The term ‘onboarding’ refers to the steps used to integrate new employees into an organization. Included are activities that assist new employees in completing the new recruitment process as well as gaining an understanding of the organization’s structure, culture, vision, mission, and values.

Frequently, the terms “onboarding” and “orientation” is used interchangeably. While orientation is necessary for completing paperwork and performing other routine tasks, onboarding is a comprehensive process that involves management and other employees and can take up to 12 months to complete.

While all new employees are onboarded, the quality of the onboarding is critical. Too frequently, onboarding entails handing a new employee a bundle of forms and having a human resources professional walk the employee around the premises, making ad hoc introductions. When onboarding is done properly, however, it lays the groundwork for both the employee and the employer’s long-term success. It can boost productivity, increase employee loyalty and engagement, and assist employees in establishing successful careers with the new organization.

Gallup Case Study

While only 12% of employees felt their company did an excellent job onboarding them, those employees were nearly three times as likely to say they have the best job possible. In aggregate, only 29% of new hires felt prepared and supported to succeed in their new role. This indicates that there is considerable room for improvement.

Other research consistently demonstrates a positive correlation between engaged employees and a company’s profitability, turnover rate, safety record, absenteeism, product quality, and customer satisfaction. An effective onboarding strategy provides an excellent opportunity to increase employee engagement by, for example, fostering a supportive relationship between new hires and management, reiterating the company’s commitment to professional development, and demonstrating that management recognizes employees’ abilities.

In a similar vein, an employee value proposition (EVP) articulates the benefits that employees receive from working for a particular organization. It embodies the promises made during recruitment and is reflected in the company culture on a daily basis. Onboarding exposes employees to the possibility of an organization’s EVP being realized or not.

The Program’s Components

While an onboarding program can be designed in a variety of ways, certain components are mandatory:

Pre-Boarding

Certain organizations wish to initiate the onboarding process following the acceptance of the offer but prior to the start date. Employers may wish to develop strategies to integrate new employees into the organization in these instances. The following are some examples:

  • Inviting the employee (and possibly his or her family) to tour the facility (this visit may include a house hunt and community tour if relocation is involved) (this visit may include a house-hunting trip and community tour if relocation is involved).
  • Providing information about the organization to employees via mail or email, such as benefits information, organizational charts, and company literature.
  • Sending the recruit a care package containing cookies, coffee, a coffee mug emblazoned with the company logo, or other company-branded items.
  • Assigning a buddy to the new employee who contacts him or her prior to the first day to answer basic questions (e.g., What is the dress code? What should I anticipate on my first day? Where do employees typically dine?).

New Hire Orientation

New-hire orientation is designed to acquaint new employees with the organization’s structure, vision, mission, and values; to review the employee handbook and highlight key policies; to complete required employee paperwork; to review pertinent administrative procedures, and to provide mandatory training. Because this process can be overwhelming for a new employee, it is best to spread it out over a few days.

Laying the Groundwork

The unique pillars of an organization’s culture, mission, employee value proposition, brand, and other relevant foundations must be consistently lived and communicated throughout the onboarding process; new hires will not absorb this information in the first week or month; it will take months to learn and apply.

Gallup recommends that onboarding take the better part of a year and that five critical questions be addressed during that time in order to create an exceptional onboarding program that prepares employees for success.

Questions associated with onboarding

1) What are our core values here?

2) What are my core skills?

3) What are my tasks, duties, and responsibilities?”

4) How many associates do I have?

5) How do I envision my future in the Organization?

Gallup’s study details how an organization can address these critical questions in a way that supports the onboarding foundations.

Buddy mentoring and assistance

Numerous organizations have a formal or informal mentoring or buddy system in place to assist new hires throughout the onboarding process. Mentors and buddies may be selected by the department manager or human resources professional or may be volunteers. Recent hires are assigned to be buddies in some organizations because they have firsthand knowledge of what has worked best for them (e.g., the hot buttons for those in executive leadership or getting projects approved).

Mentors and buddies may work with a new employee for a day, a week, a month, or even a year, depending on the length of the formal onboarding program and the personal relationship that develops, especially in more informal arrangements.

Reboarding

Whether employees are returning from an extended period of absence (e.g., a layoff, medical leave, or secondment) or are undergoing an internal transfer or promotion, “reboarding” refers to informing them about current and new projects; acclimating them to new team cultures and relationships; and assisting them in understanding different job success expectations.

Due to the fact that reboarding employees are already familiar with the organization’s culture, benefits, and administrative processes, reboarding success is contingent on the manager and team members successfully integrating the employee into his or her role and team culture.

For example, an employee returning from a few months of medical leave would need to meet only new coworkers, familiarise himself or herself with any new or changed company policies, and stay updated on current projects, among other things. To demonstrate team support, a welcome-back gathering could be planned.

Transferring an employee from one division to another may require additional intensive training on the division’s or team’s processes, the employee’s role in ongoing and new projects, the roles of other team members, the employee’s specific short-term goals, and other meaningful instructions.

Responsibilities

While the phrase “onboarding is everyone’s responsibility” is frequently used in organizations, onboarding programs will never succeed without an actionable checklist and accountability. While the onboarding responsibilities of each organization are unique, the following guidelines apply to allocating onboarding responsibilities and accountability:

  • Human resources department: completion and collection of employee documentation (e.g., forms, benefits); review of work hours, organization’s history and background, and organizational chart; facility tour.
  • Training department: facilitating lectures and discussions about the company’s culture, goals, and objectives; reviewing company videos
  • Supervisory position. Discussing job duties and responsibilities, work behaviors, and organizational standards and expectations; introducing team members and other organization members; touring the department; and reviewing other departmental roles and relationships.
  • Collaborators. Discuss how the group operates as a unit, how to complete tasks, how to locate/request tools and equipment, and where to seek assistance.
  • Executive team: Assisting employees in grasping the organization’s mission, vision, values, strategic goals, and objectives; reviewing roles and responsibilities at a higher level; elaborating on organizational culture.
  • Mentor/buddy: Assisting team members and others in the organization by orienting them to the organization, reviewing informal rules and policies, and resolving day-to-day issues.

Adapting Onboarding Processes for Diverse Audiences

All employees, regardless of level or status, will require some form of onboarding, as this is how an organization communicates its culture, rules, and policies to all employees; however, the process can be customized to meet the unique needs of various employees groups. Customization enables you to tailor your onboarding program to the EVP stated during recruitment.

Executive Onboarding

Executive onboarding necessitates concentrated integration efforts, such as assisting the new leader in establishing alignment with stakeholders and building relationships with the rest of the team.

Directors

All supervisory and management employees will require not only a review of the employee handbook and company policies and programs but also training on how to administer or lead these various programs and policies. Ongoing training on how to answer their direct reports’ five onboarding questions will be critical to success. Employers who learn how to coach employees, particularly new hires, as part of their manager responsibilities will be able to live up to their employee value proposition. Both new and experienced managers can enhance their skills and readiness to lead teams by completing SHRM’s People Manager Qualification (PMQ) online.

Remote Workers

Employees who work remotely will need guidance on how regular check-ins will be conducted, as well as such details as the use of company equipment for non-business purposes, time monitoring, privacy at home, and communications challenges. What behaviors are encouraged or expected in order to fit into the organizational and team cultures should be explained in detail.