New Hire Onboarding: Why Effective is Better than Flashy

May 11, 2015 | Amy Hirsh Robinson | HCI
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I recently spoke to an audience of human capital professionals about my successes in developing new hire onboarding programs. After my presentation, one attendee asked me what innovative onboarding strategies and tactics I was using to impress new employees and stand out in the talent market. He didn’t like my response.

“To effectively onboard new hires, you must be disciplined, not innovative.”

Sure, you can build some cool bells and whistles –- unique to your corporate culture and industry -- into your onboarding program. I’ve done this successfully with numerous companies, embedding fun and meaningful events and touch points into the process to acculturate new hires and amplify their enthusiasm. The real success, however, comes from a disciplined and practical assessment and approach to onboarding newcomers that accelerates employees’ time to productivity and keeps them engaged in your organization for the long haul.

What Really Matters When Onboarding Employees

The term “onboarding" refers to the process of integrating new employees into the company, preparing them to succeed at their job, and to become fully engaged, productive members of the organization. It includes the initial orientation process and the ensuing three to nine months (or however long it takes to get an employee "up to speed" in a particular company or discipline). This is a crucial time in an employee’s career, when they are both eager to succeed and highly impressionable to their experiences and surroundings. What really matters during this critical phase is that employees receive the right resources, knowledge and networks to perform in their new jobs and the proper career counseling to know what future opportunities are possible.

Getting this right takes a disciplined, coordinated effort from HR and line managers. To ensure a successful outcome during this phase, you must map out the new hire’s experience during the first six months to ensure it aligns with your onboarding goals. The following questions are an excellent framework to begin assessing the effectiveness your new hire onboarding:

  • Does your process make it easy or difficult for the new hire to get the information they need?
  • Does your process increase or reduce a new hire’s time productivity?
  • Does your process ensure or sabotage the new hire’s success?
  • Under what conditions have new hires excelled?
  • Why have new hires failed? What were they lacking? What were the conditions?

Get the Basics Right First

Many employers make a great first impression through their recruitment process and orientation session but neglect to think about what happens to the employee once they show up ready to work. Often times the most basic needs are overlooked and employees are left to fend for themselves resulting in low engagement, retention and productivity. Get the basics right and you will have a much higher return on your investment than investing in flashy orientation sessions and company swag. As a starting point, make sure you do the following:

  • Provide employees with a clean and ready workstations on Day One
  • Start new hires when their supervisor is present and accessible
  • Walk newcomers through organizational charts to explain formal and informal lines of communication and hierarchy
  • Help new employees establish a network by introducing them to people recognized as valuable resources in the company
  • Educate new hires on career paths within the company and what the career development process looks like

To successfully onboard employees for long-term results, adopt a functional, not flashy approach. Your employees will thank you.


To learn more about effective onboarding practices, register for the webcast New Hire Onboarding: Next Practices for Boosting Performance and Retention which airs on Wednesday, May 13 2015 at 4:00pm EDT.


Amy Hirsh Robinson, MBA, ( is a leading expert on the changing workforce and the impact of generational shifts on organizations. She consults to Fortune 500 companies, privately held businesses and not-for-profits to prepare and retool leaders and their workforces to excel and compete in the New Economy. Her strategies and programs focus on onboarding new employees to ensure the retention and engagement of top talent, managing and motivating a multigenerational workforce, and building competitive talent pipelines through effective succession planning practices. Amy speaks and publishes widely on workforce strategies for the New Economy and has been cited and quoted in publications such as Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post.