Words by
Caitlin Allwood

Don’t leave it until day one to make an impression on your new recruit.
Take it from me.

It’s a fact, the quality of your onboarding process will determine just how good your staff retention is,  if you are on a constant recruitment drive then you can’t progress, and productivity within your business will be stunted. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that onboarding is simply another term for induction, but you’d be wrong. Although they do go hand-in-hand, onboarding is how you welcome and embed someone into your business and part of your onboarding is how you go about inducting new team members. 

First off, I reached out to Lucy Craig who knows only too well the positive impact good onboarding can have on a business. Lucy, a People and Culture consultant, has worked alongside brands such as Grind, and Bill’s Restaurants. She explained that the highest percentage of staff turnover is in the first 30 days in any new position. Emphasising her point she remarked, “Let’s stop waiting to invest in our people after 90 days….. even if you’ve left it to invest in the first 30, you’re too late!”. 

This is it. Onboarding needs to start before day one, or as she puts it “It starts before day one, minus day one”. If you’ve left it until a new starter’s first day to impress them, you’ve left it too late. Employers need to pre-empt concerns and questions such as “Do I feel welcome? Do I belong? Are these my people? Do they know how to get the best out of me? Do I feel safe?” Lucy explains. Pre-empting these thoughts and putting yourself in the shoes of a new starter will help shape your onboarding process. She also says before employers get going they should ask their current team what their experience was when they started and as Lucy puts it “Listen, do it, supersize it”. 

The notion that a candidate or new person is the one who has to make the best first impression has been turned on its head of late, with many employers recognising now that making a job as appealing as possible is key to attraction and retention. Employers know they have to put the effort in to ensure new starters feel they’ve made the right choice in working for them. As Lucy puts it “Starting a new position is very exciting but can also be daunting. We have our internal monologue; have I made the right decision? Am I good enough? As an employer, we have to acknowledge this by ensuring new starters think hell yes, I have made the right decision and I am going to grow here!”. Put quite simply, it’s the employers who need to “roll out the red carpet.”. 

“I use the term culture add because if you are looking for a “culture fit” then you are making a mistake…”

Kieron Bailey, EXP 101

A great place to start in ensuring quality onboarding is to understand what your company culture is. To some, it may seem simple, but culture is all-to-often overlooked by employers and can sometimes be seen as “fluffy”. However, if they don’t have a good grasp of their company culture then how do they know the kind of person they are looking for when they are hiring? Employees are indeed more likely to stick if they align themselves with the culture of the business. Kieron “The Boy” Bailey, co-founder of Exp 101, is a public speaker and offers insights on leadership, customer service, the guest experience, team development, and restaurant operations, he tells me “I use the term cultural add because if you are looking for a “culture fit” then you are making a mistake, remember, your culture changes with every person you introduce to the team, so embrace that idea and look for additions who will add positively to your culture”. 

Kieron also explains to me that operators need to embrace technology when hiring “It needs to be quick and clean with minimal barriers to completion” or businesses risk being seen as being behind the curve. “Onboarding is a very different landscape now, the recruitment process being the first step must be adaptable to enable us to connect/engage with Gen Z”. He reveals to me that “The smart brands are using digital delivery in this area to speed up the process from the candidate’s perspective, if it takes longer than 3 minutes, you risk losing them, so keep your sign up, and comms channels clean and precise.”.

Your onboarding touches on every aspect of the recruitment process from your job application, the interview process and the offer. Kieron continues,  “we need to reduce the time in the recruitment journey, the option that a lot of operators are taking right now is to remove the trial shift and stick with a short interview, I would suggest doing the opposite, telling candidates you will need them for 90 mins, start with a brief discussion and then buddy them up with a team member to see how they engage with the brand, your guests and the team. Then have a manager spend 15 minutes with them to talk through their impressions.”.

The offer stage can often be the first hurdle employers fall at. Don’t put a salary amount on an advert that you have no intention of honouring. Remember that job advert where you offered X salary and in the interview when the candidate said that they wanted the salary that was on the advert? Make sure you don’t then hammer that down. How do you think this makes the candidate feel? Lucy joins me in her frustration with this “Send a great offer, I’m so bored of the salary haggle, offer people what you discussed or if you can, go a little bit higher… I know, imagine!!”.

Once you’ve navigated past the offer stage and a start date is in place, this is when the fun part of onboarding begins and you can start making a connection with the new member of the team. This is when you want to introduce them to your team, that’s right, not on day one but before day one. Lucy continues “Introduce your team, this might be as simple as sharing links on Linkedin but feel free to connect or just have a nosey. Or email them a picture of their future team with names and job roles (this also makes your current team feel appreciated)”. All these things can be done before someone starts, so they begin to feel invested in their new position.

One of my bugbears is when operators leave it to the last minute to tell people what shifts they are working on their first week. Get this over to them plenty of time in advance and indicate on it who their buddy is, who they’ll be meeting and what training sessions they’ll be part of. Lucy adds “Let them know what their first two weeks will look like and who they will be with.” Speaking of rotas, Kieron Bailey adds an important and buzzworthy point “Don’t burn out great people. Work with GM’s / Op’s to better understand how to achieve this, the idea of flogging the willing went out with the ark and needs to be consigned to history, connect with what is important to your people and enable them to live their best life and you, you will become part of that.”. 

Ambiguity and unanswered questions breed apprehension and doubts, the more you let them know what to expect, the more your new starter will be confident and 100% focussed on their new role. Another detail that often gets left to a new starter’s first day is getting their bank details from them. Ask for this in advance so they know when they’ll be paid and aren’t worrying about it when they are at work. 

So, in the lead up to their first day, you should have already built up a connection with your new employee, they should feel invested, welcomed, confident, relaxed with most queries answered, but it doesn’t finish there “Day one, be available to them making sure they have all the tools they need. Check-in daily for the first week. Oh yes, people always like gifts whether it’s a pad with their name on it or a coffee cup. If you do an induction make sure it’s fun and embeds your culture, not an onslaught of health and safety… this can be done on minus day one … oh yes and pay them for it!” Lucy advises. 

As your new (happy) employees onboarding continues in the early stages, make sure any training or inducting you have planned, goes ahead as scheduled. Don’t renege on important plans such as catch-ups because business is busy, this is a red flag for employees and you’ll miss out on key opportunities to find out how they are getting on. 

Whilst onboarding certainly requires an investment of time, this will pay for itself in your improved staff retention, however, we are all aware that few hospitality businesses would feel that they have the scope for that at the moment. Do remember that in the long run, this investment will be more than worthwhile. 

Kieron sums up the importance of onboarding perfectly “Stop talking inductions and instead focus on better introductions. What does your introduction process look like and when was the last time you took a walk through it, looking through the eyes of your internal customer, your team member. Doing this right helps to build internal fans of your business rather than employees.”

Good onboarding will get you buy-in and will improve the chances of loyalty from that new member of your team, so what are you waiting for? 


  1. Onboarding is not the same as inducting! 
  2. Understand your culture 
  3. Ask your current employees for honest feedback on how their onboarding went, and listen
  4. Keep the application process concise
  5. Don’t leave it until day one to introduce yourself. Send a welcome e-mail BEFORE someone starts, let them know you are looking forward to them starting. Roll out the red carpet!
  6. Get the paperwork out of the way. You want them navigating their way around their new job and socialising with colleagues, not pacing through mind-numbing e-learning or forms
  7. Tell them before they start what they can expect on their first day and beyond, and send them their rota
  8. Invest in your onboarding. A great meet and greet can make a positive difference to your staff retention
  9. Stick to plans. Don’t renege on training, 121s, or buddying. No matter how busy you are
  10. Staff turnover is at its highest in the first 30 days. If you’ve left it until someone’s first month to invest in them you’ve left it too late 

Good luck!

Got an onboarding process you are particularly proud of? Then shout it from the rooftops on social media and make sure you tag us in your post.

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