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On-Boarding - A Personal Experience

June 26, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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An employee's first day is a one-time chance to help them hit the ground running

I fondly remember my first job back in 1998. After I accepted the offer, I took a 10-day vacation with my family. Relaxed and ready to begin my new venture, I showed up for my first day at work not really knowing what to expect. What would the culture be like? How would I interact with the team of very bright healthcare technology people already on board? Would I fit in and make new friends? What would a typical day be like? How long would it take me to “get plugged in?” I had lots of questions and a little fear and trepidation as I pulled into the parking lot on day one - a day I will always remember.

I walked into my new office and immediately knew I'd made the right decision to join this company; right away, I felt at home. A few noticeable items that still stand out for me have helped shape my career and my understanding of the difference on-boarding can make to a new employee. For me, it was the very first time in my professional career that I ramped up so quickly and got off to such a fast start. In a nutshell, it was the on-boarding process that helped me adapt to my new job - while setting the standard for how on-boarding should be done.

For starters, that morning when I walked into my office, the first things I saw were Welcome Aboard balloons and a candy-filled coffee cup sitting in the middle of my desk. I smiled. Also on my desk were all of the requisite employee benefit forms, with a hand written note from the HR executive welcoming me to the company. I found out later that this process would have been done weeks earlier had I not been out of the country and on vacation. My boss (Nancy) walked into my office, shook my hand and told me how thrilled she was to have me on her team. Later in the day after I got settled, she came back and spent another hour or so with me walking around and introducing me to other employees in the company. She wasted no time in helping me “plug in” to others on the team.

A couple of other “little things” had already been taken care of in advance of my arrival. The technology team arrived early with my new laptop, e-mail was already set up and I actually had welcome messages waiting in my In-Box. The tech team spent time with me to make sure I knew how to log on to the company Intranet, provided me with a cell phone, trained me on voicemail and gave me the passwords to all the various databases I would need to do my job. The HR lead came in a bit later to deliver my company American Express card and temporary health insurance card - both had been delivered to the company well in advance of my start date. I smiled again.

The next morning, Nancy had a staff meeting and asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves, talk about their background and to explain their role in the company. She also had everyone talk about what they liked to do for fun, in order to get a glimpse of who each person really was. Then she formally introduced me, and told everyone the story of why she hired me; she discussed my background and explained what I would be doing for the company. Once again, she welcomed me to the team - this time in public.

Having an on-boarding process mattered to her, and every new employee that joined the company had a real appreciation for what it meant to them. What is your process to on-board new employees? I hope you have a good one. I hope it's like Nancy's.

Tim Tolan is senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice.

Tolan can be reached at, or at 843-579-3077, x 301. His blog can be found at

Healthcare Informatics 2009 July;26(7):54