How we created a great onboarding experience

Adriaan Kolff
9 min readFeb 13, 2020

So you have sealed the deal and signed the contract with your new superstar. You are both full of energy and at the start of a new beginning. Your new employee is excited and ready to rock but quickly finds his energy fading when he realizes that nobody actually expected him on his first working day and that his manager is busy for the next two weeks… Seems like a bad dream? Unfortunately, research has shown that 45% of employers don’t provide a good onboarding experience or simply don’t even have one. That’s almost half of the time!

To make matters even more urgent 30% of new employees decide in their first 4 weeks whether they want to stay at your company. What did they say about making a good first impression?

With MatcHR we have grown from 0 to 20 employees in our first year and were constantly onboarding new employees. Due to our rapid growth it is vital that our new employees are onboarded as quickly and efficiently as possible without causing the whole operation to slow down. To reach this goal we did a lot of reading and experimenting to come up with an onboarding process that has proved to work well for us. To decrease the 45% of employers that have no or a malfunctioning onboarding experience we decided to share our best practices.

In this article we cover two phases.

The “Preparation phase” — this is the phase that takes place before your new hire shows up at work. This phase is often underestimated. After the contract signing there is often limited contact until someone shows up at the office though this is the phase where a great onboarding experience already starts. As you will see below most of our recommendations concern the preparation phase.

The “Execution phase” — this is the phase that takes place when someone shows up for his first day and starts working with you.

Preparation — Signing the contract

First things first. A step often overlooked. The actual signing of the contract. You as a hiring manager might find this irrelevant but for your new employee this is and should be a significant moment and you can make this a moment to remember.

Whenever you have the chance, make sure to sign the contract at your office in person. This is a great moment to reflect on the interview process, re confirm how happy you are with your new team member and also explain a little bit more what he or she can expect in the following weeks. This moment is not about you but about your new team member. Inform your team members that a new colleague is coming to the office to make someone immediately feel welcome. Take a picture that is good enough to share on social media and experience learns that handing out a bottle of champagne and flowers do well. In all honesty this is something that we haven’t done consistently but should do for everyone in 2020 :).

Vlad (left) and me after he joined MatcHR

Preparation — IT

This should be a no brainer but I have experienced first hand that at my first day of my new job my laptop wasn’t ready, I didn’t have access to any files and my first day ended with me watching Youtube videos on my phone… Needless to say I didn’t feel very welcome and had expected more of the large and professional organization where I started…

Make sure you have a small check list for every manager / HR person that is responsible for you new team member to follow, to make sure that your new team member has everything he needs before the first working day. We use Asana for every new hire with a checklist that has to be done before someone starts. This checklist includes access to all systems.

Our pre onboarding checklist in Asana

Preparation — Kick off call

We recently implemented a kick off call before the start of a new team member and the feedback has been very positive. This call usually takes between 15–20 minutes and we explain what the next few weeks look like, we check whether our new employee has received access to his email address and agenda and if he has any questions upfront. Don’t forget that no matter how experienced your hire is, a first day is always exciting but can be something to look up to as well. This call truly helps to take away much of the anxiety that a first day can cause.

Preparation — First week schedule

Do you remember your first day at your last job? At my previous company both of my partners were not present when I arrived on my first working day as the new partner… I had no meetings scheduled, an empty inbox and without any further meetings planned the only I thing I could do was schedule coffees with my new colleagues that only had availability at the end of the week…

Recognize this? To avoid this pain of feeling useless in your first weeks we plan the first week by the hour. This might be a little too detailed for some organizations, but we have seen that this provides clarity for all people involved in the onboarding process.

By sharing the schedule a couple of days before the actual start, our new team member gets a clear picture what his/her first week looks like and more importantly helps to overcome the ‘fear’ of the unknown.

Whether you like to make a schedule similar to ours or if you prefer something else make sure that your team members schedule sufficient time in their agenda to actually introduce themselves. There is nothing worse than sitting in an office where nobody has time for you and the next possible coffee moment is in 2 weeks. Why not wait to have them start in 2 weeks then…

Preparation — Social buddy

It’s often hard to immediately add value in your first couple of weeks and you often have a lot of questions but are afraid to ask (too many) questions and demand too much time. One of our employees suggested to implement a social buddy whereby one other person that is not in his/her team is socially responsible for our new employee. Due to our rapid growth this person most likely has just gone through the onboarding process herself and can therefore easily relate to questions concerns someone may have. This includes all the questions that a new employee considers “too stupid to ask”.

Preparation — HR handbook

Inspired by the HR handbook of Blendle (see link here) we have created our own HR handbook in Notion. All relevant policies, career trajectories, meetings, culture information and inspirational articles are captured here. We grant access to our HR handbook before our new employees start and ask them to read the ‘before you start’ section. Especially the article on ‘being the new employee’ (link) is helpful. They are free to read all other information, which they almost always do, but we take time in the onboarding process to go through our general HR info as well.

Preparation — Communication

It usually takes several weeks and sometimes even months before someone actually starts in their new role. Make sure to already include your new employee in whatever communication you have. In our case this is our Whatsapp group. We make sure that someone immediately feels welcome and we often prepare a welcome message for our new employee when they join our Whatsapp group.

Preparation — Swag

The day before someone starts make sure to prepare your new team members desk. This is a great moment to turn your new employee into a new ambassador of you company by making him feel welcome and immediately giving different swag of your company. Don’t wait till the last moment to do this and come to the conclusion that you ran out of mugs and notebooks (yes this has happened several times). Some companies do welcome arches, we just make sure everybody is present :).

Preparation — Asana

As mentioned we use Asana for our onboarding checklist and progress. Asana is very intuitive and it is great tool for creating checklists and keeping track of progress.

For each role we have created a different onboarding schedule with different videos to watch, materials to read and individual or group trainings. As a hiring manager you can keep track of the progress and it is also a great way for a new employee to keep track of his progress.

Checklist for the first 3 weeks with links to reading material, videos and quizes

Execution — First day and team lunch

On the first day when our new employee starts the hiring manager makes sure that he/she welcomes our new employee and plans significant time to spend with his/her new team member. We always have a welcoming lunch with the whole team where we play a game which has become part of our culture. Everybody gets their phone out and goes to their photo album. One by one people blindly scroll through their photo album until the person next to him/her says stop. The picture that appears under his/her thumb is the one that needs to be shown to everybody. The person then tells what the photo is about and what that moment meant to him. It is a great conversation starter and every time you hear something new and personal about your colleagues. So far we haven’t seen anything too embarrassing but the possibility that this might happen is enough to raise the energy level and excitement.

Our team lunch

Execution — 30/60/90 day plan

Research has shown that a new employee adds the most value in terms of change in his/her first 90 days. To utilize this we discuss a 30/60/90 day plan in the second week. At the end of each 30 day period we reflect on this plan and if necessary change the next 30 days. It works very well for new employees to learn what is expected of them but also what he/she expects from us.

Our first 30 days schedule that we share in our 2nd week

Execution — Evaluate your onboarding

Did we start off like this? Hell no. We only used a fraction of the onboarding process that we currently have in place and we are continuously working to optimize it. When a new employee starts we always ask them to honestly evaluate the onboarding process and provide us with feedback what went well and what could be improved. While writing this we should actually create a form to capture our progress. The process continues :).

Anything that is working well for you or any experiences what was not a good onboarding? Would love to hear all about it!

A small note about us. With MatcHR we are on a mission to unlock global talent by providing dedicated recruitment and sourcing support on a subscription based model and help companies with their (global) hiring needs.

We are not an agency but work as an extension of our client’s recruitment and hiring teams. This allows our clients to hire at a faster, more cost effective way while remaining flexible in their recruitment capacity. Interested to hear how we work for companies like Accenture, and Ampelmann? Just send me a message.



Adriaan Kolff

Co-founder of MatcHR, investor, entrepreneur. I write about entrepreneurship, recruitment & productivity. Follow me here or on LinkedIn.