Your C-Suite Doesn’t Care About Onboarding

(But I’m still gonna give you tips on how to onboard properly; it’s coming a little later)

Onboaring is important, but not as important to your CEO as you might think. Face it, it’s not mission critical. Companies have been surviving for years without 3-to-6-month integration programs, 4-week trainings before setting foot in a cubical, “scavenger hunts” to meet peers, or 30 day “how’s it going” surveys.

Here is what your CEO wants to know when someone starts:

  1. Can you start work quickly? Regardless if someone is “onboarded” or not,  CEOs want to know, “Can you get crap done? Because I hired you to get certain crap done.”
  1. Can you deal with the culture I support (or created)? An optimist (which I strive to be) says CEOs do value all employees “rowing in the same direction” and agreeing to work within certain norms/values. We call this culture. A pessimist says CEOs want employees to drink the cool-aid. And I mean the full-sugar version even if you prefer a diet coke. Regardless, CEOs want to know “Are you on board with what I am about?”
  1. Can you achieve goals to make the company successful?

So here is the deal. Even if your C-Suite isn’t losing sleep about onboarding, it doesn’t mean you, HR pro, shouldn’t onboard employees well.

Problem is, onboarding is hard. Why? Re-read number 3 above.

Corporate goals change. A lot. For good reasons and bad reasons. When companies are charged with focusing on goals, it seems as though they have the attention span of flies. Companies are like Carrot Top with a box of props—the bit changes every 20 seconds.

Companies get clarity wrong and don’t know what “strategy” means; then, when strategies flip-flop several times, they start to believe the “we’re agile” story. Makes it hard to focus on what to tell your new employees in an onboarding program if the script flips too much.

So how do you make your onboarding work?

  1. Understand onboarding is not an HR program. HR can lead a horse to water (aka managers) but can’t make them drink. HR should offer a foundation but certainly has no power to force participation. That the “it’s not an HR program” part.
  1. Focus on getting new hires onboarded to their team first. This means you have to have kick-butt managers who can actually hire properly, understand the new-hire’s strengths and leverage them properly. The manager also has to be able to understand what motivates the new hire and give them a good dose of that, well… always.
  1. Find ways for new team members to meet people. People want to be a part of something, which always includes feeling accepted and anchored. For instance:
  1. Have lunch
  2. Have another lunch
  3. Drink coffee together
  4. Eat lunch
  5. Bring some donuts some morning
  6. Serve food at your meeting
  7. Enjoy a happy hour after a crazy project is over
  8. Go have another lunch
  1. Offer lightweight classes. Daxko does this well. Three 1-hour long classes are given within an employee’s first few months. A Daxko DNA class, lead by our CEO, a Daxko “Passport” class (understanding our market/branding) led by our SVP of Marketing, and a Daxko “Strengths Training” class (understanding why a focus on strengths is important) led by me. Also, all of these theoretically could be taught by non-VPs if necessary.
  1. CREATE A CADENCE. If something is not done regularly. It won’t stick. Regardless if you do something light-weight (did I mention lunch?), medium-weight (some short classes) or heavy-duty (a 4-week training), there has to be some regularity to it.
  1. Measure team engagement regularly. If the entire team is engaged, that is a sign the onboarding was likely a success. The Marcus Buckingham Group has a great whitepaper called “Engagement Pulse.” Super easy questions to ask all teams. Takes 30 seconds.

I guess the final word is don’t overcomplicated your onboarding. If you are a mega-company with the resources to do some over-the-top stuff… fabulous. But for the 95% of us who aren’t in that category, some of the steps above should accomplish what you need.

FOT Background Check

Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke is an HR Leader, speaker and writer, specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture.  Her HR career has spanned the last 20 years, most recently serving as VP of People for Birmingham, Alabama's award-winning technology company, Daxko. That’s right – the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of, because there are only so many people in the big B’ham who are worthy of a VP of People title. A true Generalist, she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She’s based in the good ol' blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching Breaking Bad reruns (and Snapped and Dateline), enjoying serious amounts of coffee (and cheese, but not together!), dreaming of where she will travel next, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…Check out her blog at or talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter

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