Great Expectations or What the Dickens?

Great Expectations or What the Dickens? – how to keep employees engaged throughout the onboarding process 

“We’re delighted you’ve accepted the offer. Someone will be in touch towards the end of your 3-month notice period to give you day one information. Look forward to working with you.”  

Well that might be okay if you’re able to keep your future employees locked in a cage in your  basement until they start the role, but in the real world of external influences, force majeure, second thoughts, self-doubt, counter-offers and competitor firms’ live jobs, employers need to be much more involved in this critical time between acceptance and start date. 

The 4 types of employee expectations and how to manage them effectively 

When someone accepts an offer with you, there is a moment of elation and relief, followed by a flurry of activity around contracts and references, and then a usually a long period of inaction. The energy and momentum of the interview process wears off, and too often both sides step back and just trust that each other will deliver on their agreement to start working together on the contracted  date. 

So how do you bridge this gap? The answer is to accept that your expectations of the candidate throughout the process have all been met – otherwise you wouldn’t have offered them the job –  but now it’s their turn to have expectations, and you need to address them early on. Generally speaking there are 4 types of expectations that candidates will have of a future employer: 


  • Make sure there is regular contact (every 2-3 weeks to check in at least) with the chosen candidate in order to keep aware of their state of mind and be able to answer any questions or issues that may arise. 
  • Reassure them of their value to the business in this role, and reaffirm the excitement that you and colleagues feel at the prospect of them starting with you. 
  • Be positive in your conversations with them, try to avoid purely email communications, and make them feel that they have made the right decision in joining you. 


  • You have a human being joining your team, so make sure your communications with them are human, clear, warm and engaging. They’ve passed all your tests, there’s no need to be aloof or closed with them. 
  • Give them a clear set of timescales so they know what to expect and when to expect it.  
  • Update them regularly on any company changes or developments, just as you would an existing employee, so they start to feel part of the team. 
  • This is a good time to walk them through the benefits that they will receive when they start. They may need do plan things like train season ticket loans or childcare vouchers etc, so get them thinking positively about all those benefits now whilst they have time on their hands. 


  • In a post-Covid world you will be able to arrange welcome drinks, team lunches and coffee catchups to pass them information in a sociable and inclusive way. 
  • In a current-Covid world you still need to give them those same inclusive and welcoming feelings, but may need to do it with a variety of video calls. Book a series of contact points in their diary so that each week or two they have a chat booked with a key stakeholder, and add in a virtual team lunch or coffee chat with their direct peers. Putting faces to names will really go a long way to make their new job feel real for them as they wait to join. 
  • Pass on all the information you can based on their team’s recommendations. For example, a simple PDF with information about where to buy the best coffee near the office, who does the best lunchtime sandwiches, and where the teams like to have a cheeky pint. You’re allowed to be relaxed and show a human and humorous side now the formal interviews have finished.  


  • Don’t sit back and expect them to hit the ground running on day one. Do everything you can do ease their transition and enable them to perform to their best. 
  • Let the know what tech will be delivered if they are starting remotely, and get IT and other departments to get in touch to walk them through how to get set up on all your systems etc. 
  • Give them some insight into what they can expect on day 1 through to day 100, so they can mentally prepare to achieve. 
  • Give them access to any industry publications or websites or research/product insight so they can start digesting it all, ready for when they start. Making them feel knowledgeable about their new role/company/product will reassure them as well as get them up to speed and thinking like an employee already. 

The conclusion is inclusion 

The reality is that notice periods can be nerve wracking times and you just don’t know who is influencing your new employee during this waiting time. So make sure you can influence them through including them in all the above areas, treat them as human beings with emotions and expectations, and talk to them regularly to start building up rapport on a personal as well as professional level.