Onboarding, It’s a Social Affair

Hello Brandon Hall members and fans, as many of you may have heard I’ve recently joined the organization as VP of Research and Advisory Services, and I’m honored and excited to become a member of this wonderful team of people. I’m looking forward to working with everyone who has come to appreciate and respect the Brandon Hall Research voice in the last 20 years.

In the next few months, I’m hoping you will be as excited as I am about the upcoming improvements we are making in our research and advisory services. Improvements that are focused on preparing our community to meet tomorrow with confidence and vision. We are hiring new team members, refreshing existing content, starting new studies, and working on improving access to both the research and our KnowledgeBases.

Additionally, I’ll be writing a regular blog in this space based on our upcoming research and industry news. As the newest member of the Brandon Hall Group, I thought a relevant topic of conversation this week that is near and dear to my heart would be on-boarding. Not only am I a new employee for the first time in over five years, but I am also working on bringing new employees into our organization. As companies, increase their hiring plans for 2011, this will be an important topic for both learning and talent organizations. I thought I’d share the three most often overlooked aspects of successfully on-boarding an employee in today’s very socially connected workplace:


No manager brings someone new into a team intending to neglect them – but the reality is that we are all working at top speed and on-boarding new employees simply takes a great deal of time. We’ve hired bright self-sufficient employees who should hit the ground running with or without manager support, right?  But the honest truth is that even the most experienced and self-sufficient new employee needs to feel connected and respected by their new leaders.

Ensuring that managers not only have the appropriate tools for on-boarding, but also the time to on-board new employees can make a real difference in the new employees experience. We often provide tools – but we rarely think of the time. Managers are pulled in a hundred different directions, their time can often seem too valuable for simple on-boarding tasks. The fact is that a manager’s most important role is developing their team, even the newest members of their team.


How often have you been standing on the sidelines watching as a new peer joins the organization, and felt a tad bit green around the gills? None of us want to admit to the fact that we have succumbed to the “green eyed” monster, but it is hard not to feel a twinge of jealousy when new employees have a sixth month halo permanently attached to their head. New employees often get better training, more access to senior leaders, and simply more respect for their ideas than existing employees. In the meantime the existing team is picking up the extra work as new employees get up to speed and learn the ropes.

When someone new is brought into any existing team it changes the dynamics, affects the work flow, and impacts existing relationships. Depending on the level of individuals and current culture of the organization, it can even create an environment of fear. Feeling valued is a key engagement factor for both the existing and new team members, and here are a few things that could help:

  • Acknowledge and address employee engagement or work environment issues before the new hire joins
  • Provide information on the general experience and background of the incoming employee
  • Clearly define the new employee’s role, and short and long term performance expectations
  • Walk existing employees through the on-boarding program and offer access to tools or programs that did not exist when they joined
  • Explain how each team member will be involved in on-boarding, and the time and resources they will be provided
  • Coach managers on harnessing the energy of a new employee by listening closely to the entire team’s ideas and insights.

A new employee’s peer group can be either a support group or a roadblock to their success. By acknowledging the teams fears and emphasizing their own value to the company, you can slay the green eyed monster and turn the peer group into allies in getting the new employee up to speed quickly.

Family and Social Group

This one may have you scratching your head a bit, unless you’ve relocated a family during the recruiting process. But, I see this as one of the fastest emerging issues in employee’s engagement levels today. We all live in a connected society, and these social connections are not only part of our personal lives but a major part of our work lives as well. These connections are the networks we get work done through or who we turn to for conversations that spark our best ideas. They may be the tools we use to conduct informal research or simply the audience that helps us refocus our efforts. In some environments, how quickly an employee feels they have connected their social world to their work world, could make a huge impact in their ability to perform effectively.

Examples we’ve seen of how organizations have fostered these connections include:

  • Family and friends programs and discounts
  • Pre-created “I’m working at….” logos and badges for on-line social environments
  • Company-wide community outreach programs and support
  • Work events tailored specifically for interactions with family and friends
  • Social rewards and recognition sharing that reaches family, friends, and social groups

Organizations who acknowledge the importance of these social connections, and help employees find an appropriate way to include them in their new endeavor have been shown to reap the benefits both in their overall image with that social group and in deeper connections with their employees.

At the end of the day it is this connection that you are trying to create with the new hire that is most important. Connections are the anchors an employee needs most when the inevitable curve ball is thrown their way. All elements of on-boarding are important, but even the best checklist, training program, or on-boarding tool can’t replace the value of the connections.

We’d love to hear from you if you feel your organization has a unique on-boarding approach that focuses on creating these connections. Feel free to post your organizations name here or e-mail me directly at [email protected] to participate in our current research on this topic.

Stacey Harris

Brandon Hall Group

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