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Is Onboarding HR's Responsibility?

Kristen Buchanan

It’s our goal at Edify to always think creatively about engineering onboarding. In our quest to help tech companies build more efficient and effective onboarding systems, we’ve been thinking about Human Resource departments. And we’re thinking that HR departments are expected to do things that really aren’t in their wheelhouse.

Rather than spending so much energy wanting HR to get onboard or get out of the way, we think it’s time to take a different approach.

Human resources is an important part of any company. It owns the process of vetting and hiring candidates for the organization, supporting employees with their work and benefit needs, and in the best cases, proactively improving company culture.

But HR is not tasked with the learning and development of technical people.

Human resources as a discipline doesn’t actually stem from the understanding of pedagogy, the knowledge of adult learning and how people grasp and then use and then actualize information. So for managers and engineering leaders to ask HR to take the lead on team development isn’t really fair, nor is it effective.

Many of us have always assumed that team development falls under the scope of HR work, but in doing that we actually dilute all of the work that HR truly should be doing.

Even if your HR team has an embedded Learning and Development function--folks who do understand pedagogy--they are not subject matter experts in engineering. Often these teams need to focus on leadership training, compliance training, and other responsibilities that impact every employee, not just a subset of them. 

And many tech companies don’t even fully build out a L&D team - it’s just not an investment priority. So in the absence of L&D, and without putting unfair expectations on HR, the answer is to stop assuming that HR solves these problems and instead help your team build the skills to solve effectiveness problems.

If HR could be less taxed by work that really isn’t theirs to do, they could have more time and resources to excel at what they do best; performance management, compensation, equity, and a variety of operational focus areas that really matter to the business.

It’s up to engineering leaders and managers to look at how they can support HR while shifting away from HR as the owner of team effectiveness. And team effectiveness is what it’s all about - that’s why we’re so passionate about onboarding, because good onboarding leads to a more effective, more positive work experience for teams, new hires, and managers.


At Edify we’re particularly interested in how to onboard new technical hires remotely--how to create a scaffolded environment when no one is in the same physical place. How do you equip your new hire to ask better questions, to think better, to be more critical, to be more contributory? And how do you help managers build skills to create the scaffolding that allows a new hire to onboard themselves more effectively?

Those are the kinds of questions we’re asking as we continue to build eddy, our solution for engineering onboarding. 

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