Onboarding is the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviours to become effective organisational members and insiders.

Coaching support can play a substantial role in the onboarding process. It is a real affirmation to the new employee that they are valued and the organisation wants to invest in them. We know from experience that support at this stage results in long term retention of valued employees in the organisation through higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organisational commitment and a reduction in occupational stress.

Coaching supports the onboarding process by providing an objective, safe and confidential space in which the coachee can talk and make sense of what’s going on, without risking inadvertently saying ‘the wrong thing’. It doesn’t replace the role of the internal mentor or line manager but it does ensure that the best possible start is available.

This support can be applied to a range of circumstances; external appointments, return from secondment, repatriation, return from extended leave (e.g. maternity, paternity, sick absence). In particular this can be integrated into a support package for anyone away from work for a lengthy period of time, to ensure a practical connection and to help them remain emotionally attached to the organisation.

We have identified five generic stages to pay attention to, for anyone joining or re-joining an organisation:-


This is a consultative stage where the coach engages the individual coachee and their line manager in joint and individual conversations to establish a clear picture of expectations and goals and to understand what is realistic for the first few months. This is a crucial stage as it shapes the coaching objectives. Any misunderstood expectations at this stage are hard to recover from and are often cited as the reason an appointment did not work.


The coaching helps the individual to think through the situation they are leaving behind. Even if it is retrospective, this is important to enable the person to acknowledge and understand for themselves both the practical and emotional transition they are immersed in. Arriving well is crucial. The coaching helps the individual to get it right at the very beginning – to read the circumstances and people around them accurately and sensitively, while coping with the unfamiliar themselves.


After the first month or two into the new role, when work life has started to become more familiar, it is a good habit to take stock and recognise what the role might mean at an individual and organisational level. What are the circumstances, practicalities, expectations, priorities, etc. and how to compare these with the anticipated outcomes at the beginning? The coaching helps to make sense of these issues, to ensure that everything is in balance and to think through how to address anything that is not going as expected.


Within the first few months the individual will find they need to do certain things ‘their way’, to establish their style and express their leadership capabilities. It is a time when they will need to focus on the priorities that are going to characterise their contribution to the organisation. The coaching conversations here are an invaluable part of the process, as they will help the individual to shape their ideas and prepare for possible outcomes. Making a mark will generally involve a public statement of some sort within the organisation.


By the end of the first six months in the role, it will be time to set out the strategy for the role. The coaching enables the individual to really work this out, rehearse it, and be very clear about it before a final three-way conversation takes place. The coach facilitates this discussion between the coachee and their line manager. This gives the opportunity to review the original expectations, acknowledge how far the coachee has come since joining the organisation and fine tune the on-going conditions required for the individual to really flourish in the role.