Evaluating Onboarding Processes by Elizabeth DiLuzio

Happy weekend! My name is Elizabeth DiLuzio, volunteer curator for AEA365. About a month ago, a friend and former colleague reached out with “some good news and some bad news”. The good news: she was recently promoted to Director of HR at her company. The bad news: she wanted some free consulting services. Her first project was to revamp their onboarding process for new hires and she was wondering what the best and most data-driven approach might be. It was music to my ears. How could I say no to a runway like that?

It took a few evenings of research and collaboration sessions for Julie and me to create her very own onboarding logic model. While I’m not at liberty to share it, here are some of the research highlights we uncovered that could help to direct your own work on the topic.

The IWG Framework

According to the IWG Framework, a framework designed for researching onboarding practices, onboarding tasks fall into one of three categories:

Inform (the sharing of information through one of three mediums:

  • Inform-Communication (one-way messages and two-way dialogues)
  • Inform-Resources (documents shared in a platform the staff member can access at any time)
  • Inform-Training (planned learning opportunities via videos, in-person sessions, shadowing, on-the-job training))

Welcome (providing opportunities to meet and socialize with co-workers, welcome kit, a welcome from senior leaders)

Guide (personalized activities to guide growth such as mentorship or assigned peer support) (1)

Onboarding Best Practices

A later work also co-authored by Howard J. Klein shares research findings about onboarding best practices. They share seven, summarized as follows:

1. Treat it like a process – onboarding should be planned over an extended period of time, typically a year, and should take into consideration the needs of the new hire and the organization at each milestone.

2. Use it to reinforce culture – for example, use the early days to communicate staff success stories and reinforce that they are now part of something bigger than themselves.

3. Make it a team effort – everyone has a role to play from senior leaders, human resources staff, managers, mentors, and colleagues.

4. Take advantage of technology – leverage available technology to accomplish more straightforward tasks such as tracking progress, social networking, paperwork completion, and asynchronous training delivery.

5. Give newcomers a sense of purpose – help them to feel like productive members of a team as quickly as possible.

6. Provide appropriate orientation training – customize the trainings to the new hire’s role, preferences, and learning styles.

7. Provide two-way feedback channels – provide opportunities to adjust behavior to meet the expectations of both the organization and the new hire. (2)

Rad Resource

Check out the Government of Saskatchewan’s Manager’s Guide to Orientation for New Employees for a concrete jumping off point for creating your own onboarding manual.

Anticipated Outcomes

There is no dearth of research around human resources practices, including onboarding. Most if not all the research I found, however, focused on for-profit businesses. While underlying principles may be the same (retain your employees and don’t go bankrupt), there is a whole host of value-laden and cultural considerations to onboarding in the world of government, education, non-profits, and other socially minded organizations. That said, some of the more common outcomes cited include profit growth, cost savings, and employee retention. (3)

Now it’s your turn

Have you evaluated onboarding processes before? Got any tips, tricks, or resources to share? Drop me a note in the comment section below or share with us in the Evaluators’ Slack Channel. I look forward to hearing from you!

(1) Klein, H. J., & Heuser, A. (2008). The learning of socialization content: A framework for researching orientating practices. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 27, 278±336.
(2) Klein, H. J., & Polin, B. (2012). Are organizations on board with best practices onboarding? In C. Wanberg (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Socialization. doi:10.1093/ oxfordhb/9780199763672.013.0014
(3) Bauer, T.N. (2013). Onboarding: The power of connection. SuccessFactors Inc. Retrieved on 20 August 2021 from https://aledelobelle.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SuccessFactors-onboarding-power-of-connection.pdf.

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