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The Power of Getting Onboarding Right

A new employee’s first days and weeks of work are a crucial time. Their early impressions of the organizational structure, leadership, climate, and culture of their new environment will directly affect the way in which they approach work in the coming months and years.

When organizations have a clear, purposeful, well-organized approach to onboarding, new hires get the structure and support they need to thrive. That’s why 79% of business leaders say onboarding should be an “urgent” or “important” priority.

On the other hand, when incoming talent is thrown into the fire or not provided the education they need to hit the ground running, it significantly lowers productivity, both for the confused, under-served new-hire and their teammates, who must constantly take time out of their own work hours to triage knowledge and skill gaps.

Preventing those hang-ups is one of HR’s main responsibilities. With a proactive, straightforward, integrated approach to onboarding, you can ensure that creating a great experience for your new hires doesn’t come at the expense of your current team’s productivity.

Moving forward, we’ll explore:

  • The true scope and definition of onboarding
  • How HR, IT, and each department or team within an organization can support great onboarding
  • Five things all organizations need to do to get onboarding right

What is Onboarding, Really?

In an HR context, onboarding is the process through which new hires gain the knowledge, skills, tools, strategies, and motivation they need to become great team members and productive employees.

In the past, companies often divided the functional, logistical, and support needs of a new hire (“onboarding”) from cultural initiation and policy/accountability review (“orientation”), but as with many other aspects of HR, leading organizations are moving toward a whole-employee model. As a result, onboarding is coming to encompass both sets of responsibilities.

That’s actually good news for HR professionals, as it helps focus on what most of us are really passionate about: setting people up for success.

Let’s break down that onboarding definition and look at each individual element with an eye toward what a strong procedure can truly accomplish.

Knowledge Transfer Requirements for New Employees

Your hires need all sorts of knowledge in order to thrive in their new roles. They already have most of the functional understanding they need – that’s why you hired them – but you need to teach them your specific expectations for success.

Knowledge transfer considerations include:

  • Corporate structure and norms
  • Policies and procedures
  • Employee benefits offerings
  • Education on company values and culture goals
  • Emergency preparedness procedures
  • Attendance policies, earned time structures, etc.

Skill Training Needs for New Employees

Incoming talent likely has a track record of success on some level, but that doesn’t mean every one of them knows how to complete day-to-day tasks in the specific way your team prefers. Ensuring your new-hires hit the ground running in a positive, productive manner means identifying and mitigating skill gaps as quickly as possible.

The skills you need to reinforce with your new hires will vary depending on the role and each professional’s existing skillset, but it’s best to have plans in place to address issues like:

  • Skill assessments for incoming talent to gauge education needs
  • Tutorials and lessons on relevant work software/ERPs/etc.
  • Leadership coaching for new or emerging managers
  • Specific device training for technicians
  • Guidance on professional communication

Tool Acquisition for New Employees

Connecting your new employees with the physical tools they need to do great work is just as important as equipping them with the right knowledge and mindset.

Knowing what each new-hire needs requires a deep understanding of your organizational chart and proactive communication across a number of departments.

For each team member you welcome into the fold, you need to determine and fulfill their needs as quickly as possible, including:

  • Access credentials and digital accounts for relevant software/systems (email, salesforce, or github etc.)
  • Work computers (desktop, laptop, etc.)
  • Company mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.)
  • Device accessories (keyboards, chargers, etc.)
  • Traditional office supplies (Pens, folders, etc.)

Strategy Development for New Employees

At some point in their careers, your new employees are going to run into problems. Maybe they’ll have a life-changing event that necessitates an insurance change. Maybe they’ll have an issue with a co-worker that requires mediation, the list goes on and on.

You can greatly reduce anxiety for your team members and set them up for instant success by identifying as many of those common problems and frequently asked questions and proactively addressing them with new hires.

HR can support talent immediately and improve their overall experience by helping them develop strategies for:

  • Addressing problems with colleagues or supervisors
  • Reporting facilities or maintenance-related issues
  • Contacting security
  • Connecting with IT support
  • Discussing performance, goals, and progress
  • Communicating across departments

Building Motivation for New Employees

Knowledge transfer, skill building, tool acquisition, and strategy development are the four most important onboarding considerations when it comes to delivering a new employee who is ready to do a great job and become a fully integrated member of your team and culture.

On the other hand, many organizations and HR teams that do those things well still miss out on the opportunity to use onboarding as a time to infuse new team members with impactful motivation including:

  • Frameworks and structures for bonuses, raises, equity options, etc.
  • Introduction to the value of day-to-day perks and employee culture initiatives
  • Opportunities to interact with and receive mentorship from standout talent
  • Education on company success stories, exciting innovations, and other news

Onboarding as a Whole-Company Responsibility

When you look at the scope of what’s been laid out, it’s apparent that no HR professional or department can build a great onboarding process in isolation. Integrating and empowering new team members as quickly as possible must be an organization-wide value and priority in order to harness onboarding for talent maximization.

During any onboarding process, IT should be one of your closest allies. They provide the functional tools and support that complement the great job your department does preparing new hires to become great employees.

In fact, the most cutting-edge approaches to new employee onboarding are beginning to use tech platforms to blur the lines between IT and HR with an eye toward streamlining the process.

For now, however, let’s consider the traditional departmental divides to think about how responsibilities are generally spread out across HR, IT, and each new hire’s department or team.

HR Onboarding Checklist

  • Completion of onboarding documents and forms
  • Data entry in HCM and appropriate employee databases
  • Policy review/handbook sign-off
  • Payroll enrollment
  • Benefit enrollment
  • Physical orientation to the office or workspace
  • Introductions to new supervisor and team

IT Onboarding Checklist

  • Hardware assignment
  • Account/credential creation
  • Digital workspace creation
  • Offering availability for increased support during onboarding time

Team-Based Onboarding Checklist

  • Introduction to work/communication norms
  • Connecting new hires with resources that close their skill and knowledge gaps
  • Proactively communicating with HR about emerging need during onboarding period

How Interdepartmental Collaboration Improves Onboarding

When there is a strong communication framework in place and a well-articulated onboarding plan, HR, IT, and any other relevant stakeholders have access to the tools and structure they need to help new employees become thriving, impactful team members as quickly as possible.

The better the integration between their work efforts, the faster and easier it is to provide comprehensive onboarding and create a new talent orientation that sets everybody up for success.

At the same time, coming to the table to discuss and address onboarding needs together fosters collaborative problem-solving between different teams and departments who might otherwise not interact with each other. That whole-company understanding of supporting and managing talent helps create a strong organization from top to bottom.

Top 5 Employee Onboarding Musts

  1. You Must Work Together with Your Colleagues

As we just detailed above, no business can onboard talent effectively if any individual or single department is responsible for the whole process.

If your HR department is feeling crushed under the weight of onboarding responsibilities, it’s crucial to reach out to your colleagues and advocate for the support you need to improve engagement and results across the organization. Tell your leaders what you really need from them to do an excellent job.

If you’re not getting the support you need from IT or some other department, find a way to address the issue, either by connecting with tools that allow your HR team to take on traditional IT tasks or by building integration and closer communication between your teams.

2. You Must Ensure Each Member of Your Team is Fully Accountable

When your onboarding process is complete, every single new hire should know which responsibilities, requirements, policies, and procedures are relevant to them. Without that backbone of accountability, it’s impossible to manage talent proactively or demonstrate how your department is creating a safe, productive workplace.

Of course, it’s not just important for employees to know the rules and policies; it’s crucial that there is a secure, high-integrity documentation trail backing up that work. That way, if issues do arise, there are vetted and agreed upon mechanisms in place for dealing with the issues.

If your onboarding procedure doesn’t empower your HR department and leadership team to manage, discipline, and hold new-hires accountable for their actions and performance, it’s time for a redesign with accountability in mind.

3. You Must Help Your Hires Make the Best Benefits Elections

Employee benefits overspend is a profitability killer, and as an HR department, preventing it should be one of your top priorities.

New hires need support in order to understand what your company’s benefits offerings really mean and which ones are the ideal fit for their situation. That means you need to provide them with whatever education and clarification they require to get the coverage they need without selecting something that will create excess costs for themselves or the company.

Part of that puzzle is connecting them with the right materials they need (your benefits broker should be a major help in this effort), but it’s equally important that your enrollment and benefits selection interface is clear, easy-to-use, and designed to answer user questions and prevent confusion.

4. You Must Offer Each Team Member a Workspace That’s Uniquely Theirs

Nobody wants to feel like they inherited the last employee’s setup – it’s a buy-in and motivation killer. Your onboarding process should be standardized in a way that makes things easy for your HR, IT, and other onboarding support professionals but also personalized in a way that truly welcomes each employee to the team.

By the time their onboarding window is complete, each new hire must feel like their functional and professional needs have been met in a way that sets them up to do great work from the outset. That requires a toolkit for provisioning and account creation that creates a bespoke digital workspace for each individual and a framework for communication between departments to make sure needs are recognized and addressed from every angle.

When new employee onboarding feels tailored to a hire’s needs without stretching or inconveniencing any members of your team, you know you’ve built something inspirational and effective for everyone.

5. You Must Make Onboarding Powerful but Easy

This is a theme we’ve come back to time and time again: onboarding should be easy. It must be straightforward in a way that protects the productivity of your core team, and it must feel approachable and engaging in a way that builds buy-in with your new talent.

With that said, that ease of experience can’t come from cutting corners or procrastinating. To work well, your onboarding process must be comprehensive, well-organized, and backed by professionals across your organization. Otherwise, you’re just creating more backlogged work and compromising your opportunity for workforce maximization.

Creating something that balances that flexibility and robust support can seem like a major challenge, but there’s a variety of emerging employee onboarding software providers stepping up to help companies understand how they can streamline and integrate this work.

Key Takeaways

We’ve taken a broad look at onboarding to explore its goals, responsibilities, and a few strategies and guiding lights you can use to improve your approach. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the weight of the responsibility of onboarding, it’s important to understand that, once you have effective onboarding processes running, it’s much easier to manage current talent and anticipate future needs.


  • Getting onboarding right strengthens a company from top to bottom
  • Onboarding can’t just be HR’s responsibility – it’s a team-wide responsibility of which HR should be the hub
  • A successful onboarding process ensures each new employee is ready to be a fully productive member of the team in terms of capability, accountability, and cultural fit
  • It’s important to engage and support new hires by making onboarding personalized, easy, and well-supported

How to Learn More

Rippling is revolutionizing the onboarding process by helping HR professionals support their new hires better than ever.

By integrating all aspects of the onboarding process into a single digital platform, Rippling accelerates the new employee orientation experience, connecting hires with the tools, coverage, and credentials they need with a minimal number of clicks.

To learn more about how Rippling can smooth the employee onboarding process at your business and create a new way of managing HR and IT responsibilities, contact them today.

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