Getting up to speed at Telstra

by 11 Jun 2010

Effective inductions and onboarding play a vital role in improving the efficiency, effectiveness, productivity and engagement of new employees. HR Leader looks at how Telstra goes about onboarding and details some of the associated benefits

As companies are lifting hiring freezes and picking up steam after the GFC, it is vital that they get new employees up to speed as quickly as possible.A global survey conducted by the Aberdeen Group recently found that 67 per cent of companies considered to have “best-in-class” induction and onboarding programs commence the process for new full-time employees upon acceptance of the employment offer.

However, in another survey conducted by Taleo last year, less than half of organisations are satisfied with the onboarding process at their company, while more than half said onboarding was an inconsistent process across their organisation.

Telstra’s experience

Like most companies, Telstra is keen to increase the engagement levels of its new starters with a view to improving long-term retention levels, according to Josephine Thompson, manager of resourcing at Telstra.

“We wanted to increase the ownership of customer excellence for all new starters and to enable them to drive their own onboarding experience, by telling them what they should expect when they join,” she explains.

“We also wanted to streamline and simplify the onboarding basics for hiring managers, to ensure that the real detractors of a great first day experience were removed. This might be as simple as ensuring new starters have a desk, a computer and someone to meet and greet them on the first day.”

Setting objectives

The company’s corporate HR team worked in conjunction with its HR representatives in the business to review and improve the induction and onboarding process, with a number of goals in mind.

“We needed to build something that was user friendly and engaging, as we wanted our new starters to access this prior to commencement,” Thompson explains.

“We also wanted something that was intuitive and interesting, enabling our new starters to find the information they were looking for.”

The process also needed to be easily accessible prior for new hires prior to their commencement, which meant a web-based solution accessible outside the company’s firewall. Thompson says the solution also had to work pre- and post-commencement, so new starters could use it once they were on board, in a way that broke down the information into manageable chunks, so new employees could understand what they needed to know one week, one month or three months into the job.

Fundamentals of the onboarding portal

The result is Telstra’s onboarding portal,, which has now been active for eight months.

Thompson says it provides an interactive and stimulating learning environment for new starters prior to their commencement, and following its first review, it was found that approximately 80 per cent of all new starters visit the site and spend an average of two to three minutes on each section. The most popular sections are: “what to expect”; “day 1 and beyond”; “our customers”; “what we do”; and “our culture”, Thompson adds.

The site is aligned with Telstra’s employment brand and is able to provide current, relevant and consistent corporate messaging, she says.

The site employs video, text and interactive elements, and also uses storytelling to support the learning experience, by way of videos of employees’ stories.

“It was also built as a portal for our existing intranet content, successfully pulling together all the relevant links for a new starter into one easy-to-digest format. So it also serves as a central reference for hiring managers as to what our new starters will expect,” Thompson says.

Business benefits

The portal is “hitting the mark against our original objectives”, says Thompson, who recently conducted focus groups and surveys of all new starters over the past eight months.

Candidates reported an increased understanding of the whole of Telstra – not just the part they are joining – as well as an increased understanding of customers and how employees do impacts on delivering customer service.

New started also felt an increased sense of belonging and engagement because they know a little bit more of what Telstra does and how the company goes about its business, as well as an increased uptake of benefits and level of awareness.

“New starters have been able to understand their role faster. This is translating into some early signs of improved productivity,” says Thompson, who adds that most of this is anecdotal feedback at the moment from the focus groups.

“HR benefit is also clearly an increased sense of belonging. It is too early to tell if this translates into retention in the first 12 months, but the early signs are positive.”

Onboarding advice from Telstra

Define onboarding for your company, as there is a lot of confusion about onboarding and induction and the roles and responsibilities of the different players involved.

Ensure you map the "as is" very carefully and ensure that the business need and objectives are clearly identified, both from a delivery of content perspective and a "basics" perspective.

Define what you want to measure and ensure that you build this into your plan.

Ensure you factor in the ongoing maintenance and updating of information, as this is approximately 40 to 50 per cent of a person's role. When building a content rich site, the ongoing maintenance to ensure it is fresh and relevant can be very time consuming.

Understand and manage your stakeholders well. When you are providing information on all aspects of the company you have a large number of stakeholders all of whom have needs and objectives.

Be prepared for this to take longer than you thought. There are a huge number of stakeholders, not just HR.

Source: Josephine Thompson, manager of resourcing, Telstra

Top tips: building an online induction program

1. Design your induction module in small chunks. Then the new starter can complete the process at times that work for them.

2. Don't think of your induction as a "one off" event. Blend it with face-to-face activities and on-the-job tasks to make it real and engaging.

3. Prioritise induction activities and set up checklists of tasks according to "first steps" and "next steps".

4. Weave in messages about company culture. This is a great opportunity to set a positive first impression and help establish values and expectations.

5. Make the content relevant and meaningful by getting real staff members to tell actual stories.

6. Find a way to introduce new staff to senior executives and stakeholders. Whether it's via video or in person, it can be a great for the new starter way to get a sense of the history and culture.

7. Finally, make sure your new starter feels valued as a new member joining a growing and dynamic organisation.

Source: James Fordham, Savv-e. Email: