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The most important part of onboarding? It’s not what you think…


When you look at your onboarding process, what do you pick out as being the most fundamental aspect for success? As a manager, you may be thinking your primary role has to be all about instilling culture. Or perhaps its getting new hires up to speed on internal systems and practices. But the reality for organizations who are doing onboarding well is SO much different.

The key responsibility of the manager in onboarding should be to facilitate their new hire’s ability to build a strong network internally as soon as possible.

We recently hosted SocialTalent Live: Onboarding in a virtual world, an online event that brought together thought-leaders and industry experts. And the common thread that tied all of their discussions together? People. At the heart of every onboarding success story, it came down to ensuring that people were connected and creating networks.

In the modern workplace, you need to be able to work across teams and show visibility over your work. A new employee establishing an internal network will have massive benefits for the manager as it will make them more effective in their work and, most importantly, feel happier and included in the organization.

It came up time and again during our event. Anjana Sreedevi, the Global Onboarding Design and Delivery Leader at IBM, spoke about creating initiatives during their remote onboarding to immerse new hires in culture-based networks, for example. Saskja Lodemann, the Learning and Development Manager at Celonis, builds networking opportunities into their “launch pad week” each month so starters can meet each other, meet people from other teams and even C-level leaders, all with the goal of gaining a greater understanding of the organization and the people.

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Connecting the dots can be very difficult, however.

One way people often get this wrong is when they put the onus on the new employee to introduce themselves to people and set up meetings to get to know others. It’s something that we noticed we were doing in SocialTalent even, and found that particularly with remote work, it made it more difficult for new employees to integrate.

Based on feedback, we iterated the process and made the manager responsible for introducing employees to their network. They become the cog that allows people to build connections, highlight crossover interests and opportunities. Rather than letting new hires navigate blind, they can leverage their existing relationships and advocate for them, steadying the ship in uncertain waters. After all, we know that successful onboarding leads to greater retention and improves employer brand. So it’s absolutely worth getting it right!

I was recently chatting with my friend Kingsley Aikens, who is the CEO of The Networking Institute. He told me that “networking is not a luxury, but a necessity.” When it comes to onboarding, as a manager, you have to enable your team for success. Getting people set up with software, telling them about the culture and making sure they’re comfortable – this is the bare minimum. For real immersion with lasting impact, you have to facilitate networking.

Check out a sneak peek of Johnny’s latest SocialTalent mission on onboarding:

This article originally appeared in Johnny Campbell’s bi-weekly LinkedIn Newsletter called Talent Leadership Insights. Subscribe here.

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