Onboarding Theory: When Does Onboarding End?

Here at Greenhouse, we think a lot about onboarding. Many of our thoughts and ideas have manifested into launching our very own product, Greenhouse Onboarding. Employee onboarding, as many of you know, can be complicated and overwhelming, so simplifying and organizing it is a challenge for many teams. Many questions arise.

One of the ones I get the most is: “When does onboarding end?”

Up until recently, my standard response was: “It depends…” and then I would go on to explain that every company has their own process, each employee has different needs, and each team has varying resources. Ultimately, however, it became very clear that this is not enough as you really can’t do anything with that answer. (People want to take action!). Therefore, I needed an answer that could convey how we think about onboarding and reframe onboarding in the inquirer’s mind. Here is my shot at that:

Onboarding ends once a new hire is able to become a master in their role, a mentor to others, and an advocate for the company.

If that’s the case, the goal of onboarding then is to turn each new hire into a master, mentor, and advocate. New hires need to develop the skills and tools required to do their job well. They should become advisers to future new hires, and finally, new hires should learn how to champion the company—and develop into willing, eager participants.

Let’s dive deeper into each of these 3 roles so that you understand how to build out a holistic onboarding program for your organization:

1. Master

Masters are employees who have developed and refined the necessary skills and tools to do their jobs exceptionally well. To become a master, each new hire needs their manager to set expectations about their role and provide support to achieve their goals. It is key for each new hire to know what they are working towards. It will be common that new hires already have skills associated with their roles, and may have been in their roles before, but this is a new company with a new way of working. The new hire should be set on a path to excel in their field, know which tools to use and how to use them, and know how to get things done and communicate effectively within their new company’s unique dynamic.

2. Mentor

Mentors are employees who advise current and future employees on many subjects such as  how to develop and grow their careers, how to best communicate with upper management to get their buy-in, and how to achieve work-life balance. Becoming a mentor is not something that happens overnight. Many companies look to the more tenured employees within the organization to play this role, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Hopefully, your company will have a diverse set of employees who can all offer various levels of guidance to others within the organization. In order to teach someone, it’s certainly most useful to have mastered the subject matter first (hence the “Master” role above), however that’s not always necessary if you are able to convey that you are an emerging authority.

3. Advocate

Advocates are employees who willfully opt in to become champions for the brand. Transforming a new hire into an advocate has a slow ramp time. Each new hire will need to learn to trust and believe in the organization they are now representing. Being an advocate is a public affair; the advocate may be challenged on their support, so they need to be in a place of comfort with their opinion and confident that they will be supported. Each new hire will have to feel out the organization, privately tell those they trust, and then finally support or recommend it publicly.

Tying it all together

Not all new hires will achieve all three roles. Your goal of onboarding, however, is to set each new hire up to have the opportunity to achieve all three.

How long does each take to achieve? What is involved at different stages of each? This post is part one of a series on onboarding where I will dive into each of these questions and hopefully emerge with more answers than questions. Stay tuned...


For more information about the onboarding process and to explore our onboarding solution, Greenhouse Onboarding, simply click the button below!

Greenhouse Onboarding

Dane Hurtubise1

Dane Hurtubise is VP of New Initiatives at Greenhouse. Prior to Greenhouse, Dane was the CEO and co-founder of Parklet (acquired by Greenhouse), which addressed the multifaceted challenges inherent in onboarding and retaining employees. He has a bachelor's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Connect with Dane on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Filed Under:


Company Culture