The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

All Things Onboarding

CUPA-HR recently hosted an online discussion in the members-only CUPA-HR Connect General Discussion Group where higher ed HR practitioners shared their onboarding wisdom, their innovative and successful onboarding practices, and answered each other’s questions.

From these online conversations, we have compiled questions and responses spanning all aspects of onboarding — from training for hiring managers to process design, student employee onboarding and follow-up surveys.

How do you convince supervisors of the importance of an inclusive onboarding process, train them to actively participate and have them check their new employees’ progress over time?

We created a guidebook for supervisors that provides a rationale/business case for onboarding and outlines their role and responsibilities. We created it from the perspective of “What’s in it for me?” so hiring managers and supervisors can see how, by taking time up front to plan for the arrival of new hires and then check in frequently with them, they will be rewarded with more productive employees with fewer performance issues and increased retention. In addition to the guidebook, we have onboarding-related web resources, and we send emails to supervisors on a monthly basis with reminders about employee development opportunities and what they can be doing with their employees to maintain engagement.

          – Chrissy Harrison, Onboarding Program Manager, University of Colorado Boulder


What have you included on your new employee checklists to “push” information to a new hire before the first day on the job? Have you built other contact/interaction points for your new employees beyond the first day? Throughout the first year?

Our HRIS system sends out a notification to new employees prior to their hire date with a welcome video from our president and a request to complete new-hire forms. On their first day, they meet with our benefit and compensation specialist, who explains benefits and key policies. Also on the first day, they receive access to online compliance training. At two weeks of employment, we send out a survey to gauge how their onboarding experience has been. And once a quarter, we host a new-employee orientation, where new hires are invited to lunch with the president and in the afternoon can enjoy a variety of speakers covering compliance, diversity and facilities.

          – Kim Steelman, Recruitment/Engagement Specialist, Des Moines University


How are student employees onboarded at your institution? What are some topics that you address with new student employees during orientation?

Our orientation currently covers who we are (student employment HR); the benefits of student employment and what employers look for; expectations (punctuality, professionalism, dress code); when they’ll get paid; how to clock in and out; highlights of some rules and policies; and employee self-service (how to access it and where to find pay slips). We also touch on work study and international student employment criteria.

We also conduct student supervisor training sessions to help the departments understand what they should be doing for their students. We provide them with a new-hire checklist and give them tips and ideas for what to do when they hire students. Our expectation is that while HR provides  student employees with a high-level overview of student employment, our departments are really the ones giving them a proper onboarding experience.

          – Jenna Zeringue, Onboarding Coordinator, Tulane University


What format are you using for new-hire orientation? 

We have a half-day in-person orientation  that consists of live presentations with HR (compensation, benefits and all new hire forms, including I-9 verification); university ministry (every applicant completes a Hiring for Mission response, and during this meeting, the vice president of university ministry discusses the submitted response with the applicant and goes over the university’s  mission, vision, values and Franciscan values); IT (email, online portal); safety and security (information about campus, campus ID); a campus tour; lunch with the department; and an invitation to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment.

          – Carol Sheetz, Talent Coordinator, University of St. Francis


Does anyone have a “mini” onboarding program for temporary or seasonal hires? If not, how do you determine who goes through onboarding and who doesn’t?

Our division onboards all temporary, contract and seasonal hires (unless the director of a department has a good reason to exclude a hire from that process). Our thought is that even though individuals may be with our team a short while, they still need to feel a sense of inclusion and understand our culture. Our HR office may not onboard a temp from an agency or an independent contractor, but every other new hire would get some sort of onboarding, adjusting the information based on their status.

          – Jennifer Edwards, Director of Planning and Assessment for Student Affairs/Special Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs, Bryant University


Want More Onboarding Resources?

View all discussions from this event or post your own questions in the members-only CUPA-HR Connect General Discussion Group.

View the archived webinar Onboarding: A Strategic Partner Model for Bringing About Cultural Change.

Read about How to Help Hiring Managers Help Their New Employees Hit the Ground Running.

Explore the Orientation/Onboarding Toolkit in CUPA-HR’s Knowledge Center.