On-boarding new recruits: beyond induction activities

By Andrea Collett

How robust are your on-boarding practices? Do you have a systematic and logical series of events that help to socialise your new recruit? Is this balanced with clearly defined role and performance expectations? Does the process extend to the first 18–24 months? How do you integrate your performance review processes?

No matter how aligned your selection practices are, your decisions will be tested in the first 12 months. The tables are now turned and your new star employee is actually trying the organisation on for size and interviewing you ‘on-the-job’.  This is the most vulnerable period of the employee life cycle. Like it or not, the recruit is actually in control of the rudder at this point and their decisions are a direct reflection of your on-boarding and business practices. Their choices usually tack around the following:

  1. Stay on board, cruise out of the harbour, become part of the team and become an engaged long-term employee that performs in their role
  2. Jump ship in the harbour
  3. Go into cruise control by giving the minimum mandatory effort to keep their job.

Obviously, choice number one is what we are after. We can even deal with choice number two as this is a clean cut decision and an effective on-boarding process will fast track this choice. Dealing with the consequences of choice number three (quit and stay) however, is a different story and one we want to avoid at all costs.

There is an underlying truth that is often missed during this vulnerable period. New recruits need to be viewed as a long-term investment. Integration into the organisation becomes an outcome beyond an induction activity. HR can only do so much and the real power of effective on-boarding lies in the line manager’s approach. Having said that, HR needs to partner with line managers to develop a graduated performance framework with sound business measures to manage expectations for all stakeholders.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, the on-boarding practice should be reviewed by HR using relevant metrics to measure its ongoing success. Each organisation will have a unique on-boarding process to reflect the size and complexity of the organisation. However, best practice indicates that the following markers should be present.


This includes activities and processes that cover organisational values, cultural idiosyncrasies, developing business relationships with key stakeholders, understanding peripheral employees and their impact on the business, introduction and inclusion to formal and informal networks.

Role and performance expectations

This includes clarification of the role including what is implied in the position description, graduated expected performance measures at critical time points, provision of training in the organisation’s systems and processes and a very clear understanding of ground rules and consequences if compromised. What is also useful here is the joint development of a vision for the recruit at the end of the specified on-boarding period. This will assist in seeing the ‘end game’ and positively affect their motivation.

Checking in conversations

These should be conducted on a monthly basis where feedback on progress is discussed as well as checking that the line manager’s leadership style is appropriate for their stage of development. This becomes an informal contractual arrangement between the line manager and the recruit which will help the recruit make either choose one, two or three above. The minimum goal of these conversations is to maintain the self-esteem of the recruit as they navigate through this period and manage the business requirements as set out in the graduated performance expectations.

If you would like to know more about the types of on-boarding practices that would benefit your organisation, contact our consulting team on consulting@cbb.com.au

Andrea Collett
Former Senior HR Consultant

Subscribe to receive the latest Foreword articles delivered to your inbox on the first Thursday of each month.