In My Opinion, The Most Important Part of Onboarding is…


Yesterday, I was asked this question: “In your opinion, what is the most important part of onboarding?”

Naturally, I had an opinion, and I wanted to explore the topic further here.

My answer to the question – the most important part of onboarding (in my opinion) is connecting the new employee to the organization.

Notice I didn’t say getting paperwork filled out correctly. Or ensuring that policies are adequately covered. Or that the boxes are all checked. I believe the human component of onboarding trumps all of that.

What do I mean by “connecting the new employee to the organization?” Depending on your organization, this could mean a few different things, such as:

  • How can the new employee establish a “direct line of sight” to the customer?
  • How does the new employee impact the customer experience (directly or indirectly)?
  • How can the new employee embody the company vision, mission or core values?
  • What is the company culture? How can the new employee get involved?
  • Who are the key individuals with whom the new employee can connect up, down and across the organization?

Simply put, it’s about putting people before process.

Chances are…the paperwork – online or hard copy – will get filled out. Those policies will be covered. The proverbial boxes will be checked. But what if no one helps the new employee connect to the organization? That vulnerable new employee, left alone to navigate with uncertainty, will inevitably stumble.

Will he be able to establish that “direct line of sight” to your customer?

Will he know how his role impacts the customer experience – particularly in a non-customer-facing role (such as accounting)?

Will he truly understand your company’s vision, mission or values?

Will he “get” the culture? Will he feel comfortable enough to get involved?

Will he be able to identify those key individuals and be empowered enough to reach out and make those connections?

Maybe…but not likely. That’s where all of the stakeholders involved in the onboarding process come in. Just as it “takes a village to raise a child,” it also takes a village to nurture and engage a new employee. Whether you are an HR manager, a Talent Development practitioner, a hiring manager, a teammate or someone in a supporting role, you have an opportunity to make a difference when connecting a new employee to your organization.

Because after all, it is the most important part of onboarding. In my opinion, anyway.


Your turn: How does your organization’s new employee experience put “people before process?” Share your thoughts in the comments!


Not putting people before process with your onboarding program? phase(two)learning can help!

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4 thoughts on “In My Opinion, The Most Important Part of Onboarding is…

  1. Brian Washburn says:

    Michelle – I think that connection to the organization (and ultimately to the customer) is essential. Not necessarily because the employee will inevitably stumble (which is certainly a possibility), but rather because – WITHOUT that connection the newness and novelty and excitement of the new job will inevitably wear off, and all the employee is left with is “just another job.” I’m thinking the connection to the organization, the customer (and perhaps the mission) are what leads to engagement and an employee willing to give their soul to the company… and if this connection doesn’t begin with onboarding, it may never begin.

  2. Michelle Rogge says:

    Michelle, I fully agree with your analysis. Having developed a strong centralized onboarding program that incorporates these essentials and enables employees to understand from the outset how they impact the customer, I have some concerns about how to ensure that that initial connection is maintained over time via the hiring manager and the overall organization. People tend to forget the “Why” as they move into routine functioning. Any thoughts?

    • Michelle says:

      Hi Michelle – thank you for your comment! Your concerns are valid, and I share them. Here are a few thoughts:

      1) Critical mass makes a difference – At my day job, when we started introducing our new employees to the concept, we have been giving them a challenge: to be the voice of the customer. To speak up and question if something is being done in the best interest of the customer experience. The more people we get thinking this way, will help us get to that “51%” – and suddenly, more people are thinking this way than are NOT thinking this way.

      2) Ongoing communications that align with that message – Regardless of whether a learning event, module, or other opportunity is part of the “onboarding experience”, ensuring that the message aligns with your company vision, mission, values, customer, etc – is a great way to constantly refresh the way of thinking and keep people in the right frame of mind.

      3) Seek out your champions – Whether it’s a key executive or just some influential people across the organization, getting endorsements for your team and initiatives from someone OTHER than your team will help drive involvement. Kind of like when the cool kids all started wearing skinny jeans…even if you don’t like them, soon you find yourself wanting a pair. ;)

      4) Enable the hiring managers – Make sure the hiring managers are aware of their role in the process. Don’t take it for granted that they “get it” – because chances are, they don’t. My favorite way to accomplish this is through a workshop (we offer one through phase(two)learning – “Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers” – let me know if you want more info) that specifically addresses hiring managers, and brings to light their critical role in the onboarding and long-term engagement of their new employees. Sometimes they think it’s “HR’s job” to do this…they need to understand that they are, in fact, the gateway to success for a new (and existing!) employee.

      Thanks again for sharing – have a great week!

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