by Kim Wipf

What are the most important things a new employee needs to know?  That’s the key question when we’re creating New Employee Onboarding. Is it understanding the strategic direction of the company? Who are customers are? What exactly do we do? Or focus on managers setting expectations with new employees, review of the benefits package and understanding performance management?

While all of these topics are important, the most important goal of New Employee Onboarding is confirming to the new employee he/she made the best career decision to take this new role and join this new company.

Onboarding really has three phases:

  1. Pre-boarding, between the time the employee accepted the offer and started employment;
  2. Onboarding, which is that first day(s) or week(s) of general company onboarding, and
  3. Post-boarding, which is a deep dive into the functional knowledge needed to be successful in the new role.

Through each phase, the employee should be reconfirming they made the best career decision.  Here are examples of three companies that embraced this goal as we worked with them to design their New Employee Onboarding to match their unique cultures.

1. The New Beginning.
Moving day is never easy. A major automotive company had the challenge of moving a major corporate location to a new state. That meant relocating 3000 employees while rapidly hiring thousands of new employees to meet the relocation and increased business demands. A leader in their field, the company had a strong recruitment brand and highly defined culture, so finding people wasn’t the challenge. However, it was still important that each individual be able to confirm they made the right choice to move to the new location, or to join as a new employee.

An effective Onboarding strategy involved integrating new employees with transferred employees for sessions on the company culture. The sessions leveraged years of corporate folklore and stories that confirmed the value and uniqueness of the company and its customers.  A unique diversity exercise demonstrated how the two groups (transfers and new hires) should be aware of the challenges and values of creating one new culture, reinforcing that the company valued all employees.

Onboarding was not just about employees who were new to the company but also about how both new and seasoned employees could adapt to the new city.  The company held a Knowledge Fair for transfer employees to help them register their cars, find new doctors in the area, get a new company car, etc. Every step was taken to show the importance of each individual.

2. Understanding the Mission.
A major hospital in New York City made the choice to reduce their 2 day Onboarding program to 1 day. The goal was to improve efficiency and reduce the manpower required to hold up to 42 sessions a year.

The hospital had a strong reputation and was a ranked in the Top Ten Hospitals in the US. While their goal was efficiency, the hospital did not want to lose any of the strong cultural elements in the current program which reinforced why individuals should stake their career with this hospital versus the many others in the region.

To reinforce their commitment to employees, each session was led by the CEO of one of the regional units or the Director of a major program. Senior leaders who make this type of commitment are rare, but the payback from employee engagement is worth it.  Onboarding focused on how the hospital helped people: patient testimonials of innovative care, leadership testimonials of why they joined the hospital and stayed, and videos showing the community impact were all designed to reconfirm that new employees had made an excellent career decision. In order to reduce the number of days many of the other topics on safety, efficacy, and compliance were moved to eLearning modules and integrated into post-boarding.

3. The Perpetual Onboarding Machine.
A fast-growing Pharmaceutical company with offices on both coasts had the opportunity to do a complete overhaul of their half-day virtual onboarding session.  The company’s recruiting strategy was to hire highly-skilled experienced professionals and let them get on with doing what they did best. The goal was to have the onboarding match the culture: fast-paced, semi-structured, and high achievement. It needed to be just enough, fast-paced, bi-coastal, and both virtual and live, and with the ability to easily retrieve the information at a later date.

The company had a unique acquisition and growth strategy, so the design focused on strategy and products. Onboarding was 5 hours with live sessions on both the East and West coast, with overlapping virtual sessions to help build the entire organization. A separate onboarding website was built and accessed through the LMS, with additional information that an employee could retrieve just in time, when they needed it. Onboarding was a perpetual pursuit, not a one-time event; new employees were expected to use their expertise and experience, but could always reach out for a helping hand.

Each of the companies above took a somewhat different approach to onboarding, but all had similar goals: to show what made the company special, to help new employees make a difference quickly, and to confirm that each new employee had made the best career decision of their lives.


Kim Wipf is a Managing Consultant at Performance Development Group.

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