The Importance of Building an Intentional Onboarding Process

Guest post by Kathy McDonald News, Stories

We’re thrilled to bring you the second installment in our 3-part series of guest blog posts by Kathy McDonald, offering a sneak peek of the scenarios and skills you’ll learn in our new Management series. For sessions titles and dates, see below. Some dates are completely sold out, so don’t dawdle if you’re interested in attending. Click on the date in question and register ASAP!

When Tracey* started her new job she was directed to her cubicle and given the paperwork human resources required to set up her benefits.  She looked around the empty cubicle for a pen, checking the drawers and cabinets to no avail.  Finally, she fished in her purse for a pen.  This false start gave her pause about the organization she just joined.

First Impressions:  Just as new hires are making a first impression, so is the organization.  Ensuring a new team member gets acclimated will shorten their ramp up to becoming an effective contributor.

Should I stay or should I go?  According to research done by the Aberdeen group, 86% of employees make the decision to stay or leave within the first 6 months with a new organization.  Of new hires that do go through a formal onboarding, 69% stay with their organization for 3 or more years.  This indicates an onboarding process improves the bottom line by increasing productivity and reducing turnover.

How long does it take new hires to get up to speed?  Many managers don’t have a good sense for what it takes to build the industry knowledge a new team member needs to be effective.  As Tracey found in an organization without an onboarding process, they were losing people at the one year mark.  It took the average new employee 6 months to get up to speed, meaning the organization only gained 6 months of true productivity from them before they left.  Adding in the costs of recruiting and related expenses, a one year turnover means most organizations are at best breaking even.

Onboarding considerations:  While this is not an exhaustive list, these questions should get you started thinking through how to make the most of those early days with your new hires:

  • How will you help new hires develop the industry knowledge they need to be successful?
  • What are the short-, medium-, and long-term goals you have for your new hire, so they know what they are working towards to become effective?
  • What are the peer relationships both inside and outside your organization that will be important for them to build?

Effective onboarding is more than just a welcome lunch on their first day.  Helping new hires get up to speed and feeling confident in their ability to contribute as quickly as possible will reassure them they made a great decision in joining the team.

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

For more management strategies that strengthen your team, join us in the training room for our 3-part training series:

  • Management 101: Moving from Doer to Leader on Nov 16 (SOLD OUT) or Nov 28

  • Management 201: Productivity Hacks & Team Recognition Strategies on Dec 11 (SOLD OUT) or Jan 10

  • Management 301: Hiring, Managing, and Succession Planning on Feb 22


Kathy McDonald is the assistant director for network partnerships for the Florida College Access Network. Kathy has helped individuals, leaders and teams find and leverage their strengths for the last 18 years. She is an experience workshop leader and speaker, developing adult professional development programs for numerous organizations including Accenture, PwC, the City of Chicago, and the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

She is co-author of CREATING YOUR LIFE COLLAGE: STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING THE WORK/LIFE DILEMMA (Three Rivers Press). Kathy holds an MBA from Northwestern University and is a certified leadership coach from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Happily married for 25 years, Kathy is the proud mother of two teenagers and currently 3 dogs (small, medium and large) and is an avid gardener, though she admits gardening in Florida is a contact sport.

Kathy’s training approach is to ensure participants walk away with actionable tools and resources while creating a space that encourages learning and growing together.