Onboarding Process for New Hires

Does your onboarding process for new hires mainly consist of paperwork and GAAFOFY?

The onboarding process for new hires in many companies is mostly predictable, boring and uninspiring. I have seen very few organizations do a remarkable job at bringing people into a team in a way that sets them up to be rockstars ... more often than not the onboarding process sets them up to be (at worst) hostages, but more likely to be either charmers or performers. 

For many organizations the 'fall-to' position is the induction/orientation process.

Transactional Induction/Orientation Involves

  • Getting the paperwork out of the way to make sure you get paid and compliance requirements are covered
  • Introducing you to a few people
  • Assigning you a buddy
  • Setting you up with technology: computer, phone etc
  • Providing you with an employee handbook
  • Focusing on the organization's structure, mission and policies
  • Focusing on completing checklists
  • A list of projects to do then pretty much
  •  GAAFOFY - GAway And Find Out For Your Self

Having those basics of induction will get people going. But it won't enable them to shine. It is what keeps your company in the average pack - not the Rockstars of your industry. 

A transactional induction process is generally more about the organization's needs, than the new hires.

A transactional induction process certainly won't build commitment to the team or the organization. 

Rockstar companies and leaders commit to a Relational Onboarding program. One that cultivates long-term engagement, relationship building, and commitment

Relational Onboarding Involves

  • Long-term learning that can last from 6-18 months depending upon the role
  • A systematic process – that provides learning in small chunks over time
  • Promotes better understanding of the culture, vision and key objectives
  • Provides clarity on role impact, goals and performance expectations
  • Fosters the sense of belonging and believing that the new hire has made the right choice
  • Provides coaching and support from multiple stakeholders
  • Ensures the derailers and frustraters that come while being a 'newbie' are minimized - particularly as they experience "firsts"

The hierarchy of onboarding - from induction to integration

As you can see below at the most basic induction is all about getting people going. However, high-performing teams push beyond induction, orientation and onboarding. They move up into enrolling and integration, so that they enable the best possible performance, commitment and discretionary effort from their team members.

Induction to Integration Onboarding Hierarchy

The checklists of induction still apply, but they form part of a more comprehensive onboarding strategy

Below you can download a 12-month Onboarding Checklist in pdf format. Before clicking straight through to the checklist though, make sure you read the entire article. Because if you want a great process to help coworkers get to know each other better, there's a handbook you want to get your hands on when you are in the Belonging section!

The onboarding checklist is extracted from the "Starting Your Ideal Leadership Role With a Bang" course - which is designed to support leaders in onboarding themselves - like Rockstars - into the organization. However you will be able to easily adapt this checklist to use in your onboarding process for new hires. 

The image below shows the difference in focus and impact as you move from simple induction through to a well-planned out integration. 

As your company's onboarding process becomes more sophisticated you build upon each of the earlier iterations.

Onboarding focus from induction to integration

Build your onboarding process for new hires using the 4Bs of High-Performance

Any onboarding process for new hires must include all 4Bs of high-performance: Believing, Belonging, Behaving and Bottom-Line. If you haven't come across the 4Bs model then sign up for the free course Tools to Improve Employee Performance - where you'll discover how powerfully this model can impact your team member's performance.

4Bs of High-Performance

Below is a summary of the minimum outcomes a manager and new hire should work to accomplish during the first quarter in each of the 4Bs. 

Your onboarding process for new hires should be a partnership

Your onboarding process for new hires should be a partnership. In a high-performing company the focus is on building accountability by each team member for his or her own success. 

Right from the time you write your ad, through to the end of formal onboarding some 12-18 months later, ensure one of your key messages to your new hire is that they have found a place they can shine AND they have a big part to play in that responsibility.

So in the outcomes below, you'll see that there are items the Manager is responsible for and those the new hire is accountable for. 

Build Believing 

Helping people to know that they have joined the right company, are in the right job, and why what they do makes a difference to either all or at least some of: the company, the community, their colleagues, the planet

Throughout your entire selection process you are building (or busting) the reputation of your team, your company and you the leader. 

The way you treat candidates throughout the process tells the prospective new employee a story about you and the company.

Do you treat all candidates with dignity and respect in your Selection Process?

For example, a while ago I applied for a Group Manager, People role. The job was advertised via a recruitment agency, however they included the name of their client in the job ad. 

A week or so after submitting the application, I received this response from the Agency. As you can see from the highlighted section, this agency is not doing a great job of building Believing that this is the right company for me.

This email sends a message about the hiring company. 

bad email for recruiting

The message is: You are just a number to us. We aren't going to 'waste our precious time' on corresponding with people who aren't important to us.

A response like this tells me a story about what it might be like to work with this organization. That people are likely to be viewed as just a number. Someone there to do a job. 

If you are too busy to treat candidates with dignity and respect ... you are too busy to build a brand that people want to be a part of

And, please don't complain that you are busy and you get a lot of unwanted applications - therefore you are justified in sending out a poor email, like the one above (or worse yet, not even sending anything out!). Each potential candidate is a human who has hopes and dreams. Each potential candidate is someone that you can turn into raving fan/brand ambassador for your company ... if you treat them well. 

Your selection and onboarding process for new hires must get people Believing your company is the one they want to work for

Your selection and onboarding process must get people salivating at wanting to be a part of your company. And, even if they miss out, they are still saying great things about you. 

For example contrast this with how another company kept you up to date with the process. Ask yourself this - which company would you prefer to work with? Which company are you going to say to your friends - I missed out, but they sounded like they'd be a great place to work!

Your New Hire onboarding process must ensure people Believe in the organization's strategy and mission

Research by Towers Watson (10 million employees across 500 global organizations), identified the ultimate differentiators of excellence. They say that Purpose - in other words Believing in what the organization is doing, and the employee having a high buy-in to the brand, the mission, and the strategy are crucial. 

Not only do they need to Believe in the organization's mission and strategy, they must also Believe that their role has an impact. 

Let your new hires know they are an important part of your success

The message you want to send to your new team members is that they are an important part of your success. This is a message that is delivered not in one day, or even in the first month.  It is a message that fills the new hire's entire first year and on-going career with you.  

Onboarding is also an excellent opportunity for you to contribute to your company's reputation by reinforcing your brand. When a new person starts, their family and friends will be ringing/emailing/on social media to find out how they are enjoying their new job.

How your new team member is treated in these first few days will have a direct impact upon what they say to family and friends.

What the manager should do to help build Believing

  • Discuss the What, How And Why of what you are doing as a team or a company
  • Explain the impact of their role to any or all of - their team mates, product/service they're delivering, company, customers, world
  • Cascade information about strategies and business plans - relevant to the role
  • Help the new hire to see how his/her dreams and aspirations can be fulfilled
  • Spend time discussing the culture and the new team member's impact on it
  • Help them to know they've joined a team of high-performers, so you'll be holding them to a high-standard and you believe they'll thrive in this environment

What the new hire should do

  • Ask questions about outcomes of the work they do
  • Spend time discovering the implications of the work they do
  • Ensure they are clear about the impact they want to have personally and professionally and sharing that with their work colleagues

The new hire should be able to say:

I know why my (and my team's) work matters

Boost Belonging 

Promoting a sense of welcome, that helps people feel they fit in and this community values their contributions and wants to support them by shining a spotlight on their talents and capabilities. 

Humans are hard-wired to want to be a part of a community. Because we spend so many hours at work, (90,000-150,000 in a lifetime) people really, to perform at their best, need to feel that they're safe, trusted and that they can trust their leadership. That they belong in this organisation. Here is a place they can thrive.

What the manager should do to help build Belonging

  • Ensure the team is primed to be welcoming, inclusive and interested in the new hire's success
  • Assist in identifying and introducing the new hire to people that should be part of their network
  • Explain the importance of those individuals/groups to their network
  • Create opportunities for the new hire to socialize
  • Create opportunities for the new hire to share his/her preferred style of working
  • Describe and set up the channels where growth and learning can occur in a safe manner

What the new hire should do

  • Build trust and relationships 
  • Look for opportunities to meet others and understand their impact on their role
  • Discover people's preferred style of communicating and what they need to do to interact effectively together
  • Understand individuals' influence and sway in the organization (formal and informal)
  • Create active and effective communication channels with all the people in their network

The new hire should be able to say:

I like and know how to work effectively with people who are essential to my success

Here's a glimpse at some of what a leader, who is using the 4Bs framework, would do as they onboard a new hire in terms of Belonging

Think about back to when you went to a job interview where you physically rocked up at reception. You said, "Hi, I'm Shelley, and I'm here to interview with Jo".

What happened next?

In most companies, generally the receptionist says something along the lines of "Take a seat. Jo will be with you shortly."  

More often than not you probably sat in the reception area for 10-15 minutes. Drumming your fingers, leafing through any material that happens to be left at the reception table, feeling nervous and uneasy.

Most companies treat you as an outsider UNTIL they offer you a job

And here's my question to you. How much did the receptionist engage you in conversation? How much did they make you feel that you were being welcomed into a community who wants to see you shine?

In most situations, the receptionist, after greeting you and playing nice for a few seconds, then turns their attention back to whatever they were doing. In other words it is literally sit down and shut up! 

Rockstar companies and leaders design Belonging and Believing into every interaction 

But here's the interesting thing. If you are a leader who is operating through the lens of the 4B's and understand that every interaction we have with a potential employee is an opportunity to

a) turn them into an ambassador of your brand and

b) turn them into an  ambassador of you as the leader

c) every interaction is part of onboarding them into Believing that this is going to be a great place to work 

then they will set even something as simple as your first walk through the door in a much more deliberate manner.

So imagine this scenario. 

An interview where you immediately get a sense of belonging

You rock up to reception, and say, "Hi, I'm Shelley."

And before you can go any further, the receptionist says: "Hey Shelley, Jo told me you're coming in to interview for the Sales Rep job today. So excited that you could be a part of the team. He's going to be about another five or 10 minutes, because he's running a bit behind.

And it is important to Jo and us that you feel welcome.  So, just give me a second. I'll close down this document, then I'll come and sit and chat to you about what it's like to work here."

Then the receptionist comes over and starts sharing how they feel about the company and what is great about working there. What Jo is like as a person. 

What are you going to think about that organization? It's cool. Right. Very welcoming. 

I feel like I belong. I'm already starting to Believe. 

I had an experience like that once - and you guessed it - it was how I got to be working for my first high-performance company! 

Just by the way the ad was written, they already had me really wanting to be a part of this company. But the way the receptionist spoke with me. The vibe from the team members as they wandered through reception, had me salivating and I have never wanted a job more in all my life. Thank goodness they saw something in me and offered me the role. Best thing that ever happened to me.

There are a lot of systems and mindset building that goes in to making this happen

But think about this. What has to go into the thinking and the systems and the processes and the way we operate as an organization to enable a receptionist to respond like that?

Would your company's receptionist be able to leave their work station and sit and talk to a prospective candidate for 20 minutes while they are waiting for the interview to start?

What systems and mindsets need to be put in place so that the receptionist can walk away from their desk for 20 minutes. That the receptionist feels they are an important part of bringing people on board. That the receptionist is a part of building the brand of the company and what people say and feel about that brand. 

You see Rockstar/Superstar organizations look beyond, what is the task at hand. They go further. They think about what is the ultimate outcome here? What do we want people to feel. What do we want them to say to others about their experience of interviewing with us.

And you know what 90% of people reading this will think it is a great idea, but too much work and will go back to being average. To sitting in the Performer quadrant. Because if being a Rockstar leader and organization were easy, every one would be doing it!

Performer organizations see this as too much work!
That's why so few organizations become Rockstars or Superstars:
if it were easy everyone would be doing it.

And so when, we think about building Belonging and Believing into your organization, you've got to look at all the systems that go into ensuring they become a part of the DNA of your company.

It's about understanding that you're building a brand reputation as an organization. Building a reputation as a leader who creates that brand.  

What happened on your first day on the job?

Can you recall the first day you started  at the job that you're in. What happened?

Let's focus on a physical, "go into the workplace" first day. But even if it was a remote orientation, it's likely the process is similar. 

Let's say you were starting at nine o'clock. Was your boss, at reception to meet you at nine o'clock?

More likely you were greeted by the receptionist. "Hey good to have you onboard, take a seat and Jo or HR will be with you soon."

Once the Hello's were done, you were possibly given a welcome pack, maybe a computer and a two-week agenda with meetings already popped into it. 

If you hadn't done it before hand, maybe you had paperwork to fill in.

Maybe a small gift of some sort - e.g. a lunch box or maybe some product or something. 

Maybe instructions on how to access various applications on your computer.

People were nice to you - (they always are on the first day!) But a true sense of belonging doesn't happen in most organisations from the first day. You still feel like an outsider who has to work hard to crack into the relationships that have already been well-established. 

Generally you feel like an outsider for the first several weeks

A leader who is using the 4Bs framework, understands that building Believing and Belonging is the foundation upon which you generate Behaving and the Bottom-Line.

So, a 4Bs Leader puts in place the systems, and mindsets that enable Believing and Belonging to build throughout the entire time an individual works within his or her team. From the time they read the job ad, until the day they resign from the company.

A Day 1 onboarding process for a new hire, who is coming into a 4Bs Leader's team would look something like:

From the date of appointment, to the date of starting, quick little personalised videos are sent to the new hire's phone from their new team mates (both those in the direct team and internal customers/suppliers).

Before Start day: Short personalized welcome videos from team mates  

"Hey Shelley, so thrilled you are coming to join our team. I'm Sandy, I'll be sitting two desks to your left. You'll discover I'm crazy mad about dogs, I hate being interrupted when I've got my yellow focus cap on. You and I are going to kick butt on the XYZ project - which is super important to the business - and your skills are going to be so valued. Jo told me you are super strong at detail - which will compliment my lack in that area perfectly. This is going to be great. See you on Tuesday!"

The paperwork is done before Day 1.
A small welcome gift is sent to their home.
Maybe breakfast on First Day with Direct Leader

You're asked, if you'd like to meet for breakfast with your boss as a way to start the day. But it is made clear that if you have a morning routine that precludes that (e.g. school drop off), then that's fine.

So, maybe you don't have breakfast with your boss, but when you rock up to reception a few minutes before 9 your boss is standing there waiting to greet you.

Introductions will happen regardless

In a regular team, as the introductions are happening, the boss usually says something like: "Hey Tim, I want to introduce you to Shelley who is joining us today as a Team Leader". And Tim, will say something like: "Hey Shelley, nice to have you onboard. I'll see you around."

Generally it's not much more than that. They're nice, but it is often an awkward few minutes before you move on to the next introduction.

4Bs Leaders introductions are designed to be welcoming, inclusive and powerful reminder that you Belong

In a team where they understand the importance of Believing and Belonging, as you do the introductions walk around, as you walk up to Tim's desk, Tim looks up and says, "Hey Shelley, so great to have you onboard as the Team Leader. I've been looking forward to having you join us. Jo has told us that you've a real strength in …. "

Introductions to work colleagues are going to happen. But when they happen with deliberate intent of building Believing and Belonging, they happen in a much more powerful way. Rockstar leaders prime their team members to ensure their new work colleague immediately feels that they are an important member of this team.

When you get it right, the new hire all of a sudden goes: "I feel like I've found my tribe. I've found a community. These people really care about me, and want to see me succeed. Dang I'm glad I joined this team and this company. This is going to be awesome." 

What do you think they are going to go home and say to their family and friends?

What do you think happens to their performance - short and long-term?

What do you think happens to their longevity, when they realise this wasn't just a front for Day One. This is actually how they roll in this company?

They feel like they're a part of something special, and not another number - easily replaceable.

Powerful Design Questions:

What do I want my new hire to go home and say to their family and friends about their experience of working in my team?

Once you've got that clarity, then ask yourself:

What needs to happen for them to say that?

Once you get that clarity, now design it into your systems and your people's mindset


In most onboarding processes there will be meetings set up where the new hire gets to sit down with other team members.

Generally, there is no formal process. And most of the discussion will be around how the two job roles interface with each other.

Very rarely do you see an onboarding process that goes beyond the "You'll meet with Person, A, Person B and Person C at these times".

Rockstar leaders and organizations set up their introduction meetings so that not only does work get talked about, so too do each individuals work preferences, communication styles etc.

The This Is Me Handbook is a powerful document that enables a new hire and his or her team mates, as part of their onboarding process, to sit down and spend some time getting to know each other by discussing the following topics:

  • My ideal work environment
  • Time/hours I prefer to work
  • Best ways to communicate to me
  • How I like to make decisions
  • When you have a problem with my performance ...
  • You'll see me underperform when ...
  • I learn best when ...
  • How I deal with conflict
  • My strengths
  • My weaknesses
  • Insights
  • Personal Bits 'n Bobs

Not only does it build rapport, but it gives them a start on building meaningful relationships built on respect and understanding. It enables them to bond and move beyond "here's the job I do - here's how your job impacts on that!"

Discover more about the "This Is Me" handbook here and download the free pdf version with example responses in it that you can share with your team members. 

There is much more you can do in Belonging (as there is in the other 3Bs too), but I wanted to spend a bit more time here for you, giving more examples, as if you get Belonging right, it feeds into Believing. When you get Believing and Belonging right then you'll get more discretionary effort and higher engagement.

Once you've got that, putting in place great systems to build Behaving and Bottom-Line means that the discretionary effort and engagement are focused on delivering performance the business needs.  Because as we all know, sometimes people have great enthusiasm, great intent, but aren't good at delivering exactly what the business needs. 

Hardwire Behaving

Providing clarity on the behaviors needed to succeed in their role and the organization, What will make them a hero and what will get them in hot water.

To thrive people need to know what makes me successful and what will tip me into hot water. There are subtleties here. The behaviors that would work for you at Apple, will get you fired at Wal-Mart.  

In addition, people excel when they are in an environment where it is the norm to act at your best potential.

What the manager should do

  • Provide in-the-moment performance enhancement coaching
  • Set up formal check-ins against defined performance criteria
  • Support creation of an Individual Development Plan
  • Communicate relevant learning and development opportunities and support participation in the events (before and after)
  • Provide support from colleagues who are strong role models for what it takes to succeed in this company

What the new hire should do

  • Document and live their personal brand
  • Ask for feedback from both Manager, colleagues and direct reports
  • Incorporate that feedback into specific performance actions and development plans
  • Attend learning and development programs and plan how to embed the knowledge (so that both them and their team benefit)

The new hire should be able to say:

I know if I'm on track and where to improve

Bring home the Bottom-line

Providing the tools, resources and context to help people deliver meaningful results fast - as an individual and as part of a team.

What is it that they do that contributes to the sustainability of your business? Both fiscally and through the company's impact in the broader community.

In many companies people simply don't understand the consequences of the daily decisions they make to the company's bottom-line. When you help people understand the game of business, they'll make better decisions. Good people make bad decisions when they don't have the right information at their fingertips.

Good people also make bad choices when the systems and tools don't enable them to perform their role efficiently. So part of your onboarding process should enable the new hire to review:

  • what is working in your systems and processes
  • what is not working
  • what is obsolete
  • what could be improved

fresh eyes can oftentimes bring in major improvements in performance. The team should be primed for any new hire to question anything and everything - and not get resentful about it!

What the manager should do

  • Review of expectations and performance goals  and KPIs (within first 2 weeks)
  • Provide timely feedback on progress toward achieving goals/KPIs
  • Provide examples of 'success' in the role
  • Be dedicated to supporting the team member through their onboarding program
  • Ensure business literacy is included in the onboarding program (regardless of level in the organization)

What the new hire should do

  • Ask questions about their role and expectations
  • Identify a "Let's Transform This" project with their team
  • Identify systems/procedures/policies that will get in the way of their "Let's Transform This" and the team's ongoing high-performance
  • Review performance criteria with their manager
  • Take responsibility for completing their onboarding program by using the onboarding checklist

The new hire should be able to say:

know what's expected of me, the impact of my decisions, and am making good inroads to achieving great results

How long should your onboarding program last?

Very few organizations have an onboarding process for new hires that last much beyond the first 2-3 weeks. However, as you can see, you should consider onboarding to last up to 12 months if not longer! 

Onboarding begins with the recruitment advertisement and finishes "never." Formal onboarding activities may finish after 6, 12 or 18 months, depending upon the role. However, the principles of onboarding, enrolling and integrating continue to be applied throughout a team member's career:- as they shift into new roles, new technologies, new development capabilities.

onboarding process for new hires

Many organization's try to short-circuit the onboarding process for new hires and focus on the final two Bs of Behaving and Bottom-line. Unfortunately, that produces less than desirable results.

High-performance can only be driven through all four B's being applied cohesively and using a systematic process. 

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