Make your new employees feel welcome through functional onboarding

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Do I belong here?

Will I get along with my co-workers?

What’s the purpose of my role?

These are all questions your new hires will be asking themselves and effective onboarding can help ensure the answers are positive and reinforce a sense of belonging.

That sense of belonging is one of 4 key elements to effective onboarding, which we’ll be covering in our series of onboarding blogs. Here, in the second of our blog series, we’ll focus on the importance of creating a sense of belonging and how you can weave this into your onboarding process. But before we address the how, let’s look at the why.

Why belonging is vital to successful onboarding

Back in 1943 American psychologist, Dr. Abraham Maslow created Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which laid out what people need to feel satisfied and fulfilled. This framework is as relevant and popular today as it was then, often cited in the context of creating a productive, empowered workforce1.  

Belonging comes in third in this hierarchy, highlighting just how important it is for individuals to feel that they fit in. With the average worker spending 34 and a half hours a week at work, a sense of belonging is just as important professionally as it is socially.

So, what determines whether your new hire will feel at home in their new role?

Onboarding sets the foundation for each of these aspects of belonging but getting it right is often fraught with problems. Let’s take a look at a case study from one of our previous clients to illustrate this.

Client case study

A client approached us with a specific onboarding challenge:

“We send our new hires off to ‘boarding school’ for a month but when they come back, there is no continuity, follow up or validation”.

There were 3 major problems that resulted from this approach:

  1. New hires learned a lot of ‘theory’ with one community (training/HR) and then were left to apply it with a totally new community of colleagues. Consequently, establishing rapport and coaching relationships with their co-workers did not start for several weeks after joining the organization. The result: fractious conversations as the skill gap between theoretical knowledge and application became apparent.
  2. It took too long for new hires to feel that they were contributing and therefore discover any sense of purpose, as little was achieved in terms of contribution in the first few weeks.
  3. Many new hires reported that trying to absorb so much information in the first few weeks without an opportunity to apply learning was overwhelming. Also, the lack of workplace experience made it hard to contextualize.

The final conclusion was clear: the ‘boarding school’ approach was unstimulating, lacking in purpose and problematic for developing effective working relationships.

Wasting these vital first few weeks has significant consequences, as research shows that new hires have just 90 days to prove themselves. With such a short time frame to establish a positive working relationship within an organization, the faster new hires feel welcomed and prepared, the sooner they can become productive team members.

Some new employee welcome ideas?

Based on our observations and 30 years’ experience in performance management, there are 4 ways you can ensure your onboarding process generates a lasting sense of belonging.

By using a blended approach of training, coaching, digital content, and a mobile learning platform, the onboarding experience can include scheduled and self-directed activities to promote engagement and stimulation.

Feeling ‘in charge’ of our own onboarding encourages curiosity, proactiveness and decision making, which all foster self-confidence, encourage relationship building and provide a rich and varied set of experiences.

Invite new hires to curate evidence (videos, photos, reflection documents) that demonstrate application. This approach provides focused and specific coaching moments for managers and experts as the evidence is tangible. This encourages meaningful feedback and in turn, recognition for the new hire.

Combine learning activities with opportunities to apply new skills and knowledge, receive feedback and correctly adjust, before moving to the next ‘chunk’ of development. Stimulation will come from the variety of activities as well as the opportunity to learn through application.

Most roles require collaboration among colleagues for teams to deliver their objectives, so consider how you can help your new hires develop a strong operational network from the start.

Understanding their role in team performance and who they can turn to for assistance is crucial in feeling part of the team. This can include tasks to meet co-workers, find their buddy/mentor and introduce themselves or attend community events with their peers and co-workers that provide an opportunity for social interaction.

Activities which encourage coaching and feedback in the workplace also give the new hire reassurance, a sense that the organization cares and direction on how to contribute most effectively.

Personalize the new hire’s curriculum so that it is specific to their role and operational milestones. For example, a milestone for an engineer might be to correctly install one specific product. The knowledge, skills, and tools leading to that milestone all focus on that one product, once this milestone is completed, the next product becomes the new milestone.

Setting operational milestones supported by development strategies help the new starter recognize purpose in their role and the related success helps stimulate positive recognition and hence co-worker approval.

Through a blend of stimulating development activities, tasks that encourage networking, focused operational milestones and focused coaching, you will provide an experience which fosters a sense of belonging and therefore a desire to contribute in the long term.

We hope you like our new employee welcome ideas, please feel free to share yours in the comments box below.

Want to improve your onboarding experience?

View our webinar on functional onboarding here!

If you would like to discuss your functional onboarding requirements and how our mobile learning and coaching app On.Board can help foster a sense of belonging for your new hires, connect them with those that are best placed to support them, as well as provide them with an enjoyable onboarding experience, please do get in touch by visiting

Considering maslows hierarchy of needs to create an empowered workplace 

2 British people work days lifetime overtime quit job survey study

3 SHRM: Onboarding new employees


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