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Flypaper Onboarding: A Manager's Secret Weapon

Flypaper Onboarding: A Manager's Secret Weapon

Research has found that as many as 90% of new hires make the decision to stay with their organization in their first six months. This means, as a manager that works hard to hire great talent, the first few days of any employee’s career with us is our Super Bowl: a make-or-break time to cement their fit on our team and future with our organization.

This is especially true if the person we hire comes from a different walk of life or a different industry, or adds race, gender, sexual orientation, or other forms of diversity of identity to our team. A few key moves in their first few days can make a huge difference in how they start with your organization, and whether they choose to stay for the long-term.

[Related: The Table in the Boardroom: Ways to Increase Diversity]

Make your first week experience flawless.

The easiest way to start an employee on the right foot is to do everything in your power to make their first day and first week flawless: logistically clean, clear, and with lots of moments that communicate:

You matter to us, and we’re so glad you’re here.

Here are the basics.

Help them prep for day one.

Send an e-mail at least two business days before their first day with details about what to bring, a high-level agenda of what to expect, and any additional details they might need (where to park, for example).

Prep the welcome wagon.

E-mail your team to let them know about your new hire’s start date, and coordinate how you’ll make them feel welcome. Are they going on a lunch their first day with their colleagues (or expense remote Zoom-lunch)? Are you going to send welcome notes via e-mail?

There’s no right answer here, but the key is doing something that feels thoughtful to make your new colleague feel right at home right away.

Minimize the potential for logistical nightmares.

Work with your tech and operations team to ensure their technology, name badge, new hire paperwork, and any other tools or supports they need will be ready before they arrive. If possible, have these items locked two to three business days in advance. Have loaner laptops or other backup plans in place to ensure minimal downtime due to preventable challenges.

Plan their learning, doing, and connecting agenda.

There’s nothing worse than twiddling your thumbs on your first few days, awkwardly waiting for work. To preempt this, plan a tight agenda for their first two to three days, including one-on-ones with colleagues, things to read and learn, and a few discrete projects they can get to work on right away.

I personally aim to fill their plates two-thirds of the way, so there’s sufficient time to connect while still creating space for new needs that emerge or if tasks take longer than expected.

[Related: How to Digitally Transform Your Company Successfully]

Have a roles/goals conversation early.

By day two or three, you’ll want to have an in-depth conversation with your team member about your expectations for their role, what #winning looks like, and how you’ll measure success (specific goals for the quarter, the year, etc).

The Management Center has great tools to help help with this, but the headline is you don’t want to hide the ball on what you expect - the clearer you can be, the better.

Connect them to one or more high-performers on the team.

Ask a high-performer (or two) on your team to check in with your new team member at least once a week for the next month to see how things are going and to make space for their questions. Explicitly ask them to show them the ropes, and to be “in their corner” as they get their firm footing on the team and in their role.

When possible, try to pair your new hire with at least one buddy that shares some of their identity factors (race, gender, LGBT status, etc.) to create a safe space for candid questions about workplace culture that have diversity/equity implications, if they arise.

Involve them in making your process better.

New employees are a source of rich data for you as you seek to make your future onboarding practices even more streamlined and value-added for new hires. Let them know on day one that you’d like their feedback and walk your talk with a feedback mechanism (survey, three-week-in conversation, etc.) hardcoded into your onboarding process.

Why business as usual won’t cut it - especially for nonprofits.

What managers all over our sector will tell you is that, even in the pandemic, the war for talent is fierce. With the rise of Glassdoor, candidates are much more sophisticated in learning about your workplace before they even sign your offer letter.

While factors like salary, role fit, and their hiring experience still matter, your talent brand - what people say about working for you online and offline - will often make or break their decision. Onboarding isn’t the only thing that impacts your talent brand, but it is an experience that people tend to remember, for better or for worse.

As a manager, it’s on you to make sure you build the structures and processes that make new hires feel supported and set them up for success. If not, prepare to have your very best hires jump ship in a year, when a peer organization woos them with a better offer, or a more sticky talent brand.

[Related: Want to Find Great Candidates? Three Ways to Simplify the Application Process]


Melanie Rivera is a People Operations executive and management trainer and coach, who has helped dozens of leaders and their teams to maximize their effectiveness, call each other in to higher standards of around race and equity (without feeding a toxic "call-out culture"), and rethink people policies and practices that pushed great employees out or contributed to an unhealthy culture. Find more of her writing at or

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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