How Strategic Onboarding Helps Employees Thrive

10 Habits of Self Made People - People Development network
10 Habits of Self Made People - People Development network

Strategic onboarding improves contribution

For those of us involved with new hire onboarding programs, maintaining the status quo is all too easy. Going beyond initial orientation to offer deeper learning opportunities may seem obvious and simple, yet many onboarding programs remain minimalistic.  There is growing evidence that this is a huge missed opportunity to retain and engage new hires.  Strategic onboarding, which Mark Stein defines as a program that allows employees to learn through an extended time frame and apply what they learn on the job, reduces operating costs and helps new hires improve their contribution.2 Why? New hires are bombarded with information from company history and policies to dozens of introductions and job essentials.  Little is initially retained leaving many new hires overwhelmed. By extending learning over several weeks or months, learning saturation improves, performance accelerates, and connections are made.

Strategic onboarding doesn’t just happen.  The key is to connect new hires to other people through buddies, experts, and mentors. This creates highly contextual learning opportunities that can be applied to daily work.  According to Bersin research1, people retain only 10 percent of what they read, 50 percent of what they learn through discussion, and 75 percent or more from on-the-job experiences. The principle of learning through others is a gold mine for improving new hire success.

Assigning a buddy or advisor to a new hire is a great start, but imagine the impact when an entire network of experts and teachers become accessible to a new hire? Take a minute to think about your own job. In any given week, how many people do you tap across the organization when searching for information?  By connecting your new hire a network of people, the aggregate group knowledge that can be shared is astounding.  That said, just providing an employee directory or social network is not enough. The key is to connect new hires to the right people.  Leading organizations that are implementing strategic onboarding programs ensure each new hire gets plugged into the resources and people that will help them in their particular role.

In addition to accelerating learning and time to performance, a fundamental goal of strategic onboarding is to build a strong connection between the new hire and the organization. Not only does this improve retention but it helps new hires align to the organizations culture and way of doing things.  There are many ways to impact. Building peer connections within the employee onboarding process should be on the top of the list as it helps build personal networks and strengthens bonds to the organization and other employees.  New hires who feel supported are less likely to be intimidated by their peers and more likely to ask questions, increasing learning and team collaboration. And encouraging established employees to come together to share their knowledge with a new hire solidifies their own expertise, builds their confidence, and potentially helps them learn. The more time established employees and new hires spend together, the better for building a truly collaborative team environment.

With a strategic onboarding program in place that incorporates learning through others, your new hires will be empowered to thrive by getting up to speed faster and being more committed and connected which reduces turnover.  Beyond the benefits to new hires themselves, a strategic onboarding approach will help create a stronger overall team and collaborative workplace. Through this, you’ll contribute to the bottom line, one successful onboarding experience at a time.



  • Bersin, “High Impact Learning Practices,” 2009.
  • Stein & Christian, 2010.
Steve Obrian

Steve Obrian

VP of Customer Success at Chronus
Steve O’Brian, Vice President of Chronus, is an accomplished author and speaker on the subject of corporate mentoring, coaching, and onboarding. His thought leadership has been instrumental in changing the way companies approach talent development programs. Deeply involved in the creation of client solutions, O’Brian shares his best-practice program expertise throughout the corporate learning and development world.
Steve Obrian

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