain hands-on experience of their role
  • To keep managers accountable for regular check-ins

Encourage questions and initiative

An effective way to empower new employees to be more engaged, accountable and motivated about their learning and development is to encourage them to ask questions often and to take initiative for their own personal ramp up.

Encouraging new employees to ask questions—silly questions, difficult questions, repeated questions and too many questions—fosters proactive engagement in their learning, while at the same time, creating an open, collaborative learning environment and speeding up the ramp up process for all new employees.

Encouraging new employees to take initiative for their personal ramp up fosters a sense of personal accountability for their own development. It enlivens their self-awareness and personal motivation, which helps them engage more deeply with the onboarding experience.

Ways to encourage questions and initiative:

  • Have employees write down their onboarding and ramp up goals and milestones. Share and review them with peers during the onboarding journey
  • Setup a meeting at the end of the week, or recurring meetings, for new employees to ask questions, debrief on the week and ask for guidance. Encourage employees to write down their questions or notes, which leads to better reflection and recall
  • Recognise new employees who speak up and help other teammates upskill with a surprise kudos, and continue rewarding that behaviour early on. For example, ask them: ‘Which of your new peers in this onboarding group helped you the most this week? It could help me with training, sharing resources or asking questions that benefited everyone.’ Give kudos to that person who’s taken initiative, and share why that’s valued in your organisation.

When you create environments for new employees to be more engaged and feel empowered to own responsibility for their own learning, growth and development, you’re enabling personal development within each new employee and you’re building a more engaged workplace. Encouraging these behaviours in the early onboarding stages will set the tone for your employees throughout their lifecycle at your organisation.

Conduct role-based training or an induction

Depending on the roles and responsibilities of your new employees, conducting role-based training (e.g. certifications, on the job training and upskilling) or induction sessions is critical for setting employees up for success in the organisation. These hands-on, practical and informative sessions give new employees a strong foundation for their new roles.

Scheduling training and inductions within the first week or so of employees joining your organisation helps them upskill early in their onboarding. From a strategic perspective, consider hiring employees in cohorts with the same start date, so you can better line up training and induction timelines. You’re investing valuable resources, money and employees’ time to support these initiatives. Think through the costs associated with training and induction and how you can optimise these processes, save costs and improve these experiences for new employees.

Include these five sessions in your employee induction process:

  1. Vision, mission and business model: your vision and mission, how your organisation grows, how teams work together and how your new employees play a role in the big picture
  2. Company values: the values of your organisation and how they’re experienced by employees
  3. Team builder or ice breaker: an exercise or experience that lets employees experience your culture or values, or that encourages employees to collaborate and learn about each other. Some simple and effective HR tools that we recommend are CCS cards, SY Partners Super Power cards
  4. Expectations, policies and procedures: lay out workplace expectations and codes of conduct
  5. A talk from leadership: have your leaders make time for new employees. Examples: set a leadership Q&A panel, request a CEO address to new employees or make a video, and encourage leaders to spark candid conversations with new employees

Set up regular check-ins

Ensuring that new employees have regular check-ins with their new managers during their onboarding experience is the first step to building a strong employee and manager relationship. You can help managers become more aware of their impact on new employee onboarding and set an expectation that regular check-ins and feedback will dramatically influence the learning and development of their new team members.

The value of check-ins to managers:

  • Set a regular rhythm for communication, feedback and goal discussions
  • Learn about employees and how to motivate them
  • Earn trust from employees early on

The value to employees:

  • Coaching and clarity around expectations
  • Receive feedback and continuously develop
  • Build trust with manager early on

Strong employee and manager relationships lead to improved employee engagement, increased productivity and promotion of continuous learning and collaboration.


The milestones
of onboarding

First 60 days

First 60 Days

The first 60 days are about creating goals and setting expectations for the next 30 days.

During this stage of onboarding, you want new employees to experience some early personal wins, so they can begin to see momentum in their new role.

The aims for this period for HR and other managers should be:

  • Build realistic and achievable ramp up goals
  • Set expectations for working relationships, rhythm and tasks to be completed
  • Make giving and receiving feedback a priority

Your role is to be present as a strong business partner to your managers. Managers are the greatest influencers on the growth and development of new employees. As the boss, they set the tone, expectation and vision for new employees.

Guide and enable them with training, best practices, coaching on why this is important and how they can mentor new employees. Common methods include facilitation workshops, tools and technologies, checklists and regular check-ins.

Set near-term goals

Setting goals to achieve a near-term milestone helps new employees build momentum and paves the way for them to celebrate their first wins at your organisation.

Employees are excited to learn and hone their craft and apply what they have learned so far.

If your managers are new to goal setting, train and enable them with tools and best practices that they can implement right away. Consider training on proven goal-setting frameworks like the OKR framework made popular by Google or Zig Ziglar’s Goalsetting Canvas. Here are a few best practices for goals development:

  • When setting goals with employees, build S.M.A.R.T goals — goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. You should be able to score goals out of 100.
  • To help employees achieve these goals, check in regularly on goal progress. Holding employees accountable and showing that the goals and outcomes matter will demonstrate that goals are taken seriously, and thus, employees will be more motivated to take them seriously too.
  • When a goal is achieved, recognise the achievement and celebrate the early win. Recognising early achievement will build employee motivation, increase engagement and set a rhythm for momentum and performance.

Set expectations

Setting clear expectations about a role and communicating those expectations frequently to new employees will help them ramp up more quickly. Your role is to coach managers on the importance of expectation setting, and help them be aware that a new employee’s former manager likely had different expectations than they do. You can help managers in your organisation with expectation setting by coaching them on:

  • Becoming clear about expectations by writing them down
  • Gaining agreement and commitment from the employee and the manager
  • Repeating expectation conversations, as needed

When managers think that a new employee isn’t the right fit for a role, it can often be related to different expectations, poor expectation setting and poor communication of those expectations.

Employees who are given clear expectations perform better and ramp up faster because they know what’s required of them. Coaching managers on proper expectation setting will help everyone involved in the onboarding process.

Give and get feedback often

Giving feedback and getting feedback frequently helps employees, managers and the organisation develop and improve faster together. Feedback helps us gain multiple perspectives into situations and helps us see the bigger picture. When we implement feedback rooted in employee insight, positive changes can be made that impact the organisation.

Giving feedback to employees

Most employees want feedback on their work and performance. Constructive, specific feedback helps people learn, improve and grow. It helps people see more possibilities and areas for improvement, offers a new way of thinking and helps employees dig deeper.

Getting feedback from employees

Getting feedback from employees helps managers develop personally and helps the organisation to improve when the feedback inspires a change. Here are some common ways you can help facilitate consistent feedback collection:

  • Employee pulse surveys
  • Performance reviews
  • Regular check-ins with business partners and managers

Find ways to make feedback loops a regular rhythm within your organisation. When you build a feedback culture, employee engagement increases, and your organisation will reap the benefits of more perspectives to fuel better decisions.


The milestones
of onboarding

First 90 days

First 90 Days

The first 90 days are about your new employees demonstrating performance.

During this stage of onboarding, you want new employees to feel confident in performing in their roles. They should know what success looks like and understand that they are expected to deliver in their role.

The aims for this period for HR and other managers should be:

  • Review performance and goals and share feedback constructively
  • Remove roadblocks for employees
  • Develop your employees

Review performance and goals

Reviewing performance and goals and sharing feedback with new employees will help them reflect on where they did well and where they can improve. Effective performance reviews require managers to communicate feedback constructively and effectively and in the right environment. If you have first-time managers in your organisation, it’s worth training and preparing them for these conversations. If regular feedback and check-ins have been delivered well, there will be no surprises for your new employees or managers. Consider a performance review refresher or coaching, especially for first-time managers.

Remove roadblocks

Removing roadblocks for your employees helps them focus on the job to be done, away from distractions. Roadblocks cause challenges to performance, reasons for demotivation and frustration among employees. Roadblocks can be team- or organisation-based issues (internal team challenges, policies, procedures or management practices) that cause conflict or lack resource, or mental health issues (stress, anxiety or depression). Managers can play a role in addressing and finding solutions for roadblocks, whether it be directly, making an immediate change or, promoting and supporting employee wellness more broadly. For the latter, you can play a role in promoting employee well-being across the whole organisation. Some common ways to promote employee wellbeing are to re-communicate employee benefits, invite benefits providers in to speak to employees and promote wellness initiatives across your organisation.

Develop your employees

Developing your employees helps build loyalty, and loyalty increases employee retention, satisfaction and productivity. When employees know that their manager and organisation care about their development, they become more loyal and engaged.

Here are a few ways you can support employee development:

  • Coach and practise soft skills development with employees
  • Offer job-specific training or learning opportunities
  • Help employees find mentorship
  • Provide access to online learning tools such as Go1, Lynda or UDemy

Constantly promoting employee development in your organisation creates a culture of learning, which fuels the growth cycle and iterative improvements that will enhance your organisation. Employees will feel more motivated to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge when everyone is operating in a growth mindset.

Get the Guide (Includes Onboarding Checklists & Templates)

Download the Onboarding Guide and best practice onboarding templates and checklists.

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