The Onboarding Process

The goal of an employee onboarding process is to improve company productivity by quickly increasing a new employee’s effectiveness. The process begins the day the offer of employment is accepted and lasts until the end of the 90-day probationary period. Once the offer has been accepted, it becomes the manager’s job to ensure that the onboarding experience improves productivity and leaves a lasting, positive impression.

Note that while many managers feel that once an offer has been made, the employee is hired, this is not the case. Until the offer is accepted, the company is still in the recruitment process and it is incumbent upon that manager to continue to sell the job by answering questions from the candidate, reinforcing why they were the company’s top choice, and staying in front of any possible concerns that are stopping them from signing. If your gut says that they’re taking too long, you’re probably right and it’s worth investigating.

Before Day One

The employee’s acceptance of the offer signals that it’s time for the company to prepare for their arrival and welcome them into the fold. This includes:

  • Letting them know what to expect on day one via email (e.g. attire, schedule, etc.) and gathering required information such as the name they would like on their business card, their mobile number, emergency contacts, direct deposit details, etc. Also, it’s helpful to let them know what they can do to prepare – books they could read or podcasts they could listen to, clients or competitors they could research, etc. Developing a standard email to be sent upon their acceptance will save time in the long run.
  • Introducing them to the team they will be working with via email. This builds the excitement and anticipation of the first day. Personalize the message by explaining the strengths that caused you to hire them and why you are looking forward to them starting. Also, remind your team to respond to this email to welcome their new colleague.
  • If an office tour was not part of the recruitment process, considering a scheduled visit before the first day.
  • If the new hire has questions, answering them promptly.
  • Organizing staff to greet them on the first day and throughout the first week. Make sure they have someone to have lunch with and a buddy to help them get oriented.

Why Managers are Involved in Onboarding

Administrative onboarding includes setting up computers, assigning access codes, entering payroll info, and ordering business cards. All of these are necessary but are not sufficient for successful onboarding.

Effectiveness onboarding includes activities to improve your new hire’s productivity. This is where IT, HR, and legal melt away, leaving it to the manager to make the new hire as welcome, engaged, and useful as possible as quickly as possible.

An employee is never as excited about their job as the day before they start. They believe all the good that has been promised to them (and even filled in a few shadows with their rose coloured glasses) and have seen none of the bad that makes work, “work”. While HR has a role in getting the new hire set up, the manager is in charge of their motivation and effectiveness.

Day One

“The first day is an opportunity to reinforce the most important messages of the firm and create a lasting impression for the entire tenure of the employee.”

– Patrick Lencioni

Even if this was covered in recruiting, the employee should be introduced to the overall strategy of the firm and how they are expected to contribute to its success. There are six critical questions that need to be answered for the employee to do their best work, and this ideally comes from their manager or the president of the company. Answer questions like:

  1. Why does the organization exist? (Purpose)
  2. What behavioral values were used to select the new hire? (Core Values)
  3. How does the organization plan to succeed? (Brand Promise)
  4. What is the organization’s top priority? (Goals)
  5. Who does what at the executive level? (Organizational Structure)
  6. How will the recruit contribute to the organization’s overall success? (Job Description)

A well-written job description is the most efficient tool a company can use to explain and set the expectations of the role. The manager should use the job description on day one to review these expectations both in terms of what the employee will be expected to do and the expected results of those activities (performance evaluation criteria). The manager should highlight which areas to focus on in the beginning and how training will occur.

Training and Evaluation

The training program for a new hire is highly customized to the role and the company they are working for. Ideally, the manager starts out tightly supervising the employee and gradually loosens control as they demonstrate competence with each of the assigned tasks. The employee should be empowered to work through a training matrix of topics they need to understand, and they should know the criteria that you will use to evaluate competency.

While that training and evaluation are happening on a daily and weekly basis, a more formal 6-week evaluation should take place (which may include HR) based on the job description criteria and can also include some goalsetting to be reviewed at their 6-month evaluation.

What About the 90-Day Probation?

If the above practices are followed, the 90-day mark is simply a formal commitment to what the employee already knows. The end of the 90-day probationary period is a moment to be marked and celebrated, assuming the organization and employee have decided to continue the relationship. HR can lead the administrative side (filling out benefits forms and updating employment records) and the manager should lead the effectiveness side with an acknowledgement of how the employee has already added to the productivity and effectiveness of the team. This could occur in a one-on-one meeting with the employee, publicly at a team meeting or huddle, or via email.

Do Managers Need Onboarding Training?

While HR runs the onboarding process, managers have an important role to play in execution. Many managers are not aware of the specific steps they can take or how to execute on them. Is your management team equipped to handle the onboarding process?

Bellrock is a process benchmarking and change management firm based in Vancouver, Canada. If you found value in this article, please share it with your networks.

Written By:
Tara Landes

Tara Landes is the Founder and President of Bellrock. She has spent over 20 years consulting and training in small to medium-sized enterprises. A sought-after speaker on a wide range of business topics, Tara has delivered workshops and seminars at conferences and industry associations across Canada. Tara obtained a BA (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and earned an MBA from UWO's Richard Ivey School of Business.

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