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Step by Step: Tips for Onboarding New Staff

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Few companies aim for high turnover and low productivity. Yet many lack a clear strategy for onboarding new staff, and the lack of an onboarding process has been shown to increase employee turnover and decrease productivity .

A successful program can increase retention, protect client relationships and reduce the time that new employees drain company resources. Existing staff members are aware of what new hires should know, and can adjust expectations for what can be delegated and what needs to be taught.

Ideally, an onboarding program should last several months. It should introduce new hires to what your firm does, and how it does it — but at the same time it should also integrate them into the your firm’s existing culture.

At our firms, FJY Financial and Sequoia Financial Group, we approach new hires the way we do clients: We aim to provide a high-level, consistent experience for each individual. To do so, we’ve developed the following systematic process.


Ideally, the onboarding process will begin well before the employee starts, with a working job description. You should spell out the job title, the department and the supervisor whom the new hire will be working for, as well as the type of employment (full-time, part-time, seasonal), an overview of the position, required qualifications and behavioral skills, physical requirements and working conditions, salary and benefits, and an overview of your firm.

Remember, this document should also help you sell your firm to potential new hires.
All the necessary paperwork should be prepared, logins established and supplies purchased so that on day one, the new employee is able to hit the ground running. It is helpful to establish a checklist of documentation needed — including having business cards printed and on hand; needed computer, software, user names and logins; phone access and email; and various HR forms, the employee handbook and any necessary office supplies.

A few other questions to consider: Do you need to alert your property manager when you bring on new employees? Will the employees need online access credentials or building- access passes? Do you need to create a phone extension, buy extra software licenses or a new chair? Have you added the employees to existing company meetings on the calendar?


On the first day, schedule time for new employees to meet with their managers, co-workers and subordinates. Assign someone to go over the firm’s history, vision and strategy, and give new team members an opportunity to review the organizational chart and career path.

Talk about the firm’s culture, both social and professional; include service principles, habits and what really matters to clients and the team.

The first day’s paperwork is likely to include the tax forms and Form I-9s, health insurance enrollment, emergency contact information, confidentiality agreements and other compliance documentation, plus a review of the employee handbook.

The hiring manager or a supervisor should start with a macro view of the firm, talking about your general expectations and your reasons for doing things a certain way, defining the client value proposition, and identifying concepts like responsiveness, attention, service and urgency.

In the first week, employees should become familiar with the processes of the operations, planning, compliance and investment departments, learning how each role (including the employee’s) weaves into the fabric of the firm. Spread out training among many people in different departments, so new hires learn who does what and where they should go with questions.

For key individuals who are not involved in the training, you can set up lunches and informal meetings during the first week to allow for personal introductions to each team member.

Show your new hires that they are part of a larger plan, which includes opportunities for them within the firm. Doing so increases the likelihood of their long-term commitment; various studies show that most employees make the decision to stay with a company within their first six months in the office.


The second and third week can focus on the investment management activities of the firm, including an overview of the investment committee, and hands-on training with the CRM system, the client reporting and rebalancing systems. We use super-users of each program to deliver the training to new staff.

Weeks four and five can be centered on financial planning-related activities, including time with the financial planning committee and hands-on training in the planning program.

Your firm can empower new employees by encouraging their feedback from day one. At each stage, ask for feedback and consider using their input to make adjustments to the onboarding program. (The process also confirms that the new hires will be part of a collaborative culture.)

After the first three months, you would like new employees to understand their roles in the firm, understand the roles and responsibilities of other employees, know the basic operations of the major tools you use to do your work, know whom to ask when they have questions, understand the firm’s vision and perform their role at a baseline level while making visible progress.

Perhaps the most common onboarding mistake is to assume that new hires will remember everything taught to them in their first month. Sit down with the new hire and review the information after 90 days. This will help new employees feel more settled in their role, and allow you to give feedback on how they’re performing.

After three months, new employees should also be able to assess their understanding of the procedures, processes and software used — and how well they’re performing in their roles. This feedback can help your firm tweak your training processes.

Not everyone is a gifted teacher, and yet effective teaching is a critical factor in the success of any training and onboarding program — so the challenge for your managers is to become coaches. We use the following pedagogical framework:

Explain: In any session, tell employees what they are about to do or see. Avoid information overload by highlighting the main points and keeping things simple.

Demonstrate: When you show employees how to perform a function (such as running a report in your CRM), do so slowly. Try not to speak as you show them — the employee should be able to concentrate on just watching you perform the task.

Imitate: Then let employees repeat the same actions that you just performed. During this stage, you can reiterate how to perform aspects of the task when necessary.

Practice: Once a session has ended, let employees go to their workstations and practice what they have been taught. Be open to questions and allow them to work independently where possible.

Onboarding is unique to every firm. It can be short and simple, or long and challenging. Armed with these real-world insights and suggestions, you can build a program to transform your firm into the future vision of whatever you want it to be.

Lisa Crafford is business manager of FJY Financial in Reston, Va. Shaun Kapusinski is managing director of operations at Sequoia Financial Group in Akron, Ohio.

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