Onboarding Requires a Little Thoughtfulness #hrbasics

When it comes to onboarding, is it a strength, weakness or opportunity within your organization? If your team can expertly manage onboarding for new hires, give them high fives all around. However, if the initial connection between your new hires and organization has much to be desired, than this “HR basics” post is for you.

Why Companies Need to Onboard Properly

As someone who recently left an 11-year career with one organization to join a new firm, I’ll admit that I was both nervous and excited. There’s a bit of anxiety that new hires feel! A company, that cares enough to properly onboard new hires, can:

  • Create early connections to corporate values and teams,
  • Build confidence in new hires’ abilities to do their jobs, and
  • Enable employees to start making contributions more quickly.

Sure, onboarding comes at a cost, both in time and resources, but those early contributions and engagement levels can often pay off in the long run.

What Needs to Happen During Onboarding

What if, instead, we talk about what should NOT happen during onboarding? A friend of mine recently shared this story with me:

 A new hire at her company was left in a cube without a plan, systems access or a clue as to what to do. The new hire’s manager was overbooked with meetings and not easily accessible. A fellow co-worker wrote a list of people that the new hire could meet with, to help the new hire develop key relationships (and to give the new hire some way to spend the 9 – 5). Another manager told the new hire not to worry about meeting any of the people on the list.

WTH? There are so many things wrong with this real life scenario.

Easy, No Cost Onboarding Tips

During my recent onboarding process, the most valuable experiences were the two “pre-start date” calls that I had with my team. Since there was a two-week timeframe between offer acceptance and start date, it was great to have these early conversations.

It demonstrated an excitement to have me on the team, and reinforced my own excitement to start.  Here are some other easy tips for a meaningful onboarding:

  • Encourage hiring managers and team members to connect with your new hire via LinkedIn, and send “We’re glad you’re on the team” welcome messages.
  • Invite new hires to join your official corporate LinkedIn group(s) or attend an upcoming company event.
  • Schedule regular touch base calls, particularly if there is time between accepting the offer and start date.
  • Share interesting articles, white papers, blog posts or news about your company that will help with the initial learning curve.

Once your new hire starts, he or she may attend a formal, corporate orientation program. At every company that I have worked at, there was some sort of “Welcome to our Company 101.” Helpful? Absolutely. Even more helpful were the actions of my direct managers.

Outside of any orientation programming, there are four critical actions that hiring managers can do:

  • Have a plan:  Provide an initial road map – in a Word document or Excel spreadsheet — for the first few weeks. This will help your new hire navigate their new role and environment, and provide the opportunity for some self-direction. Include information such as who to meet, what resources are available, where things are located, and invite them to key meetings.
  • Ensure access: Work with IT prior to your new hire’s start date to ensure that systems security access is set up. Equip them with their new phone number, email address and anything else that will enable them to do their job better and connect faster.
  • Make the time: Schedule regular check-ins with your new hire. For the past few weeks, I’ve had daily video conference calls with my manager (who’s in the UK). It’s been a great way for us to talk strategy, discuss major business objectives and get into a regular work cadence.
  • Get to know:  Many people bring their “whole self” to work, including photos of their kids, their cat or spouse.  Learning more about your new hire–without being creep or crossing any lines–will help build your credibility and likeability as a manager.

Starting a new job is always scary, or at least for me it’s always scary. It’s like the first day of school.

This quote from actor Sean Maher sums up how a lot of people feel when starting a new job. Help take some of the scariness out by simply being more thoughtful.

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Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reader Interactions


  1. Satya says

    Great article Shannon. While some companies excel at onboarding, statistics and research continually indicate that most companies lack effective processes (e.g., SHRM found that 60% of organizations cited the need to create a more efficient onboarding program in order to meet company growth objectives as a top pressure). Your point about ensuring success is critically important; as on-boarding has a significant impact on employee engagement and retention (e.g., SHRM found that onboarding is the leading area of talent management that impacts retention at 17%).

    Pre-hire calls are a great suggestion, best-in-class organizations begin the onboarding process before day one. By implementing this extra step, new hires can feel less in the dark about what to expect on their first day in terms of their team and the culture of the company.


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