After Onboarding: Sustaining
Human Capital and Organization
HCI White Paper
November 16, 2006
By Ross Jones
prise organizations in North America. The study
found that the industry norm for onboarding was
one month versus six months for "best-in-class"
organizations, and that the latter experienced
improvement in time-to-productivity and employee retention. These organizations have determined
that extending the onboarding period to six months
provides more meaningful insight as to an employee's corporate engagement, productivity and acculturation.
Recruiters and staffing professionals have advanced
in the recognition that their involvement in attracting and hiring highly qualified human capital does
not end with the acquisition of the new employee.
The process is ongoing, and it continues with the
implementation of an onboarding roadmap strategy that lends itself to developing and retaining talent through a systematic communication program
that focuses on the employee's successful integration into the corporate culture.
Best-in-class companies comprise 20 percent of
organizations that utilize practices highly superior
A recent study reported that 70 percent of new to those of the industry norm of 50 percent of comemployees do not clearly understand their roles and panies. By contrast, laggard organizations generally
responsibilities, which contributes largely to their employ practices considered 30 percent behind the
failure to meet performance expectations and build industry norm. This point notwithstanding, the
relationships with others in their organizations. Aberdeen Group report also indicated that 76 perThe manner in which employees function in their cent of companies were planning to implement a
job capacity, within their specific industry, is an formal onboarding program for their employees.
important consideration in a company's develop- This is an increase from the 40 percent of compament of an effective onboarding strategy. That nies who reported plans to start onboarding prostrategy should promote a climate for success by grams in 2005. This nearly 100 percent increase
outlining processes for talent care with a view to demonstrates that more organizations are grasping
sustaining human capital and organization per- the importance of the onboarding process in susformance.
taining human capital and obtaining exceptional
performance from it.
This paper reviews the best practices of successful
companies in the integration of onboarding strate- After analyzing the results of its survey, the
gies across their performance management sys- Aberdeen Group made several key suggestions for
maximizing the onboarding process. Among them,
BEST PRACTICES IN ONBOARDING
The Aberdeen Group, a provider of fact-based
research focused on the global, technology-driven
value chain, conducted a survey in July and August
of 2006 that examined the onboarding procedures,
experiences and intentions of more than 600 enter-
defining the onboarding process and creating a
roadmap were promulgated as important first steps.
Because the concept of onboarding has little or no
meaning to the majority of employees, it is incumbent upon the organization to delineate the
onboarding lifecycle from beginning to end. The
company should also consider how internal leadership changes in the form of promotions, transfers
and redeployments could impact the onboarding
process. Clearly then, the creation of a roadmap
that connects the dots between the date of hire and
the end of the employee's first six months allows
human resource professionals to transform
onboarding and leadership change practices and
overlay them on a number of departmental
processes, all while maintaining them as distinct
functions. The Aberdeen Group also recommended that onboarding be integrated within the overall
hiring management scheme. While the hiring
process is associated with onboarding, staffing is
responsible for ensuring that the right candidate is
aligned with the right position. Onboarding does
not occur in a vacuum, and it requires the coordination and cooperation of both human resources
and management. The onboarding process is never
a matter of merely handing-off employees; rather, it
mandates the intersection of human capital, human
resources, and management. Extending the
onboarding period to six months allows stakeholders to more accurately gauge short-term retention
rates and employee time-to-productivity. In addition, the replacement of paper-based systems with
forms, task management and socialization makes
data tracking and measurement less cumbersome.
KEY PHASES OF ONBOARDING
The pre-start phase of onboarding occurs two to
three weeks before the candidate actually joins the
company. Generally, the first 30 days of employment gives a candidate the opportunity to settle
into the new position and become acclimated to
company culture. The next five months are critical
for the new employee in mastering the
learning/performance curve through engagement
and the execution of job responsibilities. From day
31 through the conclusion of the employee's first
six months onboard, managers have the opportunity to take action steps, such as providing early and
ongoing verbal and written feedback on the new
hire's performance and engagement; conducting a
needs assessment for additional training and mapping short-term and long-term goals; and continuing to build new hire networks throughout the
The advantages of these action steps are that hiring
managers can give progress reports, which enable
the employee to make adjustments to behavior and
performance as necessary in a way that fosters positivism on the part of the new hire. Another benefit
is that the manager can accurately assess what additional training an employee might require to be
fully successful in the position, as well as in the
overall organization. Still another benefit of the
aforementioned action steps is that new employees
will build networks that offer additional resources
and support. Human resources can serve as a consultant to hiring managers to encourage followthrough and the creation of customized roadmaps.
FROM ORIENTATION TO ONBOARDING
Though the terms may mistakenly be used interchangeably, orientation is a different process from
onboarding. Orientation is an important precursor
to the onboarding process in that it familiarizes the
new employee with the company's fundamentals
and culture. According to the Aberdeen Group survey, many companies have the impression that succession planning and training have a far greater
impact on retention rates than onboarding.
However, studies have indicated that approximately
90 percent of new hires decide whether to remain
with a company during the first six months of
employment. This statistic emphasizes the role the
onboarding process can play in employee retention.
Onboarding expands the orientation process by
providing specific employee tools that can assist in
the execution of job function.
There are two approaches to onboarding: tactical
and strategic. Tactical onboarding begins the first
day of employment and is short in duration. The
process is more logistical in nature, for example,
ensuring the new hire has the requisite technology
to perform the assigned tasks. The employee
receives a brief introduction to the company and
any subsequent information after the "basic" orientation is usually limited and informal.
ensuring the new hire has the requisite technology
to perform the assigned tasks. The employee
receives a brief introduction to the company and
any subsequent information after the "basic" orientation is usually limited and informal. Conversely,
strategic onboarding begins at the offer stage and
continues through the first six months of employment. It focuses on the employee's immediate and
long-term ability to impact company success and
the creation of a formalized roadmap. Strategic
onboarding also applies to internal and external
leadership changes and demands that human
resources be more involved in the development
concept and alignment process.
hires and transferees are that transferees (1) typically have already established prior networks and relationships and (2) possess in-depth knowledge
about the company. The implication of the organizational lifecycle for both new hire and transferee is
the impact it has on expectations and measurements. Corporate lifecycles encompass a variety of
stages, among them start-up, rapid growth, steady
rate, and cash cow. Success can only be accurately
measured by recognizing employee contributions
in the context of the company's current status. The
appropriateness of the employee's actions must be
weighed against the company's structural framework.
IMPACT OF TRANSITION POINTS ON PERFORMANCE
Through the duration of an employee's corporate
career, the opportunity to traverse a number of
transition points, including individual contributor,
the team, the management of other managers,
functional manager, business manager, group manager, and enterprise manager, may develop and
expand as the individual's job function does. In
consideration of the impact of transition points on
performance, it must be determined how organizations assess the skills, emotional intelligence, and
work values common to each transition. This
should be coupled with an understanding of what
SIMILARITIES IN NEW HIRE AND TRANS- specific or segmented programs and processes are
available to support individuals as they transition
through each passage.
There is very little that separates the development
needs of new hires and transferees. Both groups As employees grow professionally through promohave similar performance factors for which to be tional opportunities that bring with them increased
concerned, including management skills, function- and expanded responsibilities, it is important for
al skills, industry knowledge and organizational the supervising manager to explain how these differ
lifecycle. The two major differences between new from the employer's former position. The new
manager can also help the employee identify current skills that can be mapped to the new job function, as well as any new skills that may need to be
IMPACT OF FUNCTIONAL ROLE AND SECTOR ON ONBOARDING
Functional roles include positions such as chief
financial officer, chief technology officer, chief
operating officer, senior sales executive and senior
marketing executive. The key challenge in providing onboarding for these functions is the understanding of the diversity of line and functional relationships and expectations. Some potential action
steps that may mitigate this challenge include
obtaining an early, expert, and "current state"
assessment of the function; aligning functional
strategy and performance measures with business
strategies and goals; providing assistance in familiarizing the employee with the enterprise on every
level; the assignment of a peer coach performing
the same function, but from a different organizational area; and conducting cohort-based development. This last action step is particularly valuable,
as it encourages the employee to connect and build
relationships with other talent possessing the same
background. A key responsibility of human
resources in the onboarding process is to ensure
that employees fully understand how their job
functions relate to the business strategy of the company with a view to translating organizational goals
into functional goals.
new position might possess some industry knowledge, but not quite enough to function as effectively and productively as required by the position.
Potential onboarding actions steps, such as assessing gaps in industry knowledge to anticipate performance challenges, as well as assessing gaps in
industry relationships and deploying peer coaching
and industry involvement to close those gaps, will
assist in augmenting the employee's existing knowledge.
INTEGRATING ONBOARDING WITH HR
Companies have come to grips with the reality that
the environment for attracting and retaining talent
in their respective industries is highly competitive.
To this end, more companies are beginning to
implement onboarding strategies that encompass
the ever-growing global economy. Many organizations have developed a streamlined onboarding
approach to processing and acclimating all new
hires. There are several aspects of integrating
human resources processes into onboarding,
including planning, performance management and
INTEGRATION WITH HR PROCESSES: PLANNING
Planning is a key part of the human resource
administrative process. Activities include forecasting possible organizational events and predicting
the number and kind of staff that will required by
Just as functional role influences the onboarding the organization to account for expansion, retireprocess, so too does sector. Technology, manufac- ments, and turnover, as well as succession, recruitturing, nonprofit, government, education, financial ment, and redeployment planning. Examples of
and other sectors have industry-specific standard onboarding/redeployment strategies include the
operating procedures. An employee moving into a creation of a position-based onboarding and rede-
ployment plan, along with the allocation of coaching resources that marries the onboarding process
to mission critical positions. In addition, the development of specific or segmented programs based
on anticipated "capital gaps" to support employees
as they transition and candidate review by talent
management adds clarity to the issue of performance expectation and measurement.
trends for new hires and the inclusion of onboarding effectiveness questions in the exit interview will
provide insight as to what adjustments might need
to be made to the current program, as will obtaining feedback on new hire engagement and productivity.
INTEGRATION WITH HR PROCESSES: PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT
Statistics demonstrate that corporate America has
now largely embraced the thinking that implementation of an onboarding program that can be integrated into current performance management systems not only makes sense, but it is no longer an
option. In order to achieve their recruitment and
retention goals, companies will need to create or
expand existing onboarding plans to address the
disparate needs of employees based on functional
role, sector and transition points. Best-in-class
companies seamlessly integrate onboarding with
existing talent management programs, resulting in
employees who arrive at their positions well
informed and well equipped, ready to perform.
As indicated earlier in this paper, 70 percent of
employees fail to understand their roles and
responsibilities, severely undermining their ability
to fulfill their job functions. Conducting early performance reviews, encouraging pre- and postassignment developmental assessments, participating in individual assessment discussions with
stakeholders to assess gaps and recommend early
behavioral adjustments, and investing in an
onboarding coach are some ways to wrap performance management into the onboarding process.
INTEGRATION WITH HR PROCESSES: METRICS
By modeling an onboarding program on the best
practices of the most successful companies presented within this paper, other organizations can develMetrics provide a means for organizations to meas- op initiatives that will lead to sustaining key human
ure the success of their programs and initiatives. capital and taking organizational performance to
The development of a survey campaign based on an greater heights.
external design can help improve benchmarking
results. New hires can be surveyed at three inter- Based on the Human Capital Institute webcast,
vals: a 30-day survey that focuses on the pre-start After Onboarding: Sustaining Human Capital and
and job settlement phases, a six-month survey driv- Organization Performance, November 16, 2006.
en by human resource business partners or talent
management that is simple, quick, and actionable,
and a 12-month view of the overall onboarding
experience based on the Recruiting Roundtable
survey model. The analysis of voluntary turnover
Center for Effective Leadership Changes
Mark Walztoni is the Managing Director of The
Center for Effective Leadership Changes, a professional services firm that assists leaders to accelerate
their effectiveness during the critical period after
they accept a role within a new organization or are
redeployed within their current one. His firm's
services include assisting individual leaders, their
teams, and their organizations to develop the key
competencies that result in successful life-long professional transitions. Effective performance is based
on the foundation of these scalable competencies
that ensures that stakeholder expectations are
aligned, learning and development opportunities
occur, and regular candid and actionable feedback
results in mutual success.
Vice President of Human Resources
Heather Briant joined Cineplex Entertainment LP
in March 2006 as Senior Vice President, Human
Resources. Ms. Briant is responsible for the Human
Resources function, encompassing talent development, organization effectiveness, total compensation, HR governance and reporting. Prior to joining
Cineplex Entertainment, she was most recently
Vice President, Corporate Human Resources for
Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited. Ms. Briant
also held various positions at the law firm Davies,
Ward & Beck, culminating at Chief Administrative
Officer. Ms. Briant has an MBA from the Rotman
School of Management at the University of
Toronto. She is currently Chair of the Board of
Directors for The Jean Tweed Centre, a treatment
facility for Ontario women with substance abuse
Specialist, Global Onboarding
Khai Jones is a Global On-Boarding Specialist, and
her work focuses on designing and implementing
Cummins' global on-boarding initiatives. Khai
joins the Cummins team with over five years of
Human Resources experience, including working
at Humana, a Fortune 500 health benefits company.
She received her undergraduate degree in Public
Health Administration and African American
History from Indiana University-Bloomington. She
is currently pursuing a Masters of Business
Administration at Indiana University-Columbus.
As Director of Talent Development and Leadership
Communities at The Human Capital Institute, Joy
brings twenty-five years of experience in multiple
facets of organizational development, human
resources and business management with an
emphasis in customer satisfaction, service quality,
process improvement, and applying the Malcolm
Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. As
founder and President of Performance Partners in
Health Care, a company dedicated to building better patient experiences, she has authored several
curriculums in leadership and staff development,
and co-authored with Harold Bursztajn, MD Senior
Clinical Faculty member, Harvard Medical School,
Building a Treatment Alliance with Patients and
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