Five Secrets to Onboarding Employees Successfully

One of my first assignments with our consulting practice was to conduct exit interviews with almost 150 former employees of a company that was experiencing an unhealthy level of employee turnover. These were employees who had voluntarily resigned three to six months earlier. For the most part, I found people quite willing to talk to me and I was amazed at what they told me.

Statistically speaking, 78.2% of the folks I spoke to told me about an unsatisfactory incident that occurred during their first few weeks on the job that stuck with them during their entire tenure like a persistent rash. One woman told me that when she showed up for her first day, her boss was on vacation for the week and nobody knew she was starting. Another person said that when he arrived at his cubicle, there was no phone, computer, chair or supplies…just an empty working surface. He had to sit on a trash can until a chair could be found. My favorite story was a young woman who told me that after spending a half day with HR in ‘orientation,’ she was given a list of customers to go visit…without even knowing what the company sold.

While none of the incidents recited was given as the sole cause of the staff member leaving, the incident was seen as a contributing factor for why they left.

Onboarding is the process of bringing a new hire ‘on board’ and providing the training and environment necessary for them to reach full productivity. This process typically takes about 90 days to complete before the employee is able to produce to expectations with minimal direction. Properly onboarding a new employee dramatically improves the new hire’s productivity, loyalty, and satisfaction with their employment.

Here are five things that can improve the onboarding process:

1. A Written Onboarding Plan for Each New Hire. Tailored for each position, it should include a daily schedule of meetings, people to meet, training, mentors, objectives, assignments, etc. for the new hire’s onboarding period. Consider building a standard template so as to easily replicate for each new position or hire. While this may seem like a lot of work, there is no better way to assure the new hire receives all the training and onboarding support they need during this critical time period. Provide a copy of the onboarding plan to new hires so they can measure their daily progress and see the organization’s commitment to their success.

2. Establish 2-Way Feedback Early and Often. As part of the onboarding plan, establish frequent touch-point meetings to both receive and provide feedback to the new hire. These meetings should be daily at first, then tapering off to a few per week, and finally to one every other week. Make sure these touch-point meetings are scheduled on the written onboarding plan. Three great questions to ask during these meetings are:

a. What were the most important things you learned today?

b. What has gone well for you today?

c. What did not go as well as you would have liked?

Based on the responses to the questions, tweak the onboarding plan.

3. Catch Them Doing Things Right. There is no faster way to build self confidence and competence than by catching people doing things right. No feedback begs the question, “Does anybody really care about me or what I’m doing?” Negative feedback makes people feel as if you are waiting to smack them for making mistakes. Catching them doing things right lets them know you care and that results matter.

4. Keep Illustrating the Big Picture. If you want self-directed staff members, you need to always point out the reason why the assignment, task, learning, project, achievement, etc. is important. How does it impact the organization? How does it serve the ultimate customers? What happens if the company fails in this area? By better understanding the importance of even the most mundane tasks, most people will strive for excellence in what they do.

5. Schedule Alignment Activities. Alignment activities build a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, and help to align the individual with the overall culture of the organization. Integrate different groups within the organization to encourage the blurring of departmental boundaries. During such sessions, informal communication is facilitated and this tends to level the potential silos in the organization.

Bottom line: If you want to recover your costs of recruitment and hiring, enable new hires to become more productive, and build a loyal workforce, take the steps to properly onboard your employees.

Boyer Management Group works with universities, employers and job seekers alike to help both become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class talent acquisition and onboarding tools and programs. For job seekers, we offer the world’s first assessment to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging career search best practices, along with the educational programs to support higher ed curriculum, career coaches and individual job seekers. To find out more, please visit us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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