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Designing A Strategic Onboarding Program

The benefits of onboarding initiatives are not new.

However, some businesses still struggle to develop a strategic onboarding plan, even in 2019.

Given the low unemployment rate and the fact that candidates have more opportunities than ever, it pays to have a solid strategic onboarding plan this year. It will help you keep the best employees and also get the highest return on investments from your hiring process.

What is an onboarding strategy?

An onboarding strategy is slightly different to the traditional onboarding process because it’s focused on the employee's full life cycle with a company.

It involves every part of the organization and is concerned with employee development so they can be trained and upskilled to grow their careers within the organization. This enables them to be prepared for future leadership roles in the business.

What are the benefits of strategic new hire onboarding?

Creating a strategic onboarding plan in 2019 will help to keep your employees engaged and interested in your business, so they will continue to work with you and avoid the temptation of getting lured away by higher salaries and other perks.

A strategic onboarding plan will:

  • ‍Help make your company future-proof. Strategic onboarding programs ensure that the entire workforce is prepared for the needs and challenges of the future. Therefore, it isn't just about new hires. It continues to instill your company's values and mission into current employees, so they stay excited and enthusiastic about being part of the team. ‍
  • Enable your employees to be upskilled. When creating a strategic onboarding plan, you need to determine what future skills will be most needed and provide employee training to meet these needs. The gap between onboarding and upskilling should be narrowed when developing a strategic onboarding program. Skills assessments must be undertaken and your onboarding plan must have solid concepts behind it to ensure that everyone improves their abilities.‍
  • Prepare employees for an increase in the use of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is becoming more and more of a feature within the workplace. AI is already used in several aspects of the recruitment process. For example, with Fountain, AI reduces the time to fill and time to hire by nearly half with automation when communicating with applicants. There’s a lot of fear and apprehension around AI because people are scared that it will replace their jobs. In fact, we’ve found that AI doesn't replace recruiters, but rather makes them better.

According to research by the Lighthouse Research and Advisory, 81% of employers are anxious about how AI and other technological advances are changing the types of skills employees need to work efficiently.

To address these fears, businesses must find onboarding strategies to deal with the new challenges as well as possible threats. This could be difficult in that it could take some guesswork as current jobs may not exist in the future. This means that businesses have to take a strategic approach to predict the kind of tasks employees will need that are not possible to be carried out by AI.

In a study called U.S trends and Applications in Employee Onboarding published in April and May of 2019, research conducted by SilkRoad Technology involved 203 decision makers in the HR field in the U.S. The goal was to review how HR personnel can prepare employees for the challenges to come over the next 10 years. The survey found that onboarding has been underutilized in the employee life cycle (while it should be one of the forefront strategies used to deal with these challenges). Onboarding helps evolve employees into a strategic resource for the organization.

Strategic onboarding programs for 2019 and beyond

Companies need to consider certain factors when it comes to onboarding new hires.

How can I make my new hire onboarding successful?

  • ‍Rethink the length of time for new employee onboarding. Most companies assume they’re doing well by providing a month-long onboarding program. However, this may not be enough. It depends on the company and its needs. In fact, some companies onboard employees for at least a year. With strategic onboarding initiatives, this process should take as long as necessary to ensure that employees are not just fit for their current roles, but also for future roles within the company. ‍
  • Rethink objectives. Generally, the main goal of successful employee onboarding plans has been to get people ready for their jobs. This is still very crucial. However, companies are now finding that, when it comes to the main goal of onboarding, employee engagement may be more beneficial. A survey found that 80% of US companies said that employee retention and engagement are more important than employee readiness. ‍
  • Categorize the audience. When companies talk about onboarding, they know it’s for new hires. Developing a strategic onboarding plan means that this viewpoint needs to change. Onboarding initiatives should take into account employees’ change in status. When an employee changes jobs, the company needs a way of finding out whether the individual will benefit from an onboarding program, even if he or she has been around a while. Strategic onboarding plans can apply to promotions, demotions and lateral transfers. ‍
  • Develop a strategic onboarding plan. Because onboarding programs are so important, you need to develop a strategic onboarding plan, so everyone’s on the same page about carrying it out successfully. In the same way that a strategic plan is ideal for performance reviews, new hire onboarding also deserves attention because of the benefits it conveys. Your strategic onboarding plan should include who will be onboarded and when as well as how long the process will last.

To find out more about the trends that affect hourly workers in the gig economy, click here to download our free 22-page comprehensive Ultimate Hiring Benchmark Report.

Here are some suggested actions to use in developing a strategic onboarding plan.

Designing an Onboarding Program

  • ‍Carry out an internal assessment. To create the best strategic onboarding plan, you need to have a baseline of where your company currently stands. This onboarding assessment will help you to be absolutely sure about any assumptions you’ve made. If an assessment isn’t done, you could develop a strategic onboarding plan and then find out that it doesn't fit your company's needs because you simply guessed your way through. ‍
  • Identify key players. When developing a successful strategic new hire onboarding program, you need the buy-in of key and critical figures in your business. It's up to the person or team who has been developing the strategic onboarding initiatives to communicate its benefits to leadership. Convincing everyone that this employee onboarding plan is necessary will make it easier to implement when the time comes.‍
  • Include a developmental aspect. Although onboarding has been concerned with getting employees ready to do their current jobs, a strategic plan should look ahead and get employees ready to take on new roles by upskilling themselves. Since parts of existing jobs may be done by automation in the future, speak to your new hire about their willingness to upskill (or be reskilled) in the event that machine learning and AI can do their jobs one day.‍
  • Pursue opportunities. After you're done with assessing your company's current onboarding process, you’ll have identified opportunities for growth. Make a list of key priorities and how you plan to address them. These opportunities need to be realistic. Should these opportunities be unrealistic, it could set you and your new hires back since the people responsible for implementing the onboarding program for new hires may feel overwhelmed and give up altogether. ‍
  • Review your progress. When your strategic onboarding plan has been completed, it's crucial to include intervals when objectives will be monitored to ensure a successful onboarding process. Things change very quickly and internal and external pressures could mean that you need to change your plan. Your strategic onboarding plan should be a living document. It shouldn't be static. As technology changes, so will the onboarding needs of your new hires and existing employees. So, include in your plan assessments and a review process, bringing in the qualified people to make the necessary changes.

Sample onboarding plan templates

If you would like a checklist or sample onboarding plan to onboard your new hire like a pro, click here.

Sample onboarding plan for new employees

Here is a retail employee onboarding checklist, courtesy of Process Street, which is software that creates workflows for businesses.‍

(Hiring Manager) Before Start Date:‍

  • Record employee information
  • Collect vital forms
  • Call employee
  • Schedule meeting times
  • Notify relevant department
  • Arrange meetings with team
  • Add employee to email lists
  • Send welcome video
  • Prepare for orientation session


  • Prepare a mission statement
  • Set goals and objectives
  • Create an organizational structure
  • Clarify future plans

Company policies and procedures:

  • Explain dress code
  • Inform about reporting procedures
  • Talk about smoking restrictions
  • Discuss expense claims
  • Notify about legislation
  • Go over safety procedures
  • Fill in emergency procedures template


  • Teach how to operate telephone system
  • Note down who to call for repairs
  • Make a list of used software and hardware
  • Arrange training dates for any unfamiliar technology

Benefits and leave:

  • Explain the benefits package
  • Discuss leave‍

Working environment:

  • Tour facility and work areas
  • Introduce employees
  • Identify safety equipment

Job clarification:

  • Describe job responsibilities and performance expectations
  • Provide manuals for operating equipment

Detailed software induction:

  • Enroll into company software
  • Train to use more advanced software

Transitioning from training:

  • Assign first task
  • Continued communication

First performance review:

  • Set out expectations for the meeting
  • Ask for the employee's perspective first
  • Give specific examples
  • The future
  • Ask for questions

How to make onboarding effective?

New hire onboarding is part of the hiring process and should continue throughout the employee's time at your company, so you know when to upskill them.

When using onboarding programs as part of the hiring process, modern hiring software, like Fountain, ensures that this crucial hiring process step isn’t an afterthought. In fact, Fountain enables you to hire a workforce quickly and easily with mobile-first software. Therefore, your candidate sourcing, screening and onboarding can take place on one easy and seamless platform. With Fountain, you can send your new hires documentation such as handbooks and contracts through our secure portal, ensuring they have what they need to prepare, even before they start working.

Fountain also integrates with mobile learning platforms, like NorthPass. Therefore, your new hires can take advantage of online learning enabled by mobile technology. This means that new hires will be able to take part in onboarding training from their mobile devices that have been integrated with the company’s hiring software.

To find out how Fountain can help you implement your strategic onboarding plan in 2019, sign up now.