The Perils of Lazy Onboarding in a Competitive Employee Market (Part II of II)

Last week, I looked at the lazy onboarding mistakes that many companies make even when they have the best intentions. Research proves that companies that do onboarding right have higher employee engagement, loyalty and productivity. They also have much lower turnover. Today, we’ll look at how to create an effective onboarding process.

We already discussed having serious talks with employees during their exit interviews, as well as talking to current employees who went through your onboarding during the past year. Here are the following steps to take once you’ve talked to your current and former staff:

Figure out your onboarding objectives

If your onboarding program doesn’t answer all of the questions below, upper management and HR must get together to come up with solutions. Otherwise, it will be tough to gain team and management buy-in or ultimately, your new hires:

  • When will onboarding start and how long will it last?
  • When the employee goes home at the end of the first day, what impression will they have?
  • What is the “must know” part of the culture and work environment for the new hire? What is the “nice to know”?
  • For the most effective onboarding at our company, what roles do HR, direct managers and even co-workers play in the process?
  • What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees?
  • How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?

Effective onboarding starts BEFORE your new hire’s first day

Instead of swamping them with a pile of paperwork their first day, send it to the employee beforehand, for an electronic signature. Provide them with all their benefit information up front, giving them time to look it over and formulate questions that they can email HR with before they start work. If your company has an online employee portal for regular employees, create an onboarding portal for newbies.

Give them content designed to engage them, such as a letter from their manager, first day information, directions to the office and where to park, and welcome messages and photos from their new co-workers. You can give them an electronic copy of the employee handbook, a complete job description, company acronyms and much more.

I recently heard a story from someone who is not only getting a new job, but locating to another city hundreds of miles away. Needless to say, he was nervous. Within a couple of days of accepting the new job, he received a handwritten post card from his new boss with words of encouragement and a nice greeting. His new boss offered her help or advice about the new city and texted him a personal phone number with instructions to call if he had questions during off-hours. Simple … but considering his positive reaction to this, his new boss “got it.”

Set up the employee’s desk, phone and computer and password logins before they arrive. There’s nothing more demoralizing than being wooed throughout the recruitment process, and then show up the first day to an empty desk with an old, ill-fitting chair that doesn’t work. Have your staff get on social media and see what the new employee likes and decorate their office/cubicle/desk appropriately.

Get to the root of each job

In a recent survey of 1,000 respondents done by BambooHR, 23 percent said they had left a previous job within six months because they never fully understood the responsibilities of their new job. Therefore, spell out job responsibilities often during the interview process, and then make it crystal clear (again) after the employee is hired. Hiring professionals must make this a priority beginning on Day One!

Your two main effective onboarding goals that first day should be setting expectations and introducing objectives for both sides. Organizations that don’t focus on familiarizing new employees to their corporate culture are guilty of lazy onboarding and are at a significant disadvantage. Employees who know what to expect from their company’s culture and work environment make better decisions. Period.

Give new hires attention, but don’t forget the current staff

Much like the toddler who gets a new baby brother or sister, jealousy can flare up if too much attention is spent on “the new guy.” To keep existing team members from resenting a new employee, make sure roles and responsibilities are outlined for the entire team. Existing team members can feel threatened that someone new could take over their responsibilities. So, clarify the position of the new hire, as well as the positions of co-workers whose work is closely related.

Go over how they’ll interact with each other, reporting hierarchy, and how future projects will run. This also keeps an ongoing dialogue between management and staff on how things are running in the department. That can have significant and beneficial long-term effects to productivity, harmony, and the well-being of the department.

Avoid lazy onboarding by staying in touch

HR should take the lead on this part and schedule regular check-ins with the new hire at one month … three to six months … one year … and even beyond.  Remember that most employees make their decision to stay with a company in that three- to six-month range. Yet, only about 15 percent of companies continue onboarding after three months. And, 83 percent don’t even make it that far. This is the definition of lazy onboarding. Continual updates keep the employee engaged and lets them know the company cares. In conjunction with their first annual performance review, have the conversation about their future career development. Use their one-year anniversary to transition the employee from the onboarding process to retention and engagement.

Yes, effective onboarding can be difficult and time consuming, but not nearly as much as constantly having to replace employees who leave or get fired. However, once your process is up and running, the turnaround in productivity and engagement will be worth every cent spent and every minute devoted to it. Dump your lazy onboarding mistakes today!


Cameron Bishop is President & CEO of Mission, Kansas-based SkillPath Seminars. SkillPath is one of the largest B2B business skills, management and leadership training companies in the world. The company provides expert training programs in over 8,000 public seminars held across the country; customized training programs for hundreds of major corporations, government agencies, medical facilities and educational institutions; training content licensing; and unlimited eLearning opportunities via our STAR12 Website.

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