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Episode 11:
Employee Onboarding | 6 min read

A guide to new employee onboarding

New employee onboarding is one of the most important components to ensuring that your team is set up to succeed in their work and to give your company full potential. The term encompasses the entire process by which employees are hired and integrated into your team.
Onboarding starts even before new-hire orientation; it also includes education and training about the business, its mission and vision, and workplace culture and values. Each company’s new employee onboarding plan is different, depending on size, in-person or virtual setup, and what type of work the organization does. Some businesses do this in a day or two of conference-style seminars, individual online classes, or months’ worth of activities with other colleagues.

The Basics of Employee Onboarding

Every single new employee is onboarded, whether or not you have a structured new employee onboarding plan. When a worker gets the “lay of the land,” so to speak, they’re being onboarded. However, many companies take this to mean only completing paperwork and being shown to their office.
New employee onboarding best practices should include much deeper attention and intention so that employees feel welcomed into the folds of the company. They should understand from the start that they are valued and supported—their role is important and they will have the assistance they need to succeed.

The Phases of Onboarding

Onboarding shouldn’t be confused with orientation, although orientation is often one of the first steps in new employee onboarding best practices. During orientation, the employee completes paperwork and other necessary tasks, but new employee onboarding is more comprehensive and concerns overall training and culture immersion, versus collecting social security numbers and HR-pertinent information.
The following are phases of successful new employee onboarding. (Note that orientation might not even be first!) Your company can and should take these as a starting point and individualize them to work for your particular needs.


Pre-boarding consists of engaging the employee after they’ve been hired but before they begin working. This helps make the employee feel welcomed and invested in, and gives them a chance to begin feeling comfortable with all aspects of a company before they are required to perform duties or complete projects. It might include any of the following:

  • Sending a welcome package with company swag
  • Touring the facility
  • Spending time in the area if the employee is relocating (i.e., house hunting, choosing schools for children, community tours, etc.)
  • Delivering company literature
  • Educating the employee about benefits programs (e.g., healthcare, retirement)
  • Connecting the employee with a colleague who can answer questions and give them more basic information.


Orientation is the specific session of new employee onboarding in which the person fills out paperwork and gets officially enrolled into the company. It often includes many of the following components:

  • Signing paperwork and getting set up with payroll
  • Reading and committing to following handbook policies and procedures
  • Completing mandatory training
  • Learning about the structure, mission, vision, and values of the company (often through reading literature or engaging in an online course)

This phase of the employee onboarding process can be quite overwhelming, so new employee onboarding best practices usually spread this over at least a couple of days if not longer.


Foundation Building

From an employee engagement perspective, this is possibly the most important phase of new employee onboarding. However, it’s often overlooked once the orientation steps are completed.
During foundation building, every new employee develops their understanding of the company’s brand, workplace culture, and shared values. These aren’t always given out directly, either—an employee picks up the information and knowledge piece by piece through varied interactions and experiences.
A company ensures that a new employee’s foundation is strong by paying close attention to how they are faring for the first year or so of their employment. The leadership team should follow up with them and engage in conversation surrounding company values, the employees’ strengths and areas of development, and their desired future.

Mentoring and Coaching

Taking on a new position in a company where you want to be successful can be overwhelming. What do your bosses expect and how are day-to-day situations handled? Who do you go to for those basic questions that seem too small-time for the busy higher-ups? Who can you look to as a partner on your level?
Assigning a mentor or a coach gives new employees a “safe space” in which they can feel encouraged and supported without being judged or looked down on for needing help while they transition. This mentor or coach can guide and direct without having to be “in charge” of the new employee.
Once an employee feels that they are solidly engaged in the company and their role, perhaps they will want to take on the role of mentoring or coaching someone else. This is a great way for them to feel valued and respected while reaffirming the goals and mission of the company, essentially strengthening their foundation as they grow.


This step isn’t always necessary but is especially important for people who have left the company for some time and are returning, or for employees who are transferring to a different division or position within the company.
Let’s say someone was out on medical or family leave for a few months. They will need to meet new employees and get up to speed on changed policies or new projects. The company could show their positivity about the return with a welcome back luncheon or gathering, too, to show that they were missed.
If an employee is moving into a different division or getting promoted, their reboarding process might include intensive training specific to their new role. They will need to learn about processes in that area of the company and whom they report to as well as who reports to them. This process should include short- and long-term goal-setting and possibly pairing with a mentor or coach again. 

Important Onboarding Components

Successful new employee onboarding (and continued “reboarding” for returning employees) has each of the above steps, but each of those steps is filled with particular qualities that ensure success.
The leadership and HR team, as well as the rest of the company, can set an organization up for new employee onboarding success. Preparing ahead of time with focused attention on a few specific areas can mean that your new employees feel welcomed and supported and that the entire team has a positive attitude toward new talent coming on board.

Onboarding Is Everyone’s Job

If asked, most employees would probably say that new employee onboarding is the job of the boss and the HR department. However, a successful company knows that everyone is a part of the workplace culture, and thus, everyone is a part of teaching new employees how things flow and what the team culture is.

Unique Onboarding Experiences

Although new employee onboarding best practices are key, that doesn’t mean that everyone should have the same experience. Think critically about the role each new employee will have at the company and what their particular needs are. Work with the HR department to create more individualized onboarding practices for particular groups of people or hand-select mentors that show experience in these areas.

  • Managers or executives – These people know how to lead and have had success in this field but they need to know how it applies to the particular organization or division.
  • Remote employees – Remote employees don’t have the advantage of seeing people in real life, so a mentor or coach is of even more importance.
  • Differently abled team members – How will they be accommodated and made to feel comfortable asking for help?
  • Military veterans – What support will they receive in transitioning to a civilian role?
  • Second-chance workers – Employees in this category also need extra support and acclimation time, especially when it comes to feeling valued and respected.

Onboarding Assessment

Onboarding should be a dynamic process. You want to know if your onboarding practices are effective and if people feel supported and engaged from the get-go. Utilize a few of these strategies to get a full, accurate picture of what people experience when coming on board with your company.

  • Time-productivity ratios – How long does it take for an employee to get “situated” and begin producing the work that is equivalent to their salary? The better an onboarding program is, the lower this ratio will be.
  • Turnover and retention rates – How often are you having to onboard new employees because of dissatisfied ones? Are people staying on the team to move into new positions or leaving because they weren’t supported?
  • New employee surveys – Deliver employee engagement surveys throughout the onboarding process and after to get an accurate picture of how people feel and what they need.
  • Informal feedback – Engage in casual conversation and informal check-ins to develop relationships and show that you are invested in an employee’s success and well-being.  

Final Thoughts

New employee onboarding doesn’t have to be difficult. Taking time to prepare your company’s particular new employee onboarding process and regularly assessing its efficacy means you’ll be setting your employees (and your business) up for success.

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Employee Onboarding


Workstream is a hiring platform that helps employers get 4x the number of qualified applicants. The world's most trusted brands use Workstream to optimize job board postings, automate screening and interview scheduling, communicate via text message, and streamline the onboarding/training process. See what all the buzz is about by scheduling a demo or email us info@workstream.is!

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