How to get line managers to own your onboarding

Illustration 4 08/02/2024

So, you’ve developed a great onboarding process, with insight, guidance and support at every moment that matters. Now you just need to get your Line Managers onboard... But how?

It isn’t always easy. We’ve all heard the objections: “No more systems!”, “Isn’t this HR’s job?”, “I don’t have time to do this.”, but we know line manager buy-in and involvement is key to making the most of your onboarding strategy for your new starters. So, what are the best ways to inform, engage and inspire these vital allies?


Your Line Managers are going to be on the front line when it comes to onboarding. So, when you’re designing your new strategy, getting their thoughts, ideas and suggestions, through a quick online survey or a workshop, can prove invaluable in enhancing onboarding and driving engagement.


Just because you’ve spent months creating the perfect onboarding process, doesn’t mean others throughout the business are aware of it. You need to spread the message about how it works, as well as explaining how powerful good onboarding can be in improving a new starter’s performance, boosting their engagement – and even retaining them in your company. So, launch any new initiative with a bang, through a well-thought-out internal comms piece. As part of this, a well-timed video from an exec sponsor is the perfect way to reinforce just how important onboarding is to your organisation. 

Support and Training

Don’t assume people know what good looks like when it comes to onboarding. Whether it’s a formal training session, information on your intranet, or a dedicated onboarding site for line managers, make sure you give managers the support they need to succeed. Rolls-Royce do all of the above. They’ve also gone to great lengths to ensure the content is engaging too – check out the video we created below as a perfect example.  


A clearly defined list of responsibilities for each line manager when they onboard a new employee is invaluable. This could be as simple as a step-by step list they print out and complete. Or something a little more sophisticated, managed by an onboarding system and tailored to their new starter. That same system can help manage the process and timelines, with automated email/SMS reminders, so line managers (and their new starters) can easily keep on top of their ‘to do’ list.

Make it part of their performance plan

Linking the completion of onboarding processes – and in particular the experience of new starters – to a line manager’s performance plan can be highly effective. It creates a win-win situation where line managers start to see onboarding as their responsibility, new joiners get a great experience at the start of their time with you, and everyone benefits from the new employee’s enhanced performance.

Reward and celebrate

Where line managers have done a great job in onboarding new joiners, shout about this - perhaps even interviews them, and share the video with other managers so they can see the positive benefits getting it right can deliver for them and their team. Rewards and incentive schemes are also great way to keep the importance of onboarding front of mind.

One size certainly won't fit all, so find the right combination for your organisation, and don't let early challenges put you off. When Eli started working with GE HealthCare less than 50% of line managers took ownership of onboarding. But with training, a dedicated portal and checklist (on Eli), plus regular communications from senior leaders, that figure is now above 80%! 

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