Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into a company and familiarizing them with their position, job requirements, company policies, and culture.
Onboarding helps new employees become effective team members through education, training, networking, and hands-on activities. Onboarding can be virtual, in-person, or a combination, depending on the employee’s position and location.
Virtual vs. in-person onboarding
Virtual onboarding often accommodates geographically dispersed teams and relies on asynchronous tasks, remote interaction, and digital resources.
In-person onboarding is often more effective for specialized or entry-level roles and involves face-to-face interaction, hands-on training, and direct guidance from colleagues.
What is the purpose of onboarding?
Onboarding introduces new hires to every aspect of their new role and company and equips them for success. Onboarding helps employees feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to excel from the beginning.
An onboarding program helps employees get comfortable in their new setting, meet their teammates, understand their roles and responsibilities, and learn company policies and protocols.
Why is onboarding important?
A well-executed onboarding program lays the groundwork for strong engagement, minimized turnover, increased employee retention, and long-term job satisfaction.
A successful onboarding program focuses on the following:
- Education. New hires get a clear understanding of the company's mission, values, and policies, setting the stage for alignment and engagement.
- Relationships. New hires meet colleagues and extended teams, which fosters a supportive and collaborative environment.
- Familiarization. A new employee learns internal and external processes, expectations, tools, and tasks, gaining perspective on being an effective, long-term contributor.
- Integration. A positive onboarding experience gives new employees a sense of value and belonging, increasing job satisfaction and productivity.
What does the onboarding process entail?
Onboarding is a strategic investment that begins when a candidate accepts a job offer and continues until they fully contribute and thrive in the company.
Onboarding is a dynamic process, and while the general framework might be similar, companies should tailor their onboarding process to each new employee's specific needs and unique roles.
Some common steps in the onboarding process include the following:
- Preboarding. Preboarding begins once the new hire accepts their job offer. Before the employee’s first day of work, employers often send new employees company resources such as an employee handbook, culture manual, new hire paperwork, and payroll and benefits information.
- Orientation. Orientation typically starts on the employee’s first day. This process may involve a tour of the office if onboarding is in-person, introductions with colleagues and managers, and a walk-through of the company’s policies and procedures.
- Training. Training usually begins on the first day of work and lasts a few months. Managers, supervisors, and colleagues teach new hires the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to learn their roles and carry out their work.
- Integration. Integration occurs in the first several weeks once the new hire is set up. They complete mandatory training, meet extended team members, and familiarize themselves with all the company’s tools, programs, workflow, and resources.
- Support. Employers should provide new employees with ongoing support, feedback, and opportunities as they integrate into their roles and the company. Managers should schedule regular check-ins to reflect on the employee’s workload and progress and set goals and expectations for their career growth.
How long does the onboarding process take?
The length of the onboarding process varies by employee, job role, and company. Onboarding may last anywhere from several weeks to a full year—ultimately, employers should be thorough and ensure their new employee has the resources they need to succeed in their work.
Onboarding ends once the employee is comfortable in their role, familiar with team members and processes, and can complete tasks with minimal oversight.
Onboarding best practices
There are many ways to achieve a successful onboarding experience. Some best practices for onboarding include:
- Tailor the experience. While standard onboarding topics like policies, processes, and responsibilities are essential, personalization fosters engagement and empowers the new hires to hit the ground running. Create meaningful connections through one-on-one meetings, collaboratively set personalized goals, and offer dedicated support for navigating benefit packages.
- Use onboarding software. A centralized platform makes onboarding easier for the HR team, managers, and new hires. Onboarding software streamlines and simplifies onboarding by automating workflows and eliminating errors through seamless integration with existing Human Resources Information System (HRIS) solutions.
- Set expectations. Set clear expectations that empower the new hire to engage and excel. Outline daily tasks, team dynamics, performance benchmarks, communication styles, learning opportunities, and career goals.
- Build relationships. Involve multiple team members in the new employee’s onboarding experience. This involvement builds trust and confidence and provides opportunities for collaboration and growth.
- Provide feedback. Providing constructive feedback helps new employees understand what they are doing right and what they can improve and ultimately strengthens the employer/employee relationship. Schedule regular meetings to discuss their progress, offer feedback, and allow them to ask questions.
- Comply with global differences and regulations. When onboarding international employees, pay attention to cultural differences and time zones. You must also understand the onboarding requirements in each country, follow local data privacy laws, and comply with country-specific employment legislation.
Read also: Unique Onboarding Ideas for Remote Employees
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