Crossboarding Internal Talent Moves

Mar 15, 2023

By Brian Formato

It looks like 2023 will be a year of contractions in the labor market. Companies are conducting layoffs, planning layoffs, or freezing their head counts in anticipation of the shrinking revenue growth forecast for this year. With tougher economic conditions ahead, organizations are redeploying and reassigning head count, and some (e.g., Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Ford, Twitter, Stripe) already started this process through big layoffs in late 2022.

During the hiring frenzy over the past few years, many companies came to recognize the importance of effective onboarding to employee engagement and retention. During the so-called war for talent, it was critical to make new hires feel special and to assimilate them quickly into the company or risk having them accept other offers. Although fewer job openings today might shift leverage back to the employer, effective onboarding is still extremely important—particularly when internal talent moves are involved.

What Is Cross Boarding?

Onboarding is an organization’s first chance to show new employees why it does what it does and to set them up for success within the company culture. Onboarding develops the organization’s brand and can help build a positive reputation for the company.

This same function is critical to crossboarding, which is the act of onboarding internal hires. When an employee changes jobs within the organization to a new department, a new function, or a new manager, they should go through a crossboarding process that introduces this internal transfer to their new team and sets them up for success.

Crossboarding becomes even more critical when widespread layoffs and overall marketplace fears create stress and anxiety among employees.

When an organization enacts layoffs and redeploys its remaining talent, the employees who remain with the organization often experience survivors’ guilt as they feel remorse and mourn the loss of their colleagues. Under these circumstances, moving to new teams and departments can be traumatic for some employees.

3 Elements to Crossboarding Success

Whether an employee is thrilled about their new role within a company or approaches it with trepidation, a well-orchestrated move will set them up for success in the new role. To achieve the most important goals of the process, making the transferred employee feel welcome and valued, managers should implement three key elements in their crossboarding programs.

A warm welcome. The employee’s new direct manager should be present on day one and ideally should be the first person to greet the transferring employee when they arrive at the workplace. If the new team doesn’t all work in the same onsite location, the first day should start with a video call in which the manager introduces the employee to their teammates. Welcome efforts aren’t limited to managers, though: someone’s new colleagues can help them assimilate by telling them about team norms, for example, or by including them in any fun activities the team does together.

Clear goals. The transferring employee must have clear deliverables in the new role, with goals that include both quantitative and qualitative metrics. It is important to differentiate between their previous role and their new one: the new manager should outline what is different and how things will operate.

A culture of feedback. From the beginning, managers should make it clear that feedback is a two-way street. They should offer direct feedback (both praise and recommendations for corrective action) and at the same time encourage the employee to provide their own feedback. Scheduling

weekly one-on-one meetings helps create and maintain an ongoing dialogue.

The ultimate goal of crossboarding is to help transferred employees feel like they are part of the team. Engaged employees provide discretionary effort that can be shaped a great deal by how they feel. An organization that plans to move talent around in 2023 should be deliberate about the change management and how it wants employees to feel in their new roles. By keeping these considerations in mind, a company can create a culture in which employees embrace opportunities to move internally rather than feel like pawns being moved around on a chessboard.

Brian Formato is the founder of Groove Management, a leadership development and executive coaching firm; and the creator of LeaderSurf, an adventurous development program for business leaders of all backgrounds, industries, and corners of the world who want to break old habits and create lasting change. He can be reached at

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