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Employee onboarding

Employee onboarding

Table of Contents

    Think back to your first day at your current job. Do you remember that feeling?

    Equal parts exciting and anxiety-inducing, a new recruit’s first day in the company sets the tone for the rest of their time with you.

    As a result, it’s critical to have a good onboarding plan. Not only will it ease first-day nerves, but it will make sure your new hire feels welcomed and included from the get-go.

    Typically, a member of the HR team or a supervisor is in charge of onboarding. 

    Many companies use the buddy system too, or assign a mentor to make sure the new hire always has someone to turn to. This can also help new employees learn faster by giving them a feeling of security in their new workplace.

    We know that building an effective and smooth onboarding process is challenging. That’s why we’ve created this guide (complete with a free downloadable onboarding checklist template) to help you out.

    So, let’s get cracking!


    What is employee onboarding?

    Employee onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, is the process of settling new employees into a company and acclimating them to the corporate culture and standards. The goal is to help them become effective and productive parts of the team.

    A proper onboarding procedure is similar to that of boarding an aircraft. 

    Passengers are greeted at the door of the aircraft and welcomed onboard by the cabin crew.

    The crew then assists passengers in finding their seats, ensuring that their trip is pleasant and that they arrive safely at their destination.

    In a company context, key members of the company should do the same. They welcome new hires, help them feel at home, and give them everything they need to do their job happily and efficiently They’re also on hand in case of a first-day emergency.

    To be more specific, new employee onboarding programs should assist recruits in the following ways:

    • Understand their roles and duties
    • Make themselves at home in their new surroundings
    • Meet their team members
    • Learn about the company’s rules, workflows, and procedures

    Onboarding and employee orientation are often confused with one another. We’ll outline the differences in the next section.


    Employee orientation vs. employee onboarding

    The main difference between employee orientation and employee onboarding is that employee orientation is a one-time event for new personnel. Orientation includes basic information about the company and department and dealing with all the paperwork and bureaucracy. 

    On the other hand, employee onboarding is a set of activities and training (including orientation) that assists recruits in becoming effective workers. 

    Employee onboarding varies by position and department, as it involves a specific role at a particular time. 


    What is the purpose of employee onboarding?

    The purpose of employee onboarding is to commit new hires to their organization and their functions within it. 

    The onboarding experience is critical because it shows new recruits that the firm cares about them. This leads to more engaged workers with a stronger sense of belonging to the company, promoting employee retention. 

    In fact, Gallup found a link between the number of engaged workers and various outcomes—companies with high employee engagement see a 21% increase in productivity and a 22% increase in profitability. 

    Here are just a few of the advantages of having more engaged staff:

    • Increased profits
    • Reduced turnover rates
    • Improved safety records
    • Enhanced product quality
    • Improved client feedback
    • Less employee absenteeism

    Onboarding also contributes to: 

    • Validating the decision of new hires: reassures new recruits that they made the right choice joining the company. 
    • Educating new hires on the organization’s vision and mission: familiarizes employees with the company values, making it easier for them to fit in.
    • Providing training and resources: onboarding equips new hires with all the information and knowledge they need to become productive as soon as possible, which is crucial for successful employee training.
    • Making sure new hires know their responsibilities: effective onboarding makes sure that everyone knows company policies from the first day and sets the stage for further compliance training.

    Up next, we delve further into the benefits of employee onboarding.


    What are the benefits of effective employee onboarding?

    Every organization  does some sort of onboarding, but not everyone does it well. Another poll from the fine folks at Gallup revealed that only 29% of employees feel prepared to excel in their new role after onboarding. 

    Why should you care about this? Well, here are just some of the benefits your company reaps when your human resources and other stakeholders take onboarding seriously: 

    • Better employee retention: Employee turnover is a serious problem for companies, but good onboarding from day one makes it more likely that employees will become and stay loyal.
    • Greater employee engagement: Only 15% of employees feel engaged in their workplace, despite employers knowing that engagement leads to higher productivity and lower churn rates.  
    • Better employee experience: The Great Resignation has given employees a bit more power than usual, and many might just up and leave if you make a bad first impression, making onboarding new employees more important than ever.
    • Stronger top talent attraction: People talk on sites like Glassdoor, so if you want to attract top talent, better make sure you have a good onboarding reputation. The best talent can afford to hold out for that perfect match. So,  you need to ensure you’re offering a truly well-structured onboarding experience that’ll increase your odds of attracting and retaining the best new hires.
    • Stronger connections with employees: Onboarding is a great opportunity to get everyone on the same page regarding company goals and values. It’s also a powerful tool for  fostering a sense of belonging and promoting team collaboration.
    • Increased productivity: New hires can take up to 12 weeks to achieve full productivity. A good onboarding process starts with the employee’s first day and keeps up with regular check-ins until they are fully productive.

    As you can see, there are many benefits of a good onboarding experience. But to enjoy them, everyone in your company, from HR professionals to hiring managers to all other stakeholders, needs to align on the importance of onboarding. 

    Next, we tackle the best way to deliver employee onboarding.

    How to deliver employee onboarding

    Up until recently, employee onboarding was usually carried out in person. It made sense. New recruits would be coming to the office anyway, and it was a warm and friendly way to welcome them into the company.

    However, times have changed. And so has how employees are onboarded. The rise of remote working and dispersed teams has led to almost every organization moving at least part of their employee onboarding program online.

    Employees are given access to a Learning Management System (LMS) where they can find a personalized learning path of onboarding training content. From microlearning courses on company competencies and culture to role-specific training material, new hires can be onboarded from anywhere. This helps to streamline new hire onboarding.

    That’s not to say everything is 100% e-learning. Most organizations opt for a blended approach. This means employees attend live or virtual welcome sessions with their manager, team, and HR, as well as taking online training modules. 

    Aside from being flexible and accessible, online employee onboarding has another advantage. Thanks to LMS reporting, your organization can keep tabs on employees’ progress through the onboarding. This is not only valuable for bookkeeping, but it makes it easier to give staff a gentle nudge if they fall behind on their onboarding tasks. 

    From the employee’s perspective, they have access to all of the onboarding materials whenever they need them. All they have to do is log into the LMS. 

    You’re probably wondering how to put an effective employee onboarding process into practice.


    7 easy steps to onboarding a new employee

    Hiring is a stressful and challenging time for any HR professional. Demand for talent never ends, but talent shortages and skill gaps have become the new normal of the job market. 

    And once the right candidate gets the job offer, an even more important challenge begins—how to integrate and assimilate the new hire into the organization and make sure they play nice with their new co-workers. 

    To help you out, we’re going to give you a step-by-step guide for the perfect onboarding plan.


    Step #1: Send a welcome email to the new employee

    After a long search, you’ve finally found the right fit for the position. Now, the real challenge begins. 

    The standard practice is to send a welcome email to the new employee. It’s best to strike a warm, friendly, and congratulatory tone. You are delivering good news, after all. 

    This email is also a good time to get all the bureaucracy out of the way. Include relevant resources such as a formal offer letter, onboarding forms, company policy info, and the employee handbook. You don’t want to overwhelm your new team member at this point, so make sure the materials you send are truly relevant. 

    That way, you’ll be building rapport and transparency from the very beginning.


    Step #2: Schedule a quick onboarding call

    Once the new hire has accepted the offer, you should schedule a short onboarding call. During this call, you’ll review the organization’s policies and set the expectations for the new employee.

    Just like with the welcome email, you shouldn’t overwhelm the new hire with too much information, but it’s important to set expectations and make everything about their job description clear. 

    A friendly call will go a long way toward engaging the new employee before their start date. It also helps to validate their decision to accept your offer.


    Step #3: Build rapport with the new employee

    Before your new team member officially starts, there’s usually a waiting period. Typically, employees need to give at least two weeks of notice to their former employer, but longer notice periods are not unheard of. 

    During this time, it’s very possible that the new employee is still entertaining offers from other potential employers. Ghosting isn’t just for Tinder matches anymore. According to a poll by Indeed, 18% of employees have ghosted a potential employer at some stage of the hiring process. Of those, 22% ghost before they start their first day. 

    This is why many companies have adopted the idea of pre-boarding. Instead of waiting for the first day to start onboarding, companies are sending little tokens of appreciation—such as care packages and company merch.  

    Also, in contrast to formal onboarding, you can build rapport with new hires by inviting them to an informal meet and greet before their start date.


    Step #4: Welcome the new hires and make them feel comfortable

    Think back to your first day and the first week at your current job. It can be quite nerve-racking—there’s a lot of new hire paperwork first, then you have orientation, and you’ve got all those new faces to remember. 

    A good onboarding plan goes a long way to alleviate any negative emotions the new hire might be feeling. 

    If you’ve followed the previous steps, by now, the new hire has filled out all the paperwork, reviewed the employee handbook and other policy documents, and has a good idea of what’s expected of them. 

    Here’s what you can do to make the first day comfortable for your new hire:

    • Plan out and schedule the employee orientation
    • Make sure the workstation, email addresses, and other platform logins are ready 
    • Set up the account for your new hire to receive their salary
    • Assign a mentor or a buddy to help the new employee get settled


    Step #5: Coordinate with other departments

    While most of the tasks around onboarding fall to the HR department, that doesn’t mean other departments get to sit the onboarding process out. All the relevant teams need to collaborate for onboarding to be effective.

    For instance, the L&D team may want to give them a run-through of available training initiatives and the career journey process. Or the IT department may want to touch base with a remote employee to explain how to set up corporate software. 

    Before the new hire starts, announce their arrival to the team they’ll be joining. Also, coordinate with all relevant stakeholders to schedule orientation sessions and welcome meetings.


    Step #6: Start training the new hire

    Once your new employee has settled in, it’s time to kick off the relevant on-the-job training. Setting role-based goals and objectives is another thing you do at this stage. 

    It’s a good idea to set milestones for the first week, first months, and the first quarter. You can also do a skill set assessment to gauge the knowledge level of the new hire. This enables you to craft personalized professional development plans.

    Speaking of building personalized development plans, some of the top LMSs, like Docebo, have AI-powered skills assessment tools. 

    This automates the skills assessment process, helping managers create personalized learning paths for new employees and recommend relevant training modules. 

    For example, new hires can add their current skills (and levels) to the platform, and the AI system will curate related content to help them develop those skills further. 

    Doing this will help the employee slowly but surely acclimate—both to their new role and the company itself.


    Step #7: Ensure the new hire matches with the organization

    As we mentioned earlier, a typical employee will need a full quarter to become truly productive. 

    That’s why in the first quarter, after your new hire has started working, your main goal is to review the expectations of the company and the employee and make sure they match. 

    This is the time to have some open and frank conversations with the new employee. Discuss their experience on the job so far, do a performance review, and offer actionable feedback. You can also discuss plans for future learning and training beyond onboarding

    Don’t forget to take the employee’s feedback into account too. This is an invaluable resource to gauge the effectiveness of your onboarding and training processes. 

    Next up, we want to give you a quick example of employee onboarding.


    An example of employee onboarding

    There are many different ways to do onboarding, and there’s really no one-size-fits-all solution. For instance, a remote-only company will onboard employees differently than a company where everyone works at the same site. 

    Nevertheless, here are some great examples of onboarding to inspire you:

    • The buddy system: It’s not just for school field trips. Assigning a buddy helps make onboarding a bit more relaxed by harnessing the power of informal learning while making sure your new hire always has someone to turn to during those hectic first weeks. 
    • Gamification: Pretty easy to do with modern LMSs and has the benefit of being super fun and engaging. 
    • Welcome videos: Another engaging piece of media, having your employees make a quick welcome video for the new hire is a great way to break the ice and introduce them to the new team.
    • 100th Day party: This idea is for a bit further down the road (remember that onboarding is a longer process than just the first few days). So, at the end of the first quarter, after the performance review, why not have everyone unwind with a little party?

    Of course, this list is nowhere near exhaustive. There are plenty of creative onboarding activities out there to fit your organization’s values, culture, and structure. Just remember, the goal is to make the new hire feel welcomed and assimilated into the team. 

    Are you looking to revamp your employee onboarding? You’re in the right place. We’ve prepared a handy downloadable general onboarding template to make your life easier.


    Free employee onboarding checklist

    Successful recruit onboarding leads to improved work performance, enhanced efficiency, and higher employee satisfaction, all of which contribute to higher levels of engagement and retention. 

    In other words, a thorough onboarding process benefits everyone involved.

    An effective employee onboarding process has a lot of moving parts, especially in large organizations. An onboarding process template ensures you don’t overlook anything important during these hectic initial few days, weeks, and months.


    • Send a welcome email to the new employee
    • Communicate first day details (time of arrival, building address, etc)
    • Introduce the new employee to the team
    • Complete new employee paperwork
    • Assign an onboarding buddy for the new hire

    First day

    • Welcome the new employee
    • Set expectations and define responsibilities
    • Introduce the job’s main objectives
    • Prepare the new employee’s workspace and provide all the appropriate equipment
    • Make the new employee feel like part of the team

    First quarter (first three months)

    • Ensure the training process runs smoothly
    • Make sure the new hire is aware of the organization’s processes 
    • Check the new hire has sufficient access to resources and tools
    • Spot any areas in which the new hire may need additional training
    • Promote company culture and philosophy

    After the first three months

    • Identify and solve problems the new employee may be facing
    • Provide ongoing training
    • Encourage the new hire to ask questions and provide feedback

    After the first six months

    • Send out a satisfaction survey to the new employee
    • Review the new employee’s productivity and progress
    • Start focusing on the employee’s development
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of the onboarding process
    • Make adjustments to the process accordingly

    Download our Free Editable Checklist

    Let’s wrap up with a quick recap.


    Now over to you

    Successful onboarding helps new hires settle into a new job and work environment. As well as welcoming them on board, you arm them with the tools and knowledge they need to thrive in your organization. 

    A well-planned onboarding process shows new employees that they’re in good hands. What’s more, it gives them a clear roadmap of where they are and where they need to be in the first few months as they settle in. 

    Giving clear expectations and training right off the bat gives them the best chance of success in your organization. 

    On top of feeling a stronger sense of belonging, they will learn the ropes quicker and become a loyal member of your company. 

    So, what are the three main ingredients of a successful employee onboarding program?

    • The right tools (you’ll need a powerful LMS if you want to onboard employees virtually)
    • A solid plan (a new employee checklist will keep you on the right track)
    • Plenty of team collaboration from the main stakeholders

    With these three pillars in place, you’re ready to kick your employee onboarding experience up a notch. 

    The world of corporate learning and development moves fast. It’s what we love most about it. If you want to stay on top of the latest trends, terms, and training tools, check out our glossary

    Thanks for reading.