Answering 6 of the Most Critical Questions About Employee Onboarding

Onboarding Word Bubble

Answering 6 of the Most Critical Questions About Employee Onboarding

Onboarding should be a rather easy process. Unfortunately, shocking numbers of organizations foul it up. The result: employee performance problems. According to 2016 Brandon Hall Group research, 72% of organizations are either only somewhat or not at all satisfied with their onboarding program.

We’re offering this Q&A to help you deliver quality onboarding that improves the new-hire experience, collaboration and time-to-proficiency.

 Question 1: What are the three primary objectives of onboarding?

1. You want the new hire to gain knowledge about your organization, her department/function, and her particular role.

2. The new hire should start developing key relationships that will help her achieve the objectives for her role.

3. The new hire should get feedback that allows her to know how she is fitting into your culture.

 Question 2: When these onboarding objectives aren’t met, what are the consequences?

The most common consequences are poor performance and the new employee failing to bond with his team. The feedback on a new employee will start to be, “She is not getting it,” or “He is a bad fit,” or “She was not the right hire for the job.” Then unfortunately, the team and the organization will have to manage the situation by either working around the new employee or confronting the situation with a corrective plan, replacement or both. 

Question 3: Who should be the primary participants in onboarding?

We find that best-practice onboarding programs use the “three-legged” stool model, in which the manager, the new employee, and an HR partner are key participants in the process and have specific, dedicated roles. If any one of the participants fails to perform his or her part, one of the legs is “broken,” and the onboarding experience is not as effective as it could be. 

Broadly speaking, the participants’ roles break down as follows:

  • HR partner: Works closely with the new employee to facilitate his or her onboarding process.
  • Hiring manager: Serves as the primary information source regarding role expectations and direction of the new employee. Collaborates with the HR partner to ensure alignment of their actions throughout the new employee’s onboarding process.
  • New employee: Responsible for managing his or her onboarding process. While the hiring manager and HR partner will provide support and guidance, the new employee drives the overall process. This includes taking the initiative to work with his or her hiring manager to set and understand onboarding objectives.

Question 4: What are the three primary components of onboarding?

1. Create an onboarding plan. 

A good onboarding plan lays out the specific roles and responsibilities of each of the process participants. Participants can refer to it throughout the experience to keep each other on track. 

2. Manage the plan.

It’s great to have a plan, but the key to any successful plan is to execute it and to make changes and adjustments as you go along. The manager should be meeting with the new employee regularly, at least every other week, and weekly, if possible. This helps ensure priorities are aligned and minimizes the chance of misunderstanding.

3. Give feedback. 

Give employees the feedback they need when positive or negative behaviors or performance issues occur. Providing feedback early and often shows the new employee that her new organization is committed to making her more successful in her job. 

Question 5: What are some key aspects of a good onboarding plan?

A good onboarding plan should help achieve the three objectives listed in the answer to Question 1.

Specifically, an onboarding plan should:

  • List the most important things that the new hire must do during his first few months on the job.
  • Identify the people with whom the new hire needs to build relationships in order for him to accomplish those things. 
  • Take into account both the type of information that a new hire needs and when he needs it. 
  • Identify “quick hits” or “early wins,” which are smaller objectives and tasks that the new employee can accomplish, helping him feel like he is contributing to the business and gain credibility and traction in his new role.

Important side note: It’s important to have a healthy balance of getting and absorbing information and actually delivering work. Too often organizations are heavy on one or the other. Some expect new employees to sit in their workspaces and read binders full of policies and procedures, or go through endless e-learning programs. Others have demand for work and expect new employees to contribute immediately; this can result in low-quality, mistake-filled work, which results in frustration for new hires and the organization.

Question 6: What are some tips for outstanding onboarding feedback?

Feedback needs to be clear and understood. Otherwise new employees can be left frustrated and disillusioned, and suffer from performance issues. 

Tips for collecting and giving onboarding feedback:

  • Put feedback topics on meeting agendas.
  • Set aside enough time to have a good conversation.
  • Do not save a sensitive topic for the end of a meeting.
  • Be honest and direct but kind.
  • Solicit specific feedback from peers, customers, and other stakeholders to deliver to new employees.
  • Describe the behavior and its impact on the organization, the team, or an individual.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Offer resources to support development.

Get Off on the Right Foot 

Onboarding is the first important step in setting up employees for long-term success. Establishing a standard of meeting objectives, building strong relationships, delivering results, and acting on feedback will provide employees with a solid base on which to develop their careers. 

For more help with onboarding, see our leadership early feedback onboarding tool, are you connected?, and our solution for managing the onboarding process, building connections.