Key takeaways

  • It is proven that a positive employee experience leads to enhanced customer experience, and that starts with onboarding.
  • Your onboarding process should reflect the core values of your company, and aim to be as frictionless as possible, enabled by technology.
  • Better onboarding can help your business retain employees, which leads to considerable cost savings.


There’s a shift on horizon in how business owners and company executives view the employee experience, and those that are taking action will reap the rewards.

It’s not just a vague HR concept. Think back 10 or 15 years. Experts and business consultants were fighting for the company to put their customers first, and now the growing emphasis on employee experience (and the relationship between increased customer satisfaction, employee retention and business performance) sounds eerily similar to the battle for boardroom conversations back then.

Yet there are many touch points, interactions and relationships that make up an employee’s experience with the potential to result in better engagement – and outcomes – for your business. So which part of the experience should you focus on improving first?

Just like your customer’s experience with your brand, the crucial ‘first impression’ is a logical place to start to look for improvement and evidenced by the success that improving the onboarding experience has on customer satisfaction.1

A growing proportion of employee onboarding involves setting up digital systems and tools that require employees to become ‘proficient users’ in order to perform their role successfully.

Some of the questions that you should be asking about this process:

  • What’s the learning curve for these systems – hours, days or weeks?
  • How do we educate our employees to use these systems, such as one-on-one or video tutorials?
  • Do these systems actually include their own onboarding tool, and how good a job does it do? If not, why?
  • Of all the systems that we need our employees to use in their role, do they actually talk to/integrate with each other?
  • Are there duplicate forms, multiple logins and other hoops to jump?

If any of the answers you gave to the above questions are by you or your customer’s definition unacceptable, there’s a good chance that your employee experience needs attention. Consider it from a customer perspective: if your customer had to spent hours, days or sometimes months to use your product or service, would you still be in business? If not, why is it acceptable for the employee to endure this painful process?

Creating a competitive

A better employee onboarding experience will lead to happier employees who stay around longer and provide better service to your customers.2 There’s also a strong correlation between happy employees and profit. Companies that sit atop Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list have on average lower employee turnover rates and higher stock prices.3 In essence, a good onboarding experience delivers a competitive advantage.4

The average person has 12 jobs in their lives, so more of us will experience starting in new workplaces than ever before.5 Just like any other first impression, the employee onboarding experience has become a vital part of employee satisfaction, loyalty, advocacy and retention.

More than a

Employee onboarding is more than just welcoming new starters with a handshake and a team lunch. It’s fundamentally about reducing friction in setting up employees for success and enabling them to hit the ground running. There are many touchpoints and potential areas of friction in onboarding employees that can contribute to an individual’s broader perception of the company’s values, culture and how they treat their employees.

Internal systems that run your business should reflect your core values and identity. For example, if a creative business has internal systems that are hard to use and aren’t nice to look at, then how does this affect an employee’s perception of the company? Does your intranet system enable or restrict employees from doing their work? Is it designed with their needs in mind? What level of customisation (if any) is offered?

The digital tools that employees interact with have to align with the company’s values and beliefs around innovation, service design, usability etc.

Businesses need to view new hires as customers of the business – they are looking to validate their ‘purchase’ decision and perception of the company during the crucial onboarding experience. There are metrics that suggest a strong correlation between a successful onboarding experience with employee retention and performance, resulting in considerable savings as the cost of replacing an employee can be between 1.5 – 2 times their annual salary.6

Most employees start a new job because they believe in what the business is about or because their personal vision aligns with the company’s vision. The first day on the job (and arguably, every interaction an employee has with the company) is a ‘moment of truth’ where the employee has their first ‘real’ exposure to the company culture. It’s an important opportunity for the company to reinforce their employer value proposition and brand, to reduce any feelings of post-purchase dissonance in the employee.

‘How was your
first day?’

The aim for the employees first day should be, when they get home and their partner, family or friends asks how their first day went, that there is no doubt in their mind that they have made the right decision.

Imagine a future where:

  • Joining a new company means that compliance for tax, super and payroll is simplified to only providing some basic information (once) and is as easy as tapping on your phone.
  • Candidate credentials, and career background is validated and passed through to your internal systems from your online profile (eg. LinkedIn, ATO).
  • End-to-end training and onboarding is offered to new-starters that is relevant, customised and efficient
  • The systems that employees use are intelligent and optimised for machine learning and AI.

Onboarding is a journey
not a destination

The aim should be that the onboarding experience is continuous across the employee’s lifecycle with the company.7

Here are some ideas for creating awesome onboarding experiences:

  • The contract delivery and signing ceremony is frictionless and digital.
  • Upon signing the contract, send the employee a signed card from the company welcoming you to the team. Include useful info about their first day.
  • Start inviting them to company events – they’re already in the team so treat them like it.
  • Starting new hires on a Tuesday or even a Friday, as Mondays are too hectic for anyone to spend quality time with them.
  • Team introductions: make sure the team know the new starter’s name and can introduce themselves confidently and talk about the company with pride.
  • Decorate their desk so it stands out from the rest.
  • Assign a buddy to help you get set up and ensure that the right behaviours are taught from the onset.
  • Schedule coffees with managers and team leaders.
  • Provide an office cheat sheet explaining any rituals, behaviours and language used that is part of the way of working. Include seating layout and names and descriptions of team members.
  • Organise a team lunch or someone to take out the new starter for lunch so that they don’t have to worry about where to go.
  • Start to introduce goal setting for their first 30, 60 and 90 days at the company – explain how they can best achieve this and who can help them along the way.



Leigh Malcolmson

Leigh is a Product & Agility coach in PwC Australia’s Experience Centre.

More About Leigh Malcolmson