8 Tips for Awesome Onboarding

March 8, 2016 by

onboardingI was recently honored to conduct a SHRM webinar sponsored by Jellyvision called The 8 Tips for Awesome Onboarding. With 5,000 registrants, it was one of the most well attended webinars in SHRM history. I was also excited to learn that attendee feedback ranked high enough to place us in the top 5% of all webinars. Thanks to everyone who logged in to watch! If you missed it, you can watch the archive here. (If you don’t have a SHRM membership, you can sign up for free.)

I thought I would share with you and your team some of the questions and answers that came at the end of the webinar:

1. How do you create a sense of engagement when you’re dealing with a lot of remote employees?

As I said during the webinar, the drivers of engagement are nearly the same for virtual employees as for those at “Corporate.” It is how you amplify and customize the drivers for remote workers that matters most, keeping in mind that being a remote worker creates feelings of isolation, separation, and even loneliness. This reality means that when leveraging recognition, the most impactful driver of engagement, managers should not only be giving more recognition to deserving remote workers, but also tailoring how it’s carried out. One best practice I especially like is determining what local family-owned restaurants are in virtual workers’ hometowns and getting a gift certificate to one so they can treat their family to a nice meal at a local restaurant. Not only is it a nice treat, but it also shows that the manager took his or her time to get to know the remote worker’s local neighborhood.
I thought you would also appreciate seeing the most impactful drivers of employee engagement, in order of importance:

    1. Recognition
    2. Career Development
    3. Direct Supervisor/Manager Leadership Abilities
    4. Strategy and Mission—especially the freedom and autonomy to succeed and contribute to an organization’s success
    5. Job Content—the ability to do what I do best
    6. Senior Management’s Relationship with Employees
    7. Open and Effective Communication
    8. Coworker Satisfaction/Cooperation—the unsung hero of retention
    9. Availability of Resources to Perform the Job Effectively
    10. Organizational Culture – Shared Values, Behaviors, and Beliefs, Diversity Awareness and Inclusion, Corporate Social Responsibility, Work/Life Balance, Workplace Flexibility, and so on.

2. Is there any risk that pre-boarding efforts like the completion of benefits and employment paperwork could be considered actual work and therefore subject to wage & hour comp laws?

I was honest with my response to this one at the time when I responded, “I actually don’t know.” As luck would have it, one of the webinar participants who specializes in such pre-boarding efforts and technology, submitted the answer. Rick Fratcher, Senior Sales Executive of CFactor Works, shared: “It is perfectly ok to have the new employee complete a lot of the paperwork ahead of time, as long as you make it clear legally that this is a prerequisite for hire and that it is not going to be paid time.” Several well-known labor attorneys I checked with verified the accuracy of this response. Thanks, Rick!

3. If you’re trying to create a culture of engagement…what if one of your senior managers isn’t engaged in their work and you highly suspect that the negativity comes right from the top? 

This situation presents a very real problem since employees’ relationships with Senior Management and their trust in them is one of the top 10 drivers of employee engagement. The first step is making sure the senior manager “naysayer” understands how employee engagement is closely linked to key business outcomes. Here is a comprehensive summary I wrote that you can share, called The Compelling Business Case For Employee Engagement. In my opinion, one would have to either be brain dead or a complete idiot not to become an engagement evangelist after reading this document. But if that does not work, try to get senior leaders a coach or enlist another senior manager whom they respect to provide gentle advice to help them “see the light.”
And if that does not work, wouldn’t you rather work for senior leaders who get completely excited (like you) about what promise employee engagement holds for everyone? Well, you know where I’m headed here…

4. How do you gauge the quality of a job candidate if they don’t have a work history, like a recent graduate?

Take a close look at their school history. In addition, leverage pre-employment testing and assessments, as well as ask solid behavioral interview questions. On a side note, you may want to question why you are considering hiring someone with absolutely no work history whatsoever. Many college students successfully hold part-time jobs or internships while in school, which shows work ethic and at least a little professional experience.

5. What was the name of that HR Tech award-winning system technology for great Onboarding, including that “Face Time” feature which helps accelerate the new employees’ knowledge and retention of their new coworkers’ names?

The name of the technology is VIBE HCM.

6. Our employees start orientation day in HR for the first half of the day, and w/ the manager for the second half…what are your thoughts on that type of structure?

To be honest, I don’t like or recommend that structure. Knowing from scientific research that the relationship one has with his/her manager is the be-all end-all linchpin to engagement success, why wouldn’t you want the manager to meet them at the front door and make the exciting introductions to their new coworkers? Also, not to “diss” HR, but what exactly are they going to be doing with the onboardee that is fun, celebratory, and engaging the first part of the day? Paperwork and rules are necessary, but not the best way to engage new employees on their first morning at a new job. Could some of that red tape be handled ahead of time, or done more quickly? If you are stuck with this structure, could you at the very least have the manager meet the new employee and make intros, and then hand them off to HR for the rest of the morning?

7. We find it challenging to create a great first-day atmosphere in a manufacturing environment (not an office environment). Are there any suggestions you’d have for us?

There is really no reason why you cannot follow the same best practices I outlined in the webinar and that are featured in the related e-book we sent to the webinar participants. You can find the e-book here.

8. How do you walk the line between appearing fun and engaging vs. appearing cheesy and unprofessional?

The answer to this one is simple. Include employees and managers in the design of what fun activities you employ, and get feedback immediately after activities take place. If a fun activity is perceived or experienced as “cheesy” or “stupid,” you will know as soon as possible so you can adjust accordingly.

9. As a public employer, we can’t provide employees with monetary recognition outside of their regular wages due to ethics laws…do you have any ideas for other non-monetary recognition besides saying Thank you!

Absolutely. I have the following five suggestions:
– When thanking people, make sure you explain why what they did is so intrinsically important to the organization and its mission.
– Give them something that rewards them for the great work they achieved (branded company swag, a gift basket, flowers, etc.).
– Establish a peer recognition platform through which they can hear “shout outs” and “thank yous” from their coworkers.
– Have a Senior Leader at their organization handwrite them a nice thank you note.
– Make sure that you tailor the recognition for how they prefer to be recognized (e.g., not everyone wants the public “shout outs” at staff meetings).

10. You mentioned a non-negotiable list that you use when vetting job candidates…where can I find this?

You can find it on my blog.



Kevin Sheridan is an internationally-recognized Keynote Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of Employee Engagement. For five years running, he has been honored on Inc. Magazine’s top 100 Leadership Speakers in the world, as well as Inc.’s top 100 experts on Employee Engagement. He was also honored to be named to The Employee Engagement Award’s Top 101 Global Influencers on Employee Engagement of 2017.

Having spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, Kevin has helped some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement. His first book, Building a Magnetic Culture, made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers.

Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.

Email: kevin@kevinsheridanllc.com