10 Strategies for Using Content to Onboard New Employees

Organizations understand the benefit of investing time and money to create content that promotes their products and services, and many also make a similar investment in content to source applicants for open jobs. However, far fewer expend the resources to develop and promote content aimed at effectively onboarding new hires. All too often, recruiting is the elephant in the room while the employee onboarding process is the little mouse in the corner.

In a recent ExactHire survey summarized in All Hands on Deck: A Guide to Employee Onboarding Process Improvement, over 65 percent of respondents from small and medium sized organizations admitted their onboarding process lasts fewer than three weeks after a new employee’s first day on the job. If organizations don’t create content that sets expectations for new hires, they run the risk of increasing long-term turnover when employees leave because they weren’t given enough information to succeed in their roles.

Here are 10 strategies for using content to onboard new employees by telling the story of your organization. In doing so, you’re giving them the best chance of successfully assimilating into your culture.

1. Pre-Board Employees

That’s right, onboarding starts before the new hire’s first day on the job. Prepare new hires to hit the ground running by providing them with information that helps them orient themselves with their surroundings in advance of day one.

Use a web-based software application that links them to:

  • an opportunity to complete new hire paperwork electronically
  • a visual organizational chart complete with head shots so they understand reporting relationships and know which departments will interact with their new position most frequently
  • an electronic version of the employee handbook, including policies
  • information about the surrounding community, including links to local restaurants, parks, gyms and other relevant amenities
  • details about the many different software applications used at your company, particularly if you heavily rely on SaaS solutions (they might like to poke around a few knowledge bases before their first day)
  • the social profiles and YouTube channel(s) of your organization, if applicable

2. Employment Blog

Reserve a category on your blog for posts curated from existing employees about the work-life culture of your business. Write a recurring employee spotlight column that features a quirky Q&A session with staff members across many departments. Encourage employees to share information about their own subject matter expertise so that new hires can read about who to go to for what kinds of information.

3. Culture E-book

It’s always a good idea to have an employee handbook, but those generally aren’t any fun to read. To fill the fun gap, also offer a culture book to serve as the kind of resource that new hires will want to eagerly thumb through (perhaps while enjoying a chai tea latte). Rather than printing it, make it an e-book—a more practical (and affordable) endeavor for organizations, especially because it should be fluid and constantly updated.

One of my previous employers had a culture book and it featured amusing illustrations and photos of what it was really like to work at our organization—the unwritten rules, if you will. For example, it explained how a gong was to be hit when someone reached a major goal and that Razor scooters were an acceptable mode of transportation to the printer.

4. Social Senior Management

Any worthwhile onboarding effort needs to have public support from the senior management of the company. Depending on the culture and size of the organization, this may range from new hires meeting the divisional VP for lunch to the C-suite team inviting new employees to connect on LinkedIn.

Take it a step further and have the CEO post a public welcome message to the new employee on social media. This is a powerful and personal way for the organization to let new hires know that they are excited for them to join the team.

5. Multimedia Bio

Within the first few days of a new hire’s employment, invite him to write his own biography for the “About Us” section of the corporate website. Or, if you’re a larger organization that doesn’t share individual employee bios publicly, then reserve a spot on the corporate intranet for “get to know me” information about individuals in each work area.

Then, ask the employee to star in a short video in which he shares something unique about himself. Embed this video within the employee’s biography page so that other employees can get to know his personality more easily and eventually connect with him in person more naturally.

6. Industry Inspiration

The best onboarding plans are inspired by the industry in which an organization operates, or by the prevalence of a certain type of position within the organization. For example, a company that specializes in mobile application development for its customers should consider creating its own internal app for onboarding new hires and communicating with existing employees. It might include content such as:

  • a company events calendar
  • an employee contact list complete with headshots
  • links to corporate social media profile pages
  • company policies (as a virtual companion to the handbook for which new hires sign acknowledgments)
  • push notifications for important company updates

7. Starring Role

An intriguing way to tell a company’s story is to invite newer employees to be a part of the adventure themselves, and as soon as possible. Ask new hires to contribute to your employment blog (see #2 above) in the first few weeks/months by submitting an article about their initial impressions of working at your organization.

Or if the employee’s role is such that she isn’t in a position to directly contribute, have someone on your content generation team interview her and summarize her experiences on her behalf.

8. Employment Hack Infographic

Pictures will get your ideas across more quickly than words, so present new hires with an infographic or desk poster with some helpful hacks for thriving in your organization’s culture and his/her role.

This may involve a roadmap illustrating significant milestones during a new hire’s first year (e.g. initial orientation rotations, advanced training availability, mentoring program complete, first anniversary, etc.). Or, it may serve a more specific purpose such as conveying the rules of the dress code. For example, my previous employer designed a poster depicting two models: 1) one showing what not to wear; and 2) one showing a shining example of our office’s definition of casual (e.g. come in your “date night jeans”).

9. Actionable Insights

If you’re set on turning your employee onboarding “mouse in the corner” into something mightier, then you need to commit to evaluating your outcomes regularly and enacting change. To do so, build in process milestones that remind management/HR to conduct surveys, lead focus groups and/or initiate one-on-one interviews with both new hires and other stakeholders involved in their onboarding activities.

Then, be transparent about your findings by having the marketing team publish a summary of the results along with a section detailing actions that will be taken as a result of feedback from those involved. This genuine content will help to build trust between organizational management and newer employees. Plus, it helps attract the attention (and potentially interest) of others internally who may be willing to be involved in improving your onboarding process in the future. And if you publish this type of content externally, it can strengthen your employment brand and attract future potential hires, too.

10. Repurpose Externally

Take all the best examples of the onboarding related content you produce and feature them in an e-book. Publish the e-book on your corporate website and/or jobs portal to paint the picture of your employment story so that future applicants have a greater opportunity of self-qualifying their interests to (or opting out of) the culture of your organization.

Compelling content resources should make up a significant pillar of your employee onboarding strategy. Use a variety of media as suggested in the above examples to best prepare your new employees to be engaged and productive members of your organization.


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