Onboarding is the process of helping a new hire familiarize themself and integrate with the company culture and values. If done right, it can help new team members truly understand their job roles and their responsibilities, and know what to expect.
But there’s more to onboarding than this. Read further to discover why onboarding matters and how to put it into practice effectively.
What Is Employee Onboarding?
Simply put, employee onboarding is the introduction of new hires into the work environment.
During the onboarding process, employees:
- Complete the necessary paperwork for labor compliance
- Are equipped with the necessary tools
- Learn what is expected of them
- Get to know their team member and their roles
Onboarding is important because it directly affects employee retention. Unfortunately, only 43% of employees reported an onboarding process that was more than just an orientation day.
According to the Brandon Hall Group, an effective onboarding process will improve retention by 82% and productivity by 70%.
Onboarding vs. orientation
The main difference between orientation and onboarding is that orientation is a formal event that introduces the new hire to the company’s values, mission, structure, and policies.
This happens during the employee’s first week and helps them familiarize themself with the workspace.
Meanwhile, onboarding is a strategic process that lasts anywhere from two months to a new hire’s first year. The goal is to help new employees gather
the behavior, knowledge, and skills to become a productive member of the organization.
4 Phases of Onboarding
Unlike what some may think, onboarding starts the moment a potential candidate accepts an offer letter and goes all the way till the new hire is fully integrated into the company. That’s why it’s vital to get the phases of onboarding right.
Discover these stages in the following paragraphs:
Phase 1: Pre-boarding
Pre-boarding is the very first step in any onboarding process, which means that the employee goes through a checklist that serves to introduce them to the company.
This onboarding checklist may include a list of handy resources, an employee handbook, or benefits package information.
The goal of this phase is to:
- Assign an onboarding buddy
- Establish expectations
- Take care of new hire paperwork
- Discover how to collaborate in the future
- Create a great first impression by providing a welcome kit
Phase 2: Orientation
Orientation is when you’ll formally introduce the new employee to co-workers and management.
Orientation helps workers transition into their new roles and familiarize themselves with team members, workplace culture, and policies.
During employee orientation, you can do the following onboarding activities:
- Review safety, health, and other company policies
- Give a guided tour of the workplace if onsite or send a welcome email if you have remote employees
- Distribute company-issued equipment
- Engage the new hire with the company culture with a welcoming event or activity
Phase 3: Training
Employee training is a vital step in the onboarding program and it can influence employee turnover. Many businesses expect new hires to know how to do their job on their first day and don’t give them the support they need to be successful.
In this phase, business leaders need to clearly outline what’s expected of new recruits through seminars, workshops, and shadowing. Be prepared to answer some of their questions, such as:
- What are the expectations?
- How can I share my ideas?
- Who will I be reporting to?
- How often do you want me to give you updates?
- Can you tell me about the company’s vision?
By letting recruiters ask these questions, you foster a culture of positive employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Phase 4: Transitioning to the new role
In this last phase of the onboarding, new hires should be ready to transition from rookies to productive team members.
To get there, managers should set clear expectations and SMART goals to help new recruits visualize their success. The acronym stands for:
These are all essential traits for setting an objective, while also helping you realistically evaluate what you’re trying to achieve and what actions you need to take to reach that goal.
After making these goals clear, make sure to give employees enough time to adjust to the work environment and prepare them for their next task.
5 Cs of Onboarding: Best Onboarding Practices
A good onboarding experience maximizes a new hire’s potential and sets them up for success.
To keep employees engaged, it’s important to know the 5 Cs of onboarding. This is a scientific framework that can help build a strong foundation for an effective employee onboarding process when put into practice.
Here are the onboarding best practices you should keep in mind:
At the most basic level, compliance refers to ensuring that a new employee knows and understands company policies, confidentiality requirements, and other relevant policies.
It’s important to set these expectations from day one so they are familiar with the rules and don’t feel overwhelmed by what may be required of them.
Compliance also means equipping new employees with the tools and software they need to work.
Compliance also deals with serious issues, such as discrimination and harassment in the workplace. As a business leader, you must not compromise on your rules and ensure you create a safe environment for your team.
Clarification is all about how well new hires understand their roles and job responsibilities. The HR manager should take the time to review the expectations, to set goals and objectives, show them who to speak to if they have questions, etc.
One thing is for sure: a new employee will naturally have many questions, so be prepared to answer them.
Some basic questions may look like these:
- Who are my team members?
- What is my role in the company?
- Who should I report to?
- How does the organization work?
- Where can I find more information about company policies?
Author’s Note: Keep in mind that your role is to help new recruits feel equipped and confident in their choice and ability to do the required work.
Corporate culture refers to the shared values, behaviors, and attitudes present in a work environment. The new hire has already been exposed to your company’s culture during the interview, but they need to be integrated into it.
A great way for a new recruit to get familiar with and embrace a company culture is to get access to thoughtful branded merchandise.
Welcome kits, in particular, made with high-quality branded swag can serve as great instruments for reinforcing company culture and values. Furthermore, it will make the new hire feel like a true part of the team—and boost employee satisfaction.
Relationships between employees matter. In fact, employees are more likely to be engaged at work if they have a strong relationship with their hiring manager.
A sense of belonging can enhance productivity and the employee will feel more confident about collaborating and coming up with new ideas. The new recruit will feel like they’ve joined the right place.
Author’s Tip: Try to plan fun activities that bridge the gaps between new recruits, co-workers, and management—virtually or in person.
Feedback is critical to the success of your onboarding process, improving retention, and unlocking a better employee experience.
That’s why frequent check-ins are required to ensure new hires receive and can ask for feedback during the employee journey.
It also helps companies know if they’ve done something wrong or right since they can’t predict what every new employee will need or experience.
Use an employee onboarding software or schedule frequent meetups to:
- Uncover gaps or barriers
- Address questions or concerns
- Track and measure engagement over time
- Improve the onboarding experience
Now that you know the 5 Cs of onboarding, you’re ready to tackle this challenge and create wonderful experiences for your new hires.
Over to You
Onboarding is more than just hiring new people for your business. A good onboarding strategy will make a new hire feel more appreciated and more compelled to stay with the company.
It’s essential for maximizing an employee’s performance potential in the role—and ensuring good retention rates.
Want to learn more? Check out our other HR guides in our HR Glossary.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Check out the FAQs for employee onboarding.
Who is responsible for onboarding?
Onboarding should be a team effort including the hiring supervisor, the manager or CEO, the HR department, and the onboarding buddy.
We might think that the Human Resources (HR) department is the only team responsible for onboarding, but they’re not the only party involved.
How long does onboarding take?
Generally, it’s recommended that the onboarding process takes at least three months but, for increased engagement, it should last throughout the employee’s first year.