A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you



I recently traveled to San Diego for the ERE Expo; I presented a pre-conference workshop and was afforded the opportunity to attend the full conference (thanks to ERE for both!).


I’ve traveled alot for work but this was the first time attending a conference alone; I’m typically with or meeting someone upon arrival.


I AM NOT bashful but nonetheless, traveling alone to this conference was intimidating.


As I sat alone outside a coffee shop on the first day, I thought about an employer’s Onboarding practices.


Onboarding is socialization for the new employee.

The word Onboarding shouldn’t be used synonymously with orientation nor should it be considered something as simple as making some introductions and ensuring the new employee has a lunch date.


Onboarding is a combination of processes and activities that can demonstrate you care about employee contentment, commitment and performance.

In addition to things like paperwork, formalized orientation, training, etc., Onboarding includes things such as:


1) Intentional introduction of roles and responsibilities


  • One-on-one review of and discussion about the job description
  • Discussion about a typical day and frank exchange of typical hurdles
  • Meeting with whole team about performance standards and allowing current employees to talk about the “why” and the “how”
  • Exchange of ideas re: what the employee can do immediately, when the employee might need some “hand holding,” and when he/she might need some formalized planning/preparation


2) Introduction to staff, colleagues, customers, etc.

Perhaps you can ask the new employee how he/she would like to meet everyone.  He/she may want to:

  • Walk around (do in small bits)
  • Go to lunch with colleague or groups, share a coffee break, etc.
  • Have a meeting in which you help facilitate the mutual exchange of roles, ideas and competencies
  • Shadow you or others at a sales call, meeting or event
  • Attend other program “meetings” wherein you introduce and empower him/her


3) Creation of workspace

Nothing says “you’re not that important” like a cubby or office that hasn’t been prepared.  In my opinion, discounting office environment issues demonstrates an ignorance and/or complacency re: communication.  (Physical environment acts as nonverbal communication and, as such, carries over 50% of the message communicated to the new employee.)

A messy workstation, one that doesn’t have basic resources stocked, or one that still looks as if it belongs to someone else will counteract any verbal affirmation you give an employee on his/her first day.


4) Communication of culture, sub culture, “unwritten” rules, etc.

Hopefully, your recruiter helped pave the way in this regard but you need to take it from there.  You can:

  • Exchange information about policies and procedures that are different or more specific to your team than what would have been covered in orientation
  • Offer information about any idiosyncrasies, office politics, etc.  (Please note, I recommend you tread carefully here – any subjective opinions can easily manipulate or taint the message.  It’s important to let the new employee think for his/herself.)
  • Tell stories



In addition to the above activities, may I suggest that you…


1) Don’t let the new employee be a stranger on the first day.

It’s so much easier to officially meet someone when you have already “unofficially” met.  Take a brief moment to:

  • Send an email introduction to the new employee with a cc: to your staff a few days prior to the first day.
  • Let the front desk person know about the new employee to ensure “who are you?” doesn’t happen.
  • Use social media to introduce and connect the new employee to your team, your vendors, etc.  (Nothing says “Welcome” like a Shout Out or Wave on Twitter!)


2) Think beyond the first day or first week.

Socialization takes time…demonstrate a commitment to your employee by scheduling time the first week, the second week, and beyond.  You’ll know when the employee no longer needs you to check in but don’t stop until such time.


3) Seek input.

Ask the employee how the Onboarding process is going.

Invite feedback about your and your team’s efforts and do something with this information!



4) Delegate effectively.

You may not be the best person to engage in some Onboarding activities so delegate! (Don’t delegate to the person who has the most time on his/her hands…there may be a good reason for that! The last thing you need is a mediocre or substandard employee mentoring, training, or engaging with a new employee.)

Challenge the best of the best and delegate some of these activities to them.


I believe Onboarding should be personal and intentional

Many Onboarding activities can be standardized and streamlined but keep this in mind: personalized activities scream, “you’re worth it” – and that’s a good message to send to a new employee.


Sincere thanks to Smart Recruiters, LinkUp, Wowzer, SelectMinds
and especially
Talent Technology for saving me from the
awkwardness of being alone.
If the representatives’ kindness and generosity of spirit
are any reflection of their Onboarding processes, their new
employees are lucky!



Employee EngagementEmployee RelationsEmploymentHuman ResourcesOnboardingOrientationRetentionSatisfactionValueWorkforce

Heather Kinzie • March 31, 2012

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  1. Patty April 4, 2012 - 8:12 am Reply

    Great article Heather and so accurate! Thanks for the reminders.

    • Heather Kinzie April 6, 2012 - 1:54 pm Reply

      Hi Patty! Thanks for the visit to the blog and the kind words. I’m glad the post was useful. Onboarding is so critical to building a relationship, it breaks my heart when an organization discounts it!

  2. Tracy Hazen April 10, 2012 - 8:29 am Reply

    Hi Heather – I’m finding that an informal mentoring program is very effective in faciliating onboarding. Employees are often more comfortable going to a peer rather than to management. Also, I’m glad you recommended following up regularly. New employees are bombarded with information during those first few days of work and may need reminders regarding some of the info presented during orientation.

    • Heather Kinzie April 10, 2012 - 8:46 am Reply

      Indeed, follow up is so important! I remember auditing a clients orientation program a few years ago…it was four days long. I kept track of everything that was said, took notes along the way, evaluated the speakers, etc. Then I contacted the new employees the following week. Less than 10% of them remembered much of anything. Egads!

  3. Douglas Garner April 13, 2012 - 5:28 am Reply

    This is such a jam packed checklist for properly orienting a new employee. These ideas are effective for any level, any function and any business, ie. for-profit, not-for-profit, educational, governmental, etc.
    One thing also we have found that complements all of what you suggest is including a normative (comparative from person to person, statistically)psychometric profile. More than descriptive or behavioral like a DiSC, these calibrate the strength of initiative, root motivation triggers and need for structure (procedures) or independence.
    For employees (new and incumbents)to be able to see their relative inherent traits expedites the whole team forming, storming and norming process to ‘fast track’ performing. Thought you might want to know about these instruments. We’ve been amazed at their predictive qualities.

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