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Onboarding *could be* a superpower for SMEs’. Here’s how.

Tags: Candidate Experience, Onboarding, Recruitment Marketing, Recruitment Process, Research and Data

With a way lower ratio of recruiters to new hires than enterprise teams, SMEs are in the perfect position to add personalised, above-and-beyond value to new hires during onboarding. And boost productivity, increase loyalty, and protect retention when it matters most. But many SMEs aren’t capitalising on this innate advantage.

Is onboarding letting your recruitment down? Probably.

Recent research shows that onboarding is the riskiest part of the recruitment process because it’s the time when new employees are most tempted by alternative job offers.

That’s completely counterintuitive, right? 

You’d hope onboarding would be the moment of peak excitement from your new hires. The job hunt is over. They’ve found a brilliant new role and their new career starts here. It’s often nerve-wracking, sure, but this period should also be magical. Filled with potential. 

But those stats show the opposite. And it’s not just this recent research. For years, the period from offer to, say, three months employment has been a time of high dropouts, low productivity, and mismatched expectations:

There’s something very wrong with those stats. 

Especially given that recruitment expert Tony Walton’s analysis shows that most growing businesses are spending somewhere between £12,000 and £20,000 per hire. 

(Tony was formerly Head of Recruitment for Compass Group and is now Managing Director of Talent consultancy Talent Genius. Catch-up on the webinar where we chat to him about challenges scaling your business – or read the write-up here). 

Hiring is a big expense, even when it pays off. When it doesn’t because your new team members stall, underperform, or leave, it’s an unaffordable expense. That’s especially true for budget-tight SMEs that need to make every penny count towards growth. 

That’s where onboarding enters the frame. According to Harvard Business Review:

  • Good onboarding increases new hire productivity by 62%
  • Good onboarding increases new hire retention by 50%

Onboarding isn’t just sending contracts, checking references, and ordering equipment (although getting those things right matters). It’s a major mechanism to give your newest people a brilliant start to life with you, setting them up for career success.

But many smaller businesses struggle here. Even though, rightfully, onboarding should be SME’s superpower.

SMEs have the perfect foundation for great onboarding

There’s stuff that large enterprises do miles better than most small businesses. They’ve got heaps more money and nice robust processes and often better buy-in that all tend to make recruitment easier. 

But there’s also stuff that small businesses blow enterprises out of the water on. One of those things is – or could be – onboarding. 

When you handle recruitment for a growing organisation, the ratio of HR or recruitment headcount to overall headcount is dramatically lower than in an enterprise. 

You might have, say, two people hiring and onboarding 50 people a year. An enterprise might have, say, five people hiring and onboarding 2000 people a year. 

That means small business recruiters have much more bandwidth for each new hire than their counterparts in large organisations. More bandwidth for the human touch.

That should translate into better onboarding experiences. It should mean the basics are done right every time and beyond that, there’s time and space to deliver personalised, one-to-one, high-touch experiences that larger businesses can struggle to make happen. Those memorable, above-and-beyond experiences that work wonders for your employer brand.

But often, it doesn’t. 

Many smaller businesses are dropping the onboarding ball

When you hired five people a year, there’s a good bet onboarding was fantastic (even if you didn’t specifically call it onboarding). 


  • You sent contracts the same day you made a verbal offer
  • Your CEO called personally to welcome them to the business
  • When they arrived, their desk was set-up and ready
  • They were introduced personally to every colleague
  • The whole team went for lunch together on day one
  • They had hours of one-to-one time with their manager
  • They had several informal mentors to help them grow
  • And so on…

But then you started hiring ten people a year. Then twenty. Then fifty. And slowly, the cracks started to appear. Everything starts to take bandwidth you don’t have. 


The big problem is inefficiency. 

If your five-person team hires thousands of people each year, you’ve got efficiency nailed. You have to. 

  • You’ve automated practically everything
  • You use endless templates to make repetitive tasks easy. 
  • You have robust permissions so nobody goes off-piste to cause delays. 
  • You have workflows, alerts and reminders to make collaborating easy. 
  • You have great visibility over candidates, so you know who needs what.

But scaling businesses have often grown before they’ve thought about that stuff. It sneaks up on you, as your team becomes more and more inefficient while being expected to do more and more.  

If that’s you, it’s likely time to start thinking about swapping from spreadsheets to software for recruitment – to capitalise on the same sorts of efficiencies that bigger businesses take for granted.

Then, suddenly, you’re back to having way more recruiter bandwidth than enterprises to deliver an awesome, memorable, personalised onboarding experience. All those superb, above-and-beyond moments are back on the table because you have time for them.


Free your people skills with the right recruitment tech

It can be hard to know when you’re ready to upgrade to recruitment tech. And hard to get budget signed-off, even if you are ready. Onboarding is just one example of the benefits of taking the plunge, helping ensure hiring translates into fantastic new team members who love working with you. Not dropouts, rising costs, and searching questions from leadership.

Ultimately, the right tech for your journey helps you keep accelerating along the right route, with fewer missteps or dead-ends.

Tribepad Gro is ready-built, ready-to-go recruitment software for growing teams. Take your recruitment to the next level. Get your free recruitment diagnostic session with Tribepad consultants Dan and Hayley to learn what could be stalling your growth.

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