You get the employee engagement you deserve. If you don’t engage with them, they won’t engage with you. If all you need is compliance, indirect communication is fine. If you want them to contribute, you’ll need direct communication. If you want them to commit to the cause, you must make an emotional connection with them. This is particularly true at important moments of truth starting with how you onboard them. So, take onboarding personally and make it personal.


Onboarding Survey Findings/Conclusions

BambooHR’s founder and COO Ryan Sanders talked to me about the findings from their new onboarding survey (released March 19, 2014). While the survey highlights several important components of a valuable onboarding program, Sanders told me that the greatest impact is made by combining the components. He and the survey indicate:

  1. The Manager is Critical. More respondents (33%) said their manager had the greatest influence on the effectiveness of their onboarding than did anything else. Sanders suggests this is especially true for the Millennial workforce as their “need for connecting at a personal level” is particularly high.
  1. Invest in On-The-Job Training. 76% of respondents agree that on-the-job training is the most important thing a new employee needs to get up to speed and begin contributing quickly. Of course receiving organized, relevant and well-timed content matters. It’s just that that content is much more valuable if new employees know how to apply it.
    1. Invest Over Time. Sanders is amazed at how many organizations think onboarding should be a one-day or one-week thing. He knows that onboarding effectiveness requires managers, mentors and buddies to be “involved, engaged, providing early feedback, and clear expectations” over an extended time frame.


Onboarding Practices

Don’t believe what they say. Certainly don’t believe what they say others say. Instead, pay attention to what they do. Sanders took me through Bamboo’s onboarding program. He focused on accommodation, assimilation and acceleration. (Request an executive summary of the book “Onboarding” for definitions and descriptions.)

  • Accommodation. Bamboo’s HR staff makes sure “everything is ready for their new employees when they arrive”. Surprise. Surprise. They use their own software to make this work, including their own accommodation checklist. (Appended at the bottom of this article for your use.)
  • Assimilation. Bamboo’s managers take onboarding personally. It is their responsibility to take their new employees to lunch on day one and to make a “personal connection outside of work”. Not suggesting this is the right approach for every organization, but Bamboo prides itself on its personal relationships.
  • Acceleration. For this, Bamboo invests in on-the-job training on an ongoing basis. They strive to help their new employees absorb a lot of information – at their own speed.


Resulting Engagement

As described in an earlier article, “engagement” is too blunt a description. Compliant employees play it safe, meeting the minimum requirements. Contributing employees collaborate with others and help as they seek belonging and self-esteem. At the highest level are those committed to the organization’s purpose and driven by doing good for others. The only way to get this level of personal commitment from them is for you and your managers to commit to them personally, starting with how you onboard them.

Follow this link for an overview of George Bradt’s New Leader’s Playbook and click-throughs to all the articles on executive onboarding and BRAVE leadership.


Bamboo HR Onboarding Checklist


  • Logins created for technology platforms
  • Assign permissions for each platform


  • Assign work space
  • Key Card
  • Office supplies
  • Swag


  • Computer set up
  • Software installed
  • Phone/Ext/Headset
  • Monitor(s)
  • Keyboard/mouse


  • Welcome phone call
  • Welcome survey
  • Technology needs survey
  • Introduction email
  • Phone ext in BambooHR directory
  • Office Tour
  • People Tour
  • Culture meeting with HR
  • Benefits
  • Payroll
  • Time card
  • Week 3 meeting with HR


  • BambooHR login
  • Directory Picture
  • Job information
  • W-4
  • I-9
  • Company Policies
  • Benefit enrollment forms


  • Team introductions
  • Expectations and resources
  • Lunch on first day