Who’s responsible for new hire onboarding?

Man sitting at table drinking coffee and looking at laptop

4 mins, 43 secs read time

We all know that new hire onboarding is a big deal…right? If you don’t think so, you might want to mosey over to this blog post where we look at some stats that demonstrate several of the major benefits of investing in your new employees’ first 90 days with your company.

But if you’re already convinced that onboarding matters, the next step is to plan out what your onboarding program should look like.

Want to jump right into it? Download our New Hire Onboarding Guide eBook for actionable tips you can use to plan your onboarding program.

In designing your onboarding program, one big question you should consider is: Who should own your company’s onboarding program?

If you’re thinking that the answer is obvious, then keep reading—you may be surprised by what follows!

In this post, we’ll investigate the different parties who should participate in new hire onboarding.

The usual suspects: HR/People Ops

You knew we were going to say this, didn’t you? Of course the HR/People Ops Team should be involved in new hire onboarding. This team will most likely oversee the entire program, coordinate all the moving parts and paperwork, and schedule the majority of the sessions.

But we believe onboarding responsibilities shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of your People Team. So let’s move on to some of the other players!

The coach: the hiring manager

One of the most important aspects of onboarding is getting the new hire ramped up to succeed in their role, and the best person to do this is the new hire’s manager. This is not just our personal belief here at Greenhouse. A BambooHR study found that 33% of new hires felt that their manager had the greatest influence on the effectiveness of their onboarding.

And Hallie Pierson, former Director of Human Resources, Talent Operations & Rewards at Constant Contact outlines some of the main ways a direct manager should be involved in new hire onboarding:

  • Being present and available for the first 30 days of your new hire’s employment.

  • Communicating a clear understanding of corporate objectives, success metrics, and the new hire’s role within the organization.

  • Ensuring your new hire understands the company lingo, norms, and culture.

  • Building quick relationships through listening and feedback.

  • Coaching and mentoring on an individualized level from day one on ways your new hire can develop their career.

  • And finally, utilizing technology and tools to meet the daily tasks associated with starting a new role.

The ally: the company buddy

Assigning a buddy to each new hire can facilitate socializing and address questions that new hires may be reluctant to bring up with their manager, like what time to take their lunch break or how late they’re expected to stay each day. And, if possible, this buddy should be from another department, to provide the benefit of fostering cross-company communication.

Here are a few additional tips for setting up a buddy system:

  • Make the buddy system a volunteer initiative for current employees. Let people opt in if they want to get involved.

  • Decide on a minimum length of time employees should have worked at your company before they’re eligible to become buddies, so they understand the lay of the land.

  • Try to pair new hires with buddies from other departments to provide a well-rounded view of your company and give them insight into how different departments work.

  • Put the buddy in charge of social tasks, like introducing the new hire to the rest of the team, taking them to lunch, and serving as a resource for any of their questions. You can also ask buddies to take new hires on a tour of the office or neighborhood.

Food for thought: the multiple layers of onboarding

So far, we’ve been looking at individual roles within the company, but you may find it useful to take a step back and think of the way that employees experience different layers of onboarding. This is especially useful if you work in a larger organization with multiple offices.

Dr. John Sullivan, Professor of Management at SF State and author of The Onboarding & Orientation Toolkit, outlines five organizational layers of onboarding:

1. Corporate level

Covering benefits sign-ups and corporate-wide values.

2. Location level

Covering information and issues related to the country/region and the plant/facility where the new hire will be working.

3. Departmental level

Covering the department the new hire is joining.

4. Team/job level

Covering the person’s work team and job.

5. Individual level

Covering things at the team level that relate to the unique and diverse needs of this individual.

Depending on the size of your company, some of these levels may not apply, but it’s useful to think about all the different ways you can support new hires—and all the people and departments who need to be involved in onboarding!

Final thoughts

Now you know that the answer to the question “Who owns onboarding?” is a lot more complicated than it appears at first! It really does take involvement from the entire company to help new hires get set up with all the paperwork and equipment they need, to become comfortable in your company’s social setting, and to feel ready to tackle the goals and objectives for their role. The best onboarding programs consider how different members of the company are best suited to handle these tasks. Remember—the sole responsibility should not rest with the People Team!

Looking for even more practical tips & tricks for improving your new hire onboarding program? Check out our eBook, The New Hire Onboarding Guide.

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.