Onboarding Excellence

Career Blog

Many companies waste an insane amount of time by loading employees up with information they won’t recall, training they don’t need, and organizational commercials they don’t want. It is one of the least “customer focused” processes that HR provides. If you expect more from your company, ask HR to follow these simple steps:

  1. Nurture the White Space

In a hyper competitive market, a lot can happen between signed offer and successful onboarding. Top candidates will likely receive counter offers as well as last minute bids from competing companies. This feeding frenzy could spark anything from a causal rethink to overt buyer’s remorse.

To ensure retention post offer acceptance, companies must nurture the white space by staying connected in the lead up to Day 1. A welcome message from the CEO, invites to future employee events, and even a simple note from the manager can go a long way toward building the relationship. In a hybrid work-world connection means more than ever before…especially at the start.

  1. Focus on the Audience:

On day one employees want comfort that they have made the right decision. That comes from time with their manager, clear goals, and an agreed first 90-day plan that will help ensure success. They don’t need training on systems they won’t use for six months or an 80-page slide deck on the company history. They want to know their kids have health insurance, their 401(k) transfers, the hot lunch spots, and well, where the bathrooms are located. You have to hit the basics.

  1. Monitor Cultural Assimilation:

Surveys can give you some insight into the effectiveness of your program, but new employees rarely offer harsh feedback as to what doesn’t work. Similarly, you can look at call center metrics for data on employee inquiries, but most folks simply turn to their neighbor and ask questions so the data may be skewed.

A better indicator is to monitor the cultural assimilation. This shows up in how quickly new employees start to incorporate organizational language into their vocabulary, how fast they stop comparing things to their previous employer, and how quickly they start saying “we”.

  1. Train Them to be High Performers:

Clear roles and goals will help get the newbies on track, but these factors are typically focused on helping newbies meet expectations of the role. If you want them to be great, you have to clearly show them what greatness looks like early on. Having them spend time with or get trained by your ace performers can be helpful, but there’s no guarantee of success. It’s often better to take a process-based approach to learning.

The challenge with duplicating high performance, especially that born of instinct or natural talent is that the individual often doesn’t know what they do differently that makes them so successful. Even when they think they know, their assessment might not be correct or helpful in training others. For example, Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote about skating to where the puck is going to be makes for a great sound bite, but a training program? Not so much.

The way to duplicate performance is to have an objective 3rd party conduct a time signature analysis. This dissects and categorizes the person’s actions before, during, and after an activity. In doing so it uncovers key differences, patterns and best practices. While everything may not be transferable, you’ll find a good portion that is. For example, when studying the time signature of great sales people, you’ll discover they will often spend much more energy on preparation before ever contacting a prospect than less effective, but seemingly busier colleagues. These insights can shorten their learning curve and increase their career trajectory.

  1. Teach Them How to Document Wins:

Performance is managed differently at every company, but there are some common treads. If an employee wants to move ahead in his career, he’ll need “proof points” that strengthen an objective case for why he is the best person for the promotion, raise, challenging project, etc. Unfortunately, people often struggle to articulate their accomplishments when asked on an interview or meeting with a senior leader.

You can help employees avoid getting tongue-tied, but having them documenting their successes shortly after they occur. Specifically, they’ll need to describe: the challenge they faced, the action they took, and the result they achieved. These mini-stories can enhance their resume, increase their interviewing ability, and ensure they’re never at a loss for words when an opportunity arises.

People typically overestimate what they can do in a day, but drastically underestimate what they can do in a year. Chances are, they’ve accomplished more than they think. Employees shouldn’t lose those difference makers because of a faulty memory.


For some it may seem odd to address performance and career advancement during an on-boarding process, but think of the message it sends the employee. The undertone of being valued and invested in will pay dividends in engagement regardless if they stay in the same position for their entire career or work their way to the C-suite.

Need a career coach? Contact me via www.PlotlineLeadership.com.

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