Onboarding and Training New Hires, Part 2 of the Ultimate Guide to People

Mar 15, 2018 | Business Strategy, The ONE Thing | 0 comments

So you’ve hired a wealth of enterprising, talented people to work with. Now, it’s time to get going. While you may think the hard work is over once you find talent, the truth is your job is only just beginning. The trick to keeping talent is making sure you represent a company that supports, encourages, and even demands its employees continued growth. But that’s the post for next week!

We always say the difference between struggling businesses and failing ones are the level of talent in their organizations. The right person can make all the wrong things work and all the right things shine. To be the best, you need to make sure from the first moment your new hires touch the floor – they’re provided with the right tools for success. Onboarding and training can sometimes be just as important as hiring and retention because, more often than not, they’re the bridge linking the two.

While basic onboarding requires some basic job training, some jobs and businesses require more specialized and rigorous training for their employees. Below, we’ll guide you through each.


In many ways, onboarding is the company equivalent of a first impression. A good first impression can be the start of something great – but a bad one can lead to mixed feelings, confusion or disinterest. In fact, some studies have shown that a first impression is set in a tenth of a second. They can have a direct impact on how you and your company are perceived by any new employee that walks through your doors. Your goal should be to have the best first impression your company you possibly can. That means creating a period of time that quickly integrates new employees into the company culture, educates them on their role, and measures mutual compatibility.

The goal of every great onboarding process is to put the onus of success on the employee, not the organization. If someone succeeds or fails, it should be up to their merits, not a weak link in the chain, poor expectations, or a lack of cohesiveness.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management statistics, new employees who attend a well-structured, concise onboarding orientation program are 69 percent more likely to remain at a company up to three years. That’s huge! According to our research, the best onboarding programs focus on four steps in particular:

  1. Introductions
  2. Setting Expectations and Accountability
  3. Plugging Into the Culture
  4. Training for the Job

All four of these components work together to make a fluid, flexible, and reliable onboarding process…

  1. Create a comprehensive introduction – aka the Meet and Greet

The first day you start something new can be daunting. It’s that new school year feeling, where your gut becomes a mashup of excitement and anxiety. What’s going to happen? Well, you can help new employees stick with the excitement and lose the anxiety by creating a well thought out, warm welcome on their first day at the job.

There are a number of companies with famous meet-and-greet processes. Twitter, for instance, has what they call the “Yes to Desk” routine. Named for the moment you say “yes” to recruiting to the time you sit down at your desk, the “Yes to the Desk” campaign is created solely to make new employees feel welcome. Before you even sit down on your first day, the company makes sure you have your preferred email address set up, a company t-shirt, and a bottle of wine. The location of your desks is set strategically based on what work you need to do and who you’re going to interact with. You’re greeted with an array of comprehensive PDFs that explain everything you need to know about your first day and what your future holds. Every step is planned and thought out to immediately make people feel cared for, unique, welcome, and informed.

While you don’t have to follow directly in Twitter’s footsteps, there are a number of different things you can do to make new hires feel as though they’re a special part of the team. Not only does this make a good first impression, it helps set them up for future success.

Other things to consider making a part of your Meet and Greet process:

Get HR Involved

Human Resources can be – as the name suggests – a great resource for any company in creating an onboarding process. Don’t use your HR team to simply deal with office complaints or explaining PTO policies: use them as an ambassador for your company. A great example of this is the Air Mauritius “Stepping UP Together” program launched in 2013. After struggling with significant financial losses, Air Mauritius’s HR department launched a huge campaign to change the culture of the company and improve morale. They worked diligently to create a new service oriented culture that emphasized how to find what people value as opposed to simply going through a series of customer service steps. And it worked! The airline increased its service status from three to four stars.

The moral is that HR can be a great touchstone for company culture. They can create programs and institute policies that help protect employees, and create an environment where they feel free to extend themselves and grow. Make them a key part of your meet and greet process so new hires know where to turn for help, and what the company culture is all about.

Work as a team

Departments are, in many ways, their own unique units within a company. Making sure that the whole team works to help welcome and onboard each new member can be a helpful part of the process. While you don’t want the arrival of someone new to interrupt the flow of the day, make sure there’s time set aside for the department to acknowledge each new member. Announce them at the next company meeting, or let them get to chat during a team rally.

Moreover, it can be helpful for the whole team to know the new employees new responsibilities and expectations. Giving your team a heads-up on what you’re expecting of the new member during the onboarding process is a good way for them to help understand where each new person fits into the team.

  1. Setting Expectations and Providing Accountability

When we come into a job with the wrong expectations, we have a tendency to overthink and underperform. A seamless transition into a company relies on clarity. Starting a new job can leave people feeling unmoored. When employees don’t know who to turn to, what to do next or even where to begin – it can be easy for people to feel overwhelmed. At the same time, you don’t want to spoon-feed employees. This is also a test to see what they can do. The best course of action is to create a rough outline of the integration period: what timeframe you’re looking at, what goals you want accomplished, and how to make things measurable.

Create a time frame

Here at Keller Williams, every new hire goes through what we call “The First 90 Days”. This time period is a trial of sorts, both for the new employee and the employer. The 90 days is broken up into smaller 30 day units, each with its own deliverables. These deliverables are hand crafted for each employee, providing clearly defined goals for the first three months of employment. Why do this? For one thing, three months is a good amount of time for the company to get a feel for the new hire, and the new hire to get a feel for the company. Like breaking a new shoe in – you’re going to learn whether or not these shoes will end up being a good fit.

Set some goals

Goals or deliverables are also a good part of the onboarding process, particularly in the early stages. During the first 90 days, these deliverables can be more immediate. They don’t necessarily need to be long term, because what they’re there to do is give you an idea of what your employee can do, and give your employee an idea of what the job is going to be like.

But we’re swinging for the fences. So, it is always good to make sure that your new hires have long-term goals as well. Outlining their goals for what they want both personally and professionally in the next few years is a great step for helping you know what you can do to help them achieve their Big Why. And, it will help you see how your own goals can better align with theirs. If they need help or you need help, you can always try our Kick Ass Guide to Goal Setting.

Make them measurable and accountable

Creating well defined, measureable deliverables during the onboarding period is important. You don’t want to give anyone something vague, because that makes it hard to track. What you’re looking for during this time is a level of skill and compatibility. Simply telling someone to impress you won’t accomplish anything. Telling them to put together a presentation on the company finances or offer insight on a book gives them something specific that you can judge them on.

Moreover, in conjunction with the timeframe and tools like the 411, it will also keep them accountable. That way, you can sit down with them every so often, check their progress, and make note of their efforts.


  1. Get people plugged into your culture

Now that you’ve got your Big Why, your goals and your structure – it’s time to focus on the most important aspect of onboarding: Culture.

We listed the importance of possible talent being a “fit” for your culture last week, and creating that culture is a key part of creating your business. The first part of onboarding is familiarizing and integrating each new hire into your company culture. Culture is the framework that large parts of daily activities, communication, and work are based around. From whether or not you have an open door policy or what kind of charity work your company participates in, culture helps create the sense of unity, cohesion, and meaning employees get at work. They also help inform how adaptable our businesses and employees will be – a key component of staying successful amidst market shifts. This isn’t just lip service. A number of studies have shown the importance of company culture. As one study puts it, “Successful companies typically develop strong corporate cultures that encourage and reinforce those attitudes to which the company owes its market success.”

Quickly getting your new hire integrated into the culture is a key part of the onboarding process. Netflix is a great example of a company that quickly gets people integrated into their culture. Sometimes all you need is something as simple as a PowerPoint presentation to give people all the basic information they need. Netflix famously put together their “culture deck” slideshow presentation that they would send to every single one of their employees. It’s basic but effective, providing their employees with the information they need to know how to function at their job and in the company as a whole.

  1. Job Training

A lot of new jobs require a certain level of training. Sure your new hire presumably has got the skills to succeed, but oftentimes companies have a particular method or way of doing things that needs to be taught. For instance, here at The ONE Thing, we all know how to write, but each of us had to learn the “Keller Williams AP Style Basics”. While we aren’t recommending making a series of cheesy training videos (although if you do, please make them like this Wendy’s training video from the late 1980s), you need to create something that helps your employee know everything they need to do their job quickly and efficiently. This can be done in a variety of ways.

A handy note on handbooks

Virtually every company has an employee handbook, but how many companies have employees that actually read them cover to cover? Handbooks are a wonderful tool any company can use to keep its new and current employees up to date on all rules, regulations, and general company information. But those handbooks don’t have to be 200 boring white pages with size twelve Times New Roman font. They can be as innovative, fun, and unique as your company is! From Facebook to Valve, a number of businesses have been coming up with their own interesting take on handbooks that help explain what their company is all about in a way that is memorable.

Make it digital

A lot of things are digital these days – why not make your training digital as well? Creating or using a digital platform for part of the onboarding and training process is a great idea. Not only does it make the whole thing run more smoothly, it also works as a handy place where your employees can find ALL of the information they need (for as long as they might need it). MIT took this tract, creating a new onboarding and training website for new hires and managers to use. This allows each new hire and their new manager to track their progress, access information, and stay accountable to their goals – at any time.

Yes, you can still make videos

Making videos, even if they’re tiny ones about how to fill out a particular form, can be a great tool for any company. They provide training and information without having to take up your team member’s time. But seriously, if they aren’t like this or this – why even bother?


Some industries require more than simple employee welcome videos – they require some more intensive training. Specialized sales, labs, and other types of work can mean spending time, money, and energy providing your new sales force with the education they need to do their job. While it may seem like a hassle, and a financial burden, giving people more extensive training can be hugely beneficial in the long run.

In their extensive study, professors Craig Martin and Alan Bush analyzed over 100 managers and 300 employees from various businesses. Their results were striking:

“Although it is often assumed that salespeople must be free to make decisions, we argue that to feel empowered, customer-oriented salespeople need more than freedom to make decisions. Work competence is critical in developing customer-oriented salespeople.  Therefore, organizations that lack qualified sales training and product education courses likely create salespeople who lack the necessary foundation or empowerment.”

Think I’m kidding? Let’s take another look at the success of IBM.

“Think” about the power of a good training program

James Cortada worked for IBM in their Data Processing Division from 1974 to 1981. With nothing but a PhD in history, Cortada didn’t seem the most likely of people to start selling computers, but that is exactly what he ended up being recruited by one account executive – yes, recruited – to do. As he put it in his memoir, “I knew almost nothing about computers, but [the account executive] argued that IBM had a training program in which it was assumed that was the case, since IBMers came with many different backgrounds.” So why go to the trouble of recruiting a workforce that didn’t already have the specialized skills or background knowledge? In part, because of the vision of one man: Thomas Watson.


The air hung thick, cold, and damp on February 17th, 1874. In the small town of Campbell, New York, Thomas Watson was born. After making his way up the corporate ladder at National Cash Register (NCR), the now savvy businessman set off in search of greener pastures, which he found as president of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R). Watson quickly poured all of his ambitions, entrepreneurial spirit, and acumen into the small company — which he would eventually revolutionize, turning it into an iconic company with an even more iconic sales force: the International Business Machines Corporation. Or, as you may know it, IBM.


How did he turn IBM, a tiny computing company, into the juggernaut it still is today? With one word: think. Watson famously created the slogan “Think” for IBM, hanging the word in a place of prominence in his own office. It was a brand, a company slogan, a one-of-a-kind touchstone for a new age of sales and innovation. It emphasized his belief in “the exchange not only of goods and services but of men and methods, ideas and ideals.” The idea behind the word is part of what made Watson structure IBM as a sales team dedicated to not simply finding people who knew computers, but people who were top talent – because top talent is trainable.


In his acclaimed biography, The Maverick and His Machine, Kevin Maney discusses the importance of the education based culture Watson created at IBM, and how influential it was on the company’s success:

“Before Watson, hardly anyone paid attention to corporate culture – traditions and values that make an organization unique…. IBM’s culture was a whole new species – a great evolutionary leap from what had come before. In its own way, the culture of IBM became the key to the company’s success. […] What Watson’s IBM did better than any other company in the world was to create and manage a strong, cohesive – and successful – corporate culture. In turn, that culture wove together the pieces of the business and drove employees forward in ways the competitors couldn’t beat.”

Watson created a place where education was what was important, and therefore created an in-depth new-recruit training program that lasted months.  As Cortada put it:

“First it was off to Endicott, New York, ground zero for IBM, home of Plant Number One and IBM’s Homestead, where I stayed for two weeks. We were taught about IBM’s history, its organization, DPD, and the sales culture, and we were introduced to the product line….“There were short seminars at the Harvard Business School, the University of Virginia’s business school, and in various parts of IBM as we were taught the basics of business, accounting, marketing, and so forth.”

That’s some next level training and education! While this may seem like a bit of a stretch for some, investing in people this way can have a huge payoff. In one study, researchers looked at the efficacy of sales education and its direct impact on sales success. The researchers followed the career paths of new salesforce employees who had sales training prior to entering the workforce, and those who did not. Their results showed that ”objective (actual) first year sales performance was higher due to greater use of specific selling behaviors for sales educated salespeople than for non–sales educated salespeople.” Moreover, they were shown to have a higher commitment to the job and were less likely to become another turnover statistic, “due to the maintenance of favorable attitudes toward the employer…The implications are that these sales program graduates are likely to generate higher revenues and lower retention costs for the companies that hire them.” While this study dealt specifically with sales training in a college program, when compared to the extensive training at companies like IBM, it opens a whole new realm of possibility for the efficacy of sales force training.

While the initial cost of implementing this kind of intense job training may seem high, the evidence that it will pay off in higher job performance and revenue makes it an appealing option. The important thing to do is weigh the pros and cons before setting aside this kind of training budget. Each business is different. The important thing to do is find the right model that works best for you.


Next week we’re going to take walk you through everything you need to know about management. In the meantime, if you have additional tips and advice about onboarding and training, let us know on our Facebook page!