Onboarding handbook: A powerful selling point or not?

onboarding handbook, onboarding, onboarding phase, human resources, recruitment, recruitment marketing, employer branding, employee retention, employee engagement

“Familiarity does not breed contempt, anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful. And that is all as it should be.”
― Gertrude Stein

I had a conversation with a colleague of mine a couple of days ago about how everything in life is basically sales, selling a worth or a piece of worth, or just a capitalist definition of a transaction between two goods. I was kind of surprised by the topic because it’s controversial for obvious reasons but was also motivated to write this article mirroring my pragmatic approach to life which absolutely agrees that sales is all around us. In the past I wrote an article about whether recruiters are really defined as employees who recruit people or are just another form of salespeople who cold-approach and offer a company as a product. Then, couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about how a good onboarding phase can basically save a manager’s life. Both topics involve certain sales tactics no matter the agreements or disagreements with those articles but one thing which is clear is that it’s a continuous process and effort. To add onto a good onboarding phase, should a company have a tangible tool which can promote the company culture, in-house procedures, policies and overall perception of the company? The answer to that is an astounding yes from my side because as sales people do, we have to influence a new employee’s perception of the company and help them accommodate themselves in the best possible way. Let’s dive in into some questions; why, how, what.

Onboarding handbook? The why.

As mentioned, a tangible tool for a new employee which can be used for general information about the company they have joined can bring several advantages. First and foremost, it shows structure within the company and possible wide-scale, developed organization throughout the company. Any serious candidate or an employee will deem that quite necessary in order to view the company as a long-term partner. It also shows them how the company is serious or courteous enough for the employee to ease their way into getting to know the company and all its perks. It helps them assimilate faster and learn the cultural appropriation, if there is any. You could even say that by having an onboarding handbook, you sort of humanize more the onboarding phase as a whole, psychologically speaking. Think of it as the same as with a tour guide on any trips/excursions; the participants immediately become more enamored and engaged if some sort of handbook is there to help them familiarize themselves with the topics in question. But how would one go about creating one? Is there a rule to format?

onboarding handbook, onboarding, onboarding phase, human resources, recruitment, recruitment marketing, employer branding, employee retention, employee engagement
Makes it easier to navigate, right?

Onboarding handbook? The how.

There isn’t any special rule in creating an onboarding handbook besides company’s own creativity and a sense for aesthetics. You can easily create the content in the word format, rich in text, pictures and any other media available but the idea is that the content itself is there for making new acquaintances. In the current company, I simply created it as mentioned without any special encasings and just print it out whenever new employees sign the contract. Of course, if the budget allows, the sales principle would say that the more is merrier in this regard so if you really can make it as a book with hard encasings, go for it.

onboarding handbook, onboarding, onboarding phase, human resources, recruitment, recruitment marketing, employer branding, employee retention, employee engagement
Onboarding handbook as a form of a handshake.

Onboarding handbook? The what.

The specifics of the handbook can be treated as in any book, really. It should have the main page which names the document, i.e. something like „Company onboarding handbook“ or „Welcome handbook“; anything that signals hello to new employees. Then, what sends a really good message is the welcome message itself from the board members or a director, some executive in general which can signal the ever-present familiarity withing the company regardless of the status or hierarchy. After that, the table of content is a good thing to have to, again, show some structure and user-friendly approach. The general information within the onboarding handbook doesn’t have any specific rules. Again, it’s entirely up to company’s feeling what they want to put in and communicate to new employees in the beginning. I will list what I have now so it can used as a general guideline:

  • Welcome message from executives
  • Table of content
  • General information about the company’s history, success, future endeavors
  • Working hours, shift hours, flexibility windows
  • Annual leave, benefits programs, internal procedures on the same if any
  • HR consultation hours
  • IT information and helpdesk arrangements
  • General company policies on professional behavior (dignity protection and professional misconduct)
  • GDPR guidelines (if applicable)
  • Guideline on reporting false/stolen/damaged equipment
  • Health & Safety guidelines
  • Termination of contract and offboarding procedure

These can be broken down into more options or combined into just couple of them, as mentioned, depending on what the company wants. This information should be enough for a new employee to become familiarized with anything a new company provides.


As mentioned in the beginning, everything is sales one way or another and having an onboarding handbook helps secure that halo effect in positive terms with the new employees. It’s not a must have, for sure, but it definitely helps the overall credibility and looks from the outside in for the company. It adds onto company structure, initial psychological wellbeing of the new employee and a much faster onboarding/assimilation of the procedures and cultural appropriations.

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