Onboarding is sacred. At least, that’s what I’ve learnt over my years running a small business like Charlie.

But what exactly makes the best employee onboarding experience for your new hires?

To find out, I asked some of my peers to join the discussion and give you some tips on how to build the best possible experience for your new hires.

In this article, you’ll read all about what a good onboarding experience is from us at CharlieHR and 4 small businesses and startups that got tons of experience on the subject.

Best onboarding experience #1 

At Charlie, I learnt soon enough that hiring doesn’t always go according to plan, but rather than blaming the new hire, I had to ask myself: what do we need to make them succeed?

As an HR software company, we quickly realised that there were a lot of different factors involved in building a great onboarding experience: 

  • Make it easy for new joiners to pick up the pace
  • Ensure new employees are at ease with their coworkers 
  • Find answers to their questions effortlessly
  • Set clear expectations for their role
  • Ask what they may need from our business to succeed

If we didn’t lay the groundwork for new hires to thrive, we were probably setting them up for failure – that’s why having a solid onboarding process was crucial for us.

What’s it like for new employees at Charlie?

There’s a clear process in place and easy steps to follow when you onboard with Charlie. We summarised some of it below through a checklist that you can copy and repurpose for your business: 

Before the new hires starts 

  • Send their contract and get it returned and signed 
  • Invite new hire to CharlieHR’s platform to complete the onboarding process automatically 
  • Get new hire to upload passport and P45 directly onto Charlie
  • Give them access to HR policies and processes in our company playbook (stored in our HR platform)
  • Write a welcome email and introduce new hire to everyone before their first day 
  • Keep in touch and ask new hire whether they need any equipment apart from their laptop 

New hire’s first day

  • Schedule a meeting to give them context on systems, logins and meetings – this is usually online as a lot of our team go through a remote onboarding process
  • Give them a warm welcome in a company-wide meeting 
  • Ask them to go through the checklist assigned to them in our software – they can just tick off boxes as they go along (this checklist can be templatised)
  • Get new hires to read essential documents regarding business strategy, product roadmap, general information 
  • Have a 15-min check in and wrap up call at the end of the day

Day 2

  • Meet with new hire again and walk through a personalised onboarding plan that their manager will have filled in as you can see below
Charlie HR notion onboarding guide

Day 3

  • Get the new hire familiar with their role document and probation plan as well as any KPI or objectives they need to work towards
  • Ask them to complete a Manual of me – a way to help other team members understand how the new starter works best

End of first week

  • Have a chat at the end of the day to check if they have feedback and tell them what’s happening the week after

Week 2

  • It should be focussed on training new hires onto function-specific skills and processes, while also starting to give them small projects to own and add value to
  • Set goals for the rest of their onboarding until the probation period ends

Of course, this isn’t all there is to it, but we thought it’d be better if you read our onboarding process steps written by our People and Talent manager Finola to find out more about what our onboarding looks like. 

What matters the most when it comes to the onboarding process at Charlie?

Clear communication is crucial and encompasses: 

  • Aligning expectations from both sides – we’re transparent about the kind of results we expect from the new hire at certain points in time, and the new hire tells us what they need to make this a reality 
  • Sharing valuable context – we share the right amount of context to allow the new hire to get up to speed and contribute to the work their team is doing without overwhelming them
  • Communicating ways of working – we make sure the new hire is clear about what working for Charlie looks like in practice and in values 

Giulia T. – Content Marketing Manager

“I’ve never been so impressed with an onboarding experience before – this was all I ever asked for: the onboarding team were concise, clear and always available for questions, giving me enough autonomy to explore things myself. 10/10”

What makes Charlie one of the best employee onboarding experiences out there? 

Our team is one of the most welcoming out there, and that really makes a difference to new hires. We pride ourselves on having built a group of people with humane and approachable qualities – everyone will reach out to say hi, book time in the new hire’s calendar, and make sure they introduce themselves for a good first impression.

The other thing that sets us apart is how we’ll conduct a full assessment against our progression framework before deciding whether new hires pass, fail or get their probation extended to make sure the process is as fair as possible.

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Best onboarding experience #2 

eduMe is the training platform of choice for the frontline, giving everyone the opportunity to be successful at work.

This mission is complementary to the way they approach onboarding within their own ranks. Marnie Richards, Head of People at the business, shared with me some of what makes eduMe one of the best employee onboarding experiences out there.

edume notion onboarding guide

What’s the onboarding experience like at EduMe? 

It’s all about striving to create a positive and inclusive experience for potential new joiners throughout the entire employee lifecycle.

That means onboarding doesn’t just stop at day one but instead carries on towards the growth and development of the business.

From the moment the offer is accepted, eduMe strives to make new joiners feel welcome by:

  • Sending new hires swag gift boxes with a handwritten note
  • Inviting them to company events happening in the lead up to their start date

Marnie Richards – Head of People at eduMe

“We have an all-hands once a month, a hackathon every 6 months, and each department has a quarterly social event - so there’s always something to invite new hires to before their first day. We even invited four new joiners to Tuscany last year!”

Employee experience managers keeps in constant communication with new joiners before their start date, ensuring all of the practical steps like equipment and accounts are set up before their first day

This allows new employees to focus on the essential things once they’ve joined. There’s also a £500 working-from-home budget available for all employees, to ensure that every joiner can work comfortably whether they’re at home or in the office.

All new joiners then get introductory meetings with Heads of Departments and our CEO – they get to know everyone and have a more in-depth understanding of the company, its values and its future. 

After the initial onboarding phase, we have a robust 30-60-90 day plan and template for all of our new joiners

  • The first 30 days – the discovery phase is when the new hire learns as much as possible about company policies, team structure and job responsibilities whilst working on tasks and projects given by their manager
  • The next 30 days – the ownership phase is the new hire’s opportunity to put what they’ve learned into action by taking on chunkier tasks. This is a key learning period, whilst giving room for error and growth
  • The third month of employment – the growth phase is when the new hire has begun mastering the skills of their job which means they can start tackling the goals outlined in their onboarding

New hire at eduMe

“The onboarding process here is like no other I've experienced. The employee experience and talent team do a great job at making any newcomer feel like they are instantly part of the eduMe team. I was very impressed, and continue to be amazed at how much care the org has for its employees. Love it!”

What is the most important part of the onboarding experience at eduMe?

Getting settled in and understanding how their role contributes to their team, their department, and the bigger picture at eduMe. 

What makes eduMe one of the best employee onboarding experiences out there? 

A people-first company - this belief filters from the top down, and the People team are empowered to go above and beyond. 

Their last onboarding survey – sent for feedback and suggestions from new joiners – resulted in a 100% positive rating over the last six months. 

Best onboarding experience #3 

Built to help managers set up what progression looks like for their team, Progression has high standards in every area of the business, including their own onboarding process.

I got in touch with Jonny Burch, Founder and CEO of Progression and Neil Cameron, co-founder and CTO, to discuss what the best employee onboarding process looked like for them. 

progression trello onboarding guide

What’s the onboarding experience like at Progression? 

Simply enough, it starts with a Notion template – it can seem very basic, but it’s super helpful to understand how the onboarding process is going to be split up for new hires.

Let’s take a look at what this plan is made of: 

  • 4 weeks before the new hire starts – the process starts by simply getting new employees in the HR system and ensuring documentation is in order and equipment has been sent. Progression then sends some goodies to the new hire so they feel welcome and familiar with the business
  • 2 weeks before the new hire starts – do the rest of the admin by requesting the P45 and onboarding them onto payroll
  • 1 week before – sending instructions for their first day, adding them to all relevant platforms and announcing their starting day on Slack
  • First day – this is a crucial day for the new hire, so it’s important the line manager does a welcome call in the morning and runs them through what will happen in their first week along with passing them all the information they need
  • First week – there’s a required list of readings to go through as well as 1-to-1s with every member of the team. The new hire gets acquainted with the product, the company and the strategy
  • Two weeks in – that’s where we clarify what’s expected until the end of probation and set goals for 30, 60 and 90 days

It might look like too much, but it’s never good to leave new hires alone as it can be counterproductive – they won’t know what’s expected of them.

What matters the most at Progression when it comes to setting the best employee onboarding experience for new hires? 

As a remote-first team, Progression focuses on building a relationship with new hires. In practice, that means: 

  • Keeping in touch with their manager through regular 1-to-1s 
  • Getting new hires to schedule calls with the whole team to get to know each other (having the new hire make the first step rather than just passively sit through calls)
  • Gathering feedback to understand where the experience can be improved 

What makes Progression one of the best employee onboarding experiences out there? 

An early-stage startup where onboarding is still handled by co-founders – it gives a level of closeness to the business you don't often get.

With Progression, candidates also get access to progression frameworks at team.progressionapp.com - it gives them a good idea of what’s expected in the role, as well as what the potential career path looks like before they apply.

New hire at Progression

“I found the onboarding process very straightforward. Having checklists in place is a great idea as it’s very easy to miss onboarding elements in the long run.”

Best onboarding experience #4 

Clear, simple, and human. That’s how Megan Murphy, co-founder & CEO, describes the onboarding process they’re aiming for at Ourspace, a team design platform that equips tech leaders to make smarter org structure decisions. 

ourspace trello onboarding guide

What steps make up the onboarding experience at Ourspace?

Before each new joiner starts, they first get a choice on equipment preferences so they get what they need from the business.

Once that’s ticked off, they’re given access to a Trello board for onboarding that includes:

  • Key information about the business such as origin story, a timeline of how and why Ourspace started, company values, brand attributes and product principles 
  • An introduction to each teammate 
  • Strategy documents and product roadmap
  • A plan for their first week 
  • Operational assets such as logins, ways of workings, compensation principles, and expenses 
  • A glossary of internal jargon 

That’s the starting point of each new hire, but that’s not all they get. They also participate in a series of onboarding rituals specific to Ourspace. During their first four weeks, they end each Friday with a team-wide presentation: 

  • Week 1: Presenting a topic of their choice using the Pechakucha style
  • Week 2: Sharing their core values
  • Week 3: Reflecting on how their role meets their expectations
  • Week 4: Sharing any feedback on the onboarding process and what improvements they may suggest

What do you think is the most important part of the onboarding experience?

These three aspects make Ourspace a great place to have an onboarding experience you won’t forget: 

  • Making people feel like they’re already a part of the team 
  • Setting expectations for what it's like to work at the business
  • Letting new hires know what to do next

What makes Ourspace one of the best employee onboarding experiences?  

We opt in for employee ownership and flexibility. In everything related to how people work, we try to provide as much freedom and autonomy as possible. This includes a €1,000 home office setup for each new joiner to ensure that their workspace equips them to work as productively as possible. 

Laura Agudelo – Founding Designer

“My onboarding experience was well balanced and set expectations for my journey at Ourspace. I got a mix of small operational wins, exposure to customers, fun ways to get to know the team, and big-picture context. It was nice to not feel too overwhelmed with to-dos while also getting a clear direction.”

Best onboarding experience #5 

Having worked with FairHQ ourselves, we know how important Diversity, Equality and Inclusivity are for businesses.

Speaking to Kate Pljaskovova, CEO & Founder at FairHQ – a platform designed to help companies with their DE&I strategy – gave me a clear view of how this can be done right from the start.

Let’s see what that looks like from the inside.

Fair HQ notion onboarding guide

What is it like to onboard as a new team member at FairHQ? 

Onboarding doesn’t start from day one, but way before that. FairHQ likes to think of onboarding as straight after the offer has been accepted.

That doesn’t mean they’ll overwhelm the new hire with tons of information, but they’ll give them a structured understanding of what to expect, to cater to every kind of person – whether they’re from a different background, neurodivergent, need to plan around their lives a bit more, etc.

FairHQ wants to give new hires the space and time to adjust to their new circumstances – they also aim to gather any information way ahead of the new hire’s start date to make any necessary adjustments.

Once all questions have been answered, it’s time to prepare the onboarding plan that includes:

  • A list of people to meet and how to meet them
  • Phase down goals to make new joiners feel successful in their first weeks 

All that follows is a very hands-on experience. The first week is about learning all the information about the product and the business, and once that’s done, the new hire can go on to produce their first piece of work – it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s important to ensure the new hire has contributed from the get-go. They can then work on setting more ambitious targets for the weeks ahead.

Between checking in with their manager and getting to meet with their buddies, or having coffee with different people in the business, it’s also essential to make new hires feel like they’re part of the business from day 1. In a remote-first environment, it’s crucial to foster connections as much as possible.   

What is the most important part of the onboarding experience for FairHQ?

New hires need to feel comfortable and see that their input is taken into account from day one. Doing it very early on in the new hire’s journey is crucial for FairHQ, so they can keep that motivation going throughout the probation period. 

What makes FairHQ one of the best employee onboarding experiences? 

FairHQ strives to keep the excitement going and accommodates the needs of anyone depending on their set of specific circumstances. It’s really important to make onboarding stand out this way.

That’s all for today. We hope these onboarding experiences will help you shape your own. Of course, if you want to learn more about onboarding, you can have a look at our guide to understand what is onboarding as well as the following resources below: