Use Onboarding Practices for Successful ‘Inboarding'

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

April 21 — Employees changing roles within an organization need “inboarding” procedures similar to the more familiar “onboarding” procedures new hires go through, two consultants said during an April 21 webinar.

“New hire onboarding best practices can be used for transitioning employees as well,” Sarah Hagerman, a vice president in the Washington office of consultancy Kaiser Associates and co-leader of the firm’s Organization Development Practice, said during the webinar, which was sponsored by Chicago-based HR software company SilkRoad.

“A more employee-centered approach” is needed, Lilith Christiansen, also a vice president in the Washington office of Kaiser Associates and co-leader of the firm’s Organization Development Practice, said. These days, she added, “employees are seeing their careers more as a diverse collection of experiences,” and thus it should be a goal of employers that want to retain employees to help them “seek their next adventure internally” rather than looking outside for opportunities.

According to Hagerman, “every employee transition creates the opportunity for a refreshed first impression, but it also carries the risk of compromising an established relationship.” She mentioned four phases to inboarding: preparation before the employee makes the transition; orientation, in the first few weeks after the move; integration of the newly transitioned employee, for example by sharing team goals and discussing shared responsibilities; and helping the employee excel, for example by providing opportunities to continue professional development.

“We caution you against a one-size-fits-all approach to transitioning employees,” she said. That is because, for example, there is a difference between an employee moving to a new geographical area and one who is switching roles.

Some common mistakes Hagerman said employers should avoid with inboarding are:

  • not doing “a proper diagnostic exercise”;
  • relying on technological quick fixes like apps and portals as if they were a complete solution;
  • focusing on the first day and losing steam shortly thereafter;
  • a “copy and paste” approach to everything;
  • underestimating such aspects of the task as development, implementation and sustainability;
  • designing too much content before the right context has been established—“a mistake we often see with external onboarding” that can occur during inboarding as well, Hagerman said;
  • not starting change management early enough and not creating consensus about it; and
  • forgetting that “the manager is core to the success of the employee's experience and integration.”

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