Key Trends in Employee Onboarding

As we continue into 2019, employee onboarding remains front and center as a workplace priority. In today’s ever-evolving workplaces, employee onboarding has officially moved from a tactical function to a strategic one – involving everyone from the C-suite to the marketing department and even IT. It has become as much of a priority for business leaders and senior level executives as it has been for HR managers over the years.

So why the shift from tactical to strategic?


There are many reasons but mainly I believe it’s because companies want to better engage with their employees (particularly when they first come on board as this is an ideal opportunity to get them acclimated and excited about the mission and vision of the company). Employers now look at potential hires like they do potential customers and, if you haven’t already noticed, they are beginning to develop “brands” around their cultures as it’s an effective way to attract/retain good talent.


From recruitment to hiring and onboarding, employers now know how imperative it is to engage employees at every step of the way and creating a best-in-class onboarding process is a great engagement tool.


Besides welcome packets and buddy systems, effective and best-in-class onboarding takes things to another level. For instance, it includes substantial time with managers and peers, communicating goals and expectations on a frequent basis. It also includes in-depth training, continual feedback and support, and the chance to interact socially with others in meaningful ways.


Research from the Human Capital Institute, Glassdoor and Gallup all report that investing in a thorough and robust onboarding process will undoubtedly create positive results, including new hires being more likely to stick around. It’s hard to find loyal employees these days, but a great onboarding process will increase an employee’s level of commitment. Companies upping their game in the onboarding arena are clearly reaping the benefits of retained talent and higher new hire productivity levels.


Despite the research and obvious benefits, however, most onboarding programs across organizations and industries remain inconsistent, reactive and disorganized. Unfortunately, organizational inertia (the “it’s always been done this way” mentality) can be a major barrier to making the necessary changes. In addition, the lack of careful planning around onboarding creates a free-for-all environment that is just not as effective.


Years ago, the mindset was “sink or swim” with little attention given to how an employee really felt about the onboarding process or whether they received the support and training necessary to get up to speed. Today, however, the best companies are uber-focused on making sure their new hires have a deep understanding of what is expected and feel inspired. They believe that getting the emotional buy-in of a new hire is equally as important as providing technical training.


The most innovative companies continue to place focus on making sure their onboarding is organized, engaging and consistent. Unemployment is at its lowest and people have more choices than ever before as to where they want to work. A best-in-class onboarding process can be a company’s differentiator.


Leaders should think about their onboarding like they would any other strategic initiative – with deliberate planning and a strategic mindset. The effort invested upfront will go a long way. The following gives a sneak peek into what differentiates a best-in-class onboarding process, and what questions you should be asking:



What does ineffective onboarding look like?

  • Only lasts one week, not giving enough time for the new hire to become fully acclimated and resourced

  • Thrown out to the jungle and expected to survive without any real training

  • There is little interaction with others and the new hire is siloed

  • No one is asking the new hire to lunch or reaching out to “get to know” him/her

  • No one on the team and no manager is available to offer support/feedback

  • No one explains the unwritten rules or norms of the culture

  • New hire feels anxious, stressed, and alone

  • New hire makes a lot of mistakes and feels discouraged

  • New hire resigns after 90 days (or before)

  • New hire tells friends/family that it was a “bad experience”



What does a “best-in-class” onboarding process involve?

  • The onboarding process is designed thoughtfully and carefully to ensure success of the new hire

  • There is a checklist or agenda that lays out what the employee can expect in the coming weeks/months

  • There is a point of contact person from the beginning to ensure questions/concerns are addressed

  • There is someone designated introduce the new hire to the team and take him/her out to lunch

  • New hire paperwork is streamlined and minimal (maybe even automated through new technologies)

  • The employee’s workstation is set up and organized (and perhaps there is a “welcome” gift waiting)

  • A get-to-know you survey is sent along with other information on the company’s culture

  • The manager spends a great deal of time covering the basics and talking about expectations

  • Training is provided and there is a couple month period where learning and training is a priority

  • Formal check-ins at the one month, three month and six-month marks (feedback sessions)

  • Opportunities to allow the employee to cross-train (and learn about other aspects of the business)


What questions need to be asked to start improving the onboarding process?

  • When will onboarding start and how long will it last?

  • In what ways can it be simplified and what other areas should be bolstered up?

  • Where are the gaps and inconsistencies? What are exiting employees saying about the process?

  • What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day/week?

  • What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?

  • What role will HR play in the process? What about the managers? Co-workers?

  • What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees? Are they challenging but attainable?

  • How practical is it to provide training, resources and support necessary for the new hire to succeed?

  • How will you gather feedback on the new onboarding program and measure its success?


Hiring has never been more important. Finding quality people is vital to an organization’s ability to thrive and get ahead in the market. ImagineHR can help you assess your current onboarding and make improvements to create a best-in-class process!

ImagineHR  P.O. Box 470034 . Cleveland, OH 44147

440.897.1991  .  stella@imaginehrconsulting.com

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