Onboarding resources for new and transitioning employees

Brett Zawadiuk, Cynthia Munro - 29 July 2021

As academic and administrative restructuring progresses, and as many prepare to return to working on our campuses, it is increasingly important to support our people as they adjust to the new reality at our institution. Through a collaborative project between the Service Excellence Transformation (SET) and Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment (HRHSE), we are pleased to share some new and enhanced resources for onboarding new employees, as well as supporting employees who are moving into new roles.

These resources are relevant to employees, managers, supervisors and leaders. Regardless of the kind of role you currently hold, or the kind of role you may aspire to, we all need support to adapt to the ongoing changes and uncertainty facing us in the coming months. The experiences of employees at the team or unit level have the most significant impact on engagement and performance, particularly the onboarding experiences and perceptions of support for professional growth and career development. These may also be relevant for teams preparing to return to in-person work on our campuses.

Many units at the U of A already have comprehensive and effective onboarding programs, and we plan to create opportunities to learn from each other’s best practices in order to improve the resources offered by HRHSE. This will support us in providing onboarding experiences that are both excellent and consistent, while retaining context-specific elements as necessary. Mechanisms to provide feedback on these resources are outlined at the end of this article.

Enhanced Onboarding Resources

Onboarding is an ongoing process that helps employees integrate into the organization and/or new department or team, with a targeted focus on the employee’s first three months. Onboarding includes the logistical and administrative activities to ensure the employee is set up and ready to work (e.g. keys, alarm codes, computers, benefits paperwork, mandatory training, etc.), as well as engagement activities such as introductions to key people, and orientation to the institution’s mission and values, their unit, and how their role contributes. Effective onboarding is a team effort to welcome and support new members, with responsibilities shared by the supervisor, new employee, and peer coaches on the team.

A great onboarding experience will equip new employees with:

  • The skills required to perform their role to a high standard
  • The mindset to support and contribute to the U of A
  • A sense of belonging within their team and the U of A

Leaders play a crucial role in providing an engaged onboarding experience that will support the development, performance, and retention of employees. Employees new to a team will model their work and behaviours based on what they observe in their leader. The leadership shadow model (see fig. 1, adapted from Pine Street, Goldman Sachs’ leadership development) highlights how leaders influence others, including new employees.

Fig. 1


Utilizing the Resources

Resources for onboarding are found on the HRHSE homepage (see fig. 2). Resources cover what should be done before an employee starts, along with for their first day, week, month, quarter, and year. Conversation guides, checklists, and performance development templates are included to support each step of the onboarding experience.

Fig. 2

Image showing location of resources on HRHSE homepage

If you are onboarding a staff member to a service provider or service leader role, on their first day you can also introduce them to the University of Alberta for Tomorrow (UAT) skills framework self assessment and UAT skills framework eClass. Users can engage with the tool that best suits their learning style and individual preferences. For assistance accessing the eClass site, please contact org.learning@ualberta.ca. To learn more about the skill development resources, read an intro to the new skill development resources.

We are committed to continuous improvement, and these resources are works in progress. We will update materials on an ongoing basis, so revisit the HRHSE website for the most current materials when you onboard new employees to the institution, a role, or your team. Your feedback on the tools, as well as suggestions for new content, resources, and priorities, are welcome and can be shared through a Google form.