What is Employee Onboarding?

employee onboarding

It’s more than new employee orientation

You’ve spent months browsing job candidates and interviewing potential employees before narrowing it down to one possible new hire. After some negotiations, you seal the deal and this person accepts an offer to join your company. Cue the applause and celebrations!

However, your work isn’t quite done yet. Finding and hiring new employees is just the first step in strengthening your workforce. Employee onboarding, when done effectively, helps new hires assimilate into your company properly.

If your company sets aside one day to greet new hires, set up their desks, and make sure their email addresses are functioning, that’s not exactly the onboarding process we had in mind. (That’s actually new employee orientation.) Improve your onboarding process–or start your own–by checking out our tips below.

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is a transitional period for a new hire after they join a company. During this period, a new hire gets used to a company’s culture, rules, systems, values, and behaviors. Successful, strategic employee onboarding helps new hires along with this process, rather than leaving them to figure it out on their own.

Why employee onboarding matters

Why do you need more than a single orientation session for your new hires? Some companies, especially smaller ones or startups, might forgo onboarding in order to save time, or because they believe their new hires can scrape by on their own. While that’s true, it’s not a good practice.

Employees who participate in a structured onboarding program are much more likely to stay with that company. An effective onboarding program can increase employee retention and decrease turnover. Plus, onboarding gives your new hires the tools to do their jobs well. They’ll reach the levels of proficiency and skill as their coworkers more quickly if you help them through onboarding.

What an onboarding schedule might look like

Your onboarding process may differ based on what your company does, the size of your workforce, and company culture. However, many employee onboarding processes include:

  • Pre-boarding
  • An orientation day
  • Introduction to the team and role
  • Training
  • Periodic check-ins with hiring managers or supervisors
  • Onboarding feedback

All of these activities can help your new hires start off on the right foot. Even though onboarding should be taken seriously, remember that your program doesn’t have to be rigid and traditional (unless you want it to be.)

Formal onboarding may separate and train new hires away from their colleagues, giving them time to adjust on their own. Your style of onboarding can be more informal if you like, with activities and tasks that take place among the rest of the employees.

Now, let’s talk about the stages of an employee onboarding schedule, and what each should focus on.


After your new hire accepts their offer and signs their employee contract, you need to make sure that they’re ready for their first day at work. This is where pre-boarding comes in. Send them practical information they’ll need about their company, as well as other information about the company that might prepare them for the coming stages.

You might give new hires information such as:

  • The company address and typical office hours
  • Website/intranet login and employee chat info
  • Hiring manager and supervisor contact info
  • An employee handbook
  • A rundown of what to expect on their first day and/or week, such as what time to arrive, who to find, what to wear, where to park, etc.

Pre-boarding should make your new employee feel welcomed and excited about their first day.

First day/orientation

Now that your new hire is totally prepared for her first day on the job, thanks to your fantastic pre-boarding skills, it’s time to keep that good first impression going.

On their first day, make sure you have a new hire arrive slightly later than everyone else. That gives everyone in the office a chance to relax and make any last minute preparations. (It also gives everyone a chance to really wake up after coffee, let’s be honest.)

Once your new hire arrives, be sure you’ve set someone up to receive them, either the hiring manager or their new supervisor or team leader. Take them on a tour of the office and introduce them to the rest of the team. This is a good time to review the responsibilities of their role while setting up their desk, computer, work email, keycards and badges, and so on.

After introductions and orientation tasks are finished in the morning, take new hires out for a team lunch! This is a relaxed, informal way to get to know new coworkers. It’s also thoughtful, since your new hire is probably worrying about where they could go to eat, or if they’ll have to eat alone.

Pro tip: make your new hire’s first day extra memorable by thoughtfully choosing a place to eat. Hopefully you got to know a little of their personality during the interview or at least the morning of their first day. If they’re new to the city or area, take them to a local place they shouldn’t miss. If they’ve mentioned how much they love Indian food or tacos, find a restaurant you think they’ll like.

Not sure where to take them for lunch? Ask them outright what kind of food they prefer because you want to make sure they enjoy their team lunch. They’ll appreciate the gesture.

Ongoing training and development

After that first day, depending on how much information you need to give your new hires, you enter a period of ongoing training and development. This may last for 30, 60, or 90 days. Maybe it lasts one year. That’s up to you and your company’s needs.

The important thing to include in this stage is a process of periodic check-ins with your new hires and requests for onboarding feedback. Have you ever started a new job where you received a great welcome and decent training the first week, but then felt totally abandoned until it came time for your first performance review? That’s what regular check-ins will prevent.

Here’s an example of a check-in schedule you might use:

  • First week. This is when your new hire might receive formal training for their role, informal training like job shadowing, or both
  • Day 7/end of first week check-in with your new hire. Ask how their first week went, where they may need additional help or information, if they have any issues that can be fixed right away
  • Day 30, 60, and 90 check-ins. Discuss your employee’s experience and if it matches their expectations. Review their performance, offer feedback, and ask for feedback in turn
  • First annual review

When it’s time for their first annual review, you can safely say they’re no longer a new hire!

Good onboarding works wonders

A good onboarding program motivates new employees, encourages them to be engaged, and makes them feel welcome at their new workplace. No matter how large or small your company, or how busy HR seems to be, set aside enough time and resources for a structured onboarding program. Your employees will thank you for it.