First day at work = reading that 1 million page manual!

August 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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There’s a lot of research out there to support the notion that on-boarding new employees is crucial for engagement and shortening the time to competence. We know that sitting someone down and giving them a big fat manual or 100 PowerPoint slides to read on their first few days doesn’t work. But we do it anyway.

I’ve worked for a lot of very small companies (ranging from 5 to 15 employees) and there was never any type of structured ‘On-boarding’ (or Orientation training). I always thought ‘Well it’s a small see the part you play pretty quick’ – then i made the jump to big corporates and saw some mediocre to very good On-boardings. Now i am working for a company with over 100,000 employees worldwide – you’d think the On-Boarding would be pretty well thought out. Unfortunately not.

I’m one month into my new job. I sat at my desk the first week and read through PowerPoint after PowerPoint after PowerPoint.

You can imagine how happy i was when i was told my first project was to sort out the ‘On-boarding’..what On-boarding i asked??

So how does one go about designing and putting together an On-Boarding program?  I’ll detail my approach – happy to hear feedback, tips and advice from my peers re what works for your company!

1. What have we got?

First step i took was to look at what the current on-boarding process consisted of. That was relatively easy – there was hardly anything. No structured approach, no process in place (although there were details of how to on-board staff in the HR policy manual) and each manager was doing it their own way – some people were receiving warm welcomes and start packs..others nothing at all.

2. What do we need?

Next step was to start an analysis of what my department actually wanted to achieve through a proper on-boarding. What were the current pressure points? What indicators were there that people were not getting the info, knowledge or skills they needed to work effectively as quickly as possible?

3. The gap

The above uncovered 4 key issues :

* Breakdown in Workflow / Process – There were key issues around ownership of the on-boarding process, breakdowns in communicating who was responsible for what throughout the process and no support for those that had to on-board staff.

* Lack of Project specific knowledge and skills – Our context is a little different to the typical Business Line – i work in a huge project within a business unit – so we’re like a little world within another world, with very specific governance models, processes etc. All this info is crucial for new starters – it was being delivered in a very ad hoc way and the problems were evident down the track when targets were not met, rules not followed or just general knowledge of what role they played in the big scheme of things was unclear.

* Difficult access to resources – there were endless documents, manuals, PowerPoints, templates, tutorials etc but they were dispersed all over the intranet, shared drives and people’s personal emails.

* No consideration towards employee engagement – On-boarding was seen as a ‘we need to tell new people this, this and this’ but there was no thought towards the ‘people’ side – making the new team member feel welcomed, the simple yet very effective things like a welcome morning tea or lunch, a quick sit down with the rest of the team, a walk through the office to introduce the newbie – it was head down and straight to work.

Below is a very high level overview of the solution

On-boarding high level strategy

Basically the solution is twofold – first we needed a support structure for those on-boarding staff – this responsibility will lie with the project managers so they need to know what to do and how (things like checklists, perf support docs etc help) secondly we needed an actual on-boarding process for the new starters (starting point being before their first day through to their first month). The process included clear content areas (structured on 3 levels: Company – Bu – Project), readily available resources (dedicated intranet for On-boarding, welcome packs, survival guide etc) and some face to face meetings (Manager Touchpoints and Welcome lunch).

The challenges ahead? The biggest challenge will be implementing of course ! This means communicating the new process & getting project managers to take more ownership. The key has been to listen to their needs and give them enough support to roll this

I’ll let you know in a few months how this is all working 😉



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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ryan Tracey and Ryan 2.0's blogroll, DeboraGallo. DeboraGallo said: Who needs on-boarding at work? […]

  2. Debora,

    Hallelujah! that you see the insanity of most onboarding processes and are doing something about it. The people who follow in your footsteps will thank you over and over. The vast majority of people DO NOT READ FIRST (eventually yes, but, usually as a last resort).

    I saw the ‘Madness of the Manual’ myself and started a web service to promote a better way to onboard new hires. Check us out at I’d appreciate your thoughts!

  3. Hi Todd
    I took a look at your site and it ceratinly looks like it has some really valuable resources – this would def. complement a corporate on-boarding or even serve as an educational resource for HR staff in charge of designing an on-boarding. Cool stuff !
    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. That’s the idea; to complement what companies are doing already and help them refine their process.

    In fact, companies have started to license our content to incorporate into their own onboarding programs. And we’re designing onboarding portals based on our website where companies can add their existing content to keep it all organized and accessible for their new hires (instead of scattered around the company servers and desks).

    We always appreciate new ideas for content, so feel free to email me anytime!


  5. Very Interesting!
    Thank You!

  6. Wholeheartedly agree, that it’s all too often a weak area. In all my years working (a lot) I was only ever “on-boarded” properly once – at UNIFACE. I met practically everyone in the company in my first week, was coached by my co-worker, and joined lunches and meetings. That’s when you feel looked after and become efficient and confident very quickly. Quite often I’ve experienced that managers have no idea what to do here, I’ve seen managers that have no input if they feel they don’t ‘connect’ with the new employee. So there needs to be a process that can bypass this kind of subjectivity. Exactly what you are creating. Wishing you all the best getting it through – can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  7. Kanutouren

    First day at work = reading that 1 million page manual! | e-bites

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