Onboarding 101

Whether you are brand new to your career or an experienced administrator who is new to RRC, all new employees go through an “onboarding” experience.

What is onboarding? It is the formal process of an employee becoming equipped with the necessary information, supports, and resources to be engaged and productive at the earliest possible time (Source: Towers Perrin, 2008). Onboarding can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months or more.

At Red River College, we want you to onboard successfully. Employees who experience strong onboarding are more likely to stay with an organization, feel positively supported, and become productive sooner.

Onboarding is a collective effort that involves the employee, the supervisor, Information Technology, Human Resources, Security Services, Parking Services, and other key stakeholders. It includes:

  • Organization of your first day
  • Planning & participating in orientations and introductory trainings, and
  • Gaining access to information and resources to facilitate you in your new role

Your immediate supervisor is your primary contact to discuss your onboarding plan and the pace of things to come. Together, you will determine what you require at different stages in your transition process.

It is important that you – the new employee – drive the process as much as possible by asking questions, accessing information, participating in orientations and introductory trainings, and connecting within your work group.

Before your first day

Take time to explore. Inquiry is the foundation of a higher education institution, so do not feel awkward about asking questions. You may wish to ask these questions of your hiring supervisor or Human Resources contact person:

Questions to Ask
  • Should I bring a lunch on my first day?
  • If commuting by car: where do I park on my first day/how do I get a parking permit prior to my first day?
  • If commuting by bus: what are the main bus routes?
  • If commuting by bicycle: where is the bicycle rack closest to the building?
  • What time should I be at work on my first day?
  • What is the preferred attire in the group/department?
  • Will I have a schedule for my first days, such as for meetings or required training?
  • What are the names and job titles of those in my immediate team?

Your first few days

Get situated. Your first days on the job can be simultaneously exciting and overwhelming, as you are introduced to the people, processes, and systems you will interact with, as well as the physical environment and organizational structure in which you will now work.
Partner with your manager to identify your initial assignments, the general purpose of your work, how it fits into your department or school’s overarching goals, and how you can begin making immediate contributions.

Included in your first few days could be:

  • Meeting all your new co-workers and the other people in groups or departments you’ll be interacting with on a regular basis. If you’re a managerial position, begin to hold meetings with all of your staff to gain a sense of current priorities, projects, and issues.
  • Setting up your work space with supplies or equipment you’ll need.
  • Signing up for a New Employee Welcome/Orientation session.
  • Reviewing the school or departmental organization chart to familiarize yourself with the work structure in which you’ll be working.
  • Clarifying initial assignments or projects with your manager.
  • Reviewing a checklist of onboarding items with your manager.
Typical questions to ask

You are encouraged to ask questions to clarify aspects of your new job. Getting key information early will help you feel more comfortable and more easily able to make meaningful contributions right away. You may ask your supervisor or manager, a co-worker, a department administrator, or someone else in the department some of these questions:

  • Are there regular meetings I am expected to attend?
  • Are there special activities or certain days of the week when events take place?
  • What training is required for my new position? Is there preferred timing as to when I need to complete the training? Once I complete required training, what is the recommended training helpful to me moving forward?
  • If I am the first to arrive at our work location, how will I gain entrance? Are there specific keys I need to be issued?
  • What projects will I initially be working on? Will I be able to get a list from you as to who I should contact to be brought up to speed? What are the deadlines?
  • How will I learn what our department’s/school’s area’s strategic goals are for this year?
  • (If you have not seen a current job description) when can I see a current job description for my new position?
  • What is our group’s or department’s fax number? What is the interdepartmental mail code? Which email distribution lists should I join? What is the policy about personal phone calls?
  • For your first assignment, clarify with your manager what decisions can be made without input and what types of decisions need managerial input, or broader input, such as from clients or stakeholders.
  • Ask which specific policies you need to review in your first few weeks. Many policies apply to certain job roles or responsibilities.
  • Ask about logistics important to your comfort in your new workplace, including getting a tour of the facility and learning about safety and emergency procedures, and how to gain familiarity with all departmental practices and procedures.

Your first few weeks

Gain familiarity. As you adjust to your new department or work group as well as your new position, other questions may arise. The questions below could be useful to ask your supervisor or manager, or a buddy or other co-worker in your group:

  • Clarify your supervisor or manager’s communication preferences, such as: How should I follow up with you or keep you informed of my progress? When I need to ask for direction, do you prefer an e-mail or talking in person?
  • What are the team or departmental procedures and practices I need to know?
    • Examples: requesting time off, ordering supplies, department email list or directory, birthday celebrations, staff and departmental meetings, how information is disseminated, how to update or submit an update to the department’s web site,  etc.
  • If you have not yet seen an organization chart, ask how to access one specific to your department/school area? If there isn’t a formal chart, who are the people and groups I’ll be primarily working with? What is the protocol for meeting them (e.g., should I call or propose a meeting)?
  • What are the primary goals and priorities for our group/department?
  • How and when will my performance be reviewed?
  • For what systems will I be getting authority? (This is useful for identifying what systems training you need.)
    • If you need clarification of required and recommended training, ask: What role-specific training do you recommend I take?
    • In addition to the training I am completing, what tools do you recommend I learn that will help me be more effective or efficient?
  • Clarify times when you need to get your supervisor’s or manager’s decision or approval and times when I can make my own decision. Additionally, identify who the key stakeholders are and what types of decisions affecting departmental programs or services need stakeholder input.

Your first six months

Questions to Ask

Now that you’re approaching six months in your new position, your thoughts may shift to looking forward while identifying any “lessons learned” in your initial months on the job. These questions are most appropriately answered by your immediate supervisor or manager:

  • What are the top priorities for our work group for the next six months? In the upcoming year?
  • What are the measures of success for the projects/programs/services/work I am working on or managing? In other words, how will you and I both know if my contributions are effective and lead to success?
  • Moving forward, what ways can I best add value to our work group or department?
  • Typically, your manager will schedule a meeting at the end of your probationary period to review your performance and mutually discuss areas for improvement along with setting goals for the next review period. Be prepared for that meeting by clarifying:
    • What your key accomplishments were for your first six months; think of your primary contributions, deliverables, or ways that clients, co-workers, or others expressed gratitude to you for your efforts.
    • Ways you think your performance could be improved, and if there are specific tools or training that you think would be beneficial to you.
    • Identify the specific goals and objectives, if applicable, that you met.