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the Learning Awards : OnBoarding Programme of the Year Awards - Greater Anglia


Greater Anglia provides train services across the East Anglia region and beyond. We are part of a wider transport group, Abellio Transport Holdings, who operate bus, tram and rail networks throughout Europe.

In the UK, we currently employ over 3,000 people and currently we make between 200-300 new hires each year. Our resourcing teams are focused on delivering high-quality hires, where the new recruit is not only great at what they do, but has already bought into our business, is keen to get started and is a good culture fit. So, it makes sense to us to ensure that once someone has accepted a role with us, that we continue that fantastic candidate experience through their on-boarding, induction and new starter process.

With this in mind we underwent a complete review of our attraction, recruitment, on-boarding and induction programme. To deliver a single candidate-focused approach to getting the right people into the right jobs in the most enjoyable and effective way possible. Using technology, events and one-to-one contact to ensure that everyone joining Greater Anglia is always fully informed, engaged and made to feel at home.

The whole process took nine months to implement with many members of the Great Anglia team working weekends to deliver it. Because as a team we knew that we wanted to put something in place that would make a significant difference to our business.

Since the launch of our new candidate experience in 2016, we have received over 12,500 applications to join Greater Anglia. Of these 260 were successful, hired and invited to join the on-boarding process. While we are still at the very beginning of this change process we’re already seeing some pretty impressive results and the feedback from candidates has been better than we anticipated.

Key challenges in the approaches adopted

As you would expect for a train service provider we recruit for a wide variety of roles, from drivers to depot operatives, customer service agents to train presentation professionals, engineers to information technology specialists. This diverse audience means that our processes must take into account how are target audiences will access any of the information we wanted to share with them.

Working with our applicant tracking system partner, HARBOUR, we developed a process that not only made best use of the technology, but then supported this with an on-boarding and induction programme that was built very much around the needs of the individual.

Part one. Getting the right people to the right jobs

- A new careers website. We talked to our target audiences and asked them what they wanted to see on a careers website. The result is a site that is simple to navigate, full of compelling and interactive content and great at converting visitors to applications.
- Our career matcher tool. By answering a series of questions the candidate is directed towards the vacancies that we believe they would be best suited to.
- Video job descriptions. We created a series of short videos that can be embedded into a job posting and really bring the vacancy to life. The videos were produced internally by upskilling our colleagues, saving money and making them more authentic.
- A new applicant tracking system. We partnered with HARBOUR to deliver a high-quality recruitment experience where both email and SMS messages are used to keep the candidate aware of the status of their application. It is also integrated with our online psychometric assessment platform.
- A candidate-centric approach. Alongside the technology that we are using to support our process, we are also committed to contacting everyone within ten days of their application. And we’re not talking about an automatic email, but direct contact from one of our resourcing team.

Part two. Getting great applications from great people

- Online chat. We’ve worked with Meet and Engage to offer a live chat option for people looking to find out more about a particular aspect of the role or our business.
- Online assessments. These replaced the old paper-based assessment process that would often add seven days to the process simply because all communication was conducted by post.
- Tailored assessment. Because of the large number of online assessments available to us, we can now tailor the online assessment tests to match the skills and demands of the role the candidate is applying for.
- Video interviewing. This is now available to hiring managers who wish to remotely interview candidates, complete with an online booking system. The outcome of these interviews is then fed into HARBOUR.

Part three. Giving great people to keys to the kingdom

- A personalised on-boarding platform. The new starter’s site experience is personalised based on the role that they have accepted. The user is welcomed with videos from the CEO, their department head and even the on-boarding programme partner. All designed to engage the new starter as soon as they log in.
- Completing essential forms online. The documents made available and the forms that they need to complete are specific to that person. They can even upload a photograph that will later be used on their ID card.
- Automatic updates to human resources and IT. The system is set up to notify the relevant departments to ensure that the correct uniform, payroll details, technology and systems are available to the new starter on their first day.
- Online chat. Again, we’ve used Meet and Engage to offer new starters a live chat platform to talk to our dedicated on-boarding programme partner.
- An online forum. We’re able to set up message boards for each induction group and encourage them to get to know each other even before they meet for their three-day induction course.


Candidates have been very positive about the speed and clarity of the process. The seamless integration between the application system, the online assessment process and the on-boarding website have been particularly popular. As even though in reality they are powered by a number of different platforms, from a candidate’s point of view it is just one single journey. And of course, candidates can move through the entire process using whatever device they want. Desktop, tablet or smartphone. No need for printing. No need for postage.

The results we’ve seen are really encouraging. You can see some of the highlights here.

And the candidate feedback has been excellent. Particularly around the new induction programme.

“The induction programme was great. Highly interactive and much better than I was thinking it would be. Definitely not boring! The whole programme was good. Everything was clear, understandable and easy to catch. Lauren is a great person to welcome new starters into Greater Anglia.”


The past twelve months have seen a sea change in the way that we on-board new starters. What was previously an email, post and PowerPoint-driven system that saw people regularly dropping out of the process, has been replaced by a people-focused approach that is centred around delivering a great candidate experience.

It has been an incredibly rewarding journey building a recruitment process that is based on direct engagement with job seekers and offering the best possible experience. We have found that it helps the candidate form a strong affinity with our brand and values. It is helping build our reputation as a great employer. And we know it is working because in the past 12 months we have received over 27,000 more direct applications with no increase in advertising spend and a 30% increase in the number of assessments completed per role

While establishing the new recruitment process did require investment, we believe that in the last twelve months though the savings achieved by reduced agency spend, postal costs, travel reimbursement for candidates and general efficiencies we’ve already seen a 56% return on our initial investment.

While our new on-boarding programme is absolutely focused on getting the right people into the right jobs, its impact stretches way beyond recruitment. It is helping us build a strong recruitment proposition based on being people-focused and approachable. It is helping us reduce our attraction costs and increase our ability to keep hold of great people. It gives us a platform to continuously improve the way that we engage with new starters even before they even through the door on their first day. It is making the process more efficient. More enjoyable. And helping new starters quickly feel part of the Greater Anglia family.

“Very interesting. I enjoyed the games and co-operation tasks, and particularly the site visits. I thought the sessions were interesting and gave a good introduction to the company. One of the best inductions I've attended. Well done Lauren!"


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