Weekend Poll Results: A Desire for Effective Onboarding Practices

With thanks to all who participated, here are your responses to my question … How extensive an orientation did you receive when commencing your current role?

55% are unimpressed with the induction/onboarding/orientation received  

That’s the case with the majority of respondents. With “1” representing a grossly insufficient orientation, and “5” representing ideal, 55% of respondents selected 2 or lower.

On the other hand …

On the other end of the spectrum, 21.5% of you rated the quality of your respective orientations at 4 or higher. That means two out of every five employers are strong on this front, and/or that there’s an alignment of expectations with what’s being provided.

Networking Copyright Shelagh DonnellyRespondents fulfill senior administrative roles  

The majority of respondents identified themselves as Executive Assistants (EAs), with the next highest percentage of respondents identifying themselves as Personal Assistants (PAs).

None of the respondents identified themselves as holding junior or entry level administrative roles, which I’d included in the list of options. In fact, the balance of respondents identified themselves as Managers, Executive Secretaries, Legal Secretaries/Paralegals, Chiefs of Staff, and Management Assistants.

The majority of you concur that expectations of job preparedness increase with the level of responsibility required for the job 63% of respondents agreed with this statement, while 28% believed this depends on the employer. 9% of respondents disagreed with this observation I’d made.

Procedures manuals would be greatly appreciated That’s a major takeaway from readers’ responses to my question as to how you’d recommend changing orientation processes. For those who received no orientation, simply having access to such a learning opportunity was a priority. Other suggestions included checklists, additional communication, and uniformity of orientation practices, coordinated through HR. There was also interest in being provided more information about the business itself.

What did people appreciate about their respective orientations? 

There is some good news on this front, including well developed orientation plans, direct training from one’s CEO, introductions to colleagues, provision of corporate information, and the all-important human element: being taken under someone’s wing, or knowing that the incumbent was invested in the newcomer’s success.

What do you do with this information? It’s up to you. Do you have an internal network through which you can advocate for some effective practices, or build on some good systems already in place? I’ve founded, and worked with colleagues to co-found, internal networks in both my current and previous workplace. One is now in its fourth year, and the other has been functioning for more than a decade.

My experience is that internal networks are a great vehicle through which colleagues can identify constructive suggestions to address needs. If you don’t yet have one, have a look at my articles on the topic. If you think lack of orientation is a broader issue, perhaps you can work with peers in your professional networks and associations. Why not make a business case that signals ROI for employers, and work on developing proposals that may be broadly applied or adapted?


I asked readers to identify, on a scale of 1 (grossly insufficient) to 5 (ideal), how you would categorise the quality of the orientation you received when assuming your current role. Here’s what you said.

  • 1: 35% of respondents
  • 2: 30% of respondents
  • 3: 13.5% of respondents
  • 4: 13.5 % of respondents
  • 5: 8% of respondents

How much time was provided for your orientation/onboarding? 

  • None: 30% of respondents
  • Two hours: 2.5% of respondents
  • One day: 28% of respondents
  • Two days: 14% of respondents
  • Three days: 5% of respondents
  • Four days: 8% of respondents
  • Five days: 5% of respondents
  • Two weeks: 6% of respondents
  • One month: 2% of respondents

Did you have benefit of a procedures manual?

  • Yes: 17% of respondents, although 6% of total respondents selected “Other” and offered comments about the procedures manuals. The comments: “very outdated” and “Grossly insufficient and outdated procedures manual”
  • No:83% of respondents

Did you have benefit of access to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? 

  • Yes: 22% of respondents
  • No: 75% of respondents
  • 3% of respondents selected “Other”. One respondent commented, “I am the first EA in the company.”

Did you have access to the incumbent after s/he departed the role?

  • Yes: 22% of respondents
  • N/A; new position: 28% of respondents
  • No: 44% of respondents
  • 6% of respondents selected “Other”. Comments included, “She was basically useless” and “maternity leave after the original cover had left”.

Which of the following8 best categorises the nature of your admin. role?

  • Executive Assistant: 58% of respondents
  • Personal Assistant: 18% of respondents
  • Manager: 8% of respondents
  • Executive Secretary: 5% of respondents
  • Legal Secretary/Paralegal: 5% of respondents
  • Chief of Staff: 3% of respondents
  • Management Assistant: 3% of respondents

Is the statement that expectations of job preparedness increase with the level of responsibility consistent with your experience? 

  • Yes: 63% of respondents
  • It depends on the employer: 28% of respondents
  • No: 6% of respondents
  • 3% of respondents selected “Other”. One reader commented, “Regardless of role or manager I never received any instructions”.

I asked what change(s) you would recommend to the onboarding/orientation you were provided. Here’s what you said, with most responses provided verbatim – and related responses clustered together. 

  • Nothing / none
  • To have an onboarding procedure / At least an office process doc and half day orientation / At least one day overlap with outgoing Admin,; comprehensive list of tasks
  • Comprehensive procedures manual needed / Provide documentation/a procedures manual / Manual should have been available to help with the process / Review procedures manual during yearly performance review / I prepared extensive manuals for my current and my previous roles / A more robust procedures manual which I have been updating and maintaining
  • Have some clue as to what you are expecting in the new role being developed
  • Checklist of areas to be covered. Regular check-ins / progress reports
  • to actually have some
  • Overlap
  • That one is not automatically going to be up to speed with everything
  • Additional communication
  • I believe HR should take a look at creating a uniform orientation for assistants
  • More information about the nature of the business and services provided.
  • As it was a new role it was a one off. I’ll be able to do a great handover.

Lastly, I asked readers what you most value about the orientation you received. Some provided commentary reflecting an absence of orientation, and below I’m including only those comments that reflect orientation that was provided.

  • meeting others throughout the office
  • Well thought out plan
  • Did give me some grounding to start
  • I got direct training from my CEO
  • Something was better than nothing
  • How to access expense reporting
  • the incumbent’s generosity/goodwill and interest in my success in the role
  • Corp(orate) info
  • Just getting a sense of the person who had job before me
  • Having someone from my team unit take me under her wings
  • Everything
  • That it confirmed I can overcome challenges and learn quickly on my own


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