What is onboarding?
What is Onboarding? A Definition, And Why You Should Take it Seriously
What is onboarding?

What is Onboarding? A Definition, And Why You Should Take it Seriously

A solid onboarding process can make all the difference when it comes to a new employee’s experience — and their success. As soon as an employee is able to do their job properly and contribute in a meaningful way, the sooner they’re able to feel like engaged and valuable members of the company.  

Continue reading to discover: 

  • What onboarding is
  • A breakdown of the onboarding process (with a checklist)
  • Onboarding best practices
  • The key benefits of proper onboarding

What is onboarding?

At its core, onboarding is the process by which a new employee is initiated into a company or organization. But any good HR professional knows there’s a bit more to it than that. Onboarding starts during the recruitment and hiring process, and can stretch over the course of the individual’s first year. 

Successful onboarding provides key information and important context for the employee in areas such as their specific role, company policies, company culture, and business processes and systems. 

A good onboarding plan will cover three key areas:

  • The organizational: how things work, company culture, mission, and processes, etc. 
  • The technical: job expectations, goals, definitions of success, etc.
  • The social: creating a sense of community, interpersonal connections, building trust between team members, etc.

A strong onboarding process gives the employee insight into not only where they’ll be working, but how they’ll be working.

The complete onboarding process

Here are the three key parts of the onboarding process, broken down step-by-step.

The organizational onboarding process

Step 1: Ensure paperwork is complete

All good onboarding plans start before the employee starts their first day. Instead of having an overwhelming stack of papers waiting at their desk for them, send new employees any documents that can be electronically signed and filed, beforehand. 

This gives them a headstart on getting integrated within the company and their first taste of how things work. Nobody wants to be stressed out — or bored — filling out piles of paperwork the first day at a new job. 

Step 2: Create an employee profile on your HR software 

If the documents mentioned above need to be signed through an employee HR software such as BambooHR, Workday, or Collage, you might have completed this step already. If not, it’s great to get this done as soon as you can so that you can provide access to the new employee. 

Step 3: Give your new hire access to their email and tool accounts

First, give your new employee access to their email account, since it’s usually used to access other accounts. You can do this before their first day and use their new email account to communicate with them throughout the onboarding process. Make a list of all the tools and software your new hire will need, and make sure access is prepared for them either before or during their first day.

Step 4: Prepare the employee’s workstation

Part of the onboarding process is making the employee’s physical transition to the office as smooth as possible — as long as they’re not working remotely. Let them know where they can park, how to get into the building (key card, buzz into the front desk, etc.) and so on. Make their desk ready for them. Provide the office supplies they need, like notebooks and pens. Set up their chair and computer. It’s also helpful to have their computer connected to the internet and office printer before they start.

5. Organize essential training

While much of this will be job-specific (and fall under the technical area of the onboarding process), there will always be organizational training to do. At Unito, all new employees do:

  • Company 101 training with the CEO
  • Security and privacy training
  • Training on what the Unito app does
  • Training on common company processes

6. Provide a schedule for their first day

One of the most stressful things about the first day on a new job is not knowing what to expect. Ease any worries by providing a first day schedule for your new employee. 

This can include information such as: 

  • What time they are expected to arrive and what time they should expect the day to end.
  • Who they should check-in with when first arriving at the office.
  • What their first few hours will look like.
  • Where and when to attend a team lunch.  

A first day at a new job comes with many questions, but a clear schedule goes a long way into helping them feel at ease.

7. Provide any relevant reading materials 

In between meeting new team members and getting used to a new office, it can be a relief for new employees to sit down with some reading material for a bit. 

Have printed copies of the company policies, a company culture guide, and any relevant style guides (copywriting or design) for them to read. Schedule a dedicated time later in the week to go over the documents with the employee to discuss any questions or concerns they may have. 

The technical onboarding process

1. Outline job responsibilities

While your new hire knows what was outlined in the job posting, it can be really helpful to walk them through their responsibilities on the first day. Set up some time to have a more in-depth discussion regarding what their day-to-day will look like, who they’ll be working closely with, and what their key deliverables are.

2. Provide clear goals

If any employee doesn’t know what success looks like within their role and the organization, there’s a good chance they won’t achieve it. Work with the employee to develop clear and achievable goals that align with the company’s objectives. 

At Unito, we use objectives and key results for goal-setting. New hires are walked through the company and departmental OKRs, and then work with their manager to set personal OKRs right out of the gate. 

3. Run job-specific training

In addition to all of the company-wide training they’ll receive, they’ll obviously need training specific to their role. Try to plan this for their first week or two, and they aren’t blocked from progressing by a simple lack of training. 

This training may be led by the manager or other members of the organization that they’ll be working closely with. 

4. Schedule weekly check-ins and coaching sessions

It’s important to schedule regular check-ins and coaching sessions with the individual. Weekly one-on-ones with the manager are a great way to ensure the onboarding process is running smoothly. As the employee becomes more comfortable, these can shift to bi-weekly or monthly as needed.

Some questions to discuss with the employee: 

  • Do you have everything you need to get your job done? 
  • How are you finding your day-to-day work experience? 
  • Is there anything else I can do to support you at this time? 
  • What are some things you’ve noticed about the organization? 
  • Do you have any questions or concerns about process, company culture, or policies? 

The social onboarding process 

1. Introduce the new employee

The first step to integrating a new employee into the company’s social culture, is to let everyone know they’re arriving. This could be an email, Slack message, or personal introductions (or all three!). Be sure to include the new hire in your messaging so they can start interacting with their new colleagues. It’s an easy way to break the ice.

2. Assign them a work buddy

When somebody is hired at Unito, they get a “buddy” in the company they can go to with questions about culture, process, or anything else they might be wondering about. As a new employee, it can sometimes feel like you’re bothering your manager every few minutes with another question, so this additional connection and resource is helpful for all involved.  We encourage our buddies to take their new colleagues out for coffee in the first week, to help kick-start that connection.

3. Schedule a welcome lunch

As mentioned above, a welcome lunch on the employee’s first day can make a huge difference in helping them build social connections right away. Schedule a lunch for the new employee’s immediate team, or any other people they’ll be working with on a daily basis. This lets everyone get to know each other more personally, and it’s easier to ask for help from someone you’ve spoken to. If this lunch happens at a restaurant, cover the cost of this lunch for the new team member. Don’t force them to pay to get to know people.

4. Schedule meetings with key team members 

While some training may be led by members of other teams, you should also schedule meetings between the new hire and key coworkers. This might include managers of other departments, individuals they’ll be working with often, or important members of the company. These meetings can be either one on ones, or include full teams (as long as they don’t consist of more than 10 people)

An employee onboarding process checklist

Now that you know the basics of a successful employee onboarding process, it’s time to put it into practice. We’ve created a simple employee onboarding checklist to help you plan, organize, and streamline your process.  Having a standardized onboarding checklist means no new hire falls through the cracks, and you don’t have to worry about missing a step.

You can download the onboarding checklist here

At Unito, we’ve built our onboarding template into an Asana project. Every time we hire a new employee, we duplicate the project and assign the above tasks to the relevant person within the company. This adds visibility to the onboarding process and ensures nothing falls through the cracks. 

Onboarding best practices

Now that you know what you should be doing in order to effectively onboard new employees, let’s talk about how you should be doing it. Here are some best practices to ensure you’re getting the most out of your onboarding plan. 

Make organization a priority

Your new hire will be looking to you for guidance, so it’s important that you’re organized and in control of the situation. 

For example, if you had scheduled an introductory meeting with another team and then forgot about it, or didn’t prepare anything, the new employee is left feeling confused and uncomfortable. If you’re running around trying to do a million things, you’re sending the wrong message to the new employee. Take a breath, make sure your calendar is up-to-date, and show the employee that they’re in good hands. 

Don’t overwhelm the new employee

While one of the main goals of onboarding is to have new employees productive and integrated into the company as soon as possible, this won’t happen if you overwhelm them with information or tasks right away. 

While it’s recommended you outline some easy-win, upcoming tasks the employee can start thinking about, don’t ask them for any hard deadline work within the first week. The first few days at a new job often include a firehose of information the employee is trying their best to learn, so refrain from adding the pressure of an assignment. 

Ask for feedback 

Remember: your employee onboarding process isn’t set in stone. As you apply your onboarding plan to more and more new employees, you can continuously update and shape it to work best for your organization. To do this effectively, ask for feedback from all new employees verbally during weekly check-ins, as well as at the end of their probationary period.

Some questions to ask when requesting feedback: 

  • What’s something we could have done differently during your first week? 
  • Is the role what you expected it would be? What are some disparities? 
  • Do you feel as if you’ve received adequate training with relevant software and tools? 
  • Do you feel welcome and integrated into the company culture?
  • What are some blockers you’re currently facing? 
  • What do you wish was done differently during the onboarding process? 

The onboarding experience doesn’t have to feel like a chore for new employees — or HR managers. With the above checklist and best practices, you can develop and optimize a successful onboarding plan that will create — and keep — happy, productive employees.

Why employee onboarding is so important

While employers once might have simply dropped new hires at their desks with a brief rundown of the company, today’s HR teams and managers know this isn’t an effective or sustainable approach. If you want to succeed — and you want your new hires to succeed — you need a proper onboarding plan. 

Here’s a more detailed look at the key benefits of a thorough onboarding process. 

Attracts top talent 

One of the main issues facing recruiters and businesses today is the ability to attract top talent. With talent pools shrinking and hiring demands growing, HR departments are strapped trying to build an attractive brand to potential employees.

Since the onboarding process begins during the recruitment and hiring process, companies need to establish a solid brand up front. When a potential employee heads to your company website and looks through the culture section of your careers page, your values, or even the appearance of team members featured on the website, they’re gaining knowledge of your organization. And since 79% of job seekers consider a company’s mission before applying for a job, this part of the onboarding process is crucial. 

When your brand and core values connect with potential employees, you’re able to efficiently and effectively attract top talent who are not only informed about what your business stands for, but are engaged with your brand. 

Improves retention

First impressions matter, and it’s no different when it comes to employee onboarding. Up to 20% of new employees leave the company within the first 45 days, and improper onboarding can be a very influential part of that. The proof? According to research by Glassdoor, organizations with a good onboarding process improve the retention of new hires by 82%

The loss of newly hired employees isn’t just a minor annoyance for businesses either. It’s literally a costly mistake. The average U.S company spends $4,000 to hire a new employee. That’s not to mention the countless hours invested by other members of your team throughout the hiring process and in the first weeks or months before that employee leaves. You want to do everything in your power to make sure that money and effort is well-spent. 

Increases productivity 

When an employee quickly understands what it takes to succeed — and has the proper tools and knowledge to do so — they’re able to start contributing to the business right away. 

In fact, organizations with successful onboarding plans have a 62% higher time-to-productivity ratio. New employees can spend less time trying to figure out how the printer works or how to use their project management tool, and more time actually getting the work done. It’s a win-win. 

Boosts business growth 

Thanks to successful onboarding, new employees report feeling higher levels of engagement. Onboarding helps build and nurture a supportive and trusting relationship between a new hire and their manager, and shows them that the company is dedicated to their employees. 

With these higher levels of engagement come higher levels of profitability. According to research from Gallup, highly-engaged teams show 21% greater profitability than less-engaged teams. Not only that, but disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550-billion a year

Get onboard with onboarding

The onboarding period is the most crucial time in the employee-organization relationship. It’s essential that HR professionals and managers work together to create a good first impression.  Both you and the new hire jumped through more than a few hoops to establish this new relationship. With the right onboarding process in place, you can make sure this relationship starts off on the right foot.