Key Elements of an Onboarding Plan

Onboarding Plan

During Acumen Executive Searches’ 16 years as an executive search firm, we have supported numerous onboarding plans for our clients’ new leadership hires. Here are some valuable factors we consider when strategizing pre-onboarding (the period between offer acceptance and the start date) and onboarding. As executive recruiters, these guidelines are tailored for leadership positions; however, certain concepts can be applied throughout the organization.

Regardless of the role, a well thought out plan is critical to long-term retention. A new employee’s success within the first 3 months of hire is critical for their happiness and indicative of how long they are likely to remain with the organization. In addition, a well-executed onboarding plan will accelerate the rate at which the new hire adds value to your organization.

Pre-onboarding (from offer acceptance to the start date) can be customized based on the new hire’s timeframe and circumstances. The following are recommended pre-onboarding activities; aim for at least one connection each week to keep the candidate engaged and excited.

  • Arrange lunch, dinner, or coffee meetings between the new hire, hiring manager, and/or peers. Virtual calls are suitable if the new hire is located outside the area.
  • Extend a thoughtful, handwritten welcome note expressing gratitude for joining the organization.
  • Encourage participation in planned social, networking, or celebratory events (such as year-end parties, community networking events, or charity workdays).
  • For relocating new hires, assess the support required for housing and connections to the new community. If others are relocating with them, assist with job placement, community introductions, and school information to ensure everyone settles comfortably.
  • Share a detailed agenda for the first week, outlining scheduled meetings, training sessions, travel, and introductory discussions. This helps the new hire understand what to expect and how to prepare.
  • Offer a swag bag containing company merchandise as a token of welcome.
  • Avoid introducing tasks perceived as “work” before the official start date. If there are necessary activities, training, or other responsibilities, discuss compensation arrangements.

Onboarding involves seamlessly integrating and supporting your new hire for the initial six months and beyond. A comprehensive onboarding plan should encompass the following:

  • Conduct an orientation session to familiarize the new hire with the company’s culture, values, mission, and strategic objectives.
  • Facilitate introductions to key stakeholders, including board members, senior leadership, direct reports, and peers.
  • Assign a peer mentor or executive coach to the new hire; discussions might include identifying strengths and learnings for the new role, as well as strategies to quickly gain trust within the organization.   
  • Provide a comprehensive overview of the company’s long-term vision, business strategy, competitive landscape, market positioning, and industry trends.
  • Communicate company policies, procedures, compliance requirements, and ethical guidelines to ensure adherence to organizational standards.
  • Offer training programs and necessary resources for understanding the company’s processes, systems, technologies, and tools.
  • Promote team-building activities to cultivate relationships, encourage collaboration, and foster a cohesive team environment.
  • Provide knowledge, norms, and assistance with pronunciation specific to the local area (localization) or industry lingo.
  • Establish clear communication channels for the new hire to express concerns, seek guidance, and offer suggestions for process improvement.
  • Set specific milestones for the new hire’s integration progress, conducting regular check-ins to assess their adaptation and understanding of the company’s culture and operations.
  • Facilitate networking opportunities within and outside the organization to expand the new hire’s professional network and foster industry relationships.
  • Discuss succession planning strategies and potential career development opportunities to underscore the organization’s commitment to the new hire’s long-term growth.
  • Implement a feedback mechanism for regular performance evaluations, constructive feedback, and guidance on professional development.

For more information, you may also want to review Suzanne Hanifin, President and Founder of Acumen Executive Search’s, presentation on Integration and Onboarding at a recent DisruptHR Conference. We acknowledge that not all organizations have the means and resources to maximize the onboarding process, ensuring a strong initial connection with their new hires. Acumen Executive Search is here to assist you with referrals to Concierge Onboarding Services and Transition/Onboarding Executive Coaching Services. Contact Acumen Executive Search at or 503.430.0294.