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Undercover Manager Activities

Chapter 5: Onboarding New Employees

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5.1 Onboard Me

5.2 Interactive Onboarding Tools

Undercover Manager

Activity 5.1

Onboard Me

In Chapter 5, we explain that effective onboarding is designed to accomplish two important goals (delivering information and establishing relationships). In this activity, students will review their own experience being onboarded at their current employer. Table 5.1 can be used to structure the classroom discussion: What onboarding activities preceded your first day in the role? What onboarding happened on Day One? If students occupy managerial roles, they can use Byford, Watkins and Triantogiannis’s (2017) assessment tool to evaluate the effectiveness of their onboarding experience – we’ve provided the full reference in this activity’s resource list.

Instructors shouldn’t be surprised if students report receiving either no onboarding or too much onboarding! The resources associated with this activity explain that managers (in particular) often get little value from their onboarding experiences. The instructor should encourage students to identify any problems (for themselves and for the organization) that resulted from onboarding “gaps.” For example, they might have wasted time trying to find information, gone to the wrong people for advice, or failed to appreciate how their role intersects with coworkers’ roles. Having identified the gaps, students can develop a strategy to improve the onboarding of the next person who occupies their role. They may recommend that the organization design a more formal onboarding program, but formal onboarding isn’t the only option. There might be ways that their organization can encourage – and support – employees to be proactive in their own onboarding.


Onboarding managers:

Ashkenas, R. (2022, October 4). Is bad onboarding stifling your new senior leaders? Harvard Business Review.  

Byford, M., Watkins, M. D., & Triantogiannis, L. (2017, May-June). Onboarding isn’t enough. Harvard Business Review.

Undercover Manager 

Activity 5.2 

Interactive Onboarding Tools

Chapter 5 (Onboarding New Employees) provides lots of examples of the tools organizations use in their onboarding programs to engage new employees. Some of these tools are high tech (e.g., L’Oréal’s Fit Culture App); others are less tech-focused (e.g., LinkedIn’s scavenger hunt). But they all include some game-based elements (competition, scores, rewards) that make onboarding playful and fun. In this activity, you will design an onboarding tool that will engage new employees in learning your own organization’s history and culture. You are only limited by your imagination: the tool might be a true/false quiz, a scavenger hunt, a bingo card, or something entirely different.

Remember that onboarding has dual goals: delivering information and establishing relationships. It’s easy to design a tool that delivers information. But the tool will be much more engaging for new employees if they have to get the information from people (rather than from the Internet or company documents), establishing new organizational relationships along the way. For example, a true/false onboarding quiz might require the accuracy of each answer to be verified by a different work colleague.

Then share your tool with your Kitchen Cabinet and explain your design choices. You might even be inspired to champion your new tool to senior managers, for inclusion in your organization’s official onboarding. Finally, take a moment to reflect on your experience designing the tool. Did you learn any new information about your employer, or establish any new relationships? How did developing this tool move you along your own onboarding journey within your home organization?

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