Picture this scenario:

A new employee receives new hire orientation training. They understand the overall culture of the company; they are familiar with their benefits; they’ve gotten necessary equipment in order for them to perform in their role and they are excited and ready to transition to their own department to learn the specificity of their role.

What happens next?

The ideal scenario:

New hires are matched with a subject matter expert (SME) in their department who works in tandem with their new role. The SME not only shows the new employee the functionality of the role, their necessary systems, potential pitfalls and even lessons learned when they were new, but the SME acts as a “go-to” for the new employee as well as a coach and mentor. This is especially important in those crucial first 90 days of employment. This ensures the continuum of progress within the role is a successful one and the new employee feels heard, understood, prepared and valued.

The reality:

It’s not uncommon for the reverse to happen. A new employee receives their new hire orientation training, transitions to their department and receives a more generalized overview shortly before their first project is assigned (if it hasn’t already been assigned on day one in some cases). Within a matter of days, they’re performing within the role and essentially building their own schema of what the role looks like and their performance within it.

Current resources within the department may already be overburdened, so the new employee may feel hesitant to ask too many questions. Feedback opportunities are missed. Mistakes are made. The project is now behind. The employee becomes disillusioned. The employee quits. The project is left abandoned. Deadlines are not met. The work left behind now transitions to overburdened resources in order to meet those deadlines.

The loss of an employee is a ripple effect, and an expensive one. The company pays a high cost: the cost of recruiting, hiring, training, attrition, lost productivity and eventual return on investment (ROI). The employee could have contributed had they had the benefit of one-on-one coaching in an effective onboarding process.

If this sounds like a familiar situation, it doesn’t have to be.

According to a recent Gallup poll, employee engagement is seeing its first steady decline in a decade. The employee’s decision to join a new company, in large part, is based on an emotional connection with the company, culture and potential for growth.

Often, if the employee loses that connection, the company loses the employee. This is why a one-on-one coaching approach in the onboarding process is so critical. It can be the bridge between the employee’s new hire orientation and their success within the company. Here are some of the benefits to incorporating one-on-one coaching in your onboarding program.

Benefits to One-on-one Coaching in Onboarding

  • A personal, hands-on onboarding approach can help increase productivity, increase ROI and reduce unnecessary attrition. An engaged employee is a productive employee.
  • It offers a career development opportunity for the department SME. The SME has a unique opportunity to coach and mentor the new employee, but their role also provides the opportunity to sharpen their own skills within the department. As an added benefit, there is opportunity for the SME to embrace leadership skills, as well as, evaluation and communication skills, as they monitor the new hire’s progress and communicate regularly with the department manager. The SME also develops and sharpens problem solving skills. For example: An issue may arise within a departmental process, and the SME may need to provide feedback to the new hire. Or the new employee may not be making progress, so the SME coach may need to think creatively about how to apply a different approach, or in some cases, the coach may need to empathetically listen to the new employee’s stress or anxiety toward their new role.
  • This approach offers a chance to create an innovative, diverse program that corresponds with the values of the incoming workforce. Though Gen Z and Millennials of the workforce population, Gen Z is poised to shape the future of work for years to come. With a focus on ethical leadership and diversity being key core values to this generation, companies now have an opportunity to reevaluate their onboarding and tailor it to a robust, yet personalized approach in order to attract and retain top talent from this generation.


Regardless of a new hire’s role, it’s important to remember the “three R’s” when embarking on a hands-on approach when creating a meaningful onboarding experience: respect, relationship and retention. Showing respect for a new employee’s journey can help set them up for success.

This can be achieved by helping new hires make connections and develop relationships within the company with the help of a SME mentor. The result of providing new hires with a coach is the long-term retention of well trained, engaged and productive employees who take pride in the work they accomplish and who feel a sense of purpose within the company.