Frontline workforce management, part three - effective onboarding

In this edition of our series on the frontline workforce, we are focusing on the onboarding process and how you can effectively get new hires set for success in your company. The helpful tips and best practices we provide aim to help you rethink how you engage with your frontline workers within today’s changing labor landscape.

Authors: Cesar Fernandez Giove, Kuber Madhok, William Li

Published: Last updated:

Future of Operations, Future of Work

DHL worker with manual in hands

In this edition of our series on the frontline workforce, we are focusing on the onboarding process and how you can effectively get new hires set for success in your company. The helpful tips and best practices we provide aim to help you rethink how you engage with your frontline workers within today’s changing labor landscape.

As discussed in the previous edition on successfully recruiting people, the shortage of frontline workers is expected to continue – and even further increase – in the years to come. This makes it more imperative than ever to provide a welcoming onboarding process as a way to retain employees for longer and, surprisingly, achieve higher productivity from each worker.

By having employees who stay and perform well, companies can boost their work culture and morale, and build up their internal talent pool. Additionally, companies avoid the costly process of recruiting and onboarding more employees and can devote their time and resources to other aspects of their business.

Keeping Pace With the Times

You know best what challenges you face when it comes to the frontline workforce: engaging workers so that they identify with the company, coping with a high turnover of staff, and getting the most out of your employees while keeping them satisfied. They have high expectations, want a strong sense of purpose, and want opportunities for moving up the ladder.

Particularly in the logistics industry, where the competition to hire is tough among an ever-shrinking workforce, the pressure to keep employees with the company is enormous. At the same time, e-commerce is continually breaking records as more and more consumers buy goods online. This makes it even more difficult for companies to effectively onboard and train new employees.

However, onboarding is a crucial factor to every company’s success across all industries today. According to Glassdoor, a US website for employer reviews and insights, organizations with a strong onboarding process are able to improve their new hire retention by 82 percent. In turn, this means that a negative onboarding experience can lead to new hires jumping ship faster.

But that’s not all. Glassdoor concluded that a strong onboarding process can boost productivity by over 70 percent. When a new hire is welcomed professionally, they have a better feeling about the company and may more strongly identify with it. This, in turn, has an impact on how accepting or enthusiastic they are about their job.

Many companies still have a way to go when it comes to improving the effectiveness of their onboarding process. Gallup, a well-known polling company, found that only 12 percent of employees in 2021 strongly agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees. This low number speaks volumes.

Having a Collection of the Right Content

Your onboarding process may involve the standard core components, such as a company introduction to discuss the mission and strategy, administrative paperwork, and policies and procedures that are important to know for safety and getting to know the work environment.

While these are all important aspects and must be included, an onboarding consisting of solely these topics fails to address new employees’ main interests. Which is why leading companies go further, ensuring new employees receive job skills training and understand their development opportunities. At the same time, they also collect information along the way to gauge the effectiveness of their onboarding and continuously improve the experience.

Here Are Some Best Practices for Content That You Can Integrate Into Your Onboarding Process:

  1. Job Skills Training
    Build the core job skills through repetition and practice. Let your new hire build up their knowledge bit by bit and through various skills levels. Particularly in the logistics industry, where there is always work to be performed, consider cross-training your employees from the start so that they can move between departments and enjoy more variety at the same time. When you stress from day one the purpose of their work and why their role specifically is important, your new hire may have a stronger consciousness for quality.
  2. Professional Development Opportunities
    Show your commitment to your new hire’s upskilling and professional development by directly communicating their training and advancement opportunities, their potential career paths, and any additional benefits that can help them along the way, such as school tuition reimbursement. Success stories from current employees serve as testimonials to underscore that the topic takes priority within the company.
  3. Cultural Development
    Encourage a strong bond between the company and the new employee, and among the frontline workforce in general. By instilling the purpose, culture, and values of the company into the team and by explaining how each team member can help bring those to life, you can help to build a strong sense of belonging.
  4. Onboarding Effectiveness
    Collect feedback from employees throughout the onboarding process so that you can understand what works and what doesn’t work. Analyze the input to gain insights into where you can take action and improve the experience in the future.

Delivering the Right Content in the Right Way

It is important to keep in mind that onboarding content is only as effective as its delivery to new employees. After examining onboarding processes across companies, we have identified two key principles that leading companies follow to ensure their content is delivered with maximum effectiveness:

Onboarding is most effective when new employees …
… are engaged. Create fun ways to teach and test knowledge, like performing interactive exercises and leveraging competitions for prizes. If you have a system of various skills levels, offer an incentive for reaching the next level. Include team-building exercises to create a sense of connection and belonging, and involve management.

…feel heard. Encourage a culture of listening. Leave plenty of time for questions throughout the onboarding to promote a welcoming environment where new employees feel safe asking questions. Embed group discussions in special sessions, and collect feedback from them using surveys. Provide access to support networks and exposure to leadership early on. Follow-up afterwards along the employee’s journey with the company.


In light of the continuously changing market, the challenges of onboarding will continue into the foreseeable future. This is especially true of the logistics industry, where record-breaking demand and labor shortages are expected to persist well into the future. The companies with an effective onboarding process that focuses on the right content and delivers it in an engaging and collaborative way will profit from greater success in retaining employees and in achieving higher productivity.

Up next…

The next edition of our series on the frontline workforce will focus on the next step within the employee life cycle: management. We’ll show you how digitalization of the workforce, the importance of frontline leaders, and New Work is changing how employees will work in the future.

Are there any challenges or solutions you are experiencing with your frontline workforce? Contact us if you like, and if your topic is relevant on a larger scale, we may arrange for a special interview with you and present what you have to say in this blog.

Are there any other topics that interest you? Let us know! Share your ideas and opinions with us, and tell us what topics you would like for us to cover in upcoming articles.

Get in touch with us

Jana Koch – Partner and Future of Work Lead, DHL Consulting

Matthias Vollmert – Partner and Future of Operations Lead, DHL Consulting

Cesar Fernandez Giove – Associate Partner, DHL Consulting Americas

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