Emtrain Blog

Top Onboarding Strategies: Q&A with Steve Cadigan

Posted by Sam Keshavarz

March 15, 2016

Top Onboarding Strategies

During our Top 5 Onboarding Strategies webinar, we gave attendees the opportunity to pick the brain of Silicon Valley talent expert and former VP of Talent at LinkedIn, Steve Cadigan.

Here are the top attendee questions with answers from Steve Cadigan:

Questions HR & Talent are asking about onboarding strategies:

1. Have you seen an effective way to teach software/programs in a non-live setting?

Yes. A very easy, effective way is to create screen recordings of operating a software program. Adobe Captivate is a great and cost-effective tool for this – it takes a video and audio recording of everything you do on your computer or another electronic device. Once you’ve recorded your video lesson, you’ll have a video file you can use to train new employees.

2. Have you thought at all about the impact that onboarding new employees has on teammates? Is there a way to alleviate any added job demands of a teammate having to train a newcomer?

It’s helpful to set expectations with teammates that they need to invest time to get a new employee up to speed and that the entire team will benefit from it.

When employees invest time for onboarding, the whole team gets a return on that investment because there’s another competent co-worker who can share the workload and provide additional support.

3. Do you have examples of templates?

We do have a template of a sample 30 day onboarding checklist - it's free to download.

4. Onboarding can be costly (in time), what do you recommend to small businesses to be able to have a great onboarding experience for their new starters?

As discussed during the webinar, investing time upfront to make the onboarding experience effective pays dividends in terms of productivity and quick engagement for the new employee.

From my experience, organizations that fail to invest the right amount of time with new employees tend to spend more time down the road having to retrain or correct things that happened due to onboarding neglect.

Onboarding is a great investment especially in small businesses. In the same way that a car needs gas to operate, new employees need the right information and instruction so they can run and contribute.

Perhaps a helpful way to view it is to estimate at least 2 weeks of time (spread amongst the team) to effectively onboard someone, which can be viewed in the same way you view a fully loaded compensation package as including payroll taxes and benefits in addition to the salary.

5. What would you say is the main difference between onboarding for permanent employment vs. onboarding a freelancer or expert consultant? Besides that the time the perform are shorter for the freelancer.

The primary difference between onboarding a full time employee versus part time or freelancer is the amount of time necessary for onboarding given the number and complexity of topics that need to be addressed. Another way of looking at this is that a freelancer needs to know tasks whereas a regular employee needs to understand the culture, the organization, what it takes to succeed, and so much more.

6. You spoke about creating a Wow impression on day one. However, many organizations don't hire a lot of people each week - so what do you suggest for a firm that might only has a few hires each week?

I am a strong believer in Wow on day one even if you have only a few hires each week or month. Delivering Wow does not mean it costs you time or money. You can deliver Wow quickly and easily in many cases. For example, getting your CEO or a top exec to just come by to say “hello” can blow the minds of new hires OR you could have an agreement with the CEO that you can pop in to introduce the new hires.

Another approach could be to create a monthly Wow moment and gather all the new hires for the month together. It’s completely up to you and what fits with your culture and organization.

7. Electronic documents prior to start date seems great, but shouldn't you be paying them for the time they spend completing those documents?

If they are non-exempt, giving documents ahead of time makes sense. If they are an exempt employee, it’s not necessary. Ideally these forms should hardly take much time to complete.

8. Do you think mentor programs are successful in small and large companies?

The challenge with large scale mentoring programs is that it’s like blind dating; it’s impossible to predict if there will be chemistry from the start. As it relates to onboarding, I do believe that short term new hire mentors are a great thing because there is not necessarily a long term commitment beyond the first 30-90 days and it feels lighter and less burdensome to the mentor who is giving their time.

I think short term mentoring works in all sizes of companies. The point here is that relationships matter - especially to new hires. The more connections they have in your company, the more likely they will have help with succeeding, understanding the culture, and winning.

9. As a fast growing company, we are also a distributed organization. Are there any ideas on how to continue to connect new employees with current employees in a meaningful way without overloading them with bunches of Google hangouts?

Unfortunately, there really is no substitute for old fashioned face time to build and strengthen relationships. Therefore, in addition to Google, Skype, online meetings, etc., it’s helpful to schedule in-person meetings to help build relationships.

10. What can HR do if leaders don’t spearhead the culture?

The best way to persuade your leadership to weigh in on the culture is to let them know that culture will be created either with or without their participation and it’s probably best if leadership has a say about the culture of their organization.

11. In what ways can you make your New Hire Orientation Program more interactive?

As outlined in our 30 Day Onboarding Checklist, you can integrate learning sessions with co-workers into your 30 Day Onboarding plan, which will trigger the active involvement of the new employee. Another great way to ensure you are hitting the right buttons is to ask recent participants in your NHO for ideas on how to make it more interactive. You may be surprised by their creativity.

12. If you have a smaller company in which HR wears talent, recruitment, and hiring hats, how would you suggest HR handle the onboarding process?

If you are concerned about scarcity of resources, I would suggest including hiring managers as much in the process as possible. HR should be outlining the general plan and then delegating action items to hiring managers and their teams to carry out the bulk of the plan. It’s really up to HR (which is a good thing) to outline the onboarding plan and then detail out who does what to ensure new employees get up to speed as quickly as possible.

13. Is there anything we need to consider specifically while onboarding millennials in the team?

Yes. As discussed during the webinar, it’s important to give millennials the big picture on how the company serves the market and how their individual work advances that endeavor. Additionally, millennials are generally more focused on working with organizations that have a mission and purpose that resonates with them, which underscores the need to clearly share the mission and values of the organization early on - ideally in the recruiting process.

14. Slide 6 - "EE Handbook," is this Electronic Employee Handbook?

EE Handbook refers to Employee Handbook, which we suggest should be shared electronically.

15. What suggestions do you have around ideas for activities beyond the 90 day mark?

Great question! 90 days is just a guideline. Some roles take shorter for people to connect and some people take less or more time to adapt to new organizations, teams and cultures. There are many things I have seen done to ensure your team is learning, growing, and connecting with the company. Ideally, regular company meetings, activities, networking events, volunteer activities, sports teams and events, speaker series, etc. are good ideas for including your new folks into the flow.

17. Can you speak a little bit about how technology has challenged your ability to onboard efficiently? And maybe an experience where technology improved your process? What software do you recommend for automated/electronic paperwork?

Technology can be a challenge when company leaders and/or hiring managers overly rely on a technical solution rather than spending the personal time necessary to make onboarding a success and to build relationship equity.

Technology improves the process when it automates and streamlines the transactional elements of onboarding, e.g., employee agreements, health insurance forms, etc.

There are plenty of nicely designed systems that address automating the transactional HR elements such as Zenefits, Namely, Bamboo HR, and Gusto, just to name a few. Any of these systems are an improvement over a manual process.

18. What is the best way to talk about culture when you have employees working in different locations?

Culture messages and discussions should be ongoing and occurring in a variety of formats, such as an online video or course, weekly stand up meetings, performance management documents, corporate communications, etc. The key here is consistency and variety of delivery by different people and in different settings. I find specific examples are always very helpful. The more remote the employees from HQ I think the more time that should be invested in culture discussions.

19. What if your leaders are not charismatic or engaging?

It’s important that HR help leaders be their best. If you don’t have a charismatic or engaging leadership team when it comes to presenting to employees - it’s up to you to find the ways they do shine. Sometimes employees respect authenticity and directness and people being who they are vs. something they are not. As long as your leadership is authentic and can speak about the company’s mission and purpose in a meaningful way, you can still easily leverage and benefit from the leader’s communication to new hires.


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Topics: HR, Training, People Skills, onboarding