How to Continually Improve On-Boarding

On-boarding a new hire isn’t a simple endeavor. In a large organization, where the process tends to be more standardized, the practice comes with its share of roadblocks. And as firms seek to squeeze results out of new hires faster, it has grown more important that organizations consistently tweak their on-boarding process to ensure time-to-productivity is up to snuff.

For George Bradt, managing director of executive on-boarding firm PrimeGenesis, the answer lies in having an on-boarding review board, a panel of key stakeholders in the on-boarding process that every so often takes a look at a firm’s practices and evaluates necessary changes.

The idea is to give line managers more support in new hire time-to-productivity, share best practices and build new capabilities. The board would not necessarily be a decision-making body, but would act as a firm’s intelligence resource on successful practices for getting large volumes of new hires up to speed — both from a company culture and performance perspective, he said.

“[On-boarding] is an HR process [that] line managers aren’t interested in,” Bradt said. “What they are interested in is improving the results … and the idea of a review board is to give them more support in these efforts.”

Bradt said there isn’t a definitive definition outlining who should sit or participate on such a board. Anyone with vested interest in the process should have a say. Also, Bradt said it’s important to make sure the construction of the review board isn’t made into just another HR process.

“If it’s too much of an HR process,” Bradt said, “everyone will hate it because it’s too much work.” Instead, talent managers — or anyone looking to create an on-boarding review board — should make it more informal and discussion oriented.

In the end, it’s designed to act as a tool that can conversationally assess and review best practices, Bradt said.

But that doesn’t mean the idea of having a review board for on-boarding is appropriate for every company.

Ed Flowers, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at World Kitchen LLC, a kitchen and household tools company, said the idea of having an on-boarding review board might not be appropriate or efficient for a small firm. “I think a bigger company might want to do it,” he said. “I think smaller companies, like us, wouldn’t set up a review board.”

This is mainly because unlike a large company, World Kitchen’s HR function is consolidated. Plus, the number of people the firm hires each year might not warrant vast and extensive review of the firm’s on-boarding practices — it would be more informal. It also might be a matter of resources.
“A big company with different divisions might have people to evaluate on-boarding,” Flowers said, “so they might have more people to evaluate.”

Still, Flowers said it’s important to have some sort of system to review internal on-boarding practices. For some, it could come in the form of a review board; for others, like World Kitchen, it might come in the form of an employee survey that asks employees for input.

At any rate, both Bradt and Flowers agreed that HR practitioners shouldn’t settle for the status quo when it comes to on-boarding. Constant evaluation — to bring clarity and progress to the employee on-boarding experience — is essential.

Frank Kalman is an associate editor at Talent Management magazine. He can be reached at