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July 11, 2022
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 min read

Onboarding Should Be a Quest Not a Journey

Doing this will allow you to unlock the true benefit of onboarding a new starter

Onboarding Should Be a Quest Not a Journey

Good onboarding is a two way process. From a new employees point of view onboarding is all about feeling at home in their new surroundings, up to speed with why, how and what they need to do to be successful at their new company. For the employer, the true benefit that comes from onboarding comes from the fresh perspective a new employee brings. Fresh perspective is a key ingredient to innovation and improvement.

Therefore, onboarding should not be seen as a race for the new starter to deliver results but rather a time for them to ask questions, gain understanding and offer new ideas to help their new employer improve. Not only does this improve the experience of a new starter due to lower pressure to instantly perform, it also allows for more meaningful and constructive conversations to take place across the board.

Freedom is Key

Alongside new perspective, freedom is the other key to unlocking the true benefit of onboarding a new employee. Rigidly sticking to a pre-defined onboarding journey may re-train the employee to do things in a way that their new employer feels is right, but it will not enable new ideas and improvements to be brought to the table.

This is where the idea of a quest not a journey makes sense to us. Put simply, even if the end goals are the same, a journey has a defined route and a quest has an open route. Quests give the freedom to take the correct path for the protagonist, and new starters should absolutely be the protagonist of their onboarding. To unlock this true benefit of onboarding, we need only give our new starter a goal, a map and the tools they need to achieve it.

Obviously, this goal will be different from their normal expected outputs when they’re into the swing of working at the company. This is all about making the most of their perspective and enthusiasm, it’s all about adding internal value and not external results. A 1% improvement to the company as a whole will deliver far more long term value than focusing on how quickly they can put a new deal on the board.

Here’s how it looks at Orbit:

The Goal

The onboarding goal we set our new starters is simple:

💡 ‘How could orbit be an even better employer, customer or supplier?’ 💡

The Map

Our map is our ‘Orbit Brain’. I went into a lot of detail about our ‘Orbit Brain’ in my last article ‘Why Everyone Should Build Their Own Central Operating System’ - which has been described as ‘great’ by people who probably don’t want to hurt my feelings. Put simply, our ‘Orbit Brain’ is a single source of truth ensuring consistent information to all who need it. All the information you could possibly need to complete your onboarding quest is in there, laid out in a visually engaging and easily digestible way.


Each new starter at Orbit gets their own personalised onboarding dashboard when they start, acting as their guide. It has easy access to all the tools at their disposal (more on those later) it also gives them context and direction of what they’re about to embark on. This is introduced to them in their welcome presentation (the only presentation they’ll have to sit through) and from then on their onboarding is in their hands.

I know what you’re thinking - how can you only have one presentation in a whole onboarding process??? Well I would counter that question with two questions of my own:

  1. How many times have you asked to be sent the slides at the start of a presentation because you know full well that you’re not going to take in most of the stuff they say?
  2. How many times have you actually read through slides someone has sent through after a presentation?


We find that people learn best we given the autonomy to learn in their own way, at their own pace. We want our people to discover rather than be told; not only does this enable better information retention, but it also helps formulate new ideas for improvement and innovation.

Going back to the goal for a second: we ask our new starters how we could improve as an employer, customer or supplier. Obviously, there’s no way of doing this without really understanding who we are, what we do and why we do it. It’s a quest for the truth, something you’re really not able to find if you’re fed a pre-defined message on a pre-defined journey. It requires the freedom to discover who the company is for yourself.

The Tools

The right tools will help our new starter on their onboarding quest of improving us as a company, here are some of the tools they have at their disposal both inside and outside the ‘Orbit Brain’:

Process Flows & Knowledge Hub

Discovering what we do, how we do it and why is the first step in the onboarding quest. Our Orbit Brain is full of resources to help our new starter discover everything they can about us. This includes process flows for each area of the business, masterclasses on key skills, industry insights, tech knowledge and much more.


We are a team of people who are consistently trying to improve. Discussing ideas with our new starters, showing working and going into the ‘why’ behind things is a great way of sparking new ideas. A new starter challenging what they’re learning about the business will help ensure we are doing things in the right way and identifying improvements where needed.

Ride Alongs

See how others do things is an ideal way to learn new techniques and spot nuances that could help new starters improve their approach. It’s also a good opportunity for feedback for our existing team, enabling the fresh perspective new starters bring to highlight any areas that could be improved going forward.

Role Plays

Role playing and red teaming are great ways of improving our chances of get things right first time by helping us practice the the ability to think clearly under pressure. Investing time in practicing everything they’re learning as well as trying new ideas and innovations they’ve come up with during their onboarding quest will pay huge dividends in the future.

Live Scenarios

You can’t get match fit without playing in matches, the sharpness in the mind that comes from live situations cannot be matched in training so we see all live situations as ways to improve as well as get the job done. The new starter has the control as to when they feel they’re ready to approach live situations, which usually depends on how they learn best as an individual.


We love feedback, it’s the best way to find areas we can improve. We want 2 way feedback to happen as often as possible in order to improve both ourselves and the company as a whole. The last thing we want is for people to dread feedback, this is why we’ve implemented the following feedback process:

  1. Ask if they want feedback
  2. If they do then ask them what they’d do differently if they were to do it again
  3. Ask them what they think your feedback is going to be

(usually they’ve already identified the feedback you’d give after these two questions)

  1. If they haven’t then give them your feedback

We find this process allows people to own their own feedback experience making it a positive experience rather than a negative one.

Embody Your Values

The idea of an onboarding quest is not right for everyone. For some people, the lack of a clearly defined path would probably scare them to death. We know we’re not for everyone and we’re okay with that. However, for the right people, the onboarding quest will give them a far better understanding of us as a company, allowing them to add so much more value that a simple journey would allow them to.

Essentially, your onboarding process needs to embody your values and who you are as a business and help new people coming into your business truly understand what living those values means. For us we need people with the curiosity to come in and discover who we are, the competitiveness to want to keep asking for feedback to improve themselves, and the creativity to come up with credible new ideas. Most of all the we want new starters to care about making Orbit a better employer, customer or supplier.

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