What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of  integrating the new hire into the workplace and laying the foundation for them to succeed at work. The traditional onboarding lens treats onboarding as a one time event but to reap the benefits of employee onboarding, it has to be a continued effort which extends to a month or even a year depending on the role of the new hire. 

Ideally, there are four phases in onboarding new employees. They are Initial development, Ongoing development, Retention, and Separation. An effective onboarding program would start at least 2 weeks prior to the new hire’s joining date and ensure that you build a real relationship with your new hire while steering clear of any anxieties or ambiguities they have. 

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Employee onboarding vs Employee orientation

Employee Onboarding
Employee Orientation

It’s a series of events that equips an employee and helps them to perform in their job. Orientation is a part of onboarding.

It’s widely accepted as a one-time event during which an employee is welcomed to the company or introduced to the company.

Covers role level specifics - introducing them to team members, getting their network credentials setup, exposing them to processes, etc.

Employee orientation program covers company level specifics- vision, mission, policies, values, leadership, and culture.

Steps in the employee onboarding process

Roll out an offer

As soon as the hiring decision is made, roll out an attractive offer.

  • Start with a phone call, keep it personal and share your enthusiasm.

  • Thank them for choosing you. (Yes, it isn't just you choosing them, they are choosing you too!)

  • Quickly follow it up with a clear offer letter - salary details, a slightly flexible date of joining, and a point of contact for any further questions.

  • Have a conversation about the perks and benefits

  • If there are any salary negotiations, complete them courteously. 

  • Tell them how long the offer stands.


2-3 weeks before the new hire joins

As soon as your new hires sign the offer, start engaging and connecting. This is the period in which you can build a rapport and start preparing them for their new role. 

  • Finish up all the paperwork or formalities during this time and save their day 1 for more impactful interactions.

  • Put together an impressive welcome kit - welcome letter, a t-shirt, company mug or nice book that kindle inspiration, office map, and clear to-do or schedule for their first week.

  • Get IT to set up their laptop, network credentials and email. 

  • Remind their managers and team of the new hire arrival so they can be prepared.

The first day

Meet them or have someone greet them as soon as they step in. Be well organized, show up on time and avoid having them waiting.

  • Give them a quick office tour - cafeteria, different departments, rest rooms, play area, etc.
  • Introduce a buddy - someone who will hand hold during the first few weeks and show them around.
  • Arrange for 1-1s with their managers and then walk them to their team.
  • Have an in-person formal onboarding where you can share an overview of your company’s vision and mission, the different products, services and teams. 
  • Use an org chart to show them who is who.

The first week

Get them added to the appropriate email groups.

  • Managers can interact and set unambiguous short and long term goals for their first three months, six months and one year.

  • Provide feedback on their initial tasks and highlight scope for learning, development and growth.

  • Schedule informal 1-1 with teammates, so they can quickly grasp what everyone’s doing and what the team is like.

  • Check-in with their buddies and mentors to understand how the new employee is doing.

The first 90 days 

  • Have frequent check-ins to see how they are doing - are they enjoying their job?  have they started connecting with the team? Do they understand what is expected of them on the job? Were there any unpleasant surprises?

  • Ask for feedback on the onboarding process, both formally and informally, and address any concerns they have.

A quick employee onboarding checklist 

Why is the employee onboarding process  important?


Helps make a great first impression

As a company, it’s important for you to make a good first impression with your employees. It’s something they’ll be left with for a very long time. It sets the precedent for everything you are going to say, do or expect.  There are a handful of companies out there that invest in employee onboarding and reap great ROIs like employee experience and magnanimous customer service delivered by their happy employees. One such example is the Zappos onboarding program

First impressions start forming as early as during their screening process or the interview phase with you. It’s built on very simple things such as arriving punctually for interviews, arriving prepared, passing on updates as and when necessary without keeping the candidate in the dark, offering them a break or a snack if they are expected to hang around for longer, etc. 

Gives them a pleasant first day

Most first days are about sitting in a conference room and waiting for someone to arrive in the first few hours. Then being led to a team and pointed to a laptop and maybe a few introductions. But with a proper new hire onboarding plan in place you can give your employees a memorable first day. One that shows their first day in your company is important to you as much as it is to them. Showing them that you prepared to receive them tells them that they are significant and that the organization values the employee’s choice of choosing the organization and their presence.

Be thoughtful. You can show your thoughtfulness in things as small as introductions. Instead of introducing them to their team or peers on day one. Inform the team about them, hand over some interesting facts about the newcomer with which the team can start striking conversations.

Quickly ramps them up for success

New employees take as much as 90 days to settle in and start contributing significantly. This can, however, be reduced if they have an onboarding process that equips them with the friendships, processes, and resources that they would require as they settle in.

Introduce them to the people they will be working with. It’s not enough to just walk them across the team and tell people their name and designation. Hear their stories, maybe make them write it down. Tell your stories - the ones from the company, the team, and the individuals. Then tie them together.

Point them to the resources they’ll need - it may be the communication apps you use, team’s to-dos, the knowledge of who to go to for what, etc.

Build a culture where peers volunteer to help newcomers settle in and start belonging. It’s very different when achieved as a team. Employee onboarding is not an HR or manager-only task. You will notice that when done collectively your new hires settle in faster and start contributing much earlier than they are expected to. 

Helps them make new friends (directly impacting retention)

What attractive compensations and benefits can’t achieve, social circles can. Good friendships make employees think twice before leaving. 

Matching your new hires with a peer in a buddy program can help them have someone to introduce people to them and vice versa. Create opportunities for them to interact with each other beyond the work set up. Maybe make it a thing in the team for everyone to take the new employee out for a coffee or break within the first three months. Introduce them to people with the same interests as them. Introduce them to any clubs functioning in your company - books, movies, etc. After all, an employee spends a huge chunk of their awake hours with the people at work and it wouldn't hurt to be friends with them.  

Establishes the values and culture of the organization

Your formal onboarding process plays an important role in sustaining the values and the culture of your organization as you grow. You may have already discussed or checked for culture-fit in your interviews with the candidate but the first few days are when you can in action and words establish what you stand for. 

Introduce them to the values you uphold, give them short movies or stories on how people achieve it in their everyday roles. Otherwise, it would just be in handbooks and on the walls.

Clarifies the new hire’s role

A lot of a screening process and an interview only look for what the candidate is capable of. It’s only when they get on the job, they get a real sense of what they ought to do on the job. 

You can start by repeating or clarifying what their day-to-day work life will involve - their role, responsibilities, significance in the bigger picture and more. You can have the manager talk to them, and also someone in a similar designation or role, so they can get some first-hand stories and people's experiences.

Helps engage them

Your employees bring their best to work only when they are really engaged or in other words involved. Onboarding gives you an opportunity to engage them in the processes, engage them with their teammates or peers, and invites them to partake in the vision and mission of the organization. 

Encourages open communication and feedback

Onboarding encourages your new hires to connect, communicate and speak up from their very early days. It helps them overcome fears of being wrong or being judged.


Best New Employee Onboarding Practices that every HR should Follow

1. Start early

Effective Onboarding practice for today’s workforce is to begin the onboarding process as soon as the candidate accepts your offer. There are a number of steps you can follow to get started with your employee onboarding and get done before your new hire comes into office. This includes document collection and verification, sending out blogs and documents to help them understand the culture and practices of the company, helping them come up with an interesting introduction about themselves to share with your employees and much more.

If you can get done with the forms and formalities, you can save their first for something more lively and meaningful.

2. Plan beyond day 1

The onboarding process does not end with a few onboarding sessions of showcasing company culture, values, practices and then pointing them to their desk. That would just be bombarding them with information. Like we discussed above, keep at it until you have achieved and measured the objectives of your onboarding.

A good practice would be to keep checking up on your new hire for at least a month. Talk to them every now and then. Ask your new hires what they feel and want from their new team and role, and try to help them out until they have completely settled in. This will also directly impact the employees' time to productivity. Have one-on-one conversations once a month for at least six months or a year, anchor the relationship between your new hire and the company. 

3. Generoulsy invest in some cool swag 

Get a box of some nicely branded company swags which are appealing and welcoming. Owning things that register your brand is something a new hire will flaunt and consider as a connection. All things with your company name and logo will make the employee connect with the company better. Going back home, they would feel most welcomed and part of the company before starting work. Plus, it never hurt anyone to flaunt free office goodies, right?

4. Get the leadership team involved

Arrange onboarding sessions with your leadership team. Have your leaders share their passion, vision and mission with the new people. In other words, get them to share why they do what they do and how they do it. If you can’t do it each time you onboard new hires, at least do it in batches, maybe once in two months or three months but make sure that all your new employees have interacted with the leaders within their first three months.

a) This builds the conviction they need to carry out their job with all their heart and mind.

b) It helps them quickly align with the company's purpose of existence.

c)Makes employees feel truly welcome.

d)It inspires them to make a difference in their company-given roles.

e) Also creates a sense of belonging very quickly.  

5. Have a detailed employee onboarding template

Show them what they’ll be doing on their first day, first week and maybe even the first 60 days. But before that, make sure you have a template for their onboarding. You could be doing this with an employee onboarding excel templates that are easily available on the internet. However, it is always safe and wise to use employee onboarding software. This will add cadence to everything from employee onboarding training to best employee experiences. You can even consider having a detailed plan set up on a Trello board. Again, this will directly impact time to productivity, positively. Your new hires will feel informed and ready to take on what’s coming. The practice also ensures that they have a lot of clarity on what they’ll be doing and makes them feel significant in their new team.