WorkLife – How to Make an Impact in Onboarding

By Stephanie Shaw


Onboarding, or organizational socialization, is a topic that can seem somewhat daunting for companies to embrace. Going beyond the simple employee orientation, onboarding ensures that new hires feel welcome and prepared, while giving them the confidence, trust and freedom to succeed in their new position. Most companies have some form of onboarding practice, but it is often regarded as tactical, rather than a strategic endeavor in the talent management process.


The Aberdeen Group, an organization that conducts business research, found in 2013 that companies are interested in re-evaluating their onboarding strategies. They found the top reasons for revamping onboarding practices were to improve new hire productivity (68 percent), engagement (67 percent) and retention (51 percent). Aberdeen also found that 90 percent of organizations believe that new employees make a decision on whether to stay at a company within the first year. This means employers need to make a great first impression and have a full year to make sure their top talent stays.


Effectively onboarding  employees creates a positive experience from the start. Brown Forman, an iwin Innovative Employer Roundtable partner, implemented a high-tech, high-touch onboarding program in 2011 and has seen considerable benefits. Sarah Bovine, Brown-Forman’s onboarding senior specialist, said, “In addition to the expected efficiency and productivity gained from an automated system, we’ve improved and standardized the new-hire experience for global employees and increased awareness regarding Brown-Forman’s corporate strategy, values and culture.”


Here are a few basic onboarding strategies for companies to consider:


First impressions: pre-boarding


Social media allows companies to begin onboarding before a person even applies for a position. Google is an example of a company that does this well. They have a Twitter handle for @googlejobs, which promotes itself as “Life at Google.”


The description on their Twitter page says, “Have you heard we’re hiring? Join the conversation on our job opportunities, offices, culture and life at Google.” They regularly tweet about their own culture and what it is like to work at Google, even allowing their employees to share tidbits about their jobs through videos and articles.


If job seekers see how much time and effort a company puts into employee satisfaction and pre-boarding employees, they will likely take note and consider applying to that company. The fact that @googlejobs has 363,000 followers says it all.


A more practical approach to pre-boarding new hires is to begin prior to their start date. Many companies begin the process up to two weeks in advance to get the new hire’s paperwork finalized before the employee’s first day. Another strategy is to give the new employee access to the company intranet before they start, so they will have a sense of how the organization works and get a feel for the internal system. Then the new hire will feel welcome, complete all the necessary paperwork and have a more rewarding first day on the job.


Give managers ownership of the initiative


A great way to engage both the new hire and the team is to get the manager involved. Onboarding tactics are not only for the human resources department. Ensure there is a formalized practice in place to get management involved so they know how to continue the onboarding throughout that first year of employment. The more engaged the manager is with the process, the better the outcomes will be.


Aberdeen uses SuccessFactors as an example in its May 2013 report, “Enabling New Hire Success, SuccessFactors takes Onboarding to the Next Level.”


The report states “…that managers play a critical role in how onboarding programs are designed, implemented, and measured. [The software] has included capabilities such as allowing managers to set up meetings on the first day, facilitating provisioning with IT professions, and assigning new hires a buddy.” These steps will create a positive experience during the early days of employment.


Keep it up


Think of this as a one-year warranty on a product, and you’re providing it to the employee. The job starts out shiny and new, but if it falls apart in the first few months, the new hire will be lost and looking for a way out. Don’t lose the talented individual you have spent so much time and effort hiring. Through regular monthly meetings, the manager should make certain the department’s objectives are aligned with the employee’s personal career goals. Align onboarding with learning initiatives, which allows for increased productivity and clear goals. Take the necessary steps toward having an employee stay at the company for many years to come.




Stephanie Shaw is manager of operations and partner services at the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Workplace Innovation (iwin). For more information on onboarding and other workplace issues, visit


Source: Business Lexington

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