by Tim Gould

Onboarding and engagement. What do those words really mean?

Here’s the long view of both concepts:

Onboarding is the buzzword used to describe what should naturally happen with new hires at all companies – a planned, integrated process that not only gets the newbie familiar with his or her specific duties, but gives the person an understanding of the company’s overall culture and goals.
It’s not orientation. That’s the mechanical process of showing new hires where their cubicle is, meeting the employees seated near them and completing the required HR paperwork. It involves a couple of days of training, perhaps, on how an organization works, its structure and policies, and its mission.

Onboarding’s a lot more extensive than that.

After a successful onboarding experience, new employees should:
Experience a strong feeling of being welcomed to the company
Feel like they made the right job choice
Feel comfortable with where they fit into the organization, and
Be ready for long-term relationship building – a key factor in engagement.

So what should an onboarding program look like?

It should offer a structure in which new employees can gather information about the organization, and become familiar with its culture, mission and goals.

It should provide a mentor for the new person – a veteran employee who can help steer the new employee through the ins and outs of joining a new workplace.

And it should offer a set schedule of face-to-face conversations with co-workers, managers and business leaders/executives during the first few months.

There are all sorts of ways you can go to get your new people on board. And onboarding can start before the employee arrives on her first day of work.

Here are just two examples we’ve heard of:

An electronics company sent a new hire a packet of information about the company – which included a “family tree” of the firm’s personnel – along with staff photos and a map of the office.

A new hire at a PR firm got a phone call from her new boss and a package of information – including a book written by the company’s chief executive officer.

Other companies bolster their onboarding efforts through the use of social media.

No matter what form it takes, onboarding has one overriding objective: To make sure the employee feels welcome and supported, and is poised to be successful.


Pretty much everybody agrees — engaged employees are the key to every organization’s success. But engaging today’s employees is no easy task.

Just how bad has employees’ lack of engagement become? In a Towers Watson Global Workforce study last year, 63% of U.S. employees said they weren’t engaged in their jobs. That means that less than four in 10 U.S. workers were highly engaged.

A word about the term “engaged”– Gallup defines the categories like this:
Engaged employees are passionate about their work. They’ve got a genuine connection with their employers and their co-workers. They’re the engine that pulls the company train.
Non-engaged employees show up – but that’s about all. They go through the motions, but they really have no investment in what they do or what it means to the company. The job’s just a paycheck to them.
Actively disengaged employees haven’t simply checked out of their jobs – they’re actively working to undermine company success.

A commonly accepted Top 10 list of things that make people want to stay with their current employer:
1. Interesting, challenging work
2. Opportunities for advancement and learning
3. Collegial workforce
4. Fair compensation
5. A respected manager
6. Recognition for accomplishment
7. Feeling like a valued member of a team
8. A substantial benefits package
9. The feeling their work “makes a difference,” and
10. Overall pride in the company’s mission and its products.

So what can HR and company managers do to help foster a greater level of engagement among workers?

Here’s a rundown of the things the experts say resonate most with employees – and make them want to stick around:

Clear expectations. Pretty simple: Workers want to know exactly what they’re responsible for and what they’ll be judged on.
A sense of control. Employees aren’t robots. They need to feel they have the power to decide how their jobs can be completed – and the freedom to suggest how tasks can be simplified or streamlined.
Feeling they’re “in the loop.” Employees not only wish to know – and have input on – what’s going on in their department, but what’s happening in the business as a whole. And they want to be secure in their understanding of how what they do on a day-to-day basis fits into the overall operation – today and in the future.
Room to grow. These include potential promotions, extra training, learning new skills and the possibility of using those new skills in a different area of the company.
Recognition. Everyone wants to believe their extra effort won’t go unnoticed – or unrewarded.
Leadership. Employees want to be led by people they trust. And the people they trust are those who value workers’ contributions, recognize and accept differences in people, and act with employees’ best interests in mind.

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