Collaborative Networks – It All Starts with an Effective Onboarding Program

May 16, 2018 in
By Megan Coleman, Jessica Waymouth

Was your organization prepared for your arrival when you started your job? Did anyone offer to introduce you to your colleagues? As we referenced in last week’s blog, The Power of Collaborative Networks: Social Network Science, organizational networks play a vital role in how work is accomplished, ideas are shared, and people who are key connectors bridge and share information between business units.

Why focus on onboarding?

It’s important for your new employees to have a comprehensive onboarding program in place that supports them in establishing connections to peers, internal operations staff, management, and leadership. Likewise, it’s important for your organization as a whole– successful onboarding has a significant impact on the ability to attract, hire, and retain high-performing talent (Partnership for Public Service | Booz Allen Hamilton, 2008)by:

  • Accelerating time-to-productivity: helps employees reach full productivity an average of 2 months earlier
  • Improving new employee performance: key onboarding activities such as clearly communicating expectations and involving co-workers and peers can improve employee performance by up to 11.3%
  • Increasing retention: 90% of new employees make the decision to stay with an organization within the first 6 months

How is Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) applicable to onboarding?

ONA’s focus on information-sharing, knowledge transfer, and productivity should be at the core of an onboarding program that integrates the “4 C’s” (Bauer, 2010). While many organizations focus on the first three components – compliance, clarification, and culture – it’s the fourth “C” that makes the difference – connection. Connection results in the development of interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish in order to be productive and successful in their role and within the organization.

What can you do to make connection the focus of your onboarding program?

  • Don’t just create a checklist; make a schedule – A clear way to demonstrate your preparedness for your new employee, while connecting them to others, is to create a meeting schedule for their first few weeks at the job. Set up meetings with senior leadership, their supervisor, and key internal operations staff so that they quickly understand who they can go to for information and resources.
  • Encourage the use of informational interviews – Encourage your new employees to set up informal meetings with fellow colleagues within their first few weeks on the job. It’s simple and effective – add this as an item on your new employee’s checklist. Our own FMP employees have benefited from this strategy over the years as we provide our new employees with a list of guiding questions that they can use to get to know their colleagues.
  • Launch a peer-to-peer “buddy” program – It doesn’t matter what you choose to call it (buddy, liaison, informal mentor), connecting a new employee to a peer is both a cost and time effective way to provide your new employees with one-on-one assistance, an understanding of how to navigate your organization, and access to helpful resources.
  • Focus on group connections – If you have a number of new employees starting at the same time, create a cohort. You can do this by conducting new employee roundtables or hosting social events and gatherings.

About the Authors: When Megan and Jess are not designing, developing, and implementing onboarding programs, they are listening to podcasts and “accidentally” wearing the same outfits.

Photo of authors/FMP employees Megan Coleman and Jess Waymouth


Bauer, T. N. (2010). Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success. Alexandria: SHRM Foundation.

Partnership for Public Service | Booz Allen Hamilton. (2008). Getting On Board: A Model for Integrating and Engaging New Employees. Partnership for Public Service.