What is on-boarding and why does it matter?

12-May-2021 14:49:40 / by The Insurance Institute

The Insurance Institute

Every part of how we do business and how we work has been impacted by the pandemic – and this includes how employees, including apprentices, are hired and on-boarded. The first introductory meeting with the team will now likely take place over zoom, and catch ups over coffees have been replaced with virtual handshakes – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to take on a new hire and do so effectively. In fact, like every other aspect of the pandemic, it’s about changing the approach and looking at new ways to bridge the gap and to ensure a smooth transition.


We’ve included some tips below which should help employers when taking on an apprentice, but much of these can also be applied to any new hire. To on-board successfully employers need to prioritise connection above all else, provide them with plenty of information and resources and ensure they are given opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways – these strategies, which are detailed below, should provide a solid start for any apprentice and will ensure they hit the ground running.


Work from Home Pack

When any new employee starts a job they are shown to their desk and chair, they’re given a laptop or computer and they’re shown where they can get stationary supplies and where the coffee machine might be. In the absence of all of this, it’s important that the apprentice has everything they need in order to effectively work from home. Consideration should be given to a ‘working from home starter pack’ – this should contain their computer and any technology that’s needed, login details, stationery supplies, a list of contacts for various queries – in particular for IT support, and any induction materials, such as the company handbook. It will be important to send this pack in advance of their start date so that on their first day they’re ready to go. 

It might also be a nice idea to send them a small ‘welcome pack' at this point too. Perhaps a branded mug for their first cup of coffee with the team and a branded notebook and pen, to make them feel part of the business straight away.

Share an On-boarding Checklist and Timeframe

When any new hire joins a company their first few weeks are usually planned out for them with introductory meetings, training sessions and sharing of materials on the company’s values etc. These are hugely important and allow the new hire/apprentice an opportunity to understand the dynamics in the organisation as well as how the business operates.

To ensure the apprentice’s time is used most effectively in these first few weeks, present them with a timetable on their first day so that they have a clear understanding of what sessions they need to attend and what essential paperwork etc. needs to be completed. This gives the apprentice clear objectives for their first few weeks and allows them some breathing space to understand better the culture of the organisation.

Connection is Key

Above all else, the relationships an apprentice builds within the business will be the most important contributing factor to their success. Strong relationships in work have been shown to help with job satisfaction and fulfilment, and ensure that if an apprentice has an issue or needs help then they have someone they can turn to for advice.
Relationships also help an apprentice to feel part of the team and ensure they know that their contribution is valued. Of course this is more challenging when you’re not able to pop by someone’s desk, or when they don’t have the chance to build these connections in person but there are ways around it.

  • Introductory meeting to team – When the apprentice comes on board it will be important that they know the structures of the teams within the business, and they are able to put faces to names. It’s recommended that an introductory virtual team meeting is scheduled so that they are introduced.

  • Mentor and Supervisor – These relationships for the apprentice, particularly the supervisor, are hugely important for their development and progression. Of course the format of these interactions may have changed, so it’s therefore important that more regular check-ins are scheduled.

  • Virtual Buddy – It would also be worth assigning a an informal virtual buddy – this could be someone who is close in age to the apprentice, maybe someone who has been through the programme already, or someone who is doing a similar role but not on the programme. This person will be tasked with having regular check-ins with the apprentice – they’re conversations don’t need to be formalised (like the Supervisor) and are more around how the apprentice is adapting, if there is anything worrying them, how they are finding the balance of work / study. The buddy could offer advice on how they handled similar situations. This relationship should help the apprentice feel more at ease and comfortable and know that they have a friend/ally within the business.

  • Team Virtual Get-togethers – Lunch time meet ups and after work drinks are a great way for team members to get to know each other and ensure they can create bonds – this obviously can’t happen presently, so consideration should be given to semi regular virtual get-togethers – these should be completely informal, and should be seen as an opportunity for everyone to connect with what’s happening in their lives outside of work. Quizzes, trivia games or lunch and learns are great ways to connect colleagues and ensure the apprentice has an opportunity to get to know everyone.


Be Explicit and Over Communicate

We can sometimes underestimate what can be lost in terms of personal interactions online, versus in person – it can be much easier to know if someone understands what you’re explaining to them in person rather than virtually. Therefore it’s important to be explicit about instructions that you’re giving and double checking that the apprentice understands.
Over communication in terms of engagement about their roles and responsibilities helps the apprentice to understand clearly what is expected of them and it also helps them to hit the ground running, not to mention the more interaction you’re having the less likely the apprentice is to feel isolated or lonely.

Seek out Opportunities for them to Contribute

While there is a benefit to creating a space for apprentices to get up to speed, it’s also vital to provide them opportunities to contribute to the business. Apprentices of course have a lot on their plate with studying and working – not to mention getting to know how a business works, but typically most apprentices want to demonstrate their worth within an organisation. Creating opportunities for apprentices to be involved in various projects and allowing them to contribute in meaningful ways by assigning them tasks will go a long way towards developing their confidence and building a positive early experience.

You can find more information on on-boarding in our useful guide. Download yours today.