3 HR Processes Human Resources Practices Onboarding


“Standardized onboarding results in significant improvement in business metrics such as new hire retention, goal achievement for the organization, new hire performance, employee engagement, and internal fill rate.” (Aberdeen Group, 2011)

Bringing new hires into an organization is much more than running through a checklist of policies, processes and tasks.  It’s about transforming new employees into dedicated employees.  It’s about making them feel welcome, getting them excited and engaged.  It’s about fostering interpersonal relationships to achieve collaboration and alignment of business goals.

The philosophy of treating employee happiness as a priority is taking root in today’s business world.  George Bradt, managing director at PrimeGenesis, an onboarding and leadership consulting firm, says “The way you manage the transition of somebody into your culture speaks volumes about the culture to the person coming in, because you’re making those first early impressions and they know what’s expected of them.”

This is particularly true when it comes to veteran hires, as they are transitioning from a military culture to life in corporate America.  Effective onboarding has a positive domino effect in that it ensures the new hire is prepared, knowledgeable of the expectations of the new position, and becomes familiar with the layout and cultural dynamics of the organization.

Firms that have found success onboarding veterans are also those that have taken proactive steps and made focused investments in bridging military service and civilian employment.  These employers provide mentorship, training and resources positioned to help veterans navigate through and be successful in the workplace.   For instance:

  • TriWest creates information packages that outline existing resources within and outside of the company.
  • The Associate Military Network at Sears Holdings Corporation welcomes incoming veteran hires, provides additional transition assistance, and enables them maintain camaraderie in veteran communities.

Further, successful firms have common programs or resources designed to educate hiring managers and employees in a way that positions them as champions of the organization’s veteran employment initiatives.  For example, at JPMC, the Military Human Resources (MHR) group is a centralized function positioned to supports veterans during onboarding, as well as facilitates successful assimilation and professional development.

Onboarding actually begins before the first day of employment.  HR or the hiring manager should have at least one conversation with the new hire prior to their first day.  The purpose of the call is to communicate enthusiasm for the individual joining the organization, to share key information they will need on their start date, and answer any questions he/she may have.   It’s important to relay the hours the new hire is expected to work, ensure he/she knows the dress code, where to park, where and how to enter the building, and who will be the first person to greet them.

Relocating to a new location can be a huge challenge for veterans and their families.  Many organizations partner with relocation companies to facilitate new hires move plans.  At minimum, a local realtor should be ready to take the veteran and his/her family on a tour of the town, and be ready to assist them in finding a home.

The new employee’s work space should be clean and well-stocked prior to his/her arrival. That may include a computer, printer, paper, pens and business cards – any equipment and tools necessary to perform his/her job.  Computer ID’s should be ready, as well as policies/procedures should be available for review.   It’s also helpful to have a copy of the organization chart, a list of key contacts and a staff directory on the new hire’s desk.

Many organizations prepare an announcement introducing the new employee.  It can be then be sent electronically to the organization as well as posted on bulletin boards near the new employee’s work space on their first day.

It is always beneficial to identify a learning partner or buddy for the new hire so they have an available resource other than their supervisor.  The learning partner serves as a guide, providing assistance and camaraderie as the new employee maneuvers through and becomes acclimated to the organization culture.  This relationship is particularly important for veterans who are re-entering civilian life in corporate America.  To the extent possible, leverage existing veteran employees in a mentorship role with new veteran hires because they understand their unique socialization challenges of re-entering the civilian workplace.

On their first day, HR is typically the first stop for the new hire.  Administrative forms are completed for insurance, direct deposit and other benefits; and Employee handbooks are often distributed at that time.  Immediately following, it is important for the hiring manager to be available to give the new employee undivided attention.  Doing so sends an immediate message that the new employee is an important part of their team.

The hiring manager or the learning partner should spend time introducing the new hire to colleagues, suppliers and customers.   Provide him/her with a guided tour of the facility, including break rooms, lunch room and restrooms.  And if at all possible, have lunch with the new hire to provide a little teambuilding and non-meeting relief.

The hiring manager is responsible for communicating expectations to the new employee.  It’s helpful to provide a written plan detailing objectives and related tasks.  This discussion should ensure the employee understands how their responsibilities support the mission and vision of the organization.  It’s also beneficial to provide a timeline that outlines short and long-term expectations over the next year, identifying milestones for the first week, first month, three months, six months and a year.  This provides the employee a resource to gain clarity as well as address any questions or concerns they might have about their responsibilities.

  • At the end of day one, the manager should have a brief informal check-in with the new employee.  This simple act demonstrates they care; they want to hear from the individual, and help set the stage for future communications.
  • After one week on the job, it’s beneficial to have another check-in.  This is the manager’s opportunity to assess what the new hire has learned, whether they’re starting to feel comfortable in their new role, and whether the employee needs any additional assistance.
  • At the 30-Day benchmark, the new hire should be fully acclimated and acquainted with their job responsibilities.  Discussion should focus on accomplishment of short-term goals and laying the groundwork for longer-term objectives.  It’s also a good time to assess the individual’s satisfaction.
  • At the 90-Day benchmark, the new hire should have a thorough understanding of what needs to be done and be well on their way to achieving results.  Providing the individual feedback on their contributions, strengths and areas for improvement goes a long way in retaining the employee.
  • At the 120-Day benchmark, it’s helpful for the manager to conduct a full review of the employee’s goals, progress and accomplishments.  Revisiting the feedback shared during the 90-day discussion will help the manager assess whether the employee is on track and making progress in the areas identified.
  • At the 1-year anniversary, the manager should conduct a full performance evaluation.  Similar to the three and six-month reviews, two-way feedback should focus on the individual’s goals, achievements, strengths and areas for improvement.  It’s also the time to outline expectations and goals for the coming year.

Doing these things sets the stage for making the new hire feel invested in their work and the organization.  The behaviors you exhibit in that initial interaction and first year impact the ongoing attitude they’re going to have to you and others.