Let’s unpack the employee experience that is onboarding

First impressions matter. There is no doubt about it. The Association for Psychological Science says we are proven to get attached to our initial impression of others, finding it very difficult to change our opinions once they have been made – even when presented with evidence to the contrary. So, it cannot be stressed enough just how important having an efficient, cohesive and tailored onboarding process is. As it helps to ensure that new employees are having a positive initial experience with the company.

Employers need to ask themselves what kind of first impression they want to make on their new employees. Do they want to appear as though they don’t value employees’ time – as a result of presenting them with a mountain of paperwork to complete before they even step foot in the door? Or, would they rather present the employee with a neat online pack that takes mere minutes to complete and is fully tailored to them, giving the impression that not only is the company well organised but they also value their employees’ time?

It seems a simple choice, yet there are still so many companies that are failing to get on board with modern onboarding technology despite all the benefits digital onboarding software offers them.

What is Onboarding?

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to break down what onboarding is. Onboarding simply refers to the process of integrating a new employee into an organisation. This process begins right from the words “We’d like to offer you the job.” and ends when an employee has seamlessly become a part of the company. While most companies recognise the importance of the onboarding process once a candidate steps foot into the office for their first day, many fail to consider the importance of the onboarding process between the initial job offer and the employee’s first day.

Instead, many companies often view collecting the onboarding materials as a chore that needs to be completed and nothing more. Arguably, however, this is the most important step within the onboarding process as it affects a person’s psychological perspective going forward and trying to complete an outdated, complicated onboarding process could be the moment doubt starts to creep into the mind of a new employee. 

Why does it matter?

I have worked at a range of different companies now and I can honestly tell you that most of these companies, both big and small, failed to recognise the importance of having a modern onboarding process. Most notable of these jobs that failed to provide a professional onboarding experience was my first job. This organisation had me come in, so they could present me with a massive tattered leather binder filled with paperwork to complete in just one day. I later discovered that this was a communal binder that the company used for all their new staff and that it had been there longer than almost all the employees. The process of filling out all these forms took hours and I kept discovering forms that weren’t at all relevant to the job I was meant to be starting. I simply couldn’t complete these forms as I lacked the proper information to complete them. I was beyond frustrated and I began to wonder if this organisation and I would even be a good fit for one another – not because I doubted my ability to complete the work but because I was already feeling as though the company undervalued my time.

This was my first impression of the company beyond my interview. This process had given me my first insight into how I would be treated and it left me questioning if I wanted to work there at all. I now look back to this experience and recognise that this was an extremely outdated onboarding process that had no business still being used by any organisation in this day and age. Yet many new employees today still have to deal with similar experiences in their onboarding process, which can have far-reaching consequences – psychological or otherwise. 


Employers need to recognise that changing employment is a major personal transition, which is just as much an emotional process as it is a rational one. Support and compassion are crucial for the transition to be a success. This support has to start at onboarding, so let’s take a better look at the two primary psychological aspects that are at play in the onboarding process that employers need to recognise.

Psychology of First Impressions

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, first impressions matter. Social psychologists have been studying the impact of them for years and many studies, including this one from the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, have concluded that first impressions can last for months, if not longer, affecting how a person perceives crucial characteristics such as competence and trustworthiness.

Companies may think that they have already made a favourable impression on a candidate before they offer them the role. It should be noted that once you offer that job, a whole new wave of first impressions begin. For the first time, the new employee is going to see how the company will treat them, interact with them and value them as an employee – therefore, it is important to consider, as a company if you are truly putting your best foot forward in your initial onboarding experience or if you are opening yourself up to make a bad first impression?

An organised online onboarding experience is the best first impression your company can make on new employees and it’s not as difficult as you think. My Recruitment + offers easy-to-use onboarding software that can be fully tailored to the needs of your company and will also provide your new employees with a simple yet elegant onboarding experience that is sure to leave a positive first impression.

Psychological Contract

The psychological contract between employee and employer refers to an intangible agreement between the two parties that describes the reciprocal obligations, expectations and understandings that make up their relationship. The fulfillment of this contract is a must to keep the trust and commitment of the employee to the company – failure to do so could result in an ongoing lack of trust between the two parties, which could be detrimental going forward. Onboarding is the first roadblock, so to speak, in this contract’s path. It needs to live up to the expectations that the employer has set throughout the application process. If done effectively, onboarding will help consolidate employees’ expectations, while simultaneously fostering a strong relationship between the two parties from the beginning. Failure to do so, however, will result in a lack of trust and confidence in the company. 

Final thoughts

Onboarding plays a larger role than merely getting a new employee’s details into the system. It helps to establish a positive psychological relationship between the company and its new employees right from the word go. The experience of onboarding should be one of comfort and ease. Not one that leaves the new employee wondering if they have made the right choice at a time when they can be left feeling vulnerable. To be successful in this stage of the recruitment process, employers need to be making their onboarding process as efficient, informative and personalised as possible. This promotes a positive psychological connotation with the company in the minds of new employees.