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Onboarding is a vital yet often overlooked stage in the employee lifecycle and, far too often, new employees and managers aren’t provided the support they need to be effective in their new role.

Considering the vital role managers play in an organization, ensuring newly-hired managers are properly onboarded is a no-brainer.

In this article, I’ll share best practices for successfully onboarding new managers at every level of your organization.

What Is Manager Onboarding And Why Is It Important?

Manager onboarding is a structured process that helps newly hired or promoted managers become effective in new their roles. 

This covers providing them with the necessary tools, resources, information, and support to understand their responsibilities, navigate the company culture, and effectively lead their teams.

The manager onboarding experience goes beyond general employee orientation and focuses specifically on the unique challenges and expectations that come with a leadership role.

Every new hire should participate in a formal employee onboarding process, and it’s even more important for new managers to have a solid onboarding roadmap.

A formal onboarding plan ensures that new managers receive the necessary information, training, and resources to get up to speed quickly.

What To Include In Manager Onboarding

There are certain elements that need to be covered when onboarding any new employee into your organization, regardless of their seniority.

This includes an overview of the organization’s purpose, mission, values, structure, strategy, goals, and how their role contributes to the organization’s overall success. 

They should also be given training on the key tools and processes they’ll be using and introduced to the relevant colleagues.

From here the experience will differ depending on role and seniority, so managers at different levels of your organization will have different needs from their onboarding plans.

Start with the new hire onboarding template you use for all new hires and then adapt it for the individual.

Here’s a rough of what to focus on when onboarding new managers across different levels of seniority.

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Team leads/junior managers

Team leads and junior-level managers are your greenhorn leaders. While they possess the technical skills, they might lack the necessary leadership and people management skills needed for their new position.

This is why the onboarding plan for less experienced managers should include scheduled check-ins and feedback sessions with more senior managers so they can start the process of feedback, coaching, and mentorship. This ongoing support will be vitally to help them improve and grow in their new role.

Also include formal training and learning opportunities to grow and strengthen their leadership and people skills. These trainings can be tailored to each new manager's needs. 

Senior managers/department heads

Senior managers and department heads likely have some years of managerial experience, and their onboarding plan can focus more on team development.

In addition to the items mentioned above, an onboarding plan for senior managers needs to provide clarity regarding performance expectations, goals, and key performance indicators (KPIs), not only for their role but for the entire department.

Explain your organization’s performance management process, including performance reviews and feedback mechanisms, and clarify how feedback is given and received within the organization on a daily basis vs the formal annual performance review timeline.

Directors and execs

Directors and executives play a significant role in shaping and reinforcing the company culture, and their onboarding plan needs to include a culture deep dive to help them understand and embody the organization's values and mission. 

Directors and executives also need a comprehensive understanding of business initiatives, metrics, and targets, including the ones they will be held accountable to. 

Manager Onboarding Best Practices

Create an onboarding plan

Common consensus is that it takes around 90 days for someone to get properly up and running in their new role and this can be even longer for more senior positions.

A 30-60-90 day onboarding plan is a useful format to help schedule onboarding takes, set milestones, and gradually ramp up responsibilities.

The plan will include standardized elements such as due dates for things like benefit enrollment and those tasks that all new employees need to complete while providing a framework for customization pertinent to the new starter.

Specialist onboarding software helps optimize onboarding by facilitating the easy creation of standard and personalized plans helping track progress through the process.

Make resources available ahead of time

A great resource to make available ahead of time is any written guidance such as employee handbooks and access to the company intranet to allow new managers to understand the company's culture, values, and mission prior to day one.  These resources can be packaged together with benefit information and company policies. 

My company sends a welcome kit that includes branded items like a notebook and water bottle, along with a QR code that will take them to the new employee portal where this information is easily navigated.

Another resource to offer ahead of time is industry information, especially if the new manager has a different industry background. This can include things like industry-specific networks and publications.

Introducing a new manager to their team ahead of their start date can help facilitate the transition for them and their new team. Provide the new manager some background information about their new team, and encourage them to connect on LinkedIn.

Set clear expectations

The expectations for new managers should be clear from the outset, and importantly, they need to be achievable. 

Share the company's current and future strategic goals and initiatives and outline how the manager's role and team aligns with these objectives.

The SMART goal-setting template is my preferred method for goal setting as it requires critical thinking around setting goals that are realistic and achievable. The new manager and their leadership team can work together to develop short and long-term goals.

Provide ongoing support 

Managers, especially new ones, need ongoing support, and you can help achieve this by pairing them with a mentor who has been a new manager before. This mentorship can bring valuable insight to the new manager in a way that feels collaborative.

Another way to provide ongoing support is to introduce new managers to each other so they can form a cohort. Having this support can help new managers feel welcomed, supported, and engaged.

Take a culture deep dive

Provide an organizational chart and explain the reporting lines, hierarchies, and interdepartmental relationships. This will help the new manager understand how their role fits into the larger picture.

Inform the new manager about any regular company events, traditions, or social gatherings to encourage team bonding and cultural integration.

As an example, my company celebrates Halloween with a costume contest, a pumpkin decorating contest, and an afternoon party. Associates are encouraged to decorate their workspace in the month of October and to dress in costume for the Halloween party. 

This celebration has a high level of employee engagement and was the most surprising thing to learn about my company.

Wrapping Up

Manager onboarding is a vital process that directly impacts an organization's success by equipping new leaders with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to effectively lead their teams, drive performance, and contribute to the company's overall objectives.

Remember, an effective onboarding plan should be tailored to the specific needs of the new manager and the organization's culture.

For any further advice feel free to hit me up in the comments or join the conversation over in the People Managing People Community, a supportive community of HR and business leaders passionate about building organizations of the future.

Jessica Cieslinski
By Jessica Cieslinski

Jessica is a HR Generalist with 10 years of experience across several industries. She loves to share the knowledge she wishes she’d had early in her career.