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August 2, 2018

Keys to a successful onboarding program: Start with people

Successful strategic onboarding is within reach of every organization with some effort and planning. In the first post of a series, we dive into the first element of success: people.


In a previous post, I discussed the benefits of strategic onboarding, and how to get your company on board with investing in a better process. In this series, we’ll dive deeper into the elements of a successful onboarding program.

The three keys to a successful onboarding program are people, culture, and milestones and tasks. They are within reach for every organization – all it takes is a little effort and some planning. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the first key: people.

When you have a great experience, what you really remember is the people – and this applies to your onboarding experience. Since 69% of employees are more likely to stay with the company for at least three years after a great onboarding experience, people play a key role in great onboarding.

Related: The impact of good and bad onboarding experiences

Your whole organization is involved in consistent, repeatable, and successful new hire onboarding. Set an expectation that all employees act friendly and be helpful to new people around the organization. This will not only benefit new hires, but any visitors to the office.

Immediate team: peers

The most impactful group for new hire success during onboarding is the new hire’s immediate team. It is essential to ensure managers and peers are introduced to new employees and vice versa. You can do this via software, as well as planned meetings and lunches during the new hire’s first week. Some companies formalize the process, for example, creating a day- or week-one schedule of meetings with key people, or introducing every new employee with an email that includes personal facts.

The benefits of getting to know the immediate team is clear: it improves communication, and can result in a faster time-to-productivity for new hires. This works in part by fostering the feeling of social acceptance in new hires, meaning greater access to information and resources via their new work social network.

Making connections with co-workers is important from a retention perspective, too – Ceridian’s Pulse of Talent found that nearly half of respondents in the U.S. and Canada listed co-workers as one of the reasons they stay in their current jobs.

Immediate team: managers

A new employee’s manager is one of the most important people in the onboarding process: the relationship between new hires and their managers is a determining factor in whether an employee chooses to stay at an organization.

It’s key for managers to see new hires as unique individuals. One strategy we like involves conducting entry interviews with new hires to understand their motivations, communication styles, and goals. With this process, new hires feel valued and heard, while managers get information that helps get the new hire up to speed quickly.

Consider outlining specific tasks or duties for managers – their support and undertraining may directly improve a new hire’s chances of succeeding.  The Association for Talent Development found that the greater the level of leader engagement in onboarding, the more successful the process.

Finally, it is very important for new hires to be made aware of important people at the company. Those people can include the executive suite, the front desk staff, or anyone that might be good for them to know about and be able to reach out to. The introduction to important people at the company gives the new hire a sense of belonging and geography of the organization, which will help with getting accustomed to the company culture.

Read more about personalizing onboarding, and supporting day-one readiness.

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