Onboarding Should be Relational, not Transactional


Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that get under a person’s skin and drives. them. absolutely. crazy.

For me, it’s the term “new hire.” Seems innocent, right? I’m sure about 99.2% of people in the free world wouldn’t think twice about the expression, but it’s one I simply cannot stand.

In fact, I told my friend Brian the other day that “I die a little bit inside every time someone says ‘new hire’.” Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but hear me out:

Onboarding should be relational, not transactional.

“Hire” is a verb. It suggests transaction, or something that you do. When I hear someone referred to as a “new hire,” I immediately think that person isn’t an official part of the organization yet. In fact, when we look at the top definition for hire, this is what we see:


Am I saying there is no “transaction” involved in the process? Not at all. I get it, there is paperwork to complete, processes to follow, content to share. But that is not the end-all-be-all to onboarding a new employee.


Onboarding is a process that immerses a new employee (noun!) into an organization.

I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, of us want our newest employees to feel welcomed, nurtured and included when they join the organizations we support. Your new employees are people, with needs and emotions and questions.

There is so much more to onboarding than the simple act of “hiring” a person.

When building a culture that welcomes, nurtures and includes new employees (particularly when there hasn’t been much of a process in place), an easy place to start is with the language you are using. It may be subtle – maybe even unnoticed – but being intentional with a detail as seemingly tiny as “new hire vs. new employee” sends a message to your organization that you are committed to building relationships with your newest employees.

Want to blow people’s minds? Tell them about it.

Tell your onboarding stakeholders and company leaders about your decision to use intentional language. Tell them that your team is committed to making onboarding a relational process, rather than a transactional one. This can be a huge value-add for your program.

Guess what? The benefit of intentional language goes beyond onboarding. Consider your language for learning, development and succession planning programs as well.


Your turn: Am I crazy? Is this just being a little too nit-picky? Tell me about it. Or tell me that this is brilliant, and it will revolutionize your program. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Know of someone who would benefit from this article? Please take a moment to share it!


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Workshops Coming in 2013!

Coming Soon! Phase(Two)Learning Workshops!

I’m so, so, excited to share this news with you…

On my Consulting and Workshops page, it will tell you to “Stay tuned for public workshops!”  Well, here we go…

Starting in Spring 2013, phase(two)learning will be offering public workshops!

Over the past several years, I’ve worked on a number of projects for both the day job and for freelance gigs that revolve around employee onboarding.  It’s a topic I have always been fascinated by and extremely passionate about (if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you already know this!).  And I’ve been consistently baffled by the lack of unique, helpful information that’s available!  Seriously, have you googled it?  A million-and-one versions of the exact. same. thing.  Very pious-sounding academic posts.  Light posts with little substance.  Sales pitches disguised as helpful information.  You name it, I’ve likely found it in a search result.  And chances are, I was somewhat unimpressed.

Several months ago, I was whining about discussing this frustration with a colleague.  She challenged me to do something about it.

Do something about it.  Her words still stick with me today.  Do something about it.

Now, this isn’t entirely new to me.  I’ve been in the L&D field for the day job for over 13 years, as well as consulting and leading custom onsite workshops on a freelance basis for over a decade.  These courses have run the gamut of L&D and organizational topics.  Don’t discount the onboarding programs I’ve developed, managed, and evaluated!  And over the years, I have certainly organized and led my share of large-scale training workshops and events…but the idea of combining my passion for all these things on a solo basis was one I hadn’t really considered until this year.

And consider, I did.

And researched.  And doodled.  And cursed at myself for even considering it.  And I wrote lists (boy, did I write lists).  And daydreamed…LOTS of daydreaming.  But then finally, somewhere in between sitting on my couch with my laptop on a random Sunday night and hearing some inspiring words from those closest to me (the ones who don’t think I’m nuts for adding this project to my insane working-mother-to-do list – because this is a side venture; not leaving the day job!), I started putting together some content for the maiden workshop.  And you know what?  It’s pretty friggin’ awesome.

So, the burning questions remain:  What’s the topic?  Who should attend?  When will it be offered?  Where will it be held?  How much does it cost?

Details are still being finalized for the location, dates, and cost.  I’m currently working with a couple of venues; so this information will be available here on the blog and on the Consulting and Workshops page as it becomes available, as will registration information.  But the topic?  Oh yeah…the topic is set, my friends:

It’s all about developing, implementing and evaluating your Onboarding Strategy + engaging your Onboarding Stakeholders.

More detailed course information will be available soon!  The target audience includes:

  • HR generalists or managers who are responsible for the execution of New Employee Orientation and onboarding programs
  • Talent Acquisition/Recruiting professionals who are involved in the pre-boarding and/or onboarding process
  • Learning & Development professionals who are responsible for developing and delivering Orientation or training for new employees

The smart people at Intrepid Learning published this great eBook last week; it includes some terrific gems!  According to their recent survey, 56.7% of respondents claim that less than 20% of their onboarding activities are delivered through informal/social means.  The same survey tells us that HR and L&D departments are the ones delivering the majority of onboarding experiences.  This data couldn’t have come at a better time…

It tells us that people need to be doing something about their onboarding programs.  This workshop is a start.  Just like my friend said to me…do something about it.  I am…will you?

If you would like more information on this Onboarding Strategy + Stakeholders workshop, feel free to reach out via email, leave a comment here on the blog, or reach out via LinkedIn or Twitter.  You can also complete the form in this great slider!  Regardless of the method, I’d love to hear from you, and as details emerge for 2013 offerings, you’ll be among the first to know.

If you like the idea of the workshop, I’d appreciate it if you share it with your network.  Please and thank you!