5 Steps for a Better Onboarding Process

    1. Develop a clear game plan for each hire. Failing to prepare not only wastes the time of your new hire, it also negatively impacts members of his team who are waiting for the new hire to get settled in and down to work. Before any newly appointed executive starts, take time to review the individual’s duties and responsibilities. Determine what the person will need to know in terms of corporate goals, department objectives, policies and procedures, organizational norms, and team dynamics. And most importantly, make sure short and long-term responsibilities and expectations are clearly defined. Next, formulate a detailed orientation plan for each day of the employee’s first week. This plan may include: time with executives who can clearly convey corporate priorities; introductory meetings with department heads, managers, customers, and vendors with whom your new hire will interact; initial interviews with subordinates to understand their roles and concerns; and attendance at appropriate meetings to get up to speed on current projects and issues.


    1. Include all relevant departments. When planning your onboarding process, be sure to consider engineering, IT, customer service, legal, R&D, marketing, sales, operations, and even administrative support in your meeting plans. Onboarding a new executive should be a joint effort to be shared with all departments. As Ted Forbes asserts, “HR’s control of onboarding frequently results from management’s underestimating the importance of the process. It’s just not viewed as a business lever, which is why onboarding might become little more than a checklist exercise to meet those basic HR requirements.” If approached from such a perspective, onboarding is going to be a missed opportunity for everyone involved. Expand the scope of onboarding and you’ll expand the scope of success for that new hire.


    1. Clarify expectations from day one. Vague goals produce vague results. If you are serious about driving performance, clear—and realistic—goals must set up front. Together discuss and document your performance expectations. Set specific objectives and development milestones for the first month, three months, six months, and year. Explain and demonstrate your performance evaluation process. Offer examples of the successes other executives in your organization have achieved…and perhaps how they were rewarded. If applicable, explain the potential for future promotion. By providing specific performance expectations and setting realistic goals, you dramatically reduce the changes for misunderstanding down the road.


    1. Take advantage of technology and networking. In the past, orientation was predominately about filling in forms and getting lectured on corporate policies. While this information must be shared, technology offers more efficient ways to convey the data. For example, in their “Jump Start” program, Capital One provides new hires with an online portal containing basic orientation information before they begin their job. According to Ted Forbes, “Capital One designed a series of e-learning modules that new hires can access on a website…this site provides information on culture, values and business lines, and it includes PDF versions of essential forms to download in advance of the on-site onboarding class.” Technology-aided preparation such as this allows for direct knowledge sharing between manager and candidate to happen as soon as the candidate arrives on the job. As an added bonus, the new hire feels much more prepared and familiar with the company’s policies on day one.


  1. Provide early and frequent feedback. Many large companies such as Capital One and GE have a formal appraisal process in place to assess and evaluate new employees early on—as soon as three or six months on the job. This preliminary performance review provides a newly appointed manager or executive with both positive feedback and guidance as to where improvements can be made. By providing early and frequent feedback, you can ensure new hires stay focused on the right priorities and prevent bad habits from developing. Ideally, the new hire appraisal process should encourage two-way dialog, so your organization can take advantage of the new hire’s fresh perspectives and suggestions for improvement.