Blog, How To's

Employee Onboarding & Inboarding: The Secret To Getting It Right

Employee Onboarding & InboardingSimon Sinek, author of Start With Why, said: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

What’s your strategy for building a team and creating a culture where employees love coming to work? It goes way beyond collecting a paycheck. Employees need to understand a company’s mission and vision. They want feedback on their work and be recognized for accomplishments.

Many factors go into creating a corporate culture worthy of fame, and it all begins with how employees are treated when hired—either from the outside or promoted from within.

Employee Onboarding Vs. Inboarding: Why You Need Both

In the article Which Is Right For Your Organization: Onboarding Or Inboarding?, author Carina Wytiaz explains the difference.

“Onboarding is an executed plan to help new employees acquire the knowledge, skills, policies and training they’ll need to succeed at the job for which they were hired,” she says. “Onboarding makes sure you are providing employees everything it takes to understand their position and responsibilities, as well as the tools it will take to execute.

Conversely, inboarding is a plan that helps current employees acquire the knowledge, skills, processes and training they need to rise within your organization. “The purpose is to make the most out of the people who already work inside your company, especially to help them successfully navigate cultural and company shifts,” Wytiaz says.

There’s been a lot of talk about onboarding lately, and with good reason. Nothing will happen properly—from customer experience to marketing to sales—without hiring the right employees. So why wouldn’t you Create An Employee Onboarding Program That New Hires Will Love to facilitate the process.

But where there seems to be a gap in the discussion is with inboarding, which is just as important if no more so.

Inboarding empowers employees to discover new paths within their organization. “It’s the process of re-socializing employees (some of which may have been there for a long time) to the current and emerging culture, and the emerging opportunities, of a company,” David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom say in the article The ‘Inboarding’ Revolution: Do Employees Get More To Leave Their Job? “Many leaders often think only of the need to onboard new employees so they are quickly oriented to the latest evolution of their culture. However, many fail to do the same for their existing base of employees who are often in the best position to capitalize on market opportunities if they were more aware of the changing issues and needs of the company. Inboarding helps employees at all levels become more committed as their path of opportunity widens.”

How are smart companies inboarding? Sturt and Nordstrom say there are five key actions:

  1. They think ‘inside first.’
  2. They provide strategic project opportunities.
  3. They strengthen ties to the impact of work.
  4. They promote camaraderie.
  5. They practice recognition.

To get the details, check out the complete article.

Incorporating Swag Into The Onboarding + Inboarding Mix

Many factors go into making the above five actions successful. When it comes to message delivery and employee engagement, promotional products can help.

1. Think ‘Inside First’

Part of thinking “inside first” is communicating the opportunities. In a small firm, this can easily be done at a team meeting, job board or blast email. But in large corporations with multiple locations and thousands of employees, the task is more complex. For employees, sometimes finding the information is a battle.

One easy way to combat the problem is with something as simple as Post-it® Notes. These office staples can be quite effective at message delivery because they’re used so often. Incorporate variable printing on the sheets to rotate through a number of the company’s core beliefs, the mission, URLs of where to find info (like job openings) and short answers to FAQs.

2. Provide Strategic Project Opportunities

Sometimes there are non-departmental projects—a growth initiative, wellness program, community involvement program or social responsibility cause—that give employees a new direction. Promotional products can often play a supporting role in these projects.

For example, companies who donate time and talent to Habitat For Humanity or neighborhood clean up organizations could include work gloves in a uniform program along with a logoed t-shirt and cap so all volunteer team members are outfitted for the occasion.

3. Strengthen Ties To The Impact Of Work

A study by the O.C. Tanner Institute analyzed 1.7 million cases of award-winning work, and the results revealed that employees are 17 times more likely to become passionate about their work when see how their work impacts people.

Let’s say an IT department streamlines a process that makes internal employees 20% more efficient so they can give a better customer experience. A hand-written note attached to a desk-top chalkboard memo clip is an easy, inexpensive yet very visible way to show appreciation and remind them of a job well done.

4. Promote Camaraderie

After-hours social events. Team-building retreats. Company picnics. 5K fun runs. Family outings. Birthday celebrations. There are lots of ways companies promote camaraderie depending on their size and culture.

Swag can be used to bring these events to life. Company t-shirts are easy to incorporate as a commemorative item for picnics and outings. Use them to unify a team for athletic pursuits, or use different colors of shirts to divide the staff into teams for trainings and team-building retreats.

Beyond events, create a welcome package for new employees filled with little extras—a branded stainless steel cold cup, sweet treats, notebook or writing instruments. Not only will this help them feel part of the team, but it can also provide employees needed supplies while bundling them together as a present lets them know you’re excited they’re there.

5. Practice Recognition

A study conducted by Healthstream of 100,000 managers and employees revealed that 79% of people who quit their jobs cited “A lack of appreciation is a key reason for leaving.” If you want to create a culture of recognition and don’t want to break the bank to make it happen, look no further than promotional products.

For a start, have an annual awards program that at least gives employees recognition once a year. This is typically a more formal program that includes awards for performance, length of service, departmental excellence, wellness and/or safety. You can take it a step further and have Employee of the Month awards.

But keep in mind that recognition doesn’t always have to be top down. Peer-to-peer recognition can be just as meaningful. Have a time at the end of monthly staff meetings, for example, for anyone to recognize a coworker who has pitched in, gone above and beyond, or exceeded expectations/quotas/metrics.

You can also incorporate a variety of small, informal recognition items for team members to give one another. Get creative and give the recognition program a clever name. Design a logo for the program and use it to decorate the recognition gifts.

When planning gift options, you may want a selection of informal items for peer-to-peer recognition. It could be something as simple as sticky notes printed with “You’re Awesome!,” “Thanks For Your Help!” or “Couldn’t Have Done It Without You!” For gifts supervisors can give to their employees, you may want to go with something with higher perceived value. This could be something such as a cool sporty watch—a “thanks for your time”—for an employee who worked a lot of overtime to get a big project completed on deadline.

Taking A Long-Term Approach

For onboarding or inboarding to be successful, you must have a long-term focus. For onboarding, it goes beyond filling out the appropriate paperwork on day one or meeting coworkers and being trained on computer systems in the first week. For inboarding, it goes beyond switching desks, joining a new team and getting new assignments.

Onboarding and inboarding encompass the entire experience of getting employees comfortable, confident and competent in their new roles—whether it is a week, a month or a year in the making. And the longer, the better.

Most employees make the decision to stay with or leave a company within six months of accepting the position. And with the average time for a new employee to reach full productivity being 20 weeks for professionals and 26+ weeks for executives, according to Deloitte, the initial months are a critical time for getting employees firmly grounded in their roles.

With one-third of U.S. workers having less than two years’ experience in their current roles, there is a ton of turnover. With the cost of a new hire being 150% of salary, this turnover gets expensive. Quick.

To streamline the process, O.C. Tanner has a comprehensive onboarding checklist that covers manager and mentor responsibilities from pre-hire all the way through the first year of employment. Check it out here. With some tweaks, this checklist can be used for inboarding too.

However you integrate onboarding and inboarding into your hiring and promotion process, it must be employee centric. Look at each transition as an opportunity to reconnect and refresh first impressions.

“Employees are seeing their careers more as a diverse collection of experiences,” says Lilith Christiansen, vice president of Kaiser Associates’ Washington office and co-leader of the firm’s Organization Development Practice. If employers truly have the goal to retain staff, then they should help employees “seek their next adventure internally” rather than looking outside for opportunities.


When selecting branded merchandise for employee onboarding and inboarding, make sure the products align with your company culture while being appealing to new hires. We can help you design the perfect swag. Book an appointment by clicking here or call us now at 248-538-4700. Mention the blog, and we’ll send you some SMART Swag to get the conversation started!