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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 HR. 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.

If HR could be less taxed by work they 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.

The truth is that most tech companies may never have a fully built out Learning & Development 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.

At Edify we’re particularly interested in how new hires actually onboard themselves in a better scaffolded environment. 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. We think they’ll be more helpful than just waiting for HR to fix the issue.

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