In a recent article, What Every CEO Can Do In Less Than 6 Minutes To Improve Onboarding, I shared four questions that every business can ask existing employees to shed light on what can easily be done to improve the experience of new hires coming onboard.

I was amazed at the number of responses I received in response to the article applauding me for reminding them to get back to basics.

Why do we always feel the need to over-complicate things?  Onboarding is about welcoming people into your organization and integrating them into your culture quickly so they have the relationships as well as the tools they need to get the job done.  That’s it.  Everything else is a bonus.

This past Sunday, I went to my very first NFL GAME.  As the Broncos destroyed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I got to thinking of Onboarding in phases, much like there are phases to a professional football game.

  1. Preparation In the NFL, coaches watch game tape to learn what they can about how an opposing coach plays the game.  They learn the strengths and weaknesses of key players and they build their own game plan based on the knowledge they gained from their pre-game study.  In Onboarding, preparation is the work you do to make sure that your new hires have the tools they need to succeed.  Do you have your playbook or are you hoping a new hire comes equipped with their own, and if that’s the case, how will their playbook integrate with those the rest of your team is using?
  2. Pre-game Show Before kick-off, fans participate in tailgate parties, paint their faces, put on their team logo gear, buy snacks, watch cheerleaders, paint signs and yell as the players run onto the field with great fanfare.  What is your welcoming event?  It’s easier, more convenient and cheaper to watch a football game at home, but tens of thousands of fans flock to stadiums across the country, in nasty weather, to be part of the event.  Do you welcome your new hires with fanfare?
  3. Kick-off Time to get down to business.  While everyone knows how to play the game, coaching, cheering, reviewing plays, challenging calls from the referee and water breaks are all still necessary.  When it’s time to get down to business are your new hires left to their own devices, or does your Onboarding plan allow for coaching and Gatorade along the way?
  4. 4th Quarter The game is not over until the end of the 4th quarter and any fan of the game has seen it happen, at least once, that a team is down by a huge margin only to win it in the 4th quarter.  There is a reason the game is 60 minutes.  Just because a team gets off to a great start, doesn’t mean they have what it takes to win it in the end.  It’s  great when a new hire gets off to a quick start, but this can be dangerous too.  Make sure your Onboarding plan allows for continued growth and development beyond the first 30-90 days.
  5. Post-game Recap Much is said after the game is over about how the game was played.  This is a critical assessment phase that can greatly impact the performance in the next game.  Assessment is often overlooked in the hustle to get a new hire ramped up quickly, but taking the time to talk about what is and is not working in terms of a new hire’s initial experience can save quite a bit of time and frustration as time goes on.

Merit Gest is the President and Founder of Merit-Based Development, a Denver based firm specializing in Onboarding top talent.  For information about Merit’s virtual course designed to guide executives through the process of creating an effective Onboarding program, call or email Merit at 720-980-1286 or

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