Onboarding: Going Beyond Orientation

Onboarding: Going Beyond Orientation

by on 21 Nov, 2018

So far in this series of blog posts, we have discussed the benefits of employee onboarding, and have given tips on how to maximize the effectiveness of the onboarding process at various touchpoints, including before the first day, and the first day itself. While all these tips should be helpful, they won’t do much good if employers stop making an effort to onboard new hires once they complete their first day. Onboarding that doesn’t extend beyond the first day on the job into the first year and beyond should be considered nothing more than orientation. Yet, according to one report, one in four employers said that their company’s onboarding process takes only a day or less, and only one in ten reports extending the onboarding process to three months or longer.

Employers should set a predetermined series of checkpoints where certain tasks should be accomplished and certain goals should be reached. Here are some common checkpoints that can be incorporated:

  • After 30 days. By the end of the first month on the job, new hires should have a good grip on any tools or software that they will be using on a regular basis. They should also have a good understanding of the company culture, as well as the products or services offered and the organizational structure. They should have set goals to accomplish within the first three, six, and twelve months on the job.

  • After 90 days. By the end of the first three months on the job, new hires should have completed several projects with increasing responsibility and should feel comfortable completing projects independently. They should evaluate the goals they set during their first few weeks on the job and consider or adjust goals moving forward.

  • After six months. By the end of six months, the new hire should continue taking on projects with increasing responsibility and assessing their goals. They should receive formal feedback from their direct manager. Their manager, in return, should ask for feedback on how the transition into the new role has gone, and how it could potentially be improved.

  • After a year. The end of a new hire’s first year should be seen as an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments that have been made during that year. Managers should meet with the new hires to go over these accomplishments and acknowledge goals that have been reached, while also setting goals for the future. Some employers choose to recognize the first anniversary with an email of recognition, or a celebration of some sort.

Beyond setting these time-oriented checkpoints, employers should consider how they are taking onboarding beyond simply being a checklist of compliance-related items. Some employers are doing only the bare minimum, but by doing that, they are missing out on a range of benefits that come with truly making onboarding a proactive company-wide effort.

According to Tayla N. Bauer of Portland State University, onboarding has four distinct levels, called the 4 Cs. She considers these levels to be blocks that build upon one another to create a solid foundation for comprehensive onboarding, with each level that an employer incorporates increasing the effectiveness. The four C’s are:

  • Compliance. This level usually involves helping the new hire understand legal and workplace policy-related issues. It often includes having the new hire fill out employee paperwork, read the employee handbook, and sign an acknowledgment of receipt.
  • Clarification. This level involves making sure that new hires understand their new role, including the responsibilities and expectations of the role. Training for specific job skills is part of this level.
  • Culture. In this level, employers work to familiarize the new hire with the company culture, including organizational values and norms.
  • Connection. In this level, the highest level, employers work to facilitate relationships between the new hire and others in the company, helping them formulate important relationships and tap into information networks.

Tayla N. Bauer also talks about another set of levels of onboarding to explain the ways that employers leverage these four building blocks and how that translates into the level of effectiveness of the company’s onboarding efforts. These three levels are:

  • Passive onboarding. With passive onboarding, employers address compliance and give some role clarification, but fail to address culture and connection. Onboarding is viewed as a checklist of unrelated tasks to be completed, and the process is not being formally coordinated by anyone.
  • Potential onboarding. With potential onboarding, employers are incorporating all of the 4 Cs in some way, but the effort is not established in a formal way across the company, leaving more room for some things to fall through the cracks.
  • Proactive onboarding. With proactive onboarding, all of the four building blocks are incorporated, and there a formal process in place. Furthermore, there is someone responsible for overseeing the process, and the onboarding efforts are seen as a company-wide effort where everyone plays a part.

Most employers are currently sitting somewhere between the passive and potential levels of onboarding, which represents a huge missed opportunity to take full advantage of a proper onboarding process. Of course, addressing compliance and role clarification with new hires is critical, but stopping there is a mistake. The levels of culture and connection are extremely important because they foster a sense of belonging and set the new hire up to make connections that will ultimately lead them to thrive in their new role and as a meaningful part of the company as a whole. Thus, taking the time and effort to implement all of the levels of onboarding brings about benefits not only for the new hire but also for the company as a whole. It is an investment, but one that certainly pays off in the long run.

This post is part of a series on onboarding. Check out the other posts in the series:

Onboarding: Benefits and Myths

Onboarding: The Importance of Preboarding

Onboarding: First Day Best Practices

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Disclaimer: this article does not represent expert advice and is provided for informational purposes. Please get in touch if you would like expert HR advice.

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