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Once you’ve “hired for engagement” what happens next, and how well it’s done, in the areas of On-boarding and training, will determine the trajectory of a new employee’s success in that organization, the value they deliver, and also positively or negatively impact the productivity of those working with them and around them.


In earlier posts I talked about the benefits of the Employee Perception Survey (EPS) and follow-up fact finding initiatives.   In one post in particular “Find out what you don’t know,” I presented some examples of what one might learn in analyzing employees’ responses.  This type of information is invaluable in determining the effectiveness of processes and programs that impact productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction and can act as a roadmap for areas that should be targeted for improvement as well the ultimate goal of an improvement strategy.


 “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”     Charles Darwin

A business reality as well – Is your company responsive to the need to change?

The programs that I’ve implemented for On-boarding and Training of new employees were direct outcomes of Employee Perceptions Surveys and the information gathered from follow-up interviews with employees across all functions.  They represented completely new approaches to the process of bringing new employees into the company.

In survey followup, employees specifically called out poorly orchestrated and delivered training as an issue in our company that needed to be addressed.  From past experience in working with other organizations, I am very comfortable in stating that this is likely an issue in many organizations.

Poor communications and cooperation between and amongst work groups and departments was also cited and connected to frustration with waste in time, effort, and money.  These issues are all traceable to the way new hires are introduced to their new jobs in their new company.

If you do not currently conduct a new employee feedback program (3 to 6 months after hire) on the effectiveness of your Orientation, On-boarding and Training Programs, I would strongly suggest doing so.   You are missing an opportunity to fix what’s not working in those critical first few months of employment.  Some suggestions for effectively obtaining this type of feedback will follow in a future Post.

Getting feedback on Steps I and II is about protecting and enhancing the “Return” on the investment the company has made in hiring a new employee.

On-boarding is NOT orientation…….

which might include a summary of benefits, a review of the employee handbook, etc.  On-boarding is about “getting down to business.”

Regardless of a new employee’s level in the organization, a new job in a new company is stressful.  Even at the highest levels, failure in the job typically occurs within 18 – 24 months and is most often linked to the failure to build the relationships needed to function successfully and failure to achieve goals and objectives because these were poorly communicated and understood.

When exploring EPS findings relative to poor communications and cooperation between and amongst work groups and departments and waste in time, money and effort, what was learned was quite startling.

  • Employees could not articulate the current objectives of their department or the top 4 – 5 objectives of the organization nor did they have a copy of these to reference*.
  • Employees were not sure about their current objectives and how they would be evaluated*.

 *Employee’s had worked on their Objectives with their managers before the beginning of the year and had received an electronic  and hard copy of the Corporate, their Departmental, and their own Objectives, which they had signed.

  • Employees did not understand how their work impacted others in other work groups and departments.
  • Employees did not understand their role or their department’s role in the bigger picture of the company’s success.
  • They had not developed good working relationships with co-workers outside of their own groups.
  • Employees in such functions as R&D, Quality Control, and Manufacturing had never been exposed to the impact of product failures and release delays on customers since they had little to no interaction with Sales or Technical support.   This lack of connection applied amongst other functions as well.
  • Clearly Silos were a huge problem.


These issues are inconsistent with a corporate culture that promotes an “engaged” workforce. 


How would employees in your organization do in the areas mentioned above?

On-Boarding – The 1st Step in building Employee Engagement

On-boarding – at least my version of what On-boarding should be – – is the first step in building employee engagement, the first step in connecting people to their jobs and starting to foster a commitment to the company and co-workers.

On-boarding is also ideally suited to the new generations in the workforce, Gen X & Y, since it feeds into their desire for empowerment, the need to learn, grow, and understand, as well as their desire to develop and build relationships.

 On-boarding, as I have designed it, is aimed at planting the seeds for developing an engaged employee by accomplishing the following:

  •  Teach new employees about the company’s business
      • Its successes and challenges,
      • Its competitors
  • Educate new employees about the work of the functional areas and how they interact and depend on one-another.
  • Accelerate new employee development by giving them a leg up in building the relationships that will contribute to their success in the job and promote good cooperation and communications throughout the organization.
  • Create a model of corporate, departmental and individual objectives that demonstrates the link amongst these and demonstrates Organizational Alignment.  (The employee’s specific objectives will be addressed in the Post on Training.)
      • An image of their efforts as being valued and a part of the bigger picture – their department and company success.
  • Create a sense of belonging and eventually pride in being part of something worthwhile

Using the goals above as a guide, the approach to an On-boarding Program should be scaled and designed to effectively work within an organization’s structure.




 I like to begin the On-boarding Meeting process after the new employee’s 2nd or 3rd week on the job.   This will allow them to first develop a basic understanding of their own department’s operations.

Meetings are arranged for the new employee with functional departmental management.  With large departments, I like to rotate the manger that will host a new employee.  A good time frame for the meetings is 1 – 2 hours.  Longer meetings with the goal of a more in depth understanding of the various jobs within the host department might be worthwhile – let specific circumstances be the guide.

These one on one meetings are the foundation of an effective On-boarding program.  I would not consider a PowerPoint presentation entitled, “about our company” to be an effective substitute for the process I am proposing.

 I encourage the new employee’s manager to escort the new employee to each meeting and to make the introduction to the host department’s manager.

 Ideally, managers, who will host meetings, have been briefed on how to conduct a good On-boarding meeting with a new employee.  For example, I ask managers to include the following:

  • The specific role of the department, also its
      • current objectives,
      • recent successes, and
      • challenges.
  • How the department may interact with the new employees department, areas of dependence, potential conflicts.
  • Nature of interactions and interdependence with various other departments.
  • I ask managers to make introductions to other members of the host department and have each of these employees take some time to explain their duties and goals.   When applicable, interactions that are likely to take place with the new employee and their department should be defined.
      • Managers should provide guidance to their direct reports about the goals of On-boarding and suggest approaches to their On-boarding briefings.

 Mangers have universally found these meetings professionally satisfying and have told me that they feel it does promote better cooperation and certainly a better understanding of the business and higher levels of employee engagement.  I wouldn’t under estimate the value of the sense of pride a host manager feels toward their department and employees as they go through an On-boarding experience with a new employee.


UPCOMING POSTS:  Training & Getting Feedback From Employees On Their Experiences As New Hires.




Develop training that clearly communicates………………….. PRODUCTIVITY & EXCELLENCE are our GOALS!




……….And what happens when you don’t!


A word about the effect of leader expectations on individual and departmental performance which extends to the impact of a leader’s expectations on the outcome of training as well.



Scientific research reveals: 

  • A leader’s expectations of his subordinates and the way he treats them has a significant impact on their performance and developmental progress.   This area was also addressed in an earlier post on Engagement & Management Practices

  • Superior leaders have a unique characteristic of being able to create high performance expectations that their subordinates fulfill.

  • Less effective leaders fail to develop similar expectations and the consequence is lower productivity and less development of their subordinates.

  • Subordinates, more often than not, appear to do & accomplish what they believe they are expected to do & accomplish.

From: Management of Organizational Behavior by Hershey and Blanchard



Build TRAINING around acquiring knowledge about the company and the department and around the job’s DELIVERABLES & ACCOUNTABILITIES .  Adjust according to the employee’s knowledge and ability when they walk in the door.  Try to avoid “a one size fits all” approach to training.

Primary goal – create understanding and proficiency over a set period of time so the employee is able to execute responsibilities and achieve objectives.  

 Training, and specific components of the training, should be pegged to a time line that is being monitored by both the employee and the manager.  

Training should be a shared responsibility. 








Poorly structured and delivered training has a negative impact on hiring ROI. 

A company or organization pays full salary from day 1, but typically does not reap the equivalent in output from day 1.   The longer it takes an employee to reach full productivity the lower your return on the cost of the hire and all the monies paid out from the start date.  

The inability to do the job well also impacts the level of engagement an employee will achieve.

Their lack of productivity also impacts the productivity of those with whom they must interact.  Ultimately, all of this sub-optimal output affects the quality of service and products you deliver to your customers.

Hiring the square peg that fits the square hole to avoid training is not the answer, that just presents different challenges at another time, see post Selecting for High Levels of Employee Engagement.  

The answer is to “select” the correct combination of skills, education, aptitudes and experience – temperament counts too! Then create effective On-boarding and Training processes.



At Company A, following the analysis of the Employee Perception Survey, follow-up initiatives and solicited new employee feedback, it became quite clear that too many employees felt less than competent in executing their job responsibilities.

The training process for most jobs consisted of manager’s completing and filing a check off form.   All this form really indicated was that the person knew certain techniques that would be used in their job.   Completion of the form had nothing to do with being able execute job specific processes. It didn’t indicate an understanding of the order of execution of processes, the ability to understand and follow regulated procedures or understand the repercussions of mis-steps.  Bottom line, Checking off the list of skills on the training forms did not mean competence in executing job responsibilities and deliverables.  These training forms were little more than pieces of paper for the file to satisfy company procedures written to meet the requirements of outside regulatory agencies.

Sound familiar?

 Actual job training was neither planned nor sequential relative to the order in which processes were executed and there was little monitoring of how an employee was doing.  New employees were left with little choice but to constantly ask others for assistance.  This was a case of the blind leading the blind.  The lack of understanding about quality procedures and regulations was pervasive resulting in deterioration of adherence to them.  Improvised solutions were being applied in production to get product and components through quality testing.

Employees for most jobs should have been fully proficient within 4 – 6 months.  In doing a review with managers on the status of the readiness of staff to perform all of the functions that were part of their job descriptions, we found that even employees with 12 months of service could not meet this basic expectation. These competency shortfalls increased the workload of others, caused errors and production delays and inconsistency in product performance from one lot to another.

Focusing on two critical departments, it became very clear why we were in this troubling situation.   Managers were asked three simple questions,

  1. What does the person coming into  job B need to know and/or learn to be successful in the job?

  2. What progression should these things be taught for an orderly process?

  3. What is the typical time line for delivering, evaluating progress, and completing various phases of this training?

Managers could not provide a thoughtful answer to these basic questions nor any outline that indicated they followed an orderly plan for training new employees beyond confirming basic skills on that check-off form.  Training was a “seat of the pants” process.

How would your mangers answer those 3 questions relative to the jobs in their departments?




An orderly plan for training was developed with each manager using a milestones approach.

It goes something like this:

  • Define what an employee in a specific job needs to know and learn in order to be successful in that job.

  • Taking into account the skills, experience, and knowledge the new employee brings to the job, what do they need to learn and know?

Now let’s break it down.  In what sequence should learning of material occur?   What should a new employee know and be capable of doing at various intervals, e.g. 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months.

  • If a work process is lengthy, and you will start the training in mid process, do explain that.   Also, provide a flow chart, a diagram, or a description of the complete process and where the training will begin.  Important also, are details about the output produced by the already completed phases of a process.

  • Evaluate the employees progress at regular interval before moving to next steps.

  • To enhance a new employee’s productivity as they go through training and upon completion, encourage managers to create SOPs or reference material, and provide mentors and go-to people.


 Create a training plan for the employee based on their knowledge vs. job requirements and review expectations with them so that they understand their goals.


  Define where the training in a process will begin and what has happened earlier in the process.


  Review progress with the employee regularly and as the milestone completion dates approach before moving to next steps.


 Set the next group of milestones.


  To enhance the new employee’s productivity during and following training,  put support systems into place.




Research on how we learn (using technologies such a MRI) is providing us with information on the learning process, our limits and how to improve learning and retention.


  • We have maybe 20 minutes of intense learning time before the brain says “enough,” so alternate learning with practice, discussion, etc.   

  • Working memory (what we use during the day) has a small capacity and retains information temporarily.

  • To retain what we have learned, the information must move to another area of the brain where long term memory is located – the Basal Ganglia.

How does that happen?

                                       S L E E P  







  • Break training into more manageable sessions of maybe 1 hour each and introduce variety into the process.

  • Use active learning techniques

Create or describe problem scenarios and ask trainees to come up with ideas and strategies to resolve them.  Make training Inter-active.

Include opportunities for discussion of the material being taught.



Have trainees – train one another or simply describe to one another what they have just learned.



Include practice time as part of training sessions

Give trainees assignments to complete after your training session.


  • Keep stress and fear levels low during training (and at other times) because these emotions cause unclear thinking as they reduce the  levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters.










Remind your trainees about the retention/ sleep connection.

Suggest to your trainees that before going to sleep, they review newly learned material or create a plan for how they will use the new information the next day.

Creating Onboarding, Orientation and training programs is essential.  Getting feedback on the effectiveness of these programs is also essential.

Next post:   Getting feedback from new employees.






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