June 7, 2017
The Power of HR Leadership By Lathasha Subban
June 10, 2017

The first step in managing anyone’s career in your company begins the moment the newcomer sets foot on the premises – or sooner.  Employee orientation or induction is the process of introducing and integrating a new employee into an organisation and a position. These days employee orientation is seen as part of talent management and it is therefore referred to as on-boarding.  The goal is to get the employee productive as soon as possible. A well-defined formal orientation process is one of the cornerstones of effective human capital management. According to the Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends[1], show that Talent acquisition sits at number 3, with Employee experience at number 4 and Diversity and inclusion at number 9. All trends express the importance of getting the employee orientation right.


Although employees enter an organisation with their own sets of skills, values, experience and knowledge, they must still be assimilated and developed in order to meet the requirements of the organisation. So talent management begins the moment a new employee joins a company, because that person starts immediately to learn new methods, values, processes, systems and procedures.  Given the importance of talent management, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) developed a national HR standard on on-boarding. This standard clearly outlines the approach and process to be followed in implementing effective on-boarding in the workplace.

What makes onboarding easy to understand is that all of us who are employed today know what it is all about. Remember your first day at your current or previous employer? Did they expect you? Were they prepared for you? Did they know who you were? If not, how good an impression did that make?

The major reasons for a well-planned on-boarding programme are:

  • To assist in finding a balance between employer and employee expectations (to integrate the employee into the culture, values and company objectives).
  • To reduce anxiety, uncertainty and possible turnover (the initial job decision of the employee is positively confirmed).
  • To create a positive image of the organisation as a desirable employer who cares about talent, which leads to increased employee commitment.
  • To encourage socialisation and create a feeling of belonging, as well as acceptance by colleagues, customers and suppliers.
  • To initiate a developmental process and encourage productive input as soon as the employee starts the new job.

New employees should be provided with essential company information, including detailed conditions of employment; the addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail details of the department and key officials; copies of the latest company newsletters and annual reports; and other related business information.

But don’t overload the employee with too much information – a common mistake that may cause stress and uncertainty. Other pitfalls include being unprepared for the new employee or having too informal an orientation programme – the absence of an orientation checklist leads to mistakes and omissions. Be encouraging, by all means, but avoid creating an unrealistically positive image of the company. And don’t view the orientation programme as a one-day event. It should begin before the employee starts and continue for a month or two.

In addition, avoid having the HR manager take all the responsibility for the programme. The important role of the immediate supervisor should not be neglected, and it is essential to monitor and continue improving the programme in the long-term.


The following guidelines are useful in helping you to get on-boarding right:

  • Align your on-boarding practices to the National HR Professional Practice Standard on On-boarding.
  • Notify colleagues, reception, security and managers before the employee actually starts work. There is nothing more embarrassing for new employees than to arrive and find that they are not expected.
  • Provide background information and job accountabilities for the employee.
  • The new employee’s desk, office or other work setting should be arranged, with stationery, telephone line, access card or any other equipment the individual will need.
  • A well-planned first day with a written, personalised plan/agenda indicates that genuine care has been taken to welcome the employee into the organisation and make the adaptation process run more smoothly.
  • The role of an appointed supervisor is to expose the new employee to the immediate surroundings personally and introduce him or her to colleagues and supervisors.
  • A social get-together with colleagues, be it breakfast, a mid-morning tea or lunch, provides the opportunity for the new employee to network, meet the role players and become familiar with the business environment.
  • Don’t underestimate the role of standardised comprehensive checklists, from the most basic assumptions like having a desk with stationery to a detailed orientation plan (stretching over several days or even weeks).
  • As already mentioned, avoid information overload: new employees need to adapt to the new environment at their own pace.
  • A comprehensive written on-boarding plan should be drawn up by the HR manager, with its finer details discussed and agreed with the new employee. It should specify the business focus, service standards, dress code, mission, purpose, values, business strategy, HR policy, stakeholders (such as customers, the community and shareholders), access to the electronic media and development activities – with time frames, where appropriate. Large- and medium-size companies should strive to communicate “essential to know” information via pre-prepared multi-media to all employees so that a holistic overview of the company can be gained.
  • Where required, the new employee should either attend training courses or observe colleagues to attain full proficiency in the new position. Continuous two-way open communication, working on assignments towards set targets and standards, meeting challenges and creating an environment where mistakes lead to learning are prerequisites of development.
  • The on-boarding programme should be constantly monitored for effectiveness and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Effective people management demands a formulated, effective on-boarding programme to help the company establish a good relationship with the employee right from the start, and help the employee to become productive as soon as possible.

Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practice (SABPP) and vice-chairperson of the UNISA Talent Advisory Board.  More information about SABPP is available on their website www.sabpp.co.za or from

 Instagram @sabpp_1 or Twitter @SABPP1

[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/human-capital/articles/introduction-human-capital-trends.html