A blog about reputation, marketing and employee morale.

Onboarding vs. Unboarding

Posted by Janet Smith on May 12, 2008

Imagine your first day of a new job. You walk in at 7:50 a.m., sit and wait for someone to come and get you. Finally, at 8:20, someone you’ve never seen before takes you to an office where you complete some paperwork. Then at 8:55 you’re told to sit and wait for someone else to come and get you. That person (someone else you’ve never met before) arrives at 9:15 and escorts you to your workstation; pointing out the restroom, break room, and copy machine along the way. You’re given some manuals to read and told that your boss (the one person you know) is in a meeting and will be back in about an hour. The boss finally shows up around 11:00 and says she’s sorry she can’t take you out for lunch but it’s a crazy day and hopefully the next day will be better. She points to a nearby conference room and tells you that a meeting just started in there that kind of relates to your job so why don’t you just walk in and introduce yourself and listen to the discussion. She ends by saying; “I’ll try to be back in my office by 3:00 so we can talk before the end of the day. But if I get delayed with this client I probably won’t make it back and we’ll have to talk in the morning.”

This scenario kind of gives you a pit in your stomach, doesn’t it? I mean, you’ve got to be a really callous person to not feel great sympathy for someone who has a first day on the job experience like this.

As I said in a previous post, only four percent of new employees say they’ve decided to stay with their company after the first day. The other 96 percent aren’t sure they made a good decision by taking the job, or at least feel un-welcome enough to question whether this is a place where they’ll want to stay for any length of time.

Onboarding is the process of welcoming new employees in a way that makes them feel like they’ve made a great decision to take the job. Does your organization have a formal process for onboarding that is followed by each manager? Or do you allow everyone in management to handle it in their own way?

Are you onboarding…or unboarding?

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  1. Mike

    Terrific post Janet!

    Those stats are unbelievable! This article should be posted in every HR department in the country. None of my past jobs ever included a formal process for onboarding. Wouldn’t it be great if every new employee was treated like a valued team member from the very beginning?

  2. Janet

    Glad you’re on board with my onboarding concept! And yes — the world (of work) would be so much better if bosses everywhere developed a plan to welcome each new employee. In my next post, I’ll explain how employers should start the onboarding process with new employees…not on their first day on the job, but on the day they accept your offer. Thanks for your comments, and if you can think of a way to get my post up in every HR department in the country, please go for it!

  3. Brian Agnes


    Well done and great observation. Making a big deal about the hire of a new employee creates a special moment for them — particularly if they came from a previously toxic business environment. That first impression can be powerful and long-lasting. Is there anyone who doesn’t remember that first day of a new job?

  4. Drew Schiller

    Nice point, Brian. That first day for employees really sets the tone for their experience with the company. And now that you mention it, I remember just about every first day I’ve ever had (and most of them weren’t that great!).

  5. Jagat

    Hi Janet
    Nice to read your story.
    Can you suggest something feasible that can lead to a better Onboarding experience to the new joinees…