A good onboarding experience has benefits for the new recruit, their colleagues and the organisation’s bottom line. Yet, induction frequently fails to meet the new starter’s needs and expectations.[1],[2] How can your organisation make the induction process more inclusive?

Remember onboarding is not just for brand new staff

It’s easy to think of onboarding as just for people new to the organisation. But if we think of induction as less HR-docused and more about developing a sense of belonging and acceptance within the organisation,[2] we can see its benefits for anyone who has had an extended absence—for example due to parental leave, extended sick leave, other career breaks, role changes or a transition between in-office and hybrid work arrangements.[3]

Start before Day 1

The onboarding process begins as soon as a new employee accepts your offer. Make sure that all the interactions they have between that point and their first day are positive and inclusive.[4]

Don’t ‘drop the baton’ as the new recruit is passed between different stakeholders in the process. All parts of the system should interact seamlessly so, for example, the person is not misgendered, their name isn’t mispronounced, and they don’t have to share their accessibility needs with every new person they interact with. Of course, processes must be in place whereby personal information is kept confidential unless the person has consented to it being shared with particular parties.[5]

Where possible, begin the administrative tasks required before the person’s first day so that you can make sure they are ‘in the system’ and able to login to the organisation’s IT, access buildings and so on from day one.[1]

Make sure your forms and systems are accessible and use inclusive language and questions. Record personal identity information (birth certificates/passports) separately so that it is clear that sensitive information won’t be shared as general employee information. Also remember that trans and gender diverse people can’t always access up-to-date identity documents.[5]

If possible and appropriate, invite the new employee to the workplace prior to their start date. This gives you and them insight into any required accommodations and adjustments and importantly, allows time for these to be implemented prior to their first day. IncludeAbility provides some guidance for employers for staff with disability,[6] but don’t make assumptions about who might need accommodations. Offer this to all new recruits.

Of course, any pre-onboarding should be about making the person’s first days easier—it shouldn’t be about having them ready to ‘get on with the job’ from day one.

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