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This is Part III in our Onboarding Series designed to help making the new hire process easier and more fulfilling for employees and employers. Read How to Successfully Onboard and Engage New Hires for Part I, and This Is How You Create Cultures of Welcoming and Belonging For New Hires for Part II.

In our last onboarding post, we said that great onboarding programs work to make new employees feel prepared for, welcomed, informed, accompanied, safe, and valued — to feel that they belong.

So leaders, in your experience:

  • What makes a difference in getting new hires up to speed?
  • What matters most in employee attraction and retention?  
  • What kind of culture are you growing, day by day?
  • Ultimately, whose job is it within the organization to make sure that the above happens in your onboarding program?

The answer to the last question will let you know: Who will the new hire directly report to?  

Onboarding is a leadership job

Many might share in different aspects of the orientation and onboarding process, but ultimately, the responsibility lies with the leader closest to the employee in the chain of reporting. The person the new employee will directly report to does the legwork of helping plan, oversee and participate in the new employee’s specific onboarding process.  

If that’s you, you’re the one. Once you get used to the idea, you’ll see how much sense it makes, and you’ll begin seeing better results more quickly from your new hire.

We’re not downplaying the importance of orientation, it’s a core piece of getting someone’s journey into your organization started off in the right direction. The Human Resources staff can be the home base in setting up the technical employment aspects: all employee information and paperwork, ID badges, equipment assignments, and schedule of events such as formal orientation and preliminary trainings on key organizational equipment and procedures. But leaving onboarding completely up to the Human Resources department won’t work, no matter how important HR’s role is in the employee experience or how effective the HR team is with new employees. In our post, How to Successfully Onboard and Engage New Hires, we outlines the difference between orientation and full onboarding.

What to expect as a leader/manager

So, leader/manager, what might onboarding a new hire look like for you? It’ll be hands-on! Who sets the tone?  You do. Who has to make sure team connections get made?  You do.

You’ll tailor your onboarding activities to the environment, whether remote, hybrid, or on-site. But here are some of the elements to pay attention to:

  • Meeting with your new hire on Day 1, perhaps sharing a meal, and then checking in daily until you feel that everyday meetings are no longer needed
  • Introducing the new person around, especially to their work team and key in-house contacts, and making sure that there are ‘getting to know you’ activities on the books for the team
  • Deciding who would be a good ‘buddy’ for the new employee for a month or so, someone who can help with easy questions and insider perspectives
  • Co-developing a work plan with the new employee and communicating what’s most important to get started on right away. This is much more than providing a position description/profile, it’s more: “Here’s what you should consider as first-level priorities, and here’s who will be a good resource for you.” 

What not to do

It’s important to not set yourself apart. When I see team managers acting like they’re too busy to meet with and get to know someone they’re going to be depending on, it’s a big red flag. You’re telling the new person they aren’t important and that they’re not to come to you with their questions and ideas.  Bad move.

I remember starting a new position in a big company that required me to relocate to NYC from the tropics. The transition was overwhelming at first. Even the weather was daunting on the February days of my first month on the job. The Human Resources team was terrific and very kind, and I got to know my work team peers quickly. But, I didn’t sit down with my actual ‘boss’ for several weeks. By the time I did, I considered her aloof and uninterested in me. She was brilliant and pleasant, but during the several years I worked with her, I always felt like I was expected to have answers each time we met, not questions. 

When she moved up to a global director position, I was tapped to replace her in the New York office. I was pleased but never felt that I had an inside track on how to be successful in the job — I had to reinvent it on my own. When that happens, it can be a big net loss of transferrable organizational wisdom. Because of my experience, I created an ‘open-door’ policy for the department’s team and tried my best to prepare new employees for success. 

Ultimately, that’s what onboarding is all about—welcoming, preparing people for success, and letting them know they are integral to the team. That takes more than orientation.


The onboarding responsibility applies throughout the organization, all the way up to the CEO. That chain of connectedness established in the first months of a new hire’s journey pays dividends in performance and resilience.

Contact us to discuss how you can give your new employees and new leaders that extra edge with our customized onboarding design processes and new leader development programs.

By Sallie Lee

Sallie Lee is part of Continuum’s consulting team. She has served as a thinking partner, strategist, and facilitator for a global client base.