Creative Onboarding 2

The process of bringing a new employee into the company is a very important one. The sooner a new employee is “connected” with the company, the sooner they are productive. They are also less likely to turnover and leave because they are disappointed with the experience. What does it take to have a successful onboarding experience for you new employees?

It is all about the employee experience

In today’s HR literature, a frequent topic of discussion is the “employee experience.” According to Jacob Morgan, the three parts of employee experience include: the company culture, available technology, and the physical experience. It is so important that companies like Airbnb have rebranded HR as the Department of Employee Experience including the Chief Employee Experience Officer. Now you don’t have to go that far, but you do need to pay attention to these factors as you hire new people.

What is onboarding?

According to Dr. Talya Bauer, “Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.” (Bauer, T. N., & Erdogan., B. (2011). Organizational socialization: The effective onboarding of new employees.) There are various levels of onboarding depending on the level and type of employee. There are informal programs and very formal programs that include extended periods of time that can be months or even a year in length. It all depends on the nature of the job and the company. Dr. Bauer believes that all onboarding should pay attention to four building blocks that she calls the Four C’s: compliance, clarification, culture, and connection. Before we get into these, let’s talk about some earlier steps.

Before you ever talk to anyone

My way of thinking is that the first step in any onboarding process is doing your homework before you ever talk to a candidate. This homework includes:

  1. Having a good and honest job description that an incumbent was involved in writing
  2. Understanding the criteria for success in the job, focusing on strengths, not weaknesses
  3. Understand what you want from a candidate
  4. Understand what your culture is all about

Make sure you don’t engage in “warm-body” hiring. Warm-body hiring is when you hire staff just because you need somebody to fill a slot or make an organization look larger.

Once you have selected a candidate

Once you have decided who your new employee will be, you want to make sure you stay in touch with them, especially if it is going to be more than a week before they start. Once they put their notice in at their current job, they are likely to get counteroffers. There are several things you can do to keep in touch. These include:

  1. Write them a welcome letter.
  2. Send them company paperwork they can complete ahead of time.
  3. Give them an idea of what their schedule will be for the first day, the first week, and beyond.
  4. If they have a position where business cards are appropriate, find out how they want their name to appear and get those cards ordered.

Keeping in touch is important to ward off new hires from changing their minds and succumbing to a counteroffer.

Once they arrive

Day one is usually reserved for the introduction to the compliance piece mentioned above. This is when the paperwork is signed; the badges are made; the photos are taken, and, depending on the position, basic equipment is given. This is the introduction to HR procedures, administrative procedures, and basic safety issues, such as, how to evacuate the building if needed. The new employee is introduced to co-workers and shown their workstation or office. It is not a bad time to reiterate their job description and reinforce what is expected of them, and what they can expect. You will want to answer the questions about timing, rules and when they can expect their first paycheck. This information is the building block of clarification.

The first week

Clarification is important throughout the first week. Encourage them to ask questions, and reinforce the absolutely essential rules that all employees should understand. It is always good for them to have a “buddy” assigned to them. This someone, carefully selected, will provide accurate and positive answers to questions. Depending on the nature of the job they will be doing, you may begin to assign meaningful work to them. In some cases that may not be practical. It is important to remember this is also the time the beginning of acculturation occurs. Additionally, this is generally the time frame in which the required skills training occurs.

Beyond the first week

Remember, the onboarding process is supposed to be about improving the employee experience. You cannot forget about the employee after one week. You need to set milestones for the employee, depending on their job, at 30, 60, 90, 120 days or beyond. It is always good to keep taking the “temperature” of the employee. “Buyers’ Remorse” can set in at any time, but especially in the first 18 months. You want to safeguard your investment in this new employee. Turnover is expensive, and you want to avoid it as much as possible. Onboarding is not just a training event, it is the attempt to make the employee an engaged employee.

Do you have other steps or recommendations for new employee onboarding? Let us know in the comments section.


  • Maria P. says:

    Thank you for this useful article. My first idea regarding onboarding new employees is having an after-hire interview and telling them exactly why you hired them. What were the skills that made you choose them from all the pool of candidates? I think this will motivate a lot your new colleague. Other than that, I agree with your suggestions.

  • Maggie S. says:

    Great advice. I loved it a lot. We are sometimes so caught up in giving feedback to the candidates that did not make it, that we forget about our new colleagues. Giving them a bunch of paperwork and procedures to read is definitely not the only way to go. Giving positive feedback and schedule short discussions can help the new hire accommodate easier and faster. However, it also depends on their flexibility to accepting the “new”. Onboarding is a two-ways process.

  • Kevin L. says:

    We have never implemented the idea of having a buddy assigned, but we did have mentors for the new employees. Other ideas that we implement in our company are: making an introduction of the new employee in front of the other colleagues when he/she tells a few words about her/himself and the team can ask questions. I think you can also do this on e-mail, however, it is not the same effect.

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