What is employee onboarding, and how do you approach it properly?

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman

Onboarding Blog Post header

Onboarding is always a hot topic in HR land and for a good reason. Onboarding is critical to employee engagement and the success of new hires. In the current labor market, finding and keeping the right employees for the right vacancy is a top priority, and the onboarding process is essential.

Onboarding goes beyond a quick introduction. It’s the red carpet you roll out for your new arrival. Employee onboarding focuses on integrating the new employee into the organization, encompassing orientation, training, and acclimation to the company’s culture and values.

Good onboarding is vital because it fosters employee engagement, accelerates productivity, and boosts retention by creating a positive and supportive introduction to the company. 

A genuinely great onboarding typically involves:

  • Preboarding preparations.
  • Orientation to company policies.
  • Job training.
  • Introduction to colleagues and company culture.
  • Ongoing support and feedback to help new employees succeed.

This guide aims to provide you with essential answers to the fundamental questions surrounding onboarding. Additionally, you’ll learn what a successful onboarding process looks like and how to implement one for your new starters. 

Updated on August 7, 2023

Table of Contents

What is employee onboarding?

Onboarding is the term used to describe the process in which new employees get introduced and trained during their first weeks at a new job. As a brand new employee, you step on board with an employer you don’t know yet, which can be both exciting and uncomfortable.

A good process consists of a structured program that spans several months to integrate the employee into the organization. The new colleague must speak the same language, breathe the company vision, and know the way around the new working environment. 

Onboarding new hires into a company’s culture, vision, mission, and values fosters a sense of belonging, aligns employees with the company’s purpose, and boosts overall engagement, paving the way for collective success.

Above all: recruits should feel welcome and comfortable in the new work environment.

Understanding onboarding, preboarding, and employee orientation

Onboarding: Onboarding, meaning in HR, is often referred to as “staff onboarding” or “onboarding employees” and involves welcoming and integrating new hires into the company. It begins when an offer is accepted and continues through their early days in the role. The literal meaning of onboarding is ‘to get on board’. 

Preboarding: Preboarding is the initial onboarding phase between accepting the job offer and the employee’s first day. It involves the basic administrative tasks, paperwork, and setting expectations for the upcoming onboarding process.

Employee Orientation: Employee orientation is a specific component of the onboarding process. It typically occurs on the first day or week and includes the formal introduction to the organization’s policies, procedures, meeting new colleagues, and initial job training.

How long does an onboarding process take?

An onboarding process starts about two weeks before a new employee starts working. It then takes an average of six months before someone is finally trained and knows all the ins and outs of the work and the organization.

What is the difference between employee onboarding and orientation? 

The difference between employee onboarding and orientation lies in their scope and duration. 

Employee onboarding is a process that begins before the employee’s first day and extends beyond the initial orientation period. It involves integrating new hires into the company’s culture, values, and job responsibilities, fostering a more profound sense of connection and engagement. 

On the other hand, employee orientation is a more focused and shorter component of the onboarding process, typically during the initial days or weeks. It covers the formal introduction to company policies, procedures, and initial job training.

While onboarding is a holistic journey that nurtures long-term success, orientation is the starting point, laying the groundwork for the new employee’s integration into the organization.

What is the difference between onboarding and induction?

Induction is the process of introducing a new employee to your organization. Where is the staff entrance? How does the cash register work, and where do you sit during the break?

Onboarding goes beyond these practical matters and continues where the induction stops. During onboarding, the new employee discovers which goals the organization pursues and feels how each department conveys the core values.

Why is onboarding important?

Effective onboarding offers numerous advantages, such as: 

Faster integration: New employees quickly become part of the organization and culture, leading to a smoother transition into their roles and helping them to hit the ground running.

Enhanced employee commitment: Exceptional onboarding fosters commitment. This is particularly important for a new generation of workers seeking more than just competitive compensation. Factors like work atmosphere, professional development, and career opportunities significantly influence their decision to stay with an employer.

Higher job satisfaction: Thoughtful onboarding, where employees feel seen and valued, results in better job satisfaction, leading to higher retention rates and reduced employee turnover.

Improved employee retention: Investing in a thorough onboarding program can significantly improve employee retention rates, reducing the costs and disruptions associated with high turnover.

Attractive employer brand: Great onboarding makes an organization an appealing employer, encouraging people to stay longer and reducing the need for frequent recruitment. Retaining experienced employees saves costs and ensures valuable knowledge remains in-house.

Boosted productivity: Employees who experience effective onboarding are more likely to be productive in their roles sooner, contributing to the company’s success and growth.

Heightened engagement: Proper onboarding nurtures a sense of engagement and commitment among new employees, increasing their alignment with the company’s goals and fostering a positive work environment.

According to SHRM, employee turnover can be as much as 50% in the first 18 months. Underscoring the importance of successful onboarding in employee retention. An unsuccessful onboarding period can therefore make or break employee retention.

🎥 Tip: Watch the recorded Oneteam webinar Onboarding Retail Employees. In this concise 30-minute session, we share a step-by-step approach to ensure the success of new hires.

How to onboarding different types of employees


Onboarding executives requires a tailored approach that reflects the significance of their roles within the organization. It involves providing them with a deep understanding of the company’s vision, mission, and strategic objectives. 

Executive onboarding should focus on building relationships with key stakeholders, familiarizing them with the leadership team, and establishing clear expectations for their roles. 

Additionally, offering executive mentors and a well-structured integration plan can accelerate their assimilation into the company’s culture and facilitate their decision-making process.


Having an onboarding process for managers is necessary for their successful leadership within their teams. Apart from introducing them to company policies and procedures, it should emphasize developing their managerial skills and communication abilities. 

Providing insights into the organization’s overall structure, departmental goals, and team dynamics enables them to navigate their new roles effectively. Tailored training on people management, goal setting, and performance evaluation is essential to equip managers with the knowledge they need to lead their teams confidently and achieve business objectives.

Remote Workers

Onboarding remote workers demands a comprehensive virtual approach that promotes a sense of inclusion and connectivity.

Employers should prioritize clear communication channels, virtual coffee introductions to team members, and technology training to ensure remote employees feel supported and equipped to work effectively in their off-site roles.

Deskless Workers/Production

For deskless workers, a hands-on and safety-focused onboarding process is required. Beyond the standard procedures, providing comprehensive training on job-specific tasks, safety protocols, and equipment operation is necessary. Engaging supervisors and mentors to guide new deskless employees during the initial period helps foster a sense of belonging and reinforces the company’s commitment to their well-being.


Onboarding freelancers necessitates a streamlined process that swiftly integrates them into projects and tasks. Clear contractual agreements, project expectations, and communication guidelines are essential. Offering access to relevant company resources and establishing a point of contact for queries ensures smooth collaboration and reinforces a positive working relationship.

Roles and Responsibilities for Effective Onboarding

Onboarding is not, by definition, HR’s duty. Nor is it the manager’s solitary task to properly integrate the new employee into the organization. Effective onboarding concerns a combination of forces.

Each role shapes the new starters’ experience and fosters a positive working relationship from the first day.


The HR department is the backbone of the onboarding process, responsible for designing and implementing a comprehensive onboarding program. They handle essential administrative tasks, create training materials, and facilitate smooth coordination between various departments.


Trainers and specialists deliver job-specific training and orientation to equip new hires with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their roles. They ensure that employees are well-prepared to handle their responsibilities and contribute to the organization.


The immediate supervisor or manager provides guidance, sets clear expectations, and offers continuous feedback to new employees. A supportive manager fosters a positive work environment, encouraging new employees to thrive.


Colleagues have a significant impact on the onboarding experience. Welcoming and including co-workers can make new team members feel valued and accepted. A collaborative and friendly work culture enhances the sense of belonging and boosts the newcomer’s confidence.

Executives / Management Team

Executives and top-level management should participate in onboarding. Their engagement underscores the company’s commitment to its new employees and reinforces values and strategic vision.


Assigning a mentor or buddy to new starters provides an approachable point of contact for any questions or concerns. Mentors offer guidance, share insights, and help new hires navigate the company culture, accelerating their integration into the team.

By recognizing and fulfilling these roles and responsibilities, organizations can create a positive onboarding experience, setting the stage for long-term employee satisfaction, engagement, and success.

Onboarding Checklist (ENG)

What are essential onboarding documents?

The precise list of information that must be covered during the onboarding process differs per organization and individual needs of each role and employee.

There are, however, a few elements that should be included in every process:

1. General information about the organization: Helpful background information like the history, business objectives, customer information, and an organizational chart.

2. Contact list: Contact information of each colleague and location. You can easily integrate the contact list into your employee app, so that everyone always has the right information at hand.

3. Digital Information Pack: Think of absenteeism procedures, pension schemes, salary scales, or job descriptions.

4. Relevant learning packages: Offer relevant e-learning or microlearning programs. This gives you an interactive, accessible, and fun way of developing your employees.  

5. Feedback documentation: You can ask your employees one-on-one to give feedback, but the easiest way is to do this by sending out a survey.

6. Standard documents: Think of registration forms for internal training programs, templates for social media posts, or service transfer forms.

Why is onboarding important
The importance of a good onboarding program

What are the components of an employee onboarding process flow?

The basis of a good onboarding process consists of five basic parts, which can be defined as the 5 C’s:

1. Compliance

There is some basic information every employee just needs to know. This contains things like safety instructions, submitting declarations, handling keys and badges, appropriate work clothing, and login details for apps and programs.

2. Clarification

What are the expectations of the organization towards the employee? What does the position entail and whatnot, what are the basic requirements? Clarification is all about understanding mutual expectations.

3. Culture

Include the new colleague from the start in the mission, vision, and values of the organization. What goals are pursued, what is considered important and what are ‘our’ ways? Giving clarity about the ‘Why‘ of the company provides guidance and makes a smooth integration a lot easier.

Tip: Before someone starts at your organization, share a video via the employee onboarding app, in which you share everything about the history, mission, vision, and values.

4. Connection

We all realized it during the lockdown period: a good connection with colleagues is essential. The informal contacts make you genuinely feel part of an organization. With a social and collegial relationship, collaboration is much easier and more effective.

Help the new employee build their network. For example, introduce new recruits to a go-to buddy for all their questions or invite them to team drinks, an activity, or a game.

5. Check back

This fifth C is often forgotten when formulating an onboarding process, but we think it is too important to skip. Don’t let go of your new employee too quickly.

Ask the employee for feedback and evaluate the onboarding program. Are there points of attention, and what did they like or dislike? Asking for feedback is a critical evaluation moment for the HR cycle and personal development plan.

H&M Video Example | Dance Challenge
Tip: see how H&M ensures that all employees are involved in the organization through fun challenges and activities.

7 tips for successful onboarding of new deskless employees

Once on board, the new employee is up and running, integrated and they are pretty much part of the equation. But how do you get to that point? What steps should you take to successfully onboard a new employee?

1. Pre-boarding before the first working day

It all starts with that signature at the bottom of the contract. From this moment on, it is important to involve the new employee in your organization, even if they’re not starting for another few weeks. 

Do you have a staff party or team-building event coming up? Invite the new employee. Is there any news about the organization? Keep them informed. After all, you want to stay in touch and ensure that the employee is looking forward to their first working day.

Prepare a schedule for the first week and send it to the employee together with other relevant documents. It is also advisable to inform colleagues about the arrival of the new colleague and what they can expect from the addition to the team.

Want to step up your game? Then start working with a buddy system and partner up new recruits with current team members. This will give your new recruit a go-to person for any questions during their onboarding period. Furthermore, a buddy system can help make new hires more productive faster. 

Read more about pre-boarding of employees.

Onboarding Buddy System
An onboarding buddy system can improve new hire proficiency by 87%

2. Designing a personal onboarding program

It is advisable to design a personal onboarding program. Which people and programs should someone get to know quickly? What information is important to share?

The more that is written down and put in place, the less messy the first week will be. Make sure the team is informed of someone’s arrival and that immediate colleagues have time to get acquainted.

The more complete your onboarding program is, the more professional you will come across as a company and the sooner the new employee will have settled in.

Onboarding App Example
Offer your employees a personalized and interactive onboarding experience

3. Introduction to the first working week

Naturally, you should give your new employee a warm welcome on the first working day. Not only will they be given the key and company clothing, but a few balloons, flowers or a nice welcome package will make new staff feel very welcome.

Walk the new employee through the onboarding program. What can they expect from the onboarding program in the coming period? Who will they be meeting in the coming days and who should they contact if they have any questions?

Tip: an onboarding app can help you make this phase and subsequent phases of onboarding run smoothly. 

4. The induction period 

All practical matters for the new employee have been arranged. The introductory round has been completed, they have everything they need to carry out their tasks.

The actual familiarization process can begin. It is important not to throw the new employee in at the deep end, but to guide them where necessary.

Give the new employee the opportunity to ask questions and let them know that they are allowed to make mistakes.

5. On & off the job training

Your new employee learns mostly by doing. Colleagues explain and experience for themselves how things work or don’t work. Off-the-job training can also be part of the onboarding process.

For example; microlearning courses about the cash register system, or a training course in customer service or food safety. Employees who are given the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills are more satisfied, motivated, and loyal.

6. Incorporating feedback loops

The first few weeks of work can make or break someone’s career and job satisfaction.

That’s why it is important to incorporate a feedback moment a few weeks in when the manager discusses the progress with the new employee. You can also use different types of employee surveys for this.

Don’t wait until the first six-monthly meeting, that will take far too long. Give the new employee the opportunity to raise issues or give valuable feedback.

Onboarding Survey Example
Example: Onboarding Evaluation Survey via Oneteam

7. Onboarding as a continuous process

Your new employee will be immersed in information in the first few weeks, but of course, they won’t know everything yet. A good onboarding process, therefore, does not end after a few weeks.

To get the employee to perform optimally, you will have to be involved with them more often. Make sure to regularly ask whether everything is going as expected. Do they still enjoy the work?

Do they have any particular wishes? With a little bit of extra attention, especially in the first six months of the employment contract, you will avoid missing signals and prevent the employee from quitting their job after the first few months.

The next step to improve your onboarding process

Are you ready to bring your onboarding program to new heights? Digitizing your onboarding process can not only make onboarding a lot easier but also more attractive.

With Oneteam’s all-in-one employee app, including an onboarding module, you can bring all your onboarding documents together on one user-friendly, interactive platform. Connecting with colleagues, departments, and different locations has never been easier.

Learn how Oneteam can help your organization make new hires successful and engaged, and book a guided demo via the form below.

Request a guided Oneteam demo

Discover how Oneteam can help you make your frontline workforce successful and engaged. During the demo, we will guide you through our all-in-one employee app and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions.

Fill in the form below and we will contact you within a day.

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman

Ruben Wieman is the founder of Oneteam. He mainly writes about the future of deskless employee experience and key frontline HR trends. Fun fact about Ruben: He started his professional career as a deskless employee at supermarkets and a pizza delivery guy. The frustrations he encountered lead him to build an employee experience app focused on making the deskless workforce successful and engaged.

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