8 Best Onboarding Books to Read in 2021

Home » Books » Onboarding BooksUpdated: May 11, 2021

You found our list of helpful onboarding books.

Onboarding books are guides on how to conduct client or employee orientations. The purpose of these guides is to improve training and transition periods and increase retention. The audience for these books is typically HR professionals and managers.

These books are a subset of HR books, are similar to training books and might cover virtual onboarding.

This list includes:

  • HR onboarding books
  • new employee onboarding books
  • books on customer onboarding

Let’s get to it!

List of onboarding books

Here are the best onboarding resources to welcome new employees, executives, and clients.

1. The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins

Successful Onboarding

While most on-boarding books focus on how to train and welcome new hires, The First 90 Days is a transition guide for new leaders. Managers must prove themselves during the first three months of their new role. This period is critical for learning the intricacies of the position and the organization, earning colleague’s trust and respect, and laying the groundwork for goals and projects.

Michael D Watkins describes common mistakes new leaders make and lays out strategies to learn faster and build productive working relationships. The book includes tools like checklists and self assessment to better organize and manage the transition. The First 90 Days provides a blueprint for self-led orientations, setting up leaders for success within their new roles.

Notable Quote: “Joining a new company is akin to an organ transplant—and you’re the new organ. If you’re not thoughtful in adapting to the new situation, you could end up being attacked by the organizational immune system and rejected.”

Buy The First 90 Days.

2. Successful Onboarding: Strategies to Unlock Hidden Value Within Your Organization by Mark Stein and Lilith Christiansen

Successful Onboarding

Successful Onboarding is one of the best new employee onboarding books. The authors relay the fact that, on average, after two years, ⅓ of new hires have left organizations. The book counters with strategies to improve employee retention, all centered around the onboarding process.

Successful onboarding programs have four key components:

  • early career support
  • introduction to company culture and values
  • understanding of company mission and strategy
  • meaningful experiences and relationships

Using this methodology, Successful Onboarding helps leaders elevate onboarding beyond basic orientations. The book explains how to create comprehensive programs that bring out new talent’s true potential.

Notable Quote: “Onboarding can and should be far more than a glorified orientation program, and in fact a number of profressive organizations have already begun to design and implement strategic programs that bring diverse stakeholders together to engage new hires over the first year plus of their tenure.”

Buy Successful Onboarding.

3. Creative Onboarding Programs: Tools for Energizing Your Orientation Program by Doris Sims

Creative Onboarding Programs

Creative Onboarding Programs is one of the most useful HR onboarding books. The book serves as a toolkit for employee orientation. The pages are full of activities, checklists, charts, and technology to use when welcoming new hires to the company, such as new employee learning topics lists and follow-up evaluations.

Creative Onboarding Programs offers advice for acclimating employees of all levels, in all environments. The book explores various onboarding areas and situations, providing guidance for a wide range of scenarios. The author also suggests ways to measure results and adjust approaches throughout the process.

Notable Quote: “People spend a large amount of their lives at work, and forming strong and positive relationships with coworkers is critical not only for job satisfaction, retention, and effective teamwork, but is also critical for one’s personal happiness and on-the-job engagement level. Companies that understand this include activities in the orientation program to foster the forming of employee relationships on the new employees’ first day.”

Buy Creative Onboarding.

4. The Myth of “Fit”: Unlock New Leader Success with High-Impact Onboarding by Linda S. Reese and Stephanie Henderson

The Myth of Fit

The Myth of “Fit” seeks to dispel the idea that leaders fail due to being a bad match for the organization. The book argues that every leader has the potential to excel, and it is up to the organization and the executive to work together to make that happen. The Myth of “Fit” lays down a blueprint for aligning leaders with the company’s mission and methods, clarifying roles, helping leaders build genuine relationships and strong teams, and setting the stage for new executives to institute organizational change. The book offers steps and tools for every player in the process, from HR partners and hiring managers, to investors and business owners, to the leaders themselves.

Notable Quote: “Popular onboarding literature urges New Leaders to make their mark quickly, with impact– gaining credibility by generating immediate results. On the face of it, this approach resonates with many in the process of onboarding into new roles. They want their employer to see them as an asset, and they are eager to demonstrate their value. However, this focus on high-impact behavior and early wins creates a paradoxical bind.”

Buy The Myth of “Fit.”

5. Intercom on Onboarding by Des Traynor

Intercom on Onboarding
Intercom on Onboarding is one of the best books on customer onboarding. Intercom is a company that creates software that connects businesses and customers, making the organization experts in proper client practices. The book provides a framework for customer orientation, laying out strategies to turn prospects into customers, and customers into long-term clients. With methods like constant communication and streamlined tutorials, businesses can lay a strong foundation in the early stages of the client journey. Creating straightforward and supportive early customer experiences sets the stage for long-term success. Intercom on Onboarding explains how to pull off a smooth onboarding that earns customer confidence.

Notable Quote: “It doesn’t matter if you’ve tried every marketing technique under the sun, if you’re not onboarding users successfully it counts for nothing. Why would you invest so much in trying to attract users but not go the extra step and try to keep them?”

Buy Intercom on Onboarding.

6. The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Socialization (Oxford Library of Psychology) by Connie Wanberg

The Oxford Handbook of Socializational Organization

The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Socialization is more like a textbook than a casual read. Nevertheless, this book is a great resource for onboarding. The book takes a psychological approach to organizational socialization, the practice of employees joining the company culture. The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Socialization explains how to help employees adjust to the new environment and develop strong social ties, even if their backgrounds and beliefs differ from those of their peers. The book illustrates how to create onboarding programs that improve employee satisfaction, loyalty, and cooperation.

Notable Quote: “There is often a tendency to assume that all newcomers are identical when, in fact, they have very different backgrounds, experiences, and identities. Indeed, the ways in which newcomers deal with uncertainty often depends on their past experiences and what they have previously learned.”

Buy The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Socialization.

7. Effective Onboarding (What Works in Talent Development) by Norma Davila and Wanda Piña-Ramírez

What Works in Talent Development

Effective Onboarding explores the qualities that make onboarding successful and lays out a roadmap for engaging programs. Unlike many other onboarding books, Effective Onboarding follows new hires throughout their entire first year of employment. The book offers best practices HR professionals and recruiters can employ to help hires overcome the knowledge curve and settle into new roles quickly and confidently. The authors are talent development consultants, and share templates, checklists, and other resources to help organizations structure their programs.

Notable Quote: “Effective onboarding programs significantly affect employee engagement and employee branding, which is generally defined as how employees internalize the brand that the business showcases and align their behaviors and perspectives with it.”

Buy Effective Onboarding.

8. Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation by James D. Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Training Evaluation

Training is an important part of the onboarding process. Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation explains how to effectively structure and measure training methods. The book presents four elements of evaluation: results, behavior, learning, and reaction. By observing these elements, leaders can gauge a training program’s effectiveness and ensure new employees get the support they need to bridge the knowledge gap. Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation champions a data-based decision-making approach to creating and adjusting training systems. Each chapter ends with a summary, with tips on timing, case studies, and charts strewn throughout. The book covers the nuances of online training, too.

Notable Quote: “Evaluation is not an afterthought to training, but rather is meant to be integrated into the entire learning and development process. If you wait until after a program is designed, developed, and delivered to consider what value it is supposed to provide to the organization and how you will evaluate it, there is little chance of the program having much value.”

Buy Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation.

Conclusion

First impressions are long-lasting and important. Onboarding is an organization’s chance to begin an employer-employee relationship on the right note. By designing a supportive, comprehensive onboarding experience, companies give employees the confidence and resources needed to excel in both the short term and long term.

While most orientation advice focuses on the average employee experience, onboarding clients and organizational leaders is just as important for success. Any time a new partner joins the operation, transition management is necessary. Reading employee onboarding books provides practical advice so that leaders can create dynamic, effective experiences.

For further reading, check out our list of management books.

FAQ: Onboarding books

Here are answers to common questions about onboarding books.

What are onboarding books?

Onboarding books are books about new hire orientation. While most books focus on employee onboarding, some also give strategies for executive onboarding or client onboarding. The purpose of these books is to facilitate successful transitions and increase retention.

What are the best onboarding books?

Some of the best onboarding books include The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins, Successful Onboarding by Mark Stein and Lilith Christiansen, and The Myth of “Fit” by Linda S. Reese and Stephanie Henderson.

How can I improve the onboarding experience?

To improve the onboarding experience, think beyond the traditional orientation. New hire transitions should involve more than filling out paperwork, watching training videos, and getting a tour of the facility. Onboarding is an ongoing process that involves sustained effort to acquaint and acclimate new employees to the organization.

A successful onboarding experience successfully communicates the organization’s mission, values, and strategy, includes experiences that meaningfully connect new employees with coworkers, and actively helps new hires learn and grow.

Some simple ways to make the onboarding process better are to prepare an organized directory of resources employees can revisit post-orientation, allow employees time to ask questions, connect new hires with other employees, and check in 30 days, 90 days, and six months after hire.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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