Onboarding is a terrible term. Somewhere someone’s CV has ‘I coined the term ‘onboarding” written on it and they should be proud of getting something into such common usage and slightly apologetic that we use such an odd term to mean ‘make welcome and give support’. I often hear people say they are looking forward to

  • Joining my new company 
  • Making a fresh start
  • Getting to meet my new team
  • Making a start on the work
  • Getting their head around what they need to do

I have never, ever, ever, ever heard anyone say that they were looking forward to being ‘onboarded’. 

But now I’ve had a rant I wanted to thank Ramaa Ramesh for commenting on one of my older blogs. Ramaa pointed out that we don’t often treat people like OUR success depends upon them. It’s a subtle but important mindset that involves more ownership and thinking.

If your success as an organisation is vested in and dependent on the success of your new starters then how would you do things differently? Would you ‘onboard’ them or would you do your level best to work with and support them to ensure that they make a great and productive start to their new role?

Hat tip once again to Tim Harford’s Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy (onboarding wasn’t one of them). 

And yes, I pressed publish on purpose this time. Sorry once again if you are a regular reader. 

5 thoughts on “Onboarding

  1. I’m so happy to hear you say this David. I refuse to use the term onboarding but it’s becoming more and more difficult as more and more people have adopted it. I have no idea why it’s such a popular way to describe welcoming someone new. Way to create a dull boring uninspiring vibe!


  2. Given that Paris Hilton is desperate to claim that she invented something (even though she blatantly didn’t), I’m going to credit her with “inventing” the term onboarding.
    Congratulations Paris.
    I would seriously hope that the term “onboarding” is an internal one only that describes the collection of processes required to get someone through attraction to completion of probation stages and not one that is outwardly marketed to prospective candidates and employees.
    I really like Ramaa Ramesh’s perspective to treat people like our success depends on them.

    PS I enjoyed your half finished post. Perhaps you should publish in instalments?


  3. I guess it is good that the process is taken seriously enough by enough companies to warrant it’s own name, albeit it is a word that I understand not everyone is a fan of, particularly outside of the United States!


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