Employee onboarding

A complete guide to onboard new hires. Discover the onboarding definition, process, cool tips and the best practices when it comes to onboarding new employees

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding is a simple term, but with such a complex meaning. A formal definition may not be the best way to comprehend the intricacy of this word, but you need to know that it refers to the process of introducing a newly hired employee within an organization.

Analysis: According to Bersin Research1, 4 percent of new employees leave a job after a disastrous first day and 22 percent of staff turnovers occur in the first 45 days of employment. These losses can add up, given estimates that losing an employee in the first year costs at least three times that employee's salary.

[1] Bersin by Deloitte Research: Onboarding, On-Ramp for Employee Success

Basics onboarding presentation

For those of you that like videos, and you would like to get a straight to the point intro to the topic, Gregg Learning explores in 7 minutes the HR basics of employee onboarding by unpacking three rules to effectively integrate employees into your organization.

"The speed of the boss is the speed of the team" - Lee Iacocca

Benefits of Onboarding

Onboarding new employees is a crucial process for any company and it has a lot of advantages:

  • A higher level of job performance
  • Greater engagement to the organization
  • Motivated and satisfied employees
  • Shortens the learning curve
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced rate of turnover — with associated cost savings
  • Establish role clarity
  • Boosts job satisfaction
  • Increases organizational commitment.

“Beyond the challenges of recruitment and retention, productivity is perhaps the most important reason onboarding has taken on such immense strategic relevance for progressive firms.” - Mark Stein and Lilleth Christiansen, authors of “Successful Onboarding”

It is important to look also at the costs of poor onboarding, as there are four areas impacted:

  • Financial impacted
  • Team performance
  • Loss of key talent
  • Reputation and customer impact.

Insight: A survey put together by global organizational advisory firm Korn Ferry reveals2 that “98% of executives say employee onboarding is crucial to employee retention”.

[2] Korn Ferry: : 90 Percent of Executives Say New Hire Retention an Issue

Note: The opposite of onboarding is offboarding. Offboarding is the process when an employee leaves the company.

“Pay attention to your culture and your hires from the very beginning."
Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn

What is the Onboarding Process for a new hire?

If your organization has a strong onboarding process, this will help in welcoming, retaining, and engaging new employees. Successful onboarding is about planning with the employee in mind: what he/she needs to know and do in order to have a successful start. It doesn’t begin when your employee enters into the office on the first day. However, the process will continue until they are fully settled in their job.

Moreover, a successful company onboarding process must reflect the four C’s of onboarding in your organization: compliance, clarification, culture and connection.

Note: Organizations with a standardized onboarding process experience 62% greater new hire productivity, along with 50% greater new hire retention3. Ron Carucci, co-founder and managing partner at Navalent

[3] HBR: To Retain New Hires, Spend More Time Onboarding Them

Onboarding steps

Find below eight of the key steps you need to do as part of the onboarding process:

  1. The recruitment process, which includes: the job offer, salary negotiation and hiring paperwork. After the contract is made, welcoming the new hire is a must. You must send some emails regarding to the new hire and explain what he/she needs to do and introduce the company.
  2. Job orientation, which includes: policy and culture training, introduction to team members and other key staff, health and safety training, physical IT access rights, desk and mobile phone allocation etc.
  3. Providing the employee handbook including the new hire’s signature, acknowledging its content
  4. Benefits paperwork.
  5. Job training.
  6. An orientation of the office.
  7. Introduction to tools used.
  8. Executive introductions — direct team manager, HR manager and the CEO.

The Trello team put together a nice board with some additional cool onboarding ideas. You should check them out.

As an HR Manager, employee engagement is important for you, so you need to be proactive and follow-up. Check how the new hire is doing. Ask if she has any difficulties, how she is getting used with the organization and if needed schedule some additional meetings. This will create a stronger bond with the employee, it will stimulate commitment and professionalism.

According to HBR, onboarding is linked to administrative arrangements, business orientation, legal and procedural formalities, expectations and culture.

Creating a successful onboarding plan

While hiring is time-consuming and costly, investing into onboarding the new employees will be reflected into their productivity and work effectiveness. A solid onboarding plan can shorten the learning curve for the new hires and solidify the company culture.

In building an onboarding plan, as HR manager you should answer yourself a set of questions:

  • When does the onboarding start?
  • When does the onboarding process end?
  • What is the best way to communicate the company culture and what is the work environment?
  • How to engage HR, team managers and your co-workers?
  • What are the aims of the onboarding for the new employee?
  • How to gain feedback and improve the process for next time?

Note: In an HBR feature2, Never eat alone author Keith Ferrazzi, highlights some impressive data on the importance of successful onboarding:

  • Nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months
  • Some 23% leave before their first anniversary
  • Turnover costs are estimated to range between 100% and 300% of the replaced employee’s salary
  • New employees typically take eight months to reach full productivity.

[2] HBR: Technology Can Save Onboarding from Itself

Onboarding checklist

Explore below our onboarding process checklist from pre-arrival untill the end of the first year. Don’t forget that there is no one-size-fits-all and this template needs to be personalized according to your organizational culture, and be fit for the new hire role. By crafting such a plan in your organization you will ensure that no steps are forgotten, your employees will be fully equipped, guided and have a toolkit to help them succeed in the new company.

Example: Learn from successful onboarding program: Percolate, a leading Content Marketing Platform5

[5] Firstround: The Only Onboarding Timeline You’ll Need: From Offer to First Friday

#Before day 1Day 1First weekFirst month
ScopePreparation and purposeWelcome the new hireOrientation and LearningEngage and collaborate
  • Assign supervisor
  • Role overview: responsibilities, KPIs, milestones
  • Prepare the office
  • Software access
  • Prepare the job description
  • Prepare the benefits package
  • Send an email regarding the job orientation
  • Call the new hire
  • Tour of the office
  • Team introduction
  • Tech systems
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Schedule settings
  • Project assignment
  • Confirm required training
  • Job orientation
  • Arrange personal meeting with C-Level managers
  • First company internal training
  • Training for the tools
  • First weekly team meeting
  • Initial assignment
  • Daily chat to touch base with new hire
  • 5-day checkup
  • Introduce the first project
  • Discuss the expectations
  • Organizational alignment
  • Stakeholder one-to-one
  • Clarify work related doubts
  • One to one meetings with colleagues
  • Role-specific training
  • Get feedback
  • Cross-team introductions
#First 3 monthsFirst 6 monthsFirst year
ScopeBuild and doPerformReview and grow
  • Independence and more collaboration
  • Set regular expectations
  • Measure - KPIs, milestones
  • Check-in with Manager
  • Check-in with HR
  • Conduct performance review
  • Review performance goals
  • Review professional development goals
  • Celebrate the milestone
  • Conduct the annual review process
  • Discuss the employee expectations and role
  • Discuss the skills and knowledge of the employee
  • Plan for the next year

Tip:We have prepared an onboarding checklist template for you to download instanly.

Gregg Learning summarizes once again the onboarding process in an easy to follow educational video.

Survey: Forty-four percent of employees and 60 percent of managers consider4 that mastering new processes and procedures tops their list of concerns when joining a company.

[4] Accountemps: Greatest Challenges When Starting a New Job

Job orientation

Job orientation is defined as the process that enables the employer to welcome the new employees to the company, while also giving them the needed information to start the job and an insight into the company’s culture.

Onboarding is often be confused with orientation. This is usually happening in smaller companies, where the HR expertise is limited. Let's clarify the differences between these 2 human resources terms.

Onboarding vs orientation

You don't have a choice here. You can't have one without the other. These 2 processes serve different purposes and your new employees need to be part of both.


  • Target - role within the department
  • Duration - series of events
  • Setup - on-the-job
  • Subject - specific for every new hire
  • Result - prepared to contribute to the company


  • Target - role within the company
  • Duration - a one-time event
  • Setup - meeting room
  • Subject - company's mission and culture
  • Result - prepared for training

Formal vs informal onboarding

Although HR experts argue about the length of the onboarding process, they see eye to eye on the following: it starts the moment a job offer is accepted and it ends when a new hire is totally integrated into the organization and fully productive. Depending on their size, culture or vision, every company experiences different types of onboarding:

The formal approach

You may find it in a large company, with hundreds of employees. Those who support this type of onboarding believe that using specific procedures to support the newly hired is essential for him/her to adjust to the organization’s culture. The sooner they become part of the team, the faster will they be able to help the company succeed.

The informal approach

Also known as “sink or swim” is mostly favored by startups and small businesses. This general idea is that new employees will need to find out on their own what is expected of them. There will be some shadowing and one-on-one meetings with direct supervisors and team colleagues, but that’s it. This type could generate turnover matters.

Tip:To help HR managers, with the paperwork, we are sharing our free to download Employee information form.

Onboarding Best Practices

Eliminate unnecessary procedures

If you want the new employees to get “on board” as soon as possible, do not overwhelm them with tons of paperwork. In order to save time during the onboarding process and avoid human error, create an onboarding checklist with all the steps you need to take and all the documents they need to sign and acknowledge.

Engage the team in the process

Welcome the new employee. The new team-mate will want to feel nice and appreciated by the members of the team they will work with. So, do not stop at introductions with the CEO and the direct supervisor. Set up a 15-minute coffee break with 2 of the most cheerful members of the team to talk about the way they see the company and their work. Also, consider assigning a mentor for the first days or first week.

Don’t neglect the FUN

Show the newly hired that your company knows how to have fun. Besides the paperwork, desk allocation or introductions, you can surprise them with a funny history of the company, a customized welcome gift waiting for them at the desk or a fun lunch with the CEO. These types of activities will show you are willing to offer the best, being the employer so that they feel appreciated.

“We want to focus on creating a memorable experience for the new hire in the first year rather than processing them in the first few weeks.”
Cheryl Hughey, Director of Onboarding at Southwest Airlines

Onboarding Software

When it comes to software, you would have various choices.

  • If you are cost conscious and want to stay with the basics then go for Excel or Spreadsheets for saving core data or Word files saved in the cloud with key relevant employee information such as the employee information form.
  • Use onboarding tools like WorkBright, Sapling or ClearCompany.
  • If you have a large organization, we encourage checking HR tools that can cover everything from onboarding to exit interviews such as Namely or Kronos.

Report: “Companies that succeed at onboarding and employee retention experience 2.5 times the revenue growth and 1.9 times the profit margin”5

[4] BCG:Realizing the Value of People Management: From Capability to Profitability

Onboarding Flow Chart

The Creately team put together this flow-chart with all the milestones and key steps from pre-arrival to the 12-month review in a simple visual diagram.


Hopefully, the guidelines provided in this article will be of great help in designing your onboarding process, adapted to your company’s needs and culture. Remember that happy employees lead to a successful business, so make investments in this area and go out of your way to make newcomers feel welcome. Offer them the information they need in order to become productive right away.

“Human resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.”

Steve Wynn

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