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The Successful Assimilation of New Hires


Onboarding is a process in which a new or transfer executive is meaningfully guided into a new position and becomes a well functioning and valued member of the organization.  When onboarding is done effectively a new executive has a greater sense of commitment, performs better, and is more likely to stay longer with the organization.  

This is particularly important when one considers the failure rate of new executives.  Researcher Anne Fisher reported in a Fortune article that nearly “40% of executives who change jobs or get promoted fail in the first eighteen months.”

It is important to understand that onboarding is different than a typical orientation program:*



Learning the written rules

Learning both the written and unwritten rules

An event

A process

Lasts the first month (at most)

May last a full year

Focus is on integration to the unit and the specific job

Multi-level focus: organization, unit, individual (personal)


Non-linear and non-sequential

Builds on past successes

Includes reflection and unlearning past successes

* Anne Massaro, Magna Publications and Ohio State University, www.magnapubs.com

Onboarding Structure

Organization development consultant Anne Massaro’s onboarding process focuses on three foundational categories: Building Relationships, Understanding the Culture, and Achieving Results:

Successful Onboarding: The Foundation for Extraordinary Leadership*

Building Relationships

Understanding the Culture

Achieving Results

Guide the new leader in building robust relationships with:

1. The person to whom the new reports

2. All organizational leaders

3. Internal stakeholders

4. Direct reports

5. Indirect reports

Advise the new leader on:

1. The organizational culture

2. Team culture

3. How the new leader’s role integrates with, or challenges, the existing cultures

4. Assessing the situation in which the new leader will operate

Dialogue with the new leader about:

1. Organizational goals

2. Stakeholder expectations

3. Creating integrated, aligned performance goals

4. Communicating performance goals with the person to whom the new leader reports and direct reports

5. Quick wins


* Anne Massaro, Magna Publications and Ohio State University, www.magnapubs.com

Characteristics of Effective Onboarding Programs

Although onboarding programs must be tailored to an organization’s needs and culture, the most successful programs include the following best practices:

  1. Begin the onboarding process before the official start day by sending the new executive relevant forms, organizational material, websites, and other informational pieces that will help acquaint the new hire with the organization.

  2. Engage relevant stakeholders in the onboarding design for the new executive.  Taylor the process to match the new hire.

  3. Assign a trained “onboarding coach” to direct and manage the onboarding process.  Be certain that this coach knows the job requirements of the new executive and can serve as a resource person to answer tough questions, present helpful perspectives, and provide meaningful success tips and feedback.

  4. On the start day roll out the red carpet by making the day special for the new executive.

  5. Design the onboarding process to be long term.  Successful onboarding takes time.

  6. Be certain that key stakeholders participate directly in the onboarding process.

  7. Provide ample time with the new executive’s manager.  Clarify roles, expectations, and goals.  The manager who takes time to build a relationship with a new hire and actively helps him or her to assimilate will generate a stronger sense of loyalty and productivity.

  8. Introduce the new executive to peers and direct reports.  Allow time for Q and A.

  9. Don’t overload the new executives.  Give them plenty of time to process their new assignments; avoid bombarding them with reading material and forms.

  10. Onboarding should be interactive, participatory, and friendly.

  11. Schedule regular progress checks.  Use these to discuss how the new executive is feeling about the job: challenges, successes, reservations, confusion, vision, new ideas, etc.

  12. Don’t rush the new executives to achieve results;  give them time to assimilate, build internal networks, and inculcate the organization’s culture.

Benefits of Meaningful Onboarding Efforts

There are numerous benefits of a quality, well managed onboarding program.  New hires who receive effective onboarding experience the following:

  • They engage with the organization faster and more meaningfully

  • They report a greater level of satisfaction with their job

  • They are likely to perform better

  • They are generally more engaged in their work and the organization

  • They tend to stay longer with the organization