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Creating your first onboarding campaign for new hires

Photo by rachel baskerville on Unsplash

Someone new has agreed to join your company, and they’ve signed your offer letter. You’re thrilled! You’re going to spend the next few weeks focusing on making sure their first day is a great one, prepping their onboarding materials, and making sure they’re ready to “hit the ground running.”

While you’re running around getting ready for the newbie, are you aware of how they could be feeling?

They’re probably excited, sure, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have questions or concerns. Why not help them get more comfortable and prepared for day one before day one?

Enter: a new hire onboarding campaign!

What’s that? It’s a collection of information to prepare your new coworker to join the company.

Why does it matter? It keeps new folks engaged and informed while they make their transition to their new team! They’ll naturally have a lot of questions — why wait ’til the first day?

How do you create one? Start simply. Start manually. Outline and organize the information you’d like to share in Google Docs. You can use a simple Gmail add-on like “Canned Responses” to save, edit, and insert copy snippets into your emails. Gradually, you could start to automate your process by using an email automation tool (I use because I work there 💅🏻).

When does the onboarding campaign begin? I trigger mine as soon as the offer letter is signed. A typical notice period of employees in the US is ~2–3 weeks, so during those first 1.5 weeks the email campaign is sending (more on this later).

What type of information should you add to your new hire onboarding campaign?

This is going to be specific to your company and how/where you operate (co-located, remote, a mixture?), but I can tell you how I got started.

Think about the frequently asked questions of your new hires. If you don’t know — ask your hiring managers. What are people asking them about their first day, week, month? Are there any common themes you can pull from these questions to start creating content?

One example might be: You work as a remote team, so new hires like to know where everyone is located and how we all stay connected.

Or: How should I dress? What time do people normally arrive at the office?

Or maybe: How does expense reporting work? When does my health insurance go into effect?

Don’t put the responsibility on new hires to figure out what to ask. Bring them as much relevant, valuable information as you can to improve their experience with you and ultimately make them more successful, faster.

Reduce the jitters

Joining a remote company can be stressful without the face-to-face interaction and immediate human connection you get with co-located teams.

Think about how it felt to join your company — what freaked you out? What put you at ease? Ask your coworkers how their experience was, and then ask every single new hire for feedback after their first week (or so).

Co-located teams can benefit from an onboarding campaign too. Help reduce stress by giving Day 1 instructions well in advance, like parking/transit tips, directions, coffee and lunch spots, etc.

When I think back to joining co-located teams, my first days were full of TONS of new faces. Inevitably, I forgot most of their names. Share your org chart early on, and highlight specific people that they can go to during their onboarding for help and guidance.

Message 3

I mentioned that the goal of your onboarding campaign is to share relevant information with your new hires, so that during their transition period they feel engaged, excited, and prepared to join your company. But there’s a fine line between sharing all-the-things and keeping it directed and valuable.

By using a drip campaign, literally dropping relevant pieces of info into someone’s inbox one day at a time, you avoid the whole drinking-from-a-fire-hose feeling. You don’t want to ignore your new hires, but you don’t want to overwhelm them either.

Let’s get practical. What’s my new hire onboarding campaign look like?

  • Message 1: “How you’ll make better” (Short job summary and our org chart)
  • Message 2: “How we’ll support you” (Overview of our benefits and perks)
  • Message 3: “Where in the world” (Group photo, map, our definition of “remote-first” culture)
  • Message 4: “Can I…?” (FAQs: PTO policy, how we work remotely, when we work/schedules/collaboration, getting to know your coworkers in a remote environment)
  • Message 5: “Your first days, weeks, and months” (Brief overview of the tools we use to do our work, communicate and collaborate)
  • Message 6: “How did we get here? And where are we going?” (Company history and milestones by year)
  • Message 7: “Our Core Values” (Company core values and how they show up in our work)
  • Message 8: “Our product” (A demo video of our product for new hires to watch)
Message 8

Is this campaign perfect? Absolutely not. Can I easily make changes to it because it’s already set up? Heck yes! Your campaign will look very different, but it’ll be right for what’s important to your company, your managers, and your new hires.

Besides the campaign itself, I have other message templates that are important to the onboarding process:

  • Template 1: Intro to our Business Operations Specialist — I introduce them to the person who is responsible for purchasing their laptop and office equipment, expense reporting, and coordinating travel to and from our company retreats. I send this one after an offer letter is signed, too.
  • Template 2: Sign in to your company email for the first time — this message includes instructions to access their work email for the first time. This message will also invite them to their individual Onboarding Basecamp, but I’ll save that info for another post. I send this just a few days before their start date.
  • Template 3: A Slack notification to announce the new hire — this message alerts current team members that a new person is starting and some basic info: first name, location, job title, and start date. This message is actually triggered before the Message 1 in my previous list, but since it’s an internal notification I am including it here instead.
internal notification setup via’s Slack Action
what it looks like in Slack

A case for automation…

**If you haven’t yet created your onboarding email campaign, just skip this section! Start with the basics; organize your content and manually share your message templates until you’re ready for the next step.**

You won’t be able to focus on all the other coordination and preparation of your new hire before they start if you can’t get your onboarding messages automated. Once you’ve filled in the attributes of your new hire and have triggered the messages, you should be able to let it run and move on to other things.

Part of what makes setting up an onboarding campaign fun is the customization.

Before triggering your campaign, you can plug in attributes that are specific to your new hire: first name, start date, title, team/department, manager name, location, timezone (to send messages at the right time), work anniversary date, to name a few. Use all this information to personalize your message.

For example, I don’t need to share information about the expense reporting app that North American employees use with people outside of that region. In my campaign, I can create dynamic content that will adjust itself automatically depending on a new hire’s attributes.

part of Message 1

The new hire’s attributes “title”, “job_snippet” (job summary), and “team” are different from person to person. These placeholders allow me to build the basic structure of my emails, with the details inserted later, when I’m ready to start sending messages.

I think it’s important to deliver these messages during a time when your new coworker will most likely open it. My workflow starts with my internal Slack notification, so I want to send it during the work week only (so that my coworkers will see it!), but the rest of my workflow sends messages only to the new hire, so any day of the week is fine, but I only send between 8am and 8pm in their own timezone.

delivery windows & timezones

Your onboarding campaign will remind your new coworker of how excited you are for them to join. You really are, but you have a lot of other work to do behind the scenes to prepare for their arrival — ordering equipment, organizing product training, coordinating all of the ordering and training and onboarding with the rest of your team!

Start by thinking about what information was important to you to know before you started. Maybe it’s logistics, more information about the people at the company, or a combination of the two. Talk to your coworkers to see what their onboarding experience was like, and then pick out themes that immerge from your conversations. Collect these themes and create content that you can share with new hires manually at first. Once you start to understand what information will make someone more comfortable and successful, and you’ve got your templates written, you can start to automate that work that you’ll do for all new hires.

Don’t forget to meet with the new hire after their first or second week to gather some feedback about their onboarding process. One area you two should cover is the campaign itself — was it helpful? how could it be improved?

How do you welcome new people to your company? How to you make sure the information you give is effective? How do you get other people involved in new hire onboarding, too?