Why Leaders Can’t Delegate Onboarding to HR

Why Leaders Can’t Delegate Onboarding to HR

This DATIS Blog article, Why Leaders Can’t Delegate Onboarding to HR, was originally written by Kevin Eikenberry, HR Pro, on March 4, 2014 and was reposted with permission.


It’s that very corporate sounding work for what used to be called New Employee Orientation.

If you work in a large organization, your HR department likely has created a process for doing this – and while the depth and success of these efforts may vary widely, chances are your process is helpful.

Let me be clear that I am not trying to downplay the intention or value of what your Human Resources (or others) are doing.

We want (and need) processes for filling out the paperwork, getting people their passwords, ID badges and the myriad of other things that are required. We also need organized presentations to provide the big picture of the organization, tours of the facilities and more.

It just isn’t enough – and the rest isn’t their responsibility.

It is yours.

We need more than onboarding procedures, processes and presentations. What we need is inculcation into the workplace and culture.


According to Merriam-Webster that means “to cause (something) to be learned by (someone) by repeating it again and again.” Synonyms include imbue, infuse, ingrain and invest.

If you want someone to soak up and begin to live what it means to be a part of your organization (and that is what you want, right?), it takes more than some steps clicked off a checklist.

New employees need (and you want them to have) . . .

Inculcation, not just instruction. Repetition is the mother of learning. For people to really understand their role, their contribution and the value they can add, it takes time and repetition. It takes time and patience. Initial instruction is critical (and we want those programs to be awesome); they just can’t do it all alone.

Personalization, not just process. As a leader, you can answer the specific questions that they won’t even think or know to ask on day 1 or day 5. You can give them exactly what they need when they need it. And no program can live up to that standard.

Examples, not just explanations. You know that it is one thing to hear someone talk about something. It is something entirely different to see it in action. You are the example.

Expectations, not just exhortations. In order to be as successful as possible we all need clear expectations and benchmarks for our performance. That needs to come directly from a supervisor – and that is you.

Mindset, not just methods. Attitude, approach and “here’s how we do things around here” can’t be taught once and left alone. You have a mindset that matches with your best employees – and since you want all of your new employees to be best employees – you know what is required. Will you do it?

Answers to “why” not just “how” and “what”. Actually your existing program may lay out the big picture pretty well and you might be tempted to focus on the tactical needs of the job. Don’t be tempted. As a leader you must continue to help people see why their work matters.

Traditional onboarding can and often does provide the second item in each of the statements above, it just isn’t enough for you to develop great employees from your new employees.

Inculcation, personalization, examples, expectations, mindset and knowing why – these things belong in your court, they are what good leaders do every day. And that is why you can’t delegate (all) of onboarding to HR.

Written by Italia Woodson

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