Hiring, onboarding investments are critical to success


Lakeshore Technical College’s hiring and onboarding model was transactional and short-term, focusing on paperwork more than culture and relationship-building. The college hired and onboarded employees at various times without consideration of developing a positive working relationship, the entire focus was filling the position and the start date.

On occasions, new hires started when their manager was on vacation.

Recognizing the importance of the college investment to acquire new talent and the significant investment of the applicants in seeking new employment, Lakeshore initiated in 2020 a review of the employee hiring and onboarding process with the objective to create a positive and enduring impact.

Assess and redefine

Based on new employee feedback and leadership direction, the hiring process was redefined. Hiring managers were trained with an emphasis placed on the long-term benefits of strategic onboarding. The new process launched in July 2021.

Focus shifted from short-term needs to fill positions and train quickly to the long-term benefits of intentional onboarding. We began using the application step to develop a feel for whether applicants were a good fit with the question: “What excites you about the opportunity to work for Lakeshore Technical College?”

This article was first published in the June/July issue of the Community College Journal, CC Daily’s sister publication at the American Association of Community Colleges.

To save time for all stakeholders, we hold first interviews virtually.

Interview panels are required to have bias training. We ask intentional questions which lead to clear conclusions regarding a candidate’s fit, including diversity, equity and inclusion-related questions. We invite finalists to meet in-person with our president and vice president overseeing the vacant position. The college welcomes the applicant with a designated parking spot demonstrating the college’s value on the individual. Further, the applicant receives a campus tour with the supervisor.

Recognizing the severity of the onboarding process deficiency, the leadership team decided to challenge the Lakeshore Leadership Development Institute’s (LLDI) first cohort of college staff, modeled on the American Association for Community Colleges’ leadership competencies, to develop a more cohesive group of new employees. A new process was developed to focus on a cohort model queuing timing to once or twice a month. It created new employee cohorts which would synthesize internal relationships which would grow with the college, augment communication, and enhance operational execution. Lakeshore objectives included cohorts absorbing the college culture and providing a welcoming, inclusive environment where employees felt valued.

Emphasize the benefits

To appease often impatient hiring managers, Lakeshore emphasized the benefits of strategic onboarding. Hiring managers were assured they were set up and their new hires for success. LLDI first cohort’s research showed that new employees who go through strategic onboarding were 58% more likely to be with an organization after three years, and 69% more likely if they experienced great onboarding.

The first days of orientation focus on how the employees’ jobs impact learning and student success as well as increase understanding of the college’s mission, vision and strategic initiatives. New employees are welcomed with designated parking and supervisors meet new employees at the door to escort them to the training location. On the first day, they attend a meet-and-greet lunch with the leadership team. Each is partnered with a leadership member to initiate a series of meetings over 3 months which provides an opportunity to know leadership through a different lens. Each new employee receives a gift collection of logo items.

The second day focuses on technology and benefit administration as well as the employee beginning their departmental training with the manager.

Invest the time

Over the 12 months, each cohort receives in-depth training by subject matter experts and high-level overviews of key topics by the training department. A dedicated team is key to year-round training for new employees as well as ongoing professional development among all staff. The team is responsible for training, mentoring, job shadowing, documentation and leadership development.

After three months of employment, the new employee meets with the president to share their experience. Each team member involved in the onboarding process makes it a priority to carve out time in their busy schedules to invest in our new employees.

Critical to short-term and long-term success for any college is the need to continuously identify new and existing employees for future leadership positions. The future of Lakeshore Technical College is in good hands thanks to improvements made to our hiring and onboarding process.

About the Author

Paul Carlsen
Dr. Paul Carlsen is president of Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wisconsin.