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Onboarding: strategic, detailed and precise

The onboarding process should not be ad hoc. If only because onboarding starts when a prospective employee first meets the organisation: when they see a job advertisement or respond to a LinkedIn enquiry and usually lasts until the end of the first year. The third part of this series of articles from the Careers Institute looks at the practicalities.

onboarding, beillesztés-

Because of its complexity alone, onboarding cannot be a spontaneous "work in progress" process, there is no room for improvisation and a "we'll figure it out somehow" attitude in a professional onboarding. Some flexibility may be necessary, of course, but preferably within the predefined framework.

Onboarding is a team effort

A successful onboarding programme has four basic requirements:

  1. be designed and implemented with the involvement and support of all stakeholders

  2. the active support of senior management is essential

  3. should be fully developed before recruitment begins

  4. have a dedicated budget for onboarding
  5. .

If any one of the above four conditionsis missing or incomplete, at most only half-solutions can be found.

Specific onboarding processes may vary depending on the particular circumstances of a company, but here is a general outline used by the Careers Institute, which we have found to work well in our experience


I. Let's get the basics straight

When designing an onboarding program, it is worthwhile to think broadly and develop answers to the questions below. It's important to be completely honest, because if we mislead a new employee directly, indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally during the onboarding process, it can undo all of our onboarding efforts.

  • What do we believe here? What do we value? What is it that we do not accept? How do we relate to each other?

  • What kind of company culture do we want to convey to the new person? What are the visible signs of this?

  • What is good here? What are our strengths? What is not good or not good? Weaknesses?

  • Who are the role models/models of behaviour? What is good about them?

  • What will be the role of the employee? What is expected of him/her (in all aspects)? What do we give him/her?

  • Who will he/she work with, collaborate with? Who will be the people around him/her? Who will he/she go to directly?

  • What kind of future do we promise him? What are the company's long-term plans?

The easiest way to find the answers to these questions is to hold a facilitated workshop, it is important that all stakeholders are represented (yes, including senior management). The results of the workshop should then be presented to a wide audience and it is worth checking that there is indeed consensus on the answers. This will be the cornerstone of the onboarding programme. The good news is that you only need to do this in its entirety once, and later you will only need to go through the details specific to the position.

II. Let's get the program started: questions to ask when planning your onboarding program

We are not planning yet, just setting up the framework. This usually requires several workshops lasting a few hours, resulting in a wall full of PostIts or a bulky Mural with lots of virtual notes. On average, around 4 to 500 ideas are collected.

  • What do we want the new employee to think and feel at the end of the first day/week/month/year? What should they say when asked about the workplace where they work?

  • What resources do you have for an onboarding program (time, money, people, IT, space, etc.)?

  • What will the onboarding schedule be? When will it start, how long will it take? When are there checkpoints?

  • What do you need to know about the company culture, values and work environment? What are the unwritten rules?

  • What specific knowledge will you need? What training (formal or informal) will you receive?

  • Who has what role in the onboarding process? HR? Managers? Mentor? Co-workers? Who is primarily responsible? Who are the stakeholders?

  • What are the goals we are setting for them? From whom, when and how do you get feedback?

  • How do we evaluate the onboarding programme? How do we know if it was successful (or not)?


In this phase, we set up the process, thinking it through as detailedly as possible, gathering together that

  • What are the steps?

  • When, what do we want to happen?

  • At what point, who and what do we need?

  • Where, when are the communication points? What should be the message there, who should give/send it?

  • Why, who is responsible?

  • What documents, documentation are required?

  • How will the process be managed?

It's a good idea to try out the existing steps (physically walk through them), tools, on your own, as if you were the new employee. It helps if you use some kind of project management support tool (e.g. Mural, Trello, Mindmanager, MS Project, etc.). It is worth taking more time for this step, it can speed up the process a lot if you involve a professional already experienced in creating such a plan. A good plan covers the period from the hiring decision to at least the end of the first 180 days, more often the first year.

IV. Implementation

Let's take a look at the main elements of onboarding from the process without being exhaustive


1. Recruitment starts

When advertising the position, keep in mind the findings made during the planning of the onboarding process (e.g. it may include information about the company culture or it may reflect the ethos - see "Onboarding"). When communicating with candidates, use the language, concepts and approach of the onboarding programme - this phase is now pre-onboarding.


  • Look at the company website, job description, interview questions from the prospective employee's point of view: Is it clear? Does it convey what we want?

  • Give candidates a clear, actionable plan for the hiring process.

  • Have an available staff member you can communicate with if needed.


Organise interviews with the understanding that this is part of the onboarding process, as one of the candidates will (hopefully) become the new employee.

A few tips (other than the obvious - punctuality, feedback, etc):

  • Indicate where specifically you will be working (you can ask questions in the process)

  • Give feedback at the end of the interview

  • Enter the kitchen (if available), dining room, dressing rooms

  • Introduce to everyone you meet (prepare staff!)

  • Take it to the scenes of everyday life (e.g. the garage and parking lot, service areas, etc.)

  • Offer it!

Yes, this list is often answered with "why?". After all, out of five interviewers, at best one will only be a staff member... is it not worth it then? No. It's terribly important that you get a realistic picture of the job, the work and the circumstances, and that you feel that we are completely open and that we are not hiding anything. It's also a good return on employer branding investment: imagine what the candidate will say after such an introduction... Especially if the competition has a "sit down - say - please next" attitude.

3. The offer

Making an offer is certainly good news for the applicant, but it is not enough in itself to convey our enthusiasm and genuine expectation that we will work with them.


Send the offer on paper by courier - combined with carefully worded job expectations and responsibilities (this is the last chance to clarify any misunderstandings without consequences), this can be combined with a company gift pack (e.g. t-shirt, mug, chocolate)


At the signing of the contract (upon arrival) the "official" part of the onboarding starts, on this occasion some kind of management communication will be good for the new employee. It's important to be gradual - don't dump everything on them straight away.


  • As soon as possible, give them your new company contact details (email, phone number, onboarding system login) For example, one of your clients will hand over/send you their mobile phone with company apps installed at the signing.

  • Send detailed first week program and annual overview

  • If you have a mentoring program, connect with your mentor, who you can feel free to ask questions of
  • .
  • Make a personalized short welcome video for prospective direct reports

5. First day

Consciously aim to make this a defining experience, but at the same time not overly stressful - the situation itself can carry enough stress



  • Check-in call from your contact the day before: suggestions for dressing, transport and a little subjective forecast of what will happen tomorrow.

  • Make sure someone is waiting for you when you arrive - preferably someone you already know. Either have someone accompany you throughout the day or pass it from hand to hand.

  • Help with administrative tasks.

  • Make a note with the important people (senior managers, line manager, line manager).

  • Organise a mini-celebration with colleagues (lunch, coffee, etc.), maybe a game to get to know each other

  • At the end of the day, have a wrap-up meeting where you can share your impressions, ask questions, give feedback.

6. The first few weeks

The aim here is to get the new colleague settled and integrated as quickly as possible. Understand the expectations they have to meet and be clear about what they need to do.

Tips to help you integrate:

  • Add a checklist for more complex activities
  • .
  • Promote it more widely, organise meetings with the company's "famous people"

  • Collaboratively define short and longer term goals, milestones, performance expectations

  • Update (possibly through the mentor) milestones, educational and other assignments in a suitable system - acknowledge good progress, ask questions about gaps, offer help

7. Everyday life

A hallmark of a well-run onboarding programme is that you never leave a new colleague on their own, there is one person who is clearly responsible for onboarding them. Routine meetings then become less frequent over time (2-4-7-10-30 days then 60 days). But onboarding actors do check in regularly: ad hoc mentor calls, periodic HR and management meetings, etc.


  • Take care to regularly provide positive reinforcement if you "catch" the new colleague doing some expected behaviour (solving a problem independently, completing a task, asking questions if stuck, etc.)

  • Ask for and give feedback at regular intervals, which can be playful or informal.

  • Solicit suggestions for improvement or innovation, which you might then start to implement, but be sure to communicate what happens with them.

  • Regulate mini celebrations at key dates (end of probation, 6 months, 1 year)

Who has the energy to do this?

Who has the energy to do this?

The above list may seem exhaustive to many, but it is by no means exhaustive, and by no means detailed. The secret to successful onboarding is precisely in the detail and the planned, precise execution. As a client of ours who works as a manager in a multinational company commented:

"When everyone is overworked, no one wants another hump on their back to carry a new person..."

What's the solution?

The existence and quality of an onboarding program clearly correlates with subsequent performance, satisfaction and retention, which in turn is closely linked to business performance. Hiring and training an employee is expensive, it is cheaper to hire and retain new ones well. Cheaper, but not free, which means it does require a budget. If your company is the right size, a dedicated onboarding staff member may be the answer, if not, or if you only need to manage some onboarding processes periodically an external expert can help. This can take the extra burden off the shoulders of the manager or HR person and ensure a really high quality onboarding of new employees.

In the first part of our series, we reviewed the basics and importance of onboarding, and in the second part, we introduced the 5C model of onboarding.

Bela Gerlei MBA MSc.

Expert in language use and behaviour

Career Institute

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