5 Ways to Improve Onboarding Engagement


Employees are the lifeblood of any organization, and more employers are investing in programs to attract, develop and retain the talent they need to succeed. The quicker an employer can engage new talent, the greater the likelihood of retaining a productive new employee.

One of the most important, and overlooked, areas of talent engagement occurs at the very beginning of a new hire’s journey. Think about your first day at the last new job you held. You probably had lots of questions, and lots of information to absorb. Will I fit in here? How am I going to remember the names of all these new colleagues? What opportunities to advance might I have? Was that person I just met in Marketing or Finance?

HR professionals call the process of introducing and orienting new hires “onboarding,” and it’s a good description. When everybody is on board and understands their role and the strategic objectives, organizations function better. The key is for employers to do onboarding the right way.

Here’s a factual example of onboarding gone wrong: A respected Fortune 500 company hired a friend of mine a few years ago. On his first day, he had a desk, a phone line and a computer. But because the IT department was swamped integrating users from a newly acquired company, he was unable to use his company laptop for more than a week. “Drew,” he told me, “it was like having a brand-new car in the driveway and no keys. I spent my first day on the job in an hours-long meeting with a small group of other new hires, filling out forms and learning logistical information about where to get my security badge, the parking garage, commuter benefits and stuff like that. This was a job I was excited to have, and I looked forward to being part of the company. After that first day, it seemed a little less exciting.”

In a classic case of life handing out lemons, my friend made some lemonade. Unable to send or receive e-mail at his new company domain, he resorted to personal e-mail and phone calls to set up meetings with new colleagues during his first week. But he had to rely on another colleague to look up people in the company directory on the intranet! “In some ways, that first week was a blessing in disguise,” he said, “because I was forced to build relationships face to face.”

Improving the process

How can employers make onboarding a highly engaging experience? Here are five ways:

  1. Make sure that all new hires can access company resources on Day 1, especially when most of the orientation information is hosted online. Hundred-page printed employee handbooks are 20th Century relics. Best practices nowadays call for digital handbooks, which can be updated and distributed easily.
  2. Make leadership visible. Often, new hires join at times when key members of the leadership team are out of the office or otherwise unavailable. Hearing “We’re glad you’re part of the team” from one or more leaders resonates with new talent.
  3. Introduce and reinforce the organization’s culture through storytelling. Have highly engaged employees at different levels and stages of their careers share their experiences with new hires.
  4. Make orientation interactive. Where possible, enable new talent to take self-guided tours and access important information easily.
  5. Keep it going. Don’t stop onboarding after the first day. Assimilating into a new organization takes time, and savvy employers provide resources throughout a new hire’s first year.

How organizations communicate during onboarding is a matter of culture and geography. One way employers can bridge time, distance and diverse groups of employees, however, is through video.

Live and on-demand video offers distributed organizations a personalized way to welcome, orient and engage new talent. Companies in various industries are already using this capability as a single destination for information. At INXPO, we call this single destination Business TV. It’s a powerful and highly engaging communication channel that works not only for employees but also can be extended to external audiences.

For additional insights on onboarding, I highly recommend Brandon Hall Group’s research, “High-Performance Onboarding: A New Model for Excellence,” available at http://go.brandonhall.com/onboarding_executive_summary

To learn more about Business TV, download our solution sheet to engage a dispreced workforce.