On track instead of off the rails – 5 onboarding dos and don’ts

Organisations are under a lot of pressure to get onboarding right. 

But why is that, exactly? Surely, it’s just paperwork and system set-up on the first day.

Not if you want to inspire younger staff and retain them for longer.

Research suggests that 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they have a great first experience. And that’s an upside that managers just can’t afford to ignore. Especially when the organisational costs of employee turnover can range anywhere between 100-300% of an employee’s salary (HBR).

Adds up, doesn’t it? 😬💸

As we all know, though, it’s not as simple as sending your new starter their logins and off they go. In an increasingly hybrid-working world where first-time jobbers have more options than ever, it’s essential to engage them with an unforgettable first impression early on.

But how can you guarantee that if you aren’t even in the same room?

Don’t worry, from remote onboarding best practices to settling those first-job jitters, we’ve put together everything you need to keep your onboarding on track. Here are 5 onboarding do’s and don’ts to swear by.

5 Onboarding dos

Consider these first-day fundamentals ahead of day one and your onboarding experience will resonate for those first 8 hours – and long into the future.


1. Put mental health first 

Research by Calm revealed that nearly 70% of Gen Z expect employers to help them reduce their stress. 

Make sense when they’ll be dedicating the majority of their time to you going forwards, doesn’t it?

So make sure they know your workplace is one that takes their mental health seriously from the start. Whether that’s mental health holidays, confidential counselling or another forum to help them express their concerns, let new starters know that work is a safe space to share.

2. Stop imposter syndrome early

Any experienced professional can be struck by their inner saboteur at some point. Unfortunately, imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate who it targets. So just imagine how it feels to be taking those initial, uncertain steps into your first role again. You can’t take it away but you can stroll in their shoes by sharing your own story (or those of others who’ve felt inadequate at times). Essentially, just try to be the empathetic manager they can relate to. It’ll go a long way towards setting their mind at ease. As will this…

3. Set clear expectations

Most of the trouble with work anxiety comes from the “not knowing”. But you can nip this in the bud early by being super clear in the onboarding meeting about exactly what you expect from your new starter. Make sure it’s documented and easily accessible, but also communicate things verbally too. That’s the best way to ensure there aren’t any crossed wires and the sentiment behind your message and its tone isn’t lost. Don’t get it twisted, though: setting clear expectations isn’t about dictating the pace… 

4. Promote freedom and flexibility

Contrary to popular belief, flexible working isn’t just about where you work; it’s also having the freedom to choose how you get the job done. So while it’s important to ensure there are WFH options, why not ask your new starter what they need to work at their best? Whether it’s starting a little earlier to strike whilst the iron’s hot or chatting via Slack instead of over video to keep them in the flow, understand that we all like to work a little differently. Recognising this will go a long way in building a lasting working relationship beyond day one.

5. Embrace technology and training 

Research suggests that up to 76% of Gen Zers believe that learning is the key to a successful career – that’s more than any other generation. So show your commitment to their growth by starting valuable on-the-job training from the first day. Better still, incorporate the tools they’re confident in using and make learning a more interactive experience. You don’t need to put aside a mega-budget for the Metaverse to do so either; Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are great visual tools for brand storytelling and bite-sized how-tos. Just make sure learning is self-faced and itch their scratch for autonomy. 

5 onboarding don’ts

OK, but what should you avoid when it comes to onboarding? Here are five red flags for any first day. 


1. Rely on processes and paperwork

Worryingly, 58% of organisations say their onboarding program is focused on processes and paperwork. Dig a little deeper and the average onboarding process is made up of about 54 types of tedious activities. 

Not very engaging in person, let alone remotely – right? 

Well, instead of overloading your new starter with admin tasks on their first day, get the paperwork taken care of before they start so they can get straight into the nitty-gritty come Monday. Now more than ever, there’s tech available that’s designed to make this process easier; WeTransfer and DocuSign are just the start of what you can do remotely these days.

2. Let them get into their heads

We mentioned imposter syndrome earlier but, unfortunately, that’s just one issue that can creep up remotely. Too much time alone can cause anyone to get inside their head from time to time – even more so for first-time jobbers who worry they might not be doing “enough”. One study revealed that 51% of younger remote employees were worried their manager “had doubts about their productivity.” So set up a plan from day one for how you’re going to keep in touch and check in – then stick to it. Chances are, younger new starters won’t be the ones to reach out through fear that their managers are too busy to talk. So it’s down to you to make the moves until a healthy two-way habit of communication is formed.

3. Underestimate overwork and burnout

Healthy work-life balance isn’t something you necessarily get from day one; we learn from our mentors and colleagues what the ‘norm’ is. So be sure to factor this into the onboarding experience and lead by example. Suggest setting Slack to ‘away’ or ‘out for lunch’ during breaks, remind new starters of their holiday allocation and remind them that the office hours don’t include checking their emails after 5 or at weekends. Again, first-time workers are looking to impress – which is even tougher to do away from their manager’s eye at home. So just gently reassure them that WFH isn’t ‘shirking from home’ – there are no bonus points for burnout

4. Leave them hanging with equipment

It kind of goes without saying that you need the right equipment to set new starters up for success. But this is certainly more complicated when WFH and every personal circumstance is different. The reality is, many entry-level workers are still students and are often living in shared accommodations. And unless they’re fortunate, most are just not set up properly for work. So that’s why it’s vital to check they have everything they need to do their job comfortably and effectively – ideally, pre-onboarding. Sure, a good laptop’s important but make sure they’ve got a reliable internet connection for calls, live documents and file transfers. Outside of the office, they’ll also need an ergonomic chair and a desk setup that keeps their computer at eye level. We’ve put together some more tips for looking after the physical well-being of remote employees here. Starting a role’s stressful enough, without the added backache or the tech falling over.

5. Close the feedback loop

Instead, ask new starters how you’re doing right away, Did they have a positive onboarding experience? What could you do differently? This isn’t just great insight for your organisation to make positive changes; it’s a way of building a healthy level of trust and two-communication. 

Just remember: a lot of Zoomers have no perspective of what a great day-to-day work experience should be – let alone onboarding. 

But you do. 

With years of experience and an understanding of what works (and what doesn’t), this is your chance to give them a positive first impression of working life; one that sets them on the right path for decades to come. Sure, they’ll move on in time – that’s natural. But give them a great first day and they’ll never forget who got them started on the right track.

If you need any help hiring gen-z or even just fancy a search to see what’s out there, head on over to our grad recruitment app and check out today’s burgeoning talent.