Emotional onboarding: Focus on people not processes

by 17 May 2012

Many companies are starting to embrace the concept of onboarding a new employee, and with good reason. Studies overwhelmingly show that effective onboarding increases employee engagement and lowers employee turnover. 

Unfortunately, most onboarding programs fail because they concentrate on the processes and not the people. 

A few years ago a friend from the US was engaged by one of his clients to do exit interviews on staff who had left his client within the previous 90 days. To his amazement he found that almost 20% of these former staff members would consider coming back to their old employer. Why? Because they had not yet developed the emotional attachment to their new employer that they had to their old one.

The lesson here is that the faster you can break the emotional ties to their old company and establish ties to yours the risk of you losing your new hire within the first few months diminishes greatly. 

So how do you break their old emotional ties and establish new ones? 

Start the engagement process with the offer

Employee engagement starts with the offer. Lay the foundation of a good staff / manager relationship by having the hiring manager involved in the offer process. A candidate will find it much more difficult to turn down a prospective boss than a recruiter or even the most seasoned HR professional. 

Complete any administrative, process or procedure oriented work prior to Day 1

New hires are like race horses at the starting gate, yet most companies bog them down on Day 1 with a myriad of forms and procedures. Order and test all equipment, set up email signatures, order business cards, process forms, schedule required training and meetings and clean out and stock desk with supplies prior to Day 1.

It’s also important to pre-plan their first quarter’s KPI’s (3 - 5 is a good number) prior to them starting.

Day 1 - Hit the ground running

Start your new employee on a Tuesday, or at the very least noon on Monday when energy levels are much more buoyant than Monday mornings.

Once they arrive, spend some quality time with them. Reinforce their decision to take the job, go over the company organisational chart, it’s products and services and help them understand where they fit into the company and where the company fits into its market niche.

Go over those first KPI’s and give them their schedule for their first week. Go over their training schedule for the first 30 days.

Most importantly, assign a project to be completed within their first week. Give them something tangible to do to get them productive and engaged immediately and give you a chance to evaluate their work style and any potential challenges they may have with the role.

Start them bonding with the team by scheduling lunch partners (positive, motivated staff members) for the first week.

At the end of Day 1 have another, short meeting with the new hire. They will inevitably be asked by friends and family, “How is your new job?” Answer any questions or concerns so that when they do go home the answer will be nothing short of, “Great!”

Last Day, Week 1

One of the most critical aspects of true employee engagement and reduced employee turnover is robust communication between staff and their managers. 

I teach my clients a communications structure that I call the FFOCCuSed Communications Framework consisting of:


  • Frequency - Communicate well and often
  • Feedback - Establish a two-way communication system
  • Objective of job - Do they know what is expected of them?
  • Career development - Where do they want to go and how can you help them get there?
  • Currencies of choice - What are their drivers? What motivates them?
  • Strengths - What are they good at and how can you help them to become better?


Start these conversations at the end of their first week and follow through the first 30, 60, 90 days and beyond.

Go over their first week project. Provide honest, open feedback to establish a bar, help you understand how they work and set the foundation of your work together.

It can also be a great base line evaluation for their 90 day probationary period.

First 30 Days

Their first 30 days are crucial. Make sure they are given enough work to really help them become engaged and productive. 

First 90 Days

Follow probationary period guidelines and continue to have open, honest feedback sessions. Review and resent KPI’s for the next quarter, six months or year. Then evaluate their completed and scheduled training, making changes as necessary.

Although, at first blush this might seem like quite a bit of work, if you follow this structure you will save both time and money in the end as every new hire will be able to become more engaged and productive much earlier.

About the author

Kim Seeling Smith is the founder and Chief Engagement Officer of Ignite Global, whose mission is to deliver the much needed breakthroughs in attracting, engaging and retain staff in today’s Social Age. For further information visit  www.Ignite-Global.com