A Process for Onboarding


A great recruitment process includes a process for onboarding.

Your new employee orientation is your first impression. It can be a positive experience increasing enthusiasm and securing a long-term loyal employee within your organization. But if it is poorly done, the new employee will begin to doubt that they made the right decision and retention may be an uphill struggle.

In most organizations, someone greets the new employee and off they go to the Human Resources department to begin a lengthy paperwork process. The new employee leaves with a binder filled with the phone list, policies and procedures. And then what? A tour, introductions, videos, facts, procedures, meetings and presentations sweep the new employee along until the end of the first day.

Did you know that most new employees feel overwhelmed and confused?

What is orientation or onboarding? It includes all tasks necessary for a smooth transition into the organization. It should be simple, fun and interesting. It should be personal and allow time for the new hire to absorb the information. It should be approached from the new employee perspective rather than a corporate checklist.

How can you transform your onboarding process to include a fun, meaningful and organized orientation, acclimation and integration?

The press of business can easily take priority over an onboarding process. Let’s identify some common mistakes that most organizations don’t even realize are happening:

  • Showing signs of being unprepared such as leaving the new employee waiting for a long time in the reception area.
  • Making them sit through endless presentations, lectures or orientation videos.
  • Overwhelming the new hire with quick exposure to facts, names and faces.
  • Rushing through the onboarding process so employees can return to their duties.
  • Failing to create a fully functional workspace for the first day.
  • Assigning the new employee busy work or leaving them alone to manage on their own.
  • Coworkers leaving for lunch without inviting the new employee.
  • Assigning the new employee a mentor who is too busy.

Next, ask some important questions.

  1. What do we want to achieve during new employee orientation?
  2. What first impression do we want to make?
  3. How do you want the new employee to describe their first day to their family members?

These questions must be answered by each individual company but the focus should be a meaningful integration into the organization and long-term retention as well as orientation.

Orientation Begins Before Arrival

Paperwork – there is no getting around it. Every new employee in every organization must complete the necessary paperwork and benefit forms and receive the policies and procedures manuals. But, wouldn’t it be nice if at least some of the paperwork was handled before the start date so the first day is simpler and more exciting.

The Internet is a powerful and helpful tool. It allows you to create a standardized, streamlined web-based onboarding system that new employees access with their username and password. You can create an online resource for all the materials the new hire will need. Before their start date, they can review documentation, policy and procedures manual, download and complete forms. On the first day, you can send them an email reminding them where they can find materials as they need them and encouraging them to visit the resource frequently for information. The company saves money with a paperless process that replaces binders stored away on shelves.

With a streamlined process for paperwork, the start date is already much simpler and more fun. You can continuously improve your onboarding process by asking each new hire to provide feedback and make suggestions.

Think of your onboarding process as one of your competitive advantages and work to make the process enjoyable, shorten the time to new hire productivity, reduce mistakes and increase retention. Include the onboarding process when reviewing the company’s competitive advantages.

It may be helpful to keep some types of metrics in the onboarding process such as time to productivity, new hire retention/termination rates, new hire error rates and program ROI. Hold the hiring managers accountable by including onboarding success in their performance appraisals and their bonus formula.

Be Prepared for the Arrival of the New Employee

Nothing says welcome better than having everything set up before the new employee even arrives on that first day. The following are some suggestions of things to do before the start date for the new hire:

  • Stay in touch with the new hire after they have accepted the position to answer any questions and to reinforce their decision with stories, facts and differentiators. After all, as soon as they resign they will receive calls and emails from coworkers and friends as well as receive counteroffers.
  • Plan the first day in advance so that it is not rushed and moves along at a nice pace.
  • Email detailed direction about getting to the office, where to park and any security procedures.
  • Provide a map of nearby restaurants including stops for a quick breakfast and coffee.
  • Paperwork and forms can be completed prior to the first day allowing more time for orientation and integration.
  • Email an orientation schedule so the new hire knows what is expected on the first day, first week, etc.
  • Set up the designated office or workspace including a computer complete with required software installed, phone numbers, email accounts, usernames and passwords.
  • Call the new employee ahead of time and ask how they want to have their name appear so that you can have name plates and business cards already printed and set up in the workspace.
  • Have someone welcome the new employee upon arrival.
  • Make sure coworkers know the start date and encourage them to introduce themselves to the new hire on the first day.
  • Remember to include a celebration of the first day that involves coworkers. A casual lunch set up in the conference provides an opportunity for employees to get to know the new person. A fun ice breaker exercise can get the conversations started.
  • Give the new employee real work so they are productive on their first day.

Make the New Employee Feel Welcomed

Let the new employee know that you are glad that they are there and that you want them to succeed. Most people spend more time at work than they do with their friends and family, so making emotional connections with coworkers is important. These personal connections can contribute to employee retention.

  • Provide a welcome letter signed by the CEO and all members of the team.
  • Give the new employee available items with the company logo such as t-shirt or pen.
  • Make sure that another member of the organization is scheduled to have lunch with the new employee each day throughout the onboarding period and include persons from different departments so they build their network quickly.
  • Include the new hire in events or activities such as the company picnic or company softball league. This information can be posted, updated regularly and easily accessed if it is on a web-based onboarding process.
  • Try to give the new hire a positive experience that will make them feel valued. Most likely the new hire will discuss this with their family at the end of the first day.
  • The new hire’s family should be included in the welcoming process. You can send them a welcome letter inviting them to visit the company and informing them of upcoming company events and activities. Send them a sample of company products, company t-shirt, company pens or a small gift. Make a list of what you can do to ease their transition and make them feel comfortable with the community.


Starting at a new company means that everything is new and different. The new employee must learn new people, systems, the language and the culture. You can provide tools to help the new employee acclimate quickly and efficiently.

  • Set an agenda for the first day.
  • Start with the basics so they understand their new job.
  • Provide samples when possible.
  • Phone lists can include useful information about existing employees including photos, short bios, description of responsibilities, location of offices and organization charts.
  • Assign the best employee available to be a mentor. The best employees are usually the busiest and the ones who contribute the most to the organization.
  • Provide a list of company buzzwords, acronyms and FAQs
  • Review the corporate mission, purpose and objectives
  • Teach the new employee the informal nuances and traditions of the organization such as casual Friday.
  • Provide all information that will make the new hire more comfortable about their work environment.
  • Explain all best practices, key policies and procedures.
  • Review their job description, role, responsibilities and accountabilities
  • Review communication protocols and meeting schedules
  • Ensure the new hire understands how to use the appropriate technology
  • Review formats, processes and tools that are unique to the company
  • Arrange informal time to get to know each other
  • Assist the new hire’s family to acclimate, particularly if they have relocated to a new area. An old fashioned welcome wagon approach is a warm welcome and a big help to acclimate. In addition to friendship, include a list of schools and shopping as well as phone numbers for local utilities and services.


Employers frequently overlook the most fundamental concerns of the new recruit. New hires want to know how their work contributes to the overall success of the company and how it related to other departments. Your new employee orientation should include an overview of the corporate goals and objectives as well as each department’s function, what goes into each department and what comes out of each department. You can provide examples of how these functions relate to the employee’s job. Be sure to point out how new employees can offer feedback for making improvements.

  • Consider a multi-level approach that includes corporate mission, vision and values, region or facility where the new hire will be working, everything related to the department in which the new hire will work, the team on which the new hire will work as well as the diverse and unique needs of the individual
  • Open the process up for the new hire to share their concerns, who they want to meet, what they would like to learn, how they are best motivated and managed, their expectations for training, promotion and communication.
  • Communicate the company and department expectations, success measures, strategies, tactical plans, goals, how performance will be assessed, bonus and promotion criteria. Make sure to communicate what is expected during the first week or month on the job. Clarify key accomplishments that define success.
  • Create a personalized learning, challenge, and growth plan that include immediate training and long-term. Personal instruction is generally the best training but helpful training aids include short online training modules, process diagrams, and checklists.
  • Plan meaningful work supported by the training so the new hire can begin to contribute immediately.
  • Identify “go to” persons by categorizing by function or process a list of names and emails of employees who can help answer questions
  • Create a checklist of benefits to ensure the new employee takes advantage of them
  • Create several opportunities for the new employee to meet employees beyond their immediate scope of work duties.
  • Encourage the new employee to contribute their fresh perspective and experience as they learn the products and processes.

In fact, if your corporate culture includes some type of innovation process in which every employee is encouraged to give feedback for improvement, discovery and networking, all employees will be proactive in increasing productivity and customer satisfaction.

Taking the time to develop and execute a well-planned, nicely paced orientation and integration process that includes making your new employees feel welcomed as well as getting to work immediately will increase retention.