How Onboarding Should Work

Excerpt from “People Processes: How Your People Can Be Your Organization’s Competitive Advantage” by Rhamy Alejeal (Lioncrest Publishing, 2018).

Onboarding, at its most basic, is the gathering and auditing of new employee information. But it should be so much more. Besides gathering data, onboarding is your chance to introduce your company’s mission, culture, and values to your new hire.

This step is not to be overlooked; in fact, outside of gathering basic information, the No. 1 purpose of onboarding should be to acclimate your new employee to your company’s why and engage them so they remain excited to work for you.

Yet so many companies overcomplicate onboarding, thereby creating knowledge gaps for HR and missing the chance to make employees feel welcome from day one.

Done poorly, onboarding negatively affects your employee and your organization.

The process itself should be automated, repeatable, compliant, and scalable. To accomplish this effectively, you should be involved before the employee comes on board, preferably via a recruiting platform that allows HR to manage the process.

Managing onboarding effectively goes beyond creating good vibes between the employee and your company; it should move the new hire quickly to substantive job training and work, expediting integration into the company so he or she can contribute.

Let’s look at an example involving an employee named Tamara to see how onboarding should work. In her story, look for areas where your organization can improve.

Tamara’s Onboarding Experience

Tamara receives a job offer from the private college, along with a letter in the mail and a follow-up phone call from her new manager. Tamara doesn’t start for two weeks, but HR sent her login information so she could access the HR platform ahead of time.

From there, Tamara electronically completed preliminary documents and performed basic tasks, such as verifying her address and withholding information. She filled out her direct deposit information, W-4, handbook receipt, and noncompete agreement.

Next, Tamara used resources on the platform to begin organizational orientation. She learned about the company mission and culture, and she watched short introduction videos from the CEO, HR manager, and other departmental managers.

After Tamara completed orientation, she was prompted to delve into details about benefits—not through stacks of paper but via modules or videos in the platform.

She learned about the amazing benefits, such as maternity leave, sabbaticals, 401(k) matching, retirement planning, wellness programs, life insurance, disability, paid time off (PTO), and more. The communications were designed to help Tamara understand all the benefits and, through that understanding, increase her appreciation for her new job.

With benefits background in hand, Tamara moved on to learning about various HR systems, such as how to clock in and out, request vacation, and more.

On Tamara’s first day of work, she felt comfortable and knew faces, not just names and job titles. She also felt prepared, as she’d thoroughly reviewed policies and already had received training on basic HR systems within the organization.

On her first day, she had a 30-minute introductory call with the HR director.

Because the hard work was already done, the “paperwork” was automatically processed and sent to vendors, synced with payroll, and updated in timekeeping automatically.

The purpose of the meeting was purely to establish the relationship, answer questions, and help Tamara feel comfortable coming to HR with any problems she may have.

From there, Tamara spent the rest of her day acclimating to company culture. She was introduced to the team, shadowed employees, and went to lunch with her coworkers.

The next day, she moved into the task-specific training for which she was hired.

With this process, no paperwork was needed, there was no back and forth for missing or incorrect information, or any “just sign it” on forms she hadn’t gotten to read.

Additionally, the information she went through during onboarding is still available in her HR portal. If she needs to review it or has questions, she can access it easily.

An Ounce of Prevention

Significant time, labor, and investment is required to front-load an onboarding system with the automation and communication tools that improved Tamara’s experience.

Many leaders would look at Tamara’s onboarding and respond with something like, “There is no way I could set something like that up. I just don’t have the time!”

If that’s your response, I would say: “It sounds like you don’t have the time not to.”

Once it’s in place, you have a scalable environment that sparks an employee’s love of the organization, heads off a stream of questions down the road, and creates an environment where employees know they can come to you for additional help.

Your HR team need only input basic information from the application, if that, and the system automates the rest. You don’t have to do anything more than that.

In fact, you shouldn’t do more if you want to act as a force multiplier in your company.

Because automated systems are more efficient, leaders get to spend their time on prevention. They can focus on developing employees and improving the system.

Ultimately, a well-designed onboarding process means less work for HR, not more.

Excerpt from “People Processes: How Your People Can Be Your Organization’s Competitive Advantage” by Rhamy Alejeal (Lioncrest Publishing, 2018). For more information, visit:

Rhamy Alejeal and his wife, Elizabeth, are the owners of Poplar Financial, a provider of integrated, automated HR processes. Alejeal and his team work with hundreds of companies across the United States, helping them learn how to stop pushing paper and start prioritizing people. He is the author of “People Processes: How Your People Can Be Your Organization’s Competitive Advantage.”


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