Leadership Insights

The Six Keys to Effective Onboarding

Published, September 2018

First impressions are made in 100 milliseconds. Translated to the professional arena: It only takes one-tenth of a second for a new faculty or staff member to make a judgment about their new workplace.

A good first impression, followed by more positive experiences, means a new employee is more likely to:

  • quickly learn new skills and knowledge and gain expertise that will help them contribute to your department’s work  
  • form a positive work attitude
  • retain their position at the University long-term

Ensuring a new employee gets started out right is the essence of the onboarding process.  

Create an Onboarding Plan

Onboarding is more than filling out paperwork and meeting new colleagues. Onboarding is the process of transforming a new faculty or staff member into a fully functioning member of your team. When done effectively, it’s a powerful employee engagement strategy that helps cultivate long-term relationships, promote an understanding of organizational culture, and foster a sense of belonging.

An effective onboarding plan can be broken down into six elements.

  1. Communication. Start making a good impression before the faculty or staff member’s first day of work by sending a welcome email. Let them know that you’re excited about their arrival and include information about their first day such as where to park, their work hours, and dress code.
  2. Resources. Gather the materials and resources the employee will need in order to be productive right away. This might include a desk or work area, computer and phone access, or other supplies like a notebook and pens. Check with your college’s HR team for details and help finding these resources.
  3. Compliance. Make sure that your new employee is aware of the policies and procedures that all University employees follow, such as completing the I-9 form. Check out the policy library to determine which policies, procedures, and safety guidelines they need to know about. Be sure to check with your HR team if you have questions.
  4. Culture. Help your new employee to learn about your department’s culture and norms by talking with them about the college’s strategic priorities and how their position can contribute. Also, introduce them to jargon terms and acronyms your colleagues use. You can even explain the dynamics of team or project meetings and office space norms. Making sure a new employee adjusts to your department’s culture is more important than learning the job itself.
  5. Expectations. Clarify expectations about the new employee’s role, performance, and development right away. Start by reviewing their job description and then create goals. Follow up with regular check-ins to help them succeed.
  6. Relationships. Think about the key partners your new employee will need to know. Then make introductions via email or in-person. Be sure to include the person’s name, role, and how they can help the new employee.

Resources for Supervisors

  • Use this checklist to create an onboarding plan. Remember, an onboarding plan should be created with the individual in mind and tailored to the employee’s level of experience, specific role, and familiarity with the University.
  • Onboarding is a two-way street. Encourage your new employee to ask questions to learn about their role, co-workers, and the University’s culture as well. This conversation guide for new faculty and staff can help them to know the kinds of questions to ask. Be sure to set up regular check-ins to give your new employee the opportunity to ask these important questions.  
  • If you haven’t done so already, check out the Onboarding Employees module as part of the Supervisory Development Course. This is an online, interactive, self-paced course, with videos, resources, and tools to help you ensure your new employee has a great onboarding experience that makes for a more engaged and productive future.

New Employee Welcome

The University’s New Employee Welcome is designed to help new employees become acquainted with the University’s culture, strategic goals, and resources. Be sure to encourage your new employees to attend one of the sessions, which happen monthly. Though the sessions take place on the Twin Cities campus, employees from all campuses are welcome.