6 actionable psychology principles to improve employee onboarding

The psychology of persuasion has been applied to sales and marketing for decades to drive revenue and customer loyalty. Why not apply it to the workplace for the benefit of both employer and employee?  The 6 actionable principles below, rooted in science and psychology, can create a better organizational culture and a healthier and more productive workforce when applied during new employee onboarding.

6 actionable psychology principles to strengthen employee onboarding

psychology principles to strengthen employee onboarding

The six principles of persuasion here originated in Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s book titled ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’. By combining Dr. Cialdini's work with our knowledge about the discipline of onboarding, we have created simple and actionable ways to incorporate these principles into your onboarding process.

1. Reciprocity

 If you give something to someone, it’s highly likely this gesture will be reciprocated. It follows that companies that exceed employee expectations are more likely to have employees that want to do the same. For example, the small cost of cake and balloons on a new hire's first day has the potential to become a worthy investment.

2. Scarcity

If people feel seen, valued, and special they will do more for the company. Mentioning how many people applied for their job is one way of pointing out to employees that they are special and a cut above the rest.

3. Authority

People want to comply with those that have authority. A personal welcome video from the CEO to each new employee is far more impactful than reading the same in a generic e-mail. This video can set the expectations, share the company mission, and explain the culture with far more persuasive power. Learn more about actions that can increase perceived authority before the new hire's first day - click here.

Want to become an employee onboarding wizard?
Join our newsletter!


4. Consistency

People want to follow through with their own commitments. For example, one recent study found that an 18% reduction in missed appointments at health centers could be achieved simply by asking the patients, rather than the staff, to write down future appointment details. Communicating by presenting choices is a strategic way to train employees to apply logical and rational behaviors while empowering them as individuals.

5. Liking

People prefer to say yes to people they like, respect, and admire. Creating a workforce that likes their employer starts with a WOW first impression and welcome. It sets the tone for the rest of the employee life cycle. Liking will come naturally with an excellent onboarding process that is based on the 6 C's framework. Read more here.

6. Consensus/social proof

When people feel uncertain about something they look to others. In the employee onboarding, process companies should use statistics and data or personal stories from the best-in-class parts of the organization to set the standard no matter where in the organization the employees are hired. Sharing positive client stories is another helpful way of showing social proof.

The role of employee onboarding software

All of these same principles that persuade and motivate employees can be set into action with onboarding software.  The right software solution gets everyone engaged in the process, and it also saves time on repetitive tasks with automation.

Click here to read "How automation fuels onboarding best practices and fast tracks business success". Remember these 6 principles are grounded in the psychology of persuasion and it won't be hard to see them at play in the article.

Interested in further reading on the power of persuasion? Read our blog about the ‘Nudge Theory’ here.

Book a 15-minute meeting with our onboarding experts and learn how you can take your employee onboarding to the next level!



Reboarding/onboarding - Cheat-Sheet

Time is not on anyone’s side these days, so we’ve created a Cheat Sheet from our Reboarding Webinar to accompany the recording, key points of which we share here:

Benefits of onboarding/reboarding
When this process is done intentionally, we get employees with better attitudes at work, more confident employees, and those with greater role clarity.
Employees feel more accepted, have higher job satisfaction and higher job commitment.
Onboarding gives us more engaged employees, higher referrals, higher safety behavior (fewer accidents), better performance, and longer retention

✔What does Compliance mean?
That’s right. This is not the fun part about starting a new job. Compliance refers to signing legal documents/contracts, tax forms, rules/policies/procedures that may also be available in the employee handbook.
Compliance includes provisioning such as issuing passwords, email logins, system logins, intranet, and collaborative tools that your organization might use.
Provisioning also includes badging, meeting room systems, and availability, knowing the space such as the location of restrooms and other facilities.

✔The importance of Confidence & Best Practice
Onboarding done well taps into the ‘effective zone’ which leads to positive behavior too.
Confidence breeds a new level of curiosity. People are more likely to ask questions and engage in their own clarification process. If we design things that make people more confident, they will be more effective.
Promote confidence by giving employees challenging experiences and situations they need to overcome for longer-term confidence building.

✔The Importance of Clarity & Best Practice
Support the work-family balancing act. Larger corporations have always been good at this. Today, we’re seeing this expectation from smaller businesses.
Communicate to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.
Clarify key points and messaging repeatedly. Distractions and stress require repeated communication. Be creative in the way you present information more than once.

✔The Importance of Connection & Best Practice
Very few companies tap into connection effectively and productively.
The rise of the human. Emotions are permitted. Kids and pets in Zoom calls are today’s norm.
Gallup Polls have found that having a best friend/colleague at work is the number one predictor of someone staying long term in an organization.
What are you putting in place given the trajectory of WFH?
Employers are rebuilding trust through communication. Saying and thinking through what you need to do and having the understanding from your employees, about why things are being done as they are.
If your organization has skilled communicators and can get your messages across effectively, you’re ahead of the pack.

✔The Importance of Culture & Best Practice
Different ways of working demand that onboarding practices adjust in order to support evolving workplace cultures. How is your culture being affected?
What are your goals for the culture of the company?
What is it that makes you different qualitatively from other organizations?
Be sure to adjust your rules and policies to reflect the new cultural norm in your organization and outside of it, in a healthy and positive way.
Apply the 6C’s to your reboarding and onboarding practices.

✔Onboarding best practice tips:
Successful onboarding occurs over time. Give your team up to a year to deliver an effective program. And remember, employee onboarding is more than orientation, and an employee onboarding checklist
Strategic onboarding requires multiple interventions. It’s not a single event. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Onboarding should be supported by multiple resources. Think through the opportunities you have with the stakeholders involved. Inspire and engage.
Automation will take your new onboarding program to a whole new level.
Time is saved, consistency is achieved, employee engagement converts to higher retention, productivity, and ultimately profits.

Do you want an obligation-free, one-on-one workshop to help you rewrite your onboarding messaging?

Sign up for our newsletter and get expert advice and join our employee onboarding community.

If you’d like to listen to Talya Bauer and Amin Fard’s Reboarding Webinar in full, click through to it here.


Is Your Employee Onboarding Process Failing?

Is Your Employee Onboarding Process Failing? Here is Why and Best Practices

By Amin Fard, CEO Preppio

Learn how to transform your new hire onboarding with scientifically-driven onboarding best practices that result in reducing the cost of turnover and increased employee engagement, even in a remote work environment.

Download our Free Guide on how to choose the best onboarding software to help you deliver a world-class onboarding experience by clicking on the link below

Free guide to choose the best onboarding software

Outdated new employee onboarding checklists and programs often result in employee retention issues and staff turnover, According to Gallup only 12% of new hires state that their company does a good job of onboarding, strange when we think of how much we are investing in hiring the same people. With social distancing and remote onboarding, it is even harder for HR and managers to give a consistent and good onboarding experience to new employees.

Why do some new hires fail during onboarding while others succeed?

We spend a lot of time and resources on finding the perfect new person for our company, yet paradoxically, a lot of companies invest minimally when it comes to the onboarding experience of their future employees once the contract is signed. We think of the recruiting process as nature and the onboarding process as nurture. A person you hire comes with a certain “nature”, experience, capabilities, and personal skills, but the onboarding experience is where we have an opportunity to nurture the person into our culture, mindset or a given skill set/and role. Both are equally important for a successful employee onboarding program, so let’s have a look at how to overcome the challenges of mastering both areas. The employee onboarding process in most organizations has for too long been overlooked and outdated or left to local managers or a busy HR department with no one really owning the onboarding process. "Death by PowerPoint" during new hire orientation day or sending an onboarding checklist to hiring managers once and hoping they follow it years later, often results in employee retention issues and staff turnover. 

Overcoming the Challenge of Remote Onboarding

Finding good ‘employee-to-job fit’ is more difficult than ever in the current climate where so much employee communications have moved online to platforms like Teams, Zoom, or Workplace by Facebook. Put yourself in the shoes of the new employee to remember the anticipation, nerves, and loneliness most new hires experience when entering a new organization. Such emotions are only heightened in a world where it’s more difficult to meet face-to-face and interact with others during your first time in a new job. Now more than ever the nurture part of hiring is critical to ensure successful employee onboarding, and happy employees. But what does nurturing look like in a virtual world? Most companies already have digital learning platforms and one-size-fits-all e-learning systems, however, many such systems fail to meet the needs and expectations of today’s incoming employees.

Science-based Onboarding is More Important Than Ever

According to Talya Bauer Phd, the foremost authority on employee onboarding who authored the widely used 5 C’s (now 6) of Onboarding, for new hires onboarding is so much more than the paperwork or the Compliance. It is vital for the socialization of people in the Culture, building meaningful Connections, developing employee Confidence, and Clarification throughout the onboarding process. Check back is the latest addition to her framework, and it is all about listening to the new hires and continuously improving the experience over time.

Is Your Employee Onboarding Process Failing?

Companies that lack a structured and science-based onboarding process perform worse on important metrics like employee engagement, time to productivity. According to survey results from staffing agency Robert Half & Associates 22% of new hires that quit, do so within the first 45 days. Even more critical is the turnover in deskless and hourly workforce where a study by Krauss, A. D. (2010) showed that 50% of hourly workers quit within 120 first days.

According to SHRM, 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding experience, Clearly, it hurts the bottom line to leave your employee onboarding to chance!

Inconsistent onboarding process or a ‘sink or swim’ mindset for your new hires has never worked well, but in today’s landscape, this type of approach to onboarding can be detrimental and may result in new hires feeling overwhelmed and alone. This is especially true for experienced hires who in such circumstances come to miss the safety net of co-workers to lean on from previous jobs.

Onboarding Experience is at an All-Time Low

Through our research of recent new hires who had recently started their new job in restaurants, call centers, and offices, we learned that employee onboarding experience is at an all-time low due to social distancing and work from home.

You too have probably experienced that onboarding employees are much harder with the recent changes in how we work and interact. A significant part of onboarding happens by people interacting with each other. With many employees working from home or being onboarded remotely, we need more standardized onboarding processes that take each new employee through one, consistent and engaging onboarding experience that motivates the new employee, and ensures they are seen and properly followed upon by others. This way we can build productive employees who instantly feel as if they are part of the organization.

Download our Free Guide on how to choose the best onboarding software to help you deliver a world-class onboarding experience by clicking on the link below

Free guide to choose the best onboarding software

The Good News

A poor onboarding process is not affecting the unwanted turnover typical in the first months as much as it was before the pandemic. Employees and the organizations know they are in strange times, expectations to onboarding in 2020 are low. At the same time, this is also an opportunity to go above and beyond to improve your new employee experience.

It doesn’t have to take much. Sending a new employee welcome kit from their co-worker or meeting their manager and co-workers for a Zoom- lunch on the first day are examples of small efforts that can make a big impact when expectations are low.

The Bad News

Poor onboarding experiences often boils down to simple things like failure to assign responsibility for a new hire’s success. Managers don’t know what to do or are too busy. HR also lags behind in terms of adapting and upgrading onboarding processes to ensure they are in line with today’s expectations and organizational needs. The outcome is that new employees often are left to their own devices, trying to navigate new territory with no clear map or guidance.

Three key areas that are hurting organizations due to bad remote onboarding:

  1. Unproductive new hires, and time spent getting them up to speed
    • New hires spend a lot of time doing nothing of value or sitting alone with no work to do. 
    • New hires struggle to find help to get work done because they don’t know who to speak with.
    • New hires leaving a bad customer service experience for end customers in the first weeks and months without anyone being there to give them feedback and training
  2. New hires failing and feeling unhappy at work
    • New hires don’t feel a sense of accomplishment due to a lack of on the job learning and support.
    • Finding it hard to succeed at work while feeling like a failure goes both ways, employees feel it, and managers say they made the wrong decision as the person is not independent enough to succeed.
    • New hire work on things that do not result in tangible results for the organization and not directed towards long term success
  3. Culture and employee engagement
    • Lack of community, connection, and socialization for new hires. 
    • A bad start when it comes to culture leads to bad habits that the person will bring with them throughout their life span at an organization.
    • A poor start leads to bad habits that the person will bring with them throughout their life span at an organization.
  4. Lack of clarification, confidence, and connection
    • Recruiters and hiring managers are not good at clarifying the situation, how the company works, and what is expected of the new hires to succeed. Extra important in these different pandemic times.
    • Building confidence is the key to ensuring onboarding success. Small simple tasks that new hires can do on their own have been forgotten and managers have been busier. This leaves new hires with no work or work they are not able to do.
    • Connection is lacking as employees are not feeling like part of their team, do not know about (or believe in) the company mission. This usually happens when they have not been properly introduced to their new co-workers and the company story in the pre-boarding and first weeks on the job.

Quick Pro Tips for Great New Employee Onboarding

  1. Automation is key: HR and hiring managers should not spend their time sending a lot of information manually to each new hire in order to give them the best onboarding experience. Without clear communication onboarding often fails. Sending the right message at the right time and doing so automatically is the secret to success. According to the internal communication company, Poppulo 50% of management emails are not opened by people that work behind a desk and 70% of emails are not opened in deskless workforces. Imagine if you could push onboarding information to new hires, managers, and other onboarding stakeholders in the channels they use most and use software that can automate it for you.
  2. Actionable tips by using automation of onboarding:
    • Send a CEO video to all new hires so they get more invested in the mission of the company in the critical pre-boarding phase.
    • Use SMS during pre-boarding and chat messages in the employee communication platform, because if no one reads the messages you might as well not have sent it.
    • New hires have a lot of questions and some of them might be embarrassing to ask. Is it allowed to date a colleague? What happens if I am late to work? What is the dress code? Information overload happens when sending a long e-mail with too much info. Imagine if you could send bite-sized messages over time to ensure that employees actually retain the information. You could also use an onboarding chatbot in Workplace from Facebook, Microsoft Teams, or Slack where new hires can get answers quickly.
  3. Use a Science and Data-Based Approach: Implementing the 6 C's of onboarding framework and onboarding process is key to ensure onboarding success. According to a study by Brandon Hall Group in 2015 Companies with the top maturity level in employee, onboarding are twice as likely to increase employee engagement versus companies that focus with a lower level of maturity.
    • Build Confidence and connection by giving new hires simple tasks like introducing themselves in Workplace from Facebook or Microsoft teams as part of their onboarding process. Their colleges will greet them and create a social bond, even if done remotely.
    • Clarify the work, progress, and ensure the new hire is aware of what is expected of them. Good habits are created early on!
    • What gets measured gets managed. It can be scary to learn how little employees absorb the critical first weeks, but measuring feedback from new hires onboarding experience creates a culture of caring for your employees. Over time it compounds and impacts your employer branding, engagement, and productivity.
  4. Support managers with the right software: Don’t leave the full burden of employee onboarding to the HR department, make it easy for managers to become onboarding superheroes as well. Develop easy ways to ‘pass the baton’ to the new hire’s manager and help your managers with automated nudges and check-in points throughout the process.
    • Creating a buddy system for your new hires where the senior employees take more responsibility for helping the new employees during onboarding.
    • Get the software to handle the time consuming and boring tasks from the manager’s shoulders, like giving employees access to the right tools, do online intro courses and paperwork.
    • Lunch with managers early days is important for employees to feel a connection, in today's work environment you can nudge managers by (automating) a message 10 days before the start to remind them to send a gift to their house. Imagine the fuzzy feeling the new manager and organization give the new hires when the whole family of the new hire experiences that their new job has taken the time to send a package through mail, it does not take a lot to create engaged employees when expectations are low.

Become an onboarding superstar!

Join our 4-part email course:
HOW TO BUILD A WORLD-CLASS ONBOARDING PROCESS