How to create an effective and engaging onboarding experience


Katie Capuzzo

An effective and engaging onboarding experience is a must-have for every organization. A successful onboarding strategy will help you reduce attrition and acclimate your new hires. It’s also your opportunity to demonstrate your company’s mission, values, and unique characteristics.

However, crafting an onboarding process is no simple feat. It’s something that must be constantly re-evaluated. I have spent the last 2+ years iterating on our remote onboarding process at CloserIQ since our organization has moved to a fully remote working model.

Here are my top onboarding tips, reflections, and non-negotiables that every organization needs to consider.

The Three C’s of Onboarding

Like the sales funnel, onboarding has its own sequence that should be considered: “The Three C’s of Onboarding.” They consist of context, content, and certification.

1. Context: Set expectations for training and ramp

I like to say, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” Onboarding doesn’t start on the first day of a new job. It starts during the interview process. Give your candidates context in advance so they always know what to expect. Consistent communication across all individuals involved in interviewing, onboarding and training will help you to build trust with your new peers and set them up for success.

One big mistake that many organizations make during onboarding is not starting with the very basics. Your new hires may be experts in their fields, but they aren’t yet experts in your product or service lines. Whether you are building your onboarding process from scratch or improving an existing plan, always think about the why. If you had no context for the company, role, or technology, would your instructions make sense? If the answer is no, then more context should be added!

2. Content: Make it accessible, engaging, and impactful

As with any internal process, onboarding always comes with many pieces of content. In today’s virtual workspaces, that may mean that information is scattered in different places. Whether you rely on tools like Google Drive or Notion, ensure that you have a central platform where all training materials are easily accessible.

If you want your new hires to retain what they are learning, it needs to be engaging. Consider mixing in different formats and trainers to break up the day. For example, what training can be self-guided recordings, and what training should be live? Can you tap various senior members of your team to lead onboarding sessions? Don’t forget to create buffer time in your training schedule - especially if you are in a remote setting!

3. Certification: Test how well knowledge is being retained throughout the onboarding process.

Training should be a marathon, not a sprint. We all want our new hires to ramp up as quickly as possible, but giving them too much information at once might actually impair their learning and retention. Information overload can lead to repeated instructions and training sessions in the future. To prevent this, it’s important to test retainment throughout onboarding.

There are a few ways to test retainment. In a remote setting, it can be helpful to have new team members screen share and walk you through tasks. The new hires that ask the most questions are the ones who tend to retain more information at the end of the onboarding process, so be aware of those individuals who ask no questions at all.After initial onboarding and training, many organizations have their new hires complete a formal certification assessment. This is a great method to ensure that they are comfortable with the role and ready to hold their own, as well as giving them a goal to work toward. When implementing certifications, keep the format in mind. Whether you decide on a written assessment or something live like a mock call, it should be relevant and tactical to the trainee’s role.

Reflect and collect feedback

No matter how much time you spend crafting the perfect onboarding experience, things will change. Each onboarding class is unique and an opportunity for you to iterate on the best training schedule and method. Sync on any changes and reflections with your colleagues involved in onboarding. This will keep everyone on the same page and set the expectation that the process may differ with each hiring class.

Each new hire class is also a great chance for you to get direct feedback right from the source. Send an anonymous survey to get their feedback on the onboarding experience. This can confirm things that are going well, as well as identify areas for improvement.

Leave room to make it fun

Between setting up accounts, wrapping up paperwork, and learning new processes and material, onboarding can feel draining at times. But at the end of the day, onboarding is exciting! Not only is this time dedicated to training new hires, and setting them up for success in their roles, but it’s also an important time to integrate them into your company’s culture. Remember to leave room in the schedule to make it fun. Your new hires will appreciate the mental break and it will help them get to know each other and feel more at home in their new work environment.

Here are some of my favorite activities to schedule:

  • Start sessions off with an unrelated question to increase engagement > sunflowers for ears or pumpkins for feet?
  • Play a game of Jeopardy using training content > TriviaMaker is a great free tool
  • Surprise them with early sign-off on a particularly long training day

An engaging and effective onboarding process is absolutely essential for employee retention and setting up your new hires for success. These steps will help you craft and sustain a great onboarding strategy, whether you are building a new process or perfecting one.