Skip to main content

Scale with Talent Series: 2 | Onboarding

June 15, 2023
clock 6 MIN READ

Having a systematic plan and well-defined processes in place is key to successfully onboarding new employees. Invest in your people with the 7-30-90-180-day framework—it provides a roadmap that will enable you and your employees to thrive.

Last month in the “Ideas from the Lab” talent blog series, we explored best practices around hiring. This month, we’re focusing on successfully onboarding new employees. Why does this matter? We tend to focus a lot of time and energy on how to optimize the time spent with clients. In reality, an individual team member likely has a greater impact on your balance sheet than any individual client.

According to the 2021 Capital Group Pathways to Growth Advisor Study, the highest-growth practices allocate 81% more time to team management.

How you invest in your people—especially at the beginning of their relationships with you and the practice—matters.


The first six months of a job sets the tone for an individual’s career and impact at an organization. You likely have a process to onboard clients, but do you have a process to onboard new employees?

As part of the “Scale with Talent” toolkit, the Onboarding Guide provides high-level guidance on how to think about making the most of an employee’s first six months by breaking down onboarding into four areas:

  1. Building a relationship and rapport with the team
  2. Learning the job
  3. Gaining the skills to do the job well
  4. Becoming independent

Each of these competencies builds on each other. When introduced intentionally with clear expectations, you can help successfully transplant new employees into your organization and set them up for success. The key is to have a plan in place regarding what the first week, month, quarter, and six months look like at your firm, and to develop an individual onboarding plan for all new hires.

Consider using this 7-30-90-180-day framework to develop individual onboarding roadmaps for you and your new employee.

The first week

During the first week, focus on building trust and rapport. There are things you can do—not just say—to show new employees that they matter and that you are committed to their success. This also sets clear expectations on what success look like over the next six months. 

Examples of how you can cultivate trust in the first week:

  • Before their first day, have their work area (in-person or virtual) set up so they are ready to hit the ground running
  • Ideally have them work in-person on their first day(s), even if they will ultimately work remotely
  • Provide them with a welcome gift before or on their first day, such as company swag and a book or article that reinforces the firm’s operating systems and/or values (i.e., “Traction” by Gino Wickman if you’re an EOS firm or “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie if emotional intelligence matters)
  • Be at the office before they arrive and introduce them to the team
  • Schedule a welcome breakfast or lunch on their first day
  • Schedule time for them (or help them schedule time) to meet with other team members
  • Have their manager check in with them daily during the first week to see how everything is going

The first month

During the first month, help them understand their job, role, and responsibilities. While a job description is necessary when hiring, it’s not always helpful in communicating an individual’s roles and responsibilities, especially on a small team where individuals wear multiple hats. It’s important for a new employee and the entire team to understand their roles and responsibilities, especially if it’s a new role. In some cases, you may need to work through this together over time; it’s not always black and white. 

Specifically, by the end of their first month, they should know:

  • What (and who) they are they responsible for (what tasks do they need to do?)
  • What they are accountable for (clients, services, or areas of the business they own)
  • When they may be consulted
  • And finally, when they will be informed but not necessarily involved in decisions and responsibilities across important processes and tasks.

The first quarter

By the end of the first quarter, employees should have gained important technical skills and knowledge to do their job well. They should be set up to be working independently soon.

Employees want autonomy. Autonomy is a feeling of being in control and having a choice. To be in control, individuals need to know how to do their job well.

According to Gartner, 79% of employees are engaged when given autonomy at work and thus show increased accountability and performance output.

Based on the role, provide specific tasks to master and training to help them learn, such as:

  • Opening a new account
  • Conducting a client review meeting following the firm’s process
  • Creating a new household in your CRM
  • Completing the client review meeting prep and post-activities
  • Completing a specific financial planning or investment management task

Think about what you want them to be able to do independently within their first six months and focus on the skills and knowledge needed.

Depending on the task, different people may be needed to train the individual. If there is someone who is in the same or similar role, shadowing them in-person or virtually using screen-share can be very beneficial as they learn about a firm’s clients, processes, and technologies. 

Independent within the first six months

The goal of an onboarding plan is to set up your team to be independent and autonomous within their first six months. Having well-defined processes and workflows can support and expedite training. If you don’t have defined processes for your core firm functions such as your sales process, client onboarding, review meetings, and common requests and transitions, use the time onboarding and training to capture these essential processes. It doesn’t have to be fancy—just capture them in a consistent way and save them in one place for current and future employees to reference. If you’re “too busy” to document processes, consider hiring a summer intern to document and operationalize key processes.

One firm that utilizes SEI solutions is exceptional at onboarding and is very process driven; they use Waybook* to capture and maintain training and onboarding content in one place. They even have a video on how to fold the towels in the bathroom! I had a chance to ask the firm’s employees what they thought about the very clear expectations and training resources. They all agreed that it was very helpful in their ability to get up to speed quickly and feel like they are adding value as part of the team.  

I hope this 7-30-90-180 framework and Onboarding Guide template provides clear next steps to help you and your team set new employees—and your business—up for success. 


*SEI does not endorse the example products and services mentioned herein

Shauna Mace, CHPC

Head of Practice Management

More Ideas from the Lab

Blogs for independent financial advisors.