Onboarding - Whats working?

5 mins

When the world was thrown into lockdown, many businesses were forced to rethink the traditio...

By Samantha O'Neill

Senior Manager

When the world was thrown into lockdown, many businesses were forced to rethink the traditional office environment and shift to a virtual one... queue Zoom meetings and enough virtual quizzes to last a lifetime.

One of the most affected groups that we have seen this year in recruitment has been the hiring of graduates and school-leavers.

With many businesses frustrated by the lack of physical onboarding, training and concerns of flailing juniors stuck in their bedrooms, it’s easy to see why the next generation of workers have been hardest hit.

Despite that, at Sphere Digital, we have seen many of our clients not only successfully onboard their newest recruits but have built a brilliant remote culture where everyone still feels part of a team that is achieving their goals.

Samantha O'Neill, Senior Manager of our Future Talent team, spoke with some recent graduates and school levers who joined their companies remotely this year about what's working for them and we wanted to share those insights with you.

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Whilst joining a company remotely can seem to intimidating, everyone we spoke to had a positive experience of their onboarding: “It felt unusual, to begin with, but it has taken me less time to adjust than I expected”.


Most graduates and school leavers are tech-savvy. The average person leaving university at 21, would have been 13 years old when the iPhone was released in 2007. That means, there’s little need for training graduates and school leavers in how to use the digital tools you’ve implemented across your company.

When lockdown happened, we heard a lot about baby boomers struggling to use Zoom, and the infamous ‘please mute yourself’ was synonymous with many people in the workplace.

"It’s quite impressive how well a company can function with the use of video chats such as Zoom and Skype. I have been having regular video calls with my immediate managers and they have been sharing their screens during our training sessions which have been very effective."

Luckily, these Gen-Zs are fluent in using all things digital (they’ll probably be teaching us more than we will teach them).

New Skills

One of the most interesting things we found from our survey was the additional skills these graduates, and school-levers are picking up: "Despite being so new to the job, the work has been very autonomous. I find that this approach has actually motivated me to work harder than I may have if I was constantly being checked up on because I want to show that I am being productive and can be a good asset to the company.”

Independence seems to be a common theme, “it’s taught me so many useful skills (like flexibility and self-motivation!) that will come in handy in the future”, and, as many new starters have come straight from education, they’re already versed in how to be organised: "I find it very useful to use google calendar, for example. This helps me to complete all the tasks I set myself for the day and not lose track of my time."

"It's been a smooth transition from student life to work."

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Asking Questions

One of the biggest areas of concern for new starters is who they can turn to when they’re stuck. No longer the simple task of turning to your colleague at the desk, feeling comfortable at asking for help was important for our graduates and school-leavers: "I think the biggest hurdle for me has been the inability to constantly fire away questions whilst I’m learning to carry out new tasks as I would in an office environment if the person was sitting next to me. This is still possible however, I just have to make sure I don’t hesitate to ask as it is a natural part of the learning process, despite feeling a little less natural when working from home."

Those companies that were able to encourage questions appeared to get the most of of their newest recruits: 

"My questions were always answered; my company provides me the comfort to be myself and also lets me figure out how to do things my way."

Building a Culture Remotely

Whilst some of the people we spoke to were still working from the office: "I’ve been in the office 4 days a week and working 1 day from home”, many are still being integrated into a team they’ve never physically met: "It’s been very strange having never met most of the people I’m working with in person, but technology has been amazing at keeping everyone connected during this time!"

What we found from our survey, was the importance of being introduced to multiple people in the team in order to build relationships: "My new team has been really supportive and attentive to make sure that I understand all aspects of my new job role.” Multiple touchpoints across the company were able to replace the 'bumping into someone new in the kitchen' scenario we were previously accustomed to. 

We found that despite the initial concerns over virtual training, everyone was happy to adapt to the new normal: "All the onboarding sessions were done online, with introductions to many different people and departments just like I would have at the office.” The important thing to note here was the follow-ups, are people comfortable reaching out again if they get stuck after the training?

“Virtual social events and constant help from HR have enabled a great onboarding process.”

It’s not been perfect around the board when it comes to building a brilliant culture remotely, “in the current circumstances, I feel that the social aspect of working is really missing, which is understandable”, but everyone we spoke to saw this time as an opportunity and one that they are more than happy to seize.

"I was lucky enough to onboard alongside several other new graduates; we've been able to train alongside each other and this has created a more sociable environment."

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With so much competition and many of the recognisable brands and agencies putting a halt on hiring, there’s never been a better time to snap up some of the best in future talent.

These graduates and school-leavers want experience and aren’t afraid to work their way up: " I have a marketing degree and now work in a trainee marketing role where such a degree wasn't required yet the experience I'm getting is still super relevant."

"You don't need to work for or apply to a recognisable named company, the same vital experience can be gained at any level."

In short, the best talent is ready to begin their career and they want to hear from you.


There’s no denying that with everything that has happened this year, this generation of future talent is grateful for the opportunity and are putting the hard work in: “Now more than ever, I am extremely appreciative to have landed a job.”

They are aware of the competition and are committed to making the most of the opportunity in front of them.

The benefit to you? They will work their socks off to prove it to you!

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At Sphere Future Talent, we are supporting young people to get into work and are here to help! 

If you have any questions about your job search (or are a client looking to hire), please do reach out to our Future Talent team who will be happy to help - futuretalent@spherelondo.co.uk or call 0203 728 2973

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