Onboarding 101

My good friend, let’s call him “Herb,” started a brand new job yesterday. Herb was very excited because it’s an opportunity with a particular financial institution that he had been coveting for some time. Rewinding two weeks … the submission and recruitment process went fantastic as Herb actually located the position online, submitted his resume, and was contacted immediately.

His initial interview was via phone on a Friday, and he did so well that he was invited in for second-round interviews that very next Monday. On Monday, Herb once again wowed the hiring managers and the very next day (Tuesday) he received an offer of employment which he readily accepted with great enthusiasm. Herb kept me up to date through his interview process with this financial institution, and even I was amazed how quick this large giant seemed to move. He told me how everything was great, the people were awesome, and how he was looking forward to day one to get going on his new role.

As I anticipated, last evening I received a phone call from Herb. I was anxious to catch up and hear about his first day in the new position. To my surprise, the tone of Herb’s voice was not that of excitement, rather that of disappointment.

After spending several minutes listening to the events of Herb’s day, I too was very disappointed for him. Now he was wondering if he had made the right decision by accepting the position.

Herb’s disappointment revolved around one topic: onboarding. In going back to the recruitment process and how everything seemed to flow seamlessly, I was sure that a company of this size and stature had to have some type of onboarding program in place. Sure enough on Herb’s first day, he found out that they didn’t. What a disappointment it made his first day.

Let’s revisit some of Herb’s events on his first day:

  • Upon arrival, no one to properly greet him or know that he was starting.
  • No agenda, materials, or training schedule.
  • Building security credentials missing and sent to wrong location.
  • Lunch: everyone was too busy, no time for lunch.
  • Co-workers wished him good luck and welcomed him to a life of non-stop work.
  • The onsite manager didn’t know what to do with him or where to place him.

This is a great example for companies of what not to do on an individual’s first day of work. Herb was and is definitely disappointed in the way things transpired on his first day. The day’s events have set a negative tone for him, and it was day and night from the interactions he witnessed during the recruiting, interview, and offer stage.

When the term “recruiting process” is used, most people take that to mean, “Locate, identify, interview, hire” and end it there. In fact, the term “recruiting process” should never end, and should be a continuous ongoing activity each and every day. The critical step that was missed in Herb’s situation was the onboarding step.

It is of utmost importance to not only create but use a successful onboarding program. The pieces of an onboarding program are very simple and will help to set the tone on the individual’s first day and hopefully for years to come. A successful onboarding program will have three basic elements: participants, material, and timeframe.

  • Participants: identify who is going to be part of the process and who will be participating in the onboarding program. Each participant should have a full understanding of the program in order to deliver a productive and consistent message.
  • Material: have a defined plan of action and itinerary. Topics may include: welcome message, company history, products/services, competition, policies/procedures, department briefings, etc.
  • Timeframe: as mentioned above, the recruiting process should be ongoing and never stop. This will enhance employee engagement and communication which may help to reduce turnover and keep employees happy over the long run.

Furthermore, there are some even more basic tasks that can be accomplished so new employees don’t have the same bad experience that Herb did:

  • Designate an individual to meet and greet a new employee upon arrival and show him/her around.
  • Send out a welcome letter or email to make existing employees aware of the new hire.
  • Have the workstation set up and properly functioning complete with computer, email address, supplies, training materials, etc.
  • Have business cards pre-ordered with name, direct dial, and email address complete and spelled correctly.
  • Have lunch pre-arranged with co-workers and peers.
  • Schedule a drop-by or meeting with senior management if available.

Remember, it’s the little things that count and first impressions are everything. I felt for Herb, as it is disappointing to start a new job feeling like you are more of a problem than a solution on Day 1.

  • George Bradt

    Unfortunately, this story is all too common. Making it easy for a new employee to be able to do work on day one should be the bare minimum any organization does. The best organizations realize that recruiting and onboarding are ongoing and manage through all five stages of onboarding: aligning people around the role, acquiring new employees, accommodating their work needs, assimilating them into the team, and accelerating their progress.

    (More in our book, “Onboarding”)

  • http://www.SalesArchitects.net Lee Salz

    What Morgan describes is more the rule than the exception. In addition, most companies have too narrow a view of onboarding. Onboarding isn’t just about filling out forms and getting an office. Employees arrive with potential. Onboarding programs should help the new employees reach their potential. In essence, they arrive with a portfolio of skills and the onboarding program should help the new hire leverage these skills in the role for the company.

    (You can learn more about onboarding at http://www.TheRevenueAccelerator.com.)

  • Karen Perron

    Very unfortunate that this was the experience for “Herb” ,when there are so many tools and processes an organization to ensure “Best in class” Onoboarding. Check out this article for more information:


  • Todd Raphael

    For more info, I did an article on onboarding too, in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership … though it’s from October 2008, much of it’s still of interest, if I must say so myself. If anyone who didn’t subscribe wants it, let me know your email address.

  • http://superecruiter.blogspot.com/ Morgan Hoogvelt

    Thanks to all for the comments. As simple as it seems, onboarding companies make onboarding such a tough process.

    As a follow up on Herb, as of Wednesday night he still did not have a login, email, working cpu, or security credentials.

  • Keith Halperin

    Once again (except fot the actual in-the-flesh “meet and greet”) this could be handled by $2.78-$5.25/hr Virtual Assitants, so why isn’t it?


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