Blog Post
July 3, 2019

The role of managers in employee onboarding, and how to get them involved in the process

Managers play a key role in the employee onboarding process – but they don’t always invest the time. Here’s more on the key role they play, and tips for HR leaders to guide them in the process.

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The very nature of onboarding a new hire lends itself to managers playing a pivotal role in the process.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into a trap where all onboarding tasks become the responsibility of one over-extended HR member – a counterintuitive approach to a process that is so crucial to your business.

According to Glassdoor, well-executed employee onboarding improves employee retention by 82%. Silicon Valley HR leader Dr. John Sullivan cites research on LinkedIn stating that employee performance improves by 11.5% as a direct result of effective onboarding management.

Also, MIT Sloan Management cites that onboarding – regardless of how long it takes – is the most critical period in an employee’s relationship with an organisation. It has a significant influence on engagement, performance, and retention in the long run.

Managers are the first point of contact for an employee’s life at a company. Furthermore, employee onboarding isn’t a mere matter of the first-day meet-and-greets and paperwork – it’s a multifaceted, comprehensive initiative with several moving parts.

As such, employee onboarding efforts should be shared by different key stakeholders across the organisation, which includes managers and senior leaders setting aside the necessary time to make it work.

Below, we’ll examine different ways you, as an HR leader, can get managers more invested and involved in onboarding new talent, and develop a helpful onboarding guide for managers.

Related: How to convince your company to invest more in employee onboarding

Make onboarding part of a manager’s job description

Managers won’t necessarily implement employee onboarding efforts without prompting. You need to outline their responsibilities explicitly – employee onboarding management shouldn’t be relegated to “making it up as you go.”

Instill into your managers and team leads that employee onboarding is as vital to the business as converted sales, product development, and profit margins. You can further enforce this message by setting success metrics, the same way you would with other aspects of the company.

As McKinsey says, what gets measured gets done. If the results of employee onboarding aren’t being tracked, how do you know if managers are doing it effectively? And how do managers know that they’re doing a good job?

There are ways to measure and track employee onboarding success. If your organisation uses employee onboarding technology, for example, it’s a good idea to review a manager’s new hire progress through the system (either via reports or the available dashboard). If they’re falling behind on particular tasks, then there’s an opportunity reach out to managers to figure out why, or provide support or tools for managers to help their new hires stay on track.

Employee pulse surveys are another way to examine how managers and senior leaders are performing at employee onboarding tasks. With this data, you can pinpoint areas for skill development and improvement that you can address in an onboarding guide for managers.

Looking for other ways to support managers in your organisation?

Our latest 2023 Pulse of Talent research report takes a deep dive into the realities senior leaders and middle managers face. See what real managers say their employer could do to better support their careers.

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Give managers a refresher course

With those stats in mind, the reasons for excellent onboarding management become crystal clear – and should be hammered home to managers during both refresher courses and one-on-one meetings.

After all, if employee onboarding is a priority, it makes sense to ensure managers and senior leaders are thoroughly familiar with its principles, protocols, and overall purpose.

During training, provide managers with a checklist (read more on this in the next section), guidance on key talking points, or tools to help them onboard their new hires. For example, managers can use a technology tool to learn their employees’ communication styles.

Learn more about using technology to support managers in onboarding new hires.

Help managers prepare with an employee onboarding checklist

When welcoming new hires, managers will benefit tremendously from an employee onboarding checklist that is company-wide, as well as department-specific.

There are many tasks, like requesting technology or setting up a new hire’s desk, that apply to all employees. There are also specific onboarding tasks for each department – like meeting key people (such as the new hire’s buddy, or their point of contact for expenses), and learning department technology and language. The checklist should also define the part a manager plays during employee onboarding.

Ideas for your employee onboarding checklist

Here are some suggestions for what to include in a manager’s employee onboarding checklist:

  1. Make clear the business alignment between a new employee’s job and the organisation’s broader mission.
  2.  Clearly outline the components of the job and expected performance levels. Done effectively, this will help employees become productive team members much faster. Great managers set clear expectations and act as guides to new employees.
  3. Take a coaching approach to work with a new hire on goals and career direction. This will set the stage for ongoing performance development. Coaching conversations also maintain transparency because problems or points of contention can be addressed.
  4. Encourage managers to share information about themselves. It’s helpful for new hires to understand who their manager is both as a person, and as a manager, including their values and how they like to communicate. This can be a great way to start a relationship with new hires.

With each of these key areas covered in your onboarding checklist, you can help set your managers and new hires up for success.

Read next: Ten new and creative employee onboarding ideas


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