The Importance Of Employee On-Boarding

The importance of employee on-boarding has been known for a long time. However, only a select few employers have a program in place that provides enough structure and discipline to gain the level of employee success and retention they are seeking. Many on-boarding programs fail to succeed because the key components and the pay-offs of an effective program are not fully understood.


A mistake with many organizations is the common belief that an effective on-boarding program is simply a first-day orientation followed up with benefits enrollment. This is not a formal on-boarding plan.

The length of a formal on-boarding plan depends on the size and scope of the job, as well as the size of the company. In a smaller to mid-size company, a successful plan can range from 90 to 180 days. At a larger company, a formal plan can be as long as one year.

Making A Plan

Regardless of the steps within your plan, it must contain these four components in order to be successful:

  1. The senior management team is a vocal advocate of the process and leads by example by utilizing this tool.
  2. A person with high credibility is officially designated to be responsible for managing and coordinating the plan, or perhaps to serve as a designated mentor.
  3. There is a well-written checklist of action items with a timeline attached to it for completion.
  4. There are periodical reviews of the plan’s effectiveness (ensuring completion of action items on time, receiving feedback from participants, etc.).

Here is a quick overview of the steps you can take to develop a successful process.

  • Orientation. The first week is critical in communicating the company culture as the new employee is observing and assessing the quality of work your company produces. Questions to answer include did he/she receive a communication before the start date as to what to expect the first week? Did the first day orientation begin on time and were the orientation materials well done and the presenter knowledgeable? Were important elements communicated thoroughly such as benefits, company values and basic company business information?
  • Transition actions by the immediate supervisor. Discuss job content, performance management process and expectations and introductions to team members in a formal meeting. Ideally, this may have been started in the interview process. Review company and departmental goals key to success and acquaint the new employee with key challenges that the business and department are facing. Help the new employee develop a 90-day formal plan of action for establishing themselves in the new role.
  • Establish a social/work network to develop relationships critical to success. The employee should meet one-on-one with key partners within the department, other key business partners, internal and external customers, etc. Ensure the employee is well-prepared for those meetings (the supervisor or mentor can provide this guidance).
  • Day milestone discussions. Set up a formal meeting to discuss the progress of deepening knowledge of the company, role and initial results around job content. Identify areas where additional resources (including training) are needed. Provide input on what worked well and what can be done differently.

Soon after 180 days, conduct a formal review with a performance rating. This step will enforce the message that the company measures performance, provides feedback and invests in training and development.

In summary, an on-boarding plan can be developed for anyone regardless of the size of the role and company. However, the most impactful outcome stemming from a formal and disciplined plan is its direct impact on retention. Employees who start with a positive on-boarding experience are naturally committed to the company for a long term. Simply said, in an industry with a well below national unemployment rate, an investment in employee retention is an investment worth making.

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