You’ve landed that great new hire and are excited to have them join your team, but how can you help them become a fully contributing team member as quickly as possible? Everyone wants to get their new hires operating as efficiently as possible, but most underestimate the amount of time, planning and focused attention it takes for not just the new hire, but for their manager and colleagues as well.

A robust onboarding program can accelerate time to proficiency and meet individual learners’ training needs. This can enable new hires to contribute quicker to business success, sustaining team performance.  In this article, we’ll evaluate some proven practices for effective onboarding that will get your new hires off to a faster start.

1. Develop role-based onboarding.

Many organizations develop and utilize a centralized, company-wide onboarding program. These programs contain valuable company background information and are a great foundation to build on.  However, while these programs are packed with important information, they don’t help new hires learn how to do their specific job within the organization.

A successful onboarding plan equips new hires to perform their new job, sets clear expectations and helps them thrive within your organization. Role-based onboarding addresses the following questions:

  • What are the competencies needed to perform their specific job within the organization?
  • What are the tools, practices, processes and knowledge they need to work within your organization?
  • Which colleagues or teams do they need to build relationships with to be successful?
  • What are your operating norms and communication mechanisms?

Gather feedback from past new hires’ experiences to continuously improve the program.

2. Include a mentorship model.

Including mentorship in onboarding can help reiterate company values and culture, accelerate development and create a sense of belonging for new hires. Each new hire should be assigned a mentor that is a peer or above in a similar job or department, and someone other than their direct manager, to guide and support them as they encounter questions during those critical first few months. Even the most experienced hires need support to work successfully within your organization.

Select experienced employees that can model the desired competencies and behaviors, review work quality, provide constructive feedback and answer job related questions for the new hire. As an added benefit, creating mentorship as part of an experienced employee’s role can provide purpose and satisfaction in their job.

3. Customize the onboarding plan to the individual.

Even if you have a standardized onboarding plan by role, each individual person will have different training needs.  Consider the education, experience and skills of each employee when tailoring their onboarding and learning plan.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What strengths did you uncover during the interview process that should be leveraged?
  • What gaps need to be closed?
  • Who is the best mentor for this employee?
  • Who are the specific people within the organization they need to build relationships with and learn from?
  • What are the priorities and expectations of their job and when do they need to be achieved?

Think of onboarding as a specific plan for each individual new hire instead of a program that is followed in an identical, repeatable way. The new hire’s direct manager should help build this individualized plan, set expectations, and guide the employee to understand all angles of performing their specific job.  Centralized onboarding and training teams can help managers build customized onboarding plans by providing guidance, tools, templates and best practices.

In the book, “The First 90 Days,” author Michael D. Watkins underscores the importance of establishing critical early wins to establish themselves and credibility in a new role during role transitions. Without an individual plan, those wins are left to chance.

4. Follow through.

The best made plans are useful only if they are followed. Managers and mentors should have frequent check ins with new hires to discuss how things are progressing, what they are learning and ensure they’re getting through the onboarding plan on schedule, meeting set expectations and retaining information. Workloads and high priorities can push onboarding plans to the bottom of the list.  This is a mistake. Hold yourselves accountable to the onboarding plan just as you would any other deliverables or task.


Reducing time to proficiency for new hires involves defining an individual onboarding plan, targeting the competencies and knowledge that are needed to perform the specific job within your organization, providing a framework for building key relationships and setting performance expectations and timeframes for completion.  With intentional up-front planning and follow through, you can realize the investment in your new employees quickly — and keep them learning for years to come.