The Only Metric You Need To Gauge Onboarding Success

No one has ever accused me of adding complexity to a situation. Small words work best with us Midwest folk. Unfortunately, we sometimes allow our desire to provide structure—especially metrics and processes—to actually complicate our simple goals.

Take onboarding. At its most basic, onboarding is simple, right? Deliver on the promises you made during the recruiting process, Skippy. Early in my career, I sat in a meeting with a slew of people from across a company to figure out how to measure if we were being successful with our onboarding efforts. Here’s who was there:

– Recruiting: We want people to love us and love working with us. We’re needy like that.
– Payroll: Want to see engagement drop like Bruce Jenner’s chances of being the keynote at the Roman Catholic National Convention? Pay people wrong.
– IT Back office: We make sure the systems know that Susie’s first day is here.
– IT Helpdesk: Open a ticket to turn on access, close a ticket. That’s us.
– HRIS: IT can’t do much until we fill the required fields. Data input, baby.
– Benefits: Give me a form, and all is well. Until I see a form, you’re dead to me.

Most of these groups make their living by designing and executing repeatable processes… over and over again. In this meeting, those groups wanted to have a metric that focused on data entry, integrity and time—how long to get the right data in the right process in the right place. Track that, kid.

Recruiting is different, because we don’t want process. Instead, we want a great experience. Think about the experience, and then design processes to support.

Here’s the only metric you need when thinking through onboarding: What did the new employees tell their significant others at dinner after Day 1?

Want to visualize this? Think through these two options as Susie goes home to talk about her first day:

Option 1: “I sat in the lobby for a while; filled out paperwork; waited while they tracked down my boss, sat by myself and reviewed some paperwork for a pursuit they did last year; went to a late lunch that ended early; was told that I had two hours to “set up my Outlook,” but had to wait for IT to turn on my system and locate my password; my boss said we would “hook up” tomorrow…”

Option 2: The receptionist knew who I was when I showed up; my boss came out to get me and then gave me a tour of the facility; we hopped into a staff meeting where I got to meet the rest of the team; they set me up in my office for 20 minutes so I could log on to my already-set-up computer and get a feel for the place; I had 5 welcome emails from executives and co-workers; went to lunch with two of the department leaders I will be working with the most; finished up with my boss talking about my role on the first project I will be assigned to starting tomorrow…

Option 1 is for suckers and average companies. Set up a system that delivers on Option 2, not Option 1. Throw out any metric that doesn’t support delivering an exceptional day 1 experience and drives a great dinner conversation on day 1. You’ll know if you nailed it. If you’re not super sure that the dinner convo went well, you missed.

FOT Background Check

RJ Morris
R. J. Morris is based in the STL as the Director of Talent Acquisition and Management for McCarthy Building Companies, a multi-billion dollar national firm. Like many others in the FOT clan, he’s a sports nut who can endlessly draw the parallels between athletes, sports and the talent management game. I know, I know, as if we needed more of that. He has 10 years of practitioner experience leading talent efforts in corporate HR and another 7 years in leadership roles on the agency side, so he gets both sides of the desk. Talk to R.J. via emailLinkedInTwitter...


  1. I totally agree with you, RJ. New employee orientation is not rocket science but companies continue to struggle with getting it right.

    In an article I wrote on a very similar topic (read it here, I talk about what I have heard are some of the challenges from business owner and managers when it comes to executing orientation:

    -I don’t know what meetings to include in an “orientation plan”
    -I don’t know what to talk about in each meeting (the agenda)
    -Manually scheduling all these meetings is a nightmare
    -I won’t know if my managers are actually having the meetings

    If you’re in HR you should be setting up workflows to make your managers successful at orienting their new employees.

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  3. Chris says:

    Thanks Morris for helpfull article

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