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The #1 Secret for Better Employee Onboarding

No matter how much work experience you have and how confident you are, starting a new job can be a daunting process. First, you have all the logistical changes, including a new commute, a new workspace and environment, new tools and technology, new HR policies, and so on. Then, you have all the interpersonal dynamics, including new faces and names to remember, new personalities to deal with, and a new workplace culture to decipher and navigate. Finally, you have new responsibilities to manage and new goals to strive for.

It can be very overwhelming to start a new job, and most companies don’t do nearly enough to help new hires have a smooth transition. In fact, according to research by Gallup, only 12% of people believe that their employer does a great job of onboarding new employees.

Outside of my time as an independent consultant, I have worked full-time for four different companies throughout my career. Years later, I still remember my first day at each company very clearly, along with my overall onboarding experience with each organization. One of these company’s initial onboarding programs was far superior to the others. In this article, you will learn the #1 secret that helped that company stand out so much from the others.

Why is employee onboarding so important?

Employee onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into an organization. A great onboarding program provides many significant benefits. It reinforces a new hire’s decision to join an organization, it helps a new hire feel comfortable, and it builds rapport between a new hire and their supervisor, peers, and subordinates. All of this helps someone get off to a faster start. It also builds a stronger foundation for someone to have a longer, more successful tenure.

In comparison, a poor onboarding program can leave someone questioning their decision to join an organization, and it can even encourage someone to leave a new role very quickly. For example, in my first job after college, two of my peers left the company within their first week of joining! A better onboarding program (in addition to a better vetting/hiring process) would surely have increased the chances that these individuals would have had better experiences and longer tenures.

Create a customized onboarding schedule for every hire

As noted above, one of my past employers really stood out from the others in regard to its initial onboarding program. When I arrived for my first day of work with this organization, a printed onboarding schedule for my first two weeks was waiting for me at my desk. In addition to the basics (i.e. time to speak with HR), the company’s onboarding schedule included one-on-one lunches, meetings, and calls with more than 10 different people in the organization, including my supervisor, some peers, and other key individuals who I would be working with closely.

Rather than hoping these conversations would happen naturally, the organization took ownership of scheduling them on my behalf before I even started. In addition, they even included a suggested topic for each of these interactions, and the topic was tailored to the person that I would be meeting with.

My initial thought was “Wow, this place really has its act together.” I was incredibly impressed by the effort that the company invested into my onboarding. It made me even more confident that I had made a good decision joining the organization, and it set the tone for a long and successful tenure.

In comparison, many companies treat onboarding as nothing more than a quick orientation process. With that approach, the focus is merely on setting up the basics, such as someone’s email, desk, HR paperwork, and so on. Little thought is given to facilitating meaningful conversations with someone’s supervisor, peers, subordinates, and so on.

Putting this into practice

If it sounds like too much work to create a customized onboarding schedule for every new hire, consider the risks of not doing so. Think about the time and effort that will be required if the person stumbles or leaves quickly.

While it clearly takes effort to customize each employee’s onboarding experience, it can be easier than it might sound. Here are some tips:

  • Designate a leader for each new hire’s onboarding process. This could be the hiring manager, someone in HR, an executive assistant, or even a volunteer from the department/company. Depending on how many people your company/department hires in a year, you might need multiple onboarding leaders.
  • Identify the relevant people and topics to include. Work with the hiring manager to identify the people that the new hire should meet first. In addition, determine the topics that should be covered, and assign those topics to different people, based on their roles and responsibilities.
  • Schedule a one-on-one lunch with the new hire’s supervisor. Ideally, this should happen on someone’s first day. If that’s not possible, it should definitely happen sometime within the first week.
  • Schedule a team lunch. Chances are that the new employee will be working as part of a team. Invite all or some team members to a lunch during the new hire’s first week. Not only is this a way for the new hire to get to know their team members, it’s also a rapport-building activity for the rest of the team and a nice break from the office.
  • Schedule one-on-one lunches, coffee chats, or calls with other key people. At most companies, a new employee is walked around the office on their first day and introduced quickly to other employees. Typically, this adds little or no value. Each interaction is superficial, unexpected, and fast. A much more valuable approach is the one mentioned above from one of my past employers. Schedule conversations for the new hire to spend time with the people that he or she will work with closely, and provide a suggested topic for each meeting.

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About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for innovative sports, fitness, and wellness companies. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and, and he is the author of two books and over 250 articles on career management, peak performance, and executive recruiting.

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