4 Tips for Increasing Authenticity in your Onboarding Program


For several years now, I have had the (insanely fun) opportunity to consult with organizations and speak at conferences about the need for strategic, impactful onboarding and improving the new employee experience. I’ve had conversations over countless cups of coffee with HR leaders, training facilitators, talent development professionals and other industry friends about how to develop or reshape their organization’s onboarding program. Inevitably, the question arises:

I just want our onboarding program to be like yours! Can you just share your materials so I can use them?

(“Yours”  = the day job)

It’s true, our team has implemented an award-winning, internationally-recognized, results-minded onboarding program that has been the cherry on top of our Organizational Development sundae. And, yeah….I suppose I COULD just hand over our agenda, slide decks, templates and resources for you to plug-and-play at your day job.

But you would be lacking something. Something important. Something that your new employees and stakeholders would surely feel.

Your program would lack authenticity. 

Sure – imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. And perhaps certain elements of one company’s program could be integrated seamlessly into yours. I don’t claim that any of our organization’s onboarding program is unique by itself, but rather the intention, support and consistent execution coupled with innovative methods and a laser-focus on driving results are what truly determines our program’s long-term sustainability and success.

But as a longtime Talent Development geek professional (maybe I had it right the first time?), I know perfectly well that we all beg-borrow-and yes, steal ideas from each other all. the. time. The concept of idea-sharing is the very backbone of this blog, and so many others! So, how can you leverage some awesome ideas from other programs while ensuring yours is authentic? Here are 4 tips:

>> Don’t force it.

Maybe you learned about a super-cool idea that a colleague has implemented, and want to include it in your own program. Before jumping in immediately based on the cool factor, consider these factors to ensure relevance for your audience:

  • What is your colleague’s industry?
  • What are the employee demographics, schedules, geography, age and skill level?
  • What size is their organization?
  • Is it realistic for your program?

Ensuring that activities, events or other onboarding elements are a good fit are necessary to prevent content from feeling forced or misaligned with the audience.

>> Showcase what’s special.

What is unique about your organization or culture? Help your new employees forge a connection to the company, the team and their new roles. Maybe it’s the end-of-quarter Mimosa Monday celebrations, the annual Habitat for Humanity build or a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Find ways to share what your organization is doing, and how new employees can jump in and get involved.

And while you’re at it….

>> Who are your storytellers?

Whether it is your CEO personally welcoming your new employees on their first day, engaged employees sharing their personal experiences or hearing success stories from loyal customers, identify your raving fans and make their stories come alive during new employees’ crucial first days and weeks on the job. Deepen their attachment to the organization through a balance of relationships and results.


>> Align to your values

Someone once told me, “The only mission statement that matters is, ‘Have fun and make money.'” While a shred of that may hold true for most organizations, there are typically core values that serve as a compass for how organizations do business and make decisions. Aligning the content of your onboarding program with those unique drivers will help new employees embrace those values in their daily performance – both in those early weeks and months on the job, but also throughout their tenure with your organization.


There you have it, friends….beg, borrow and steal all the ideas you want, but make sure they make sense for your organization and people, and then make those ideas your own. Like spotting a bad toupee or a knockoff handbag from a street vendor, new employees can tell when a message isn’t genuine. And if they don’t figure it out in their first days on the job, they’ll discover it soon enough, which could put their long-term engagement and potential success on shaky ground.

Now, it’s your turn:

How do you ensure your new employees receive an authentic experience during their early days, weeks and months on the job? Please add a comment to share your ideas!



Wanna work together in 2018?

Between the launch of my book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to the Employee Development Journey, speaking engagements and consulting projects, 2017 has certainly whizzed by in a blur….and things are quickly ramping up for 2018. If an onboarding overhaul is on your to-do list for the coming year, let’s talk.

Now booking onsite workshops, retreat facilitation, conference sessions and more – availability is limited, so reserve your spot now!





3 Easy Tips for a More Engaging New Employee Orientation Program


Deconstructing and revising an Orientation program is no small undertaking. Trust me, I’ve been there! I’m often asked for quick tips or best practices that can be quickly implemented to an existing New Employee Orientation program. Keeping in mind that every organization and program is different, there are some simple things that can be added to an Orientation program to make it a more engaging, robust part of the onboarding process.

Here are three tips:

1. Involve others in the program.

Maybe you’re the only person facilitating content throughout the Orientation session. If this is the case, the new employees are only meeting YOU. Which means, after the session, when they have questions, who are they calling? That’s right…you.

Even if you are not updating your content, provide opportunities to involve other people and teams in the Orientation process. A few examples might be:

  • Invite someone from your IT help desk provide a brief overview of how to set up computers, report or resolve issues, or connect email to personal devices.
  • Coordinate a panel discussion with key leaders (not necessarily executives) across your organization to share an overview of his/her role, history with the company and advice to new employees
  • Offer a catered breakfast or lunch, and include the employee’s hiring manager on the first day – use the opportunity to facilitate dialogue about how the new employees will be an asset to their respective teams!

2. Leverage templates and checklists.

If there are certain tasks that a new employee should complete during the first few days on the job, document them in the form of a checklist! This makes it easy for a new employee (who is likely overwhelmed by details) to stay on track with forms, tasks and other responsibilities during the transition time. Having clear instructions for during and after the Orientation session will put your attendees at ease, allowing them to focus on the content being delivered in the moment and make the most of the experience!

Additionally, from a facilitator’s point of view, using checklists, templates and other time-saving resources will only make the job easier, particularly when there is a tight agenda to which you must stick!

3. Make Orientation an active experience.

As with most learning sessions, providing an active, collaborative environment will yield better results. Rather than lecture, information-overload sessions, can your content be delivered in an alternative method?

A few lecture alternatives might include:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Reading and summarizing content
  • Case studies

The good people at Langevin created this helpful (free!) resource with 50 instructional methods. The “lecturette” techniques are particularly good options to try. Enjoy!
Hopefully, these 3 tips will spark some inspiration to energize your existing New Employee Orientation program. It doesn’t take a full program overhaul to add in some engaging elements. Give these ideas a try!

Your turn: How do you provide an engaging experience for your newest employees?  Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Looking to establish or energize your onboarding program this year? Contact us to learn more about our Onboarding Audit package!

7 Signs Your New Employee Orientation Program is an Epic Fail


When did everything become “epic”? Epic this, epic that.

It’s become the go-to adjective for just about anything lately. Recently I even saw a sign in my neighborhood, directing people to an “EPIC GARAGE SALE”.  (I never saw the sale, so I’ll just take their word for it).

Take the expression, “epic fail” – I’m not exactly sure where the line is drawn between a regular ol’ fail, and an “epic fail”, but you can’t deny that it’s a pretty popular catchphrase.

It’s safe to say that most organizations want their newest team members to have an epic new employee experience. But what happens when that experience doesn’t measure up? How is the organization impacted? How is the ultimate success of the new employee compromised?

New Employee Orientation is a rite of passage when joining an organization. This experience is the gateway for an employee to gain knowledge about the company, to become acquainted with the team and to learn any specific skills needed to do the job. How do you know if your Orientation program is missing the mark? These 7 signs might indicate your program could use some work:

1. There is no clear tie to the company’s mission, vision or core values.

Your new employees need to know what the company stands for. What the purpose is. If you’re not giving those new employees more to strive for than getting a paycheck every 2 week, then you’re not likely to turn them into raving brand ambassadors.  And shouldn’t your employees be some of your strongest advocates?

2. There is no mention of your customer, whoever that may be.

Everyone – let me repeat, EVERYONE – should understand their direct path to your customer.  Sometimes, it’s tough to illuminate that path. For example, how does the guy in the mailroom know how he impacts the customer experience? That’s your job. Make him aware of how his job matters. How the customer experience can be influenced by him doing his very best. When you have the customer at the core of everything, you can’t lose.

3. New employees walk away with more questions than answers.

Obviously, some questions will arise over time. There simply isn’t enough CONTEXT to absorb everything on Day One.  But if your Orientation participants walk away confused, or you end up with a dozen seemingly “basic” emails from them in the days following your session, maybe you need to look at your content and ensure that it is appropriate. Make sure any provided materials or online resources are clear and accessible. Consider your “lowest common denominator” – the person who walks in on his first day, without understanding of your business or processes – and make sure that person can grasp what you’re presenting.  It’s not much of a “resource” if no one can find it or understand it!

4. The sole focus of your session is policies, procedures and paperwork.

I get it. A certain element of “compliance” needs to occur during Orientation. It’s important  to make sure that I-9 forms are completed, direct deposit forms are turned in, and that Oscar-worthy sexual harassment video has been watched…yada-yada-yada. But let’s be honest – covering “policy-related” topics is merely a fraction of how you should be spending your day/s with new employees.  There is so much more to Orientation than that.  Let’s face it, Orientation is your ONE opportunity to engage new employees before they are riddled with work, bombarded with meetings and biased by office politics. Make the most of that precious time.

5. Your program is boring.

Snooze. Don’t read them a PowerPoint and expect them to have learned something. Make it interactive. Make it engaging. Make it relevant. Think of every awful, boring Orientation or training session you’ve ever attended, and then vow to never, ever do that to someone else. If you need ideas or resources on how to make your sessions more creative or engaging, there are countless online resources. Langevin has a great blog. There are a number of discussion groups for training professionals on LinkedIn. There are other blogs out there like mine or Train Like a Champion. Or, you know what? Just drop me a note sometime. I’ll brainstorm with you. I’ll give you advice. If you want some tough love, I’ll even smack you around a little bit give you some constructive feedback. If you need an entire program audit or overhaul, we could even talk about that.

6. Your executives have no idea what happens in Orientation.

If the ultimate decision-makers don’t know what’s happening, or what value your program brings to the organization, how can you expect them to support it? Getting “executive buy-in” is not a new topic, but it bears repeating. Engage your leaders – get them involved in the program, or at the very least, keep them updated on what your program offers and the benefit it provides.  If you, personally, do not have the ear of an executive, your boss (or maybe your boss’ boss) does. Encourage your own departmental leadership to be your program sponsor.

7. You have no partnership with hiring managers during the Orientation/Onboarding process.

Some people might think I have it in for hiring managers. After all, I tend to call them out a lot about their role in the onboarding process. But it just so happens that building relationships is key when starting a new job. And I can’t think of a relationship that is more critical to the success of a new employee than the relationship s/he has with a direct supervisor. Conversations must be initiated. Alliances need to form….certainly between the new employee and the supervisor, but also between the “owner” of the Orientation process and that supervisor. Those hiring managers need to know what is included (and NOT included) in Orientation, how long you will be spending with the new employee and certainly some guidance on how to promote learning transfer from Orientation to the new employee’s role. Because after all, Orientation is an event. Onboarding is a process.

I hope you read those seven signs and laughed. And told yourself that your Orientation program is incredible – epic, even – and you can’t possibly make the new employee experience any better than it is right now.

I hope.

But, if you read those seven signs, nodded, maybe gave a little sigh…just know there is so much potential. New Employee Orientation, thankfully, isn’t a program that needs a huge budget to be successful. It’s all about the welcome. The impression of your organization that you are bestowing upon your newest team members. It’s a huge responsibility, but it isn’t complicated.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a TEDx event, here in good old Indianapolis. (It definitely fit the “epic” bill, but that’s another story.) One of the presenters was Kristin Wright, whose story really spoke to me. Her talk was titled, “The Power of Welcome” – look for it next month when the video is available on the TED website. Kristin is involved with local immigrant families and refugees; her talk encouraged us to embrace these families as they arrive in our cities and neighborhoods. Her comments about “building a community of welcome” apply to the new employee experience, just as much as welcoming immigrants and refugees to our communities.

You are part of someone’s crucial first moments, friends. Make it epic.

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