HR Headaches: Onboarding can mean more to a company than new hire

Whether they know it or not, area companies in every industry share the challenge of “onboarding” new employees. It might be one of the most overlooked yet most important steps in creating a productive workforce.

Although most organizations have some form of orientation, onboarding is orientation taken to a higher level.

Sure, you want to orient newly hired employees on the company’s mission, vision and values. Sure, you want to introduce new hires to the organization’s history and the ins and outs of their department. They need to be enrolled in the benefits plans and get set up for payroll. But all of that is orientation. So what is onboarding?

Most orientation involves giving insights and information to new hires. Onboarding is more about getting insights and information from the new hire. The new hire has very valuable information to share that management needs to get. Onboarding takes at least six meetings in the first 90 days of hiring. There should be regular meetings, one-on-one meetings, with the new hire. The new hire’s immediate supervisor and the supervisor’s superior need to be part of onboarding.

What questions need to be asked? When any finalist candidate is being interviewed, there is an element of “selling” the candidate on coming to work with the organization and what it will be like working at the organization. Both the immediate supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor need to learn if there is a variance between what candidates are told and what the new hire actually is finding. That variance is critically important to know and understand.

This knowledge is invaluable, and getting it within 90 days is critical. Bosses need to know if and what the variances are between what they think it’s like to work at the company and what the actual employees think it’s like working there. Both levels need to know that so they can make adjustments in their “sales pitch” to new employees and/or make adjustments in the internal operation (as needed or appropriate).

Asking early, within 90 days, is important because the new hire is still objective, has fresh eyes on the organization and probably will give an honest answer because he or she is not invested in the old ways of the organization and has not been indoctrinated into withholding information.

Additionally, the boss’ boss will be asking the immediate supervisor for an evaluation of the new hire’s performance. If improvements are needed, having it come from both levels of management will reinforce the urgency for the new hire to see the wisdom and make the changes. If the higher level of management hears from the immediate supervisor that the new hire is doing well, that can be passed on to the new hire. Praise is always good.

Onboarding is about communicating up and down. It is about finding out what is good, as well as what needs improvement and then dialoging about it all. New people should not be “thrown in to sink or swim.” Recruiting and hiring are too expensive for this. Onboarding is the effort made to make sure the new hire is connected to management, assimilating to the organization and the new work, as well as providing upper management with insights into the effectiveness of mid-management. 


 Steve Cohen is president/partner of Labor Management Advisory Group Inc., and HR Solutions: On-Call. He has more than 35 years of specialized experience solving HR problems in companies of all sizes. He recently wrote “Mess Management: Lessons from a Corporate Hit Man.” He’ll be providing insight on HR topics every month exclusively for KCBCentral.