Employee onboarding process

After reading this guide you will know what a good onboarding process can bring to your organization and how you can improve your organization’s current process.

Learning more about onboarding process will help you create a better learning path for employees, find potential skill gaps, improve employee development, and will ultimately allow you to create better teams.


What is the employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process by which new employees are introduced to the social and performance aspects of their new job, with the goal of getting new hires adjusted quickly, increasing productivity and job satisfaction, and reducing turnover.

This process includes teaching new hires about the attitudes, competencies, company culture, employee expectations and the behaviours required to function effectively within an organisation.

Benefits of properly set employee onboarding process

1. Acclimatise the employee in the briefest period possible

When the employee is brought in, they need to be taught not only where to park and where the best lunch spots are, but they also need to know exactly what is expected from them, where to find support within their peers and management team, and exactly what they can expect from the company.

Setting clear expectations allows your employee to understand their role from day one.

2. Decrease the time it takes for your new employee to become productive

The better the onboarding process, the quicker your new employee will be able to settle down to work and begin being productive.

If you have an inefficient or confusing program, your employee will waste their first few weeks having to ask questions that they should already know the answers to.

Set them up for success with clear onboarding materials that answer all the questions they may ask about their role or the company.

3. Properly engage the employee

Engaged employees increase productivity, profitability, and product quality, among other positive outcomes.

Engagement in this context means that the management team is showing that they value the employee, recognize their talents, and are committed to fostering their professional growth.

53% of HR professionals say that better onboarding creates engaged employees, which then carries over to their career within the company.

An organisation’s onboarding is the first look an employee has at the structure, politics, and support within the company.

You should strive to make sure that it is a positive experience.

4. Good onboarding programs directly improve employee retention

About ⅓ of employee turnover happens during the first 90 days.

This is attributed to poor onboarding and organizations who leave their employees to ‘fend for themselves’ and ‘sink or swim’ mindsets.

Costs associated with replacing an employee can be as much as 150% of their annual salary. This includes hidden costs such as decreased productivity, the loss of special knowledge and a reduction in morale among remaining staff.

Employee retention can save the company thousands of dollars.

5. A good onboarding process will promote a better company culture

By setting the tone from the first day, you build a strong culture within your company of employees being valued, taught, and supported.

New employees immediately understand and feel welcomed by the company, and existing employees see that the workforce is valued.

Specific company values are communicated clearly.

Employee onboarding process

1. Pre-onboarding: first impression and recruitment

The onboarding process starts when a potential candidate reads a job application or when they get the first impression of your company somewhere else.

Your employer branding actions (including job applications) are aimed at supporting your onboarding process.

You should create content that sends signals about a caring, fun, development orientated organization. You should translate your values, culture, and team spirit.

When creating job applications, remember that not only are you trying to attract the best candidates, you are also selling your company as a good place to work. Be clear about the expectations of the role, and the skills of your ideal candidate, but remember to offer enticing insights into why your organization is a good place to work.

During the recruitment process, your organization’s HR team will post about the open role on the relevant websites, collect and review applications, interview the top candidates, and should ultimately end with the most qualified candidate being offered the job. At this point, there may be a period of negotiation with the top candidate before the job offer is accepted.

This is, of course, a simplification of the process. Recruitment is a massive job and should be taken very seriously. Companies without good recruitment practices will often find that they are not attracting or hiring the best people.

Goals for pre-onboarding stage

  • Attract relevant candidates. You want to reach people who share the same values, who will be a good fit, and who will bring relevant skills to your organization.
  • Clearly communicate what your organization is looking for in each role you are recruiting. Who is the ideal candidate? What skills, knowledge or passions should they have?
  • Create a positive impression and leave people with a clear understanding of who you are as a company. It’s the first touchpoint, not all of the people you reach will apply but they should be left with a positive impression about your company.

Best practices

1. Create a company culture page on your website. Use the page to show your working culture, the people of your organization, and their values.

Company culture page example

2. Review all your assets that might be first touchpoints for a potential candidate. It can be your website, social media, the company page on a job website, and so on. Update them, and make sure they fit your company brand. Look at clarity, consistency and tone.

3. Review job listings and interview questions using the same criteria as above.

  • Are your listings inclusive?
  • Do they represent your company well, and will they attract the people you want?
  • Is there room for improvement?

4. Have a policy of transparency in regards to policies that impact your employees. Policies around maternal or paternal leave, working remotely, vacation time, bonuses, or expected weekly hours should be clearly communicated and easily accessible.

5. Begin the process of onboarding with an office tour, welcome letter, informational packet and company-wide announcement of the new hire.

6. Send an official offer letter. This should clearly outline the top-level responsibilities of the role, as well as all requirements and expectations. This is where you can make sure that everything about the role is communicated clearly, and there will be no unpleasant surprises. This doesn’t have to be an extra formal letter, though! Let the personality of your organization shine through, include information about the team, their pets and hobbies, or other fun facts about the company.

7. After the job has been offered, set up an office tour, if possible, and begin the onboarding process by giving access to the company training portal, company email account, and all other details.

8. Liaise will all relevant stakeholders about the new hire, their role in the onboarding plan and allocate resources for training. Everyone should know their responsibilities, which include developing the itinerary for the new employee’s first week, setting goals, assigning an onboarding buddy and clearly laying out the path to success for this person.

2. Onboarding on the first day

An HR person should welcome the new employee, showing them to their workstation, and delivering all necessities. This will include office keys, equipment, codes, badges, passwords, introductions to key software programs, providing introductions and an office tour.

If you have a learning environment, introduce it. It is great to have a mandatory learning path for all new employees. This is how you can effectively cover the most important things about the company, including what you do, the products you make, key people, organizational history and anything you think will be valuable.

It’s especially important to include guides and tips on how to use company software, intranet, communication channels and so on.

Structure of the employee onboarding learning path at Valamis. It contains company introduction, history, values, culture, first tasks.

Employee onboarding learning path inside Valamis learning environment.

On the first day, a meeting with the new hire’s direct manager should be arranged. This is where the onboarding plan should be shared with the new hire, alongside an explanation of the training and short and long-term goals. The new hire should be encouraged to ask questions, and stakeholders should endeavour to help the new hire get settled in quickly.

Goals for the first day

  • Make your new employee comfortable and welcomed from the first moment. The first day should be focused on introductions, positive impressions, new colleagues and the first look at what the person will be working on in their new role.
  • Establish the expectations for the new role with the employee. As the new employee is introduced to their team, clarify each person’s role and how they will be interacting as a team going forward.

Best practices

1. Print a Welcome poster with the name and title of the new hire. Attach it to the office main door (outside of course). This is a really simple way to pay attention to the new employee(s) and also an easy way to show other colleagues that they should welcome their new co-worker on their first day.

Valamis Welcome poster on door

Valamis welcome poster

2. Create a welcome package. When a new employee starts, put a small package at their table. This gift might include some brand-related material, for example, a mug, beanie, shirt, beer, candies or similar. It’s a great idea to make a personalized mug, with the new employee’s name on it, their starting date and a personalized slogan. Choosing the slogan might be one of the tasks to do in the onboarding process.

Valamis welcome package: bag, stress ball, bottle, notebook.

Example of welcome package

3. Organize a welcome coffee, and invite all office employees to participate. You can even order a cake or some sweets. This creates a great experience and opens up the team to get to know each other, allowing them to tell something about themselves and learn more about each other. Come up with a list of simple get-to-know-you questions and prompts to help move things along smoothly. If you have a lot of new employees coming in the near future, you can combine their welcome coffees and do them once a week or over several weeks, or you can limit participants to within the new hire’s department.

Welcome coffee at Valamis

Welcome coffee at Valamis

4. Set up the new hire’s workstation and organise it. Make sure that their dedicated space is ready for them first thing. This includes a computer with everything installed and a list of all usernames and passwords, printed items, such as employee guides and codes of conduct, and a list of employees. Provide them with the information that they need so they know who to ask if they need something else for their job, for example, Barbara in IT can fix their connection, while Adam in HR can help with login issues.

Organized workstation.

The new hire’s workstation.

5. Assign an onboarding buddy. This is a person who is assigned to help on the first days. This is their go-to person to turn to when they inevitably have questions throughout their first few weeks. This is ideally someone on their team who has a solid idea of what their role is, can answer questions easily, and can help smooth their transition.

6. Set aside 30 minutes at the beginning of the day and 30 minutes in the end for one-on-one meetings with the new hire. This will give them space to ask questions, make observations and ensure that they are on the right track.

7. If possible, take the new employee out for lunch, create a coffee and cake meet-and-greet or other social function specifically to welcome the new employee. They should feel as though their new job is as excited to have them as they are to start.

8. Ask a new employee to observe the organization and ask them to tell if they find something to improve. A new person always has a fresh view.

3. Onboarding on the first week

It’s really important to involve new employees in work in the first week.

They will, naturally, be feeling a bit lost in this new environment, so using the onboarding buddy system is highly recommended. Find a high performer with a similar role who can show the new hire the ropes, answer questions, and generally function as their go-to support person.

Before the new hire starts, you should have already set first week goals, short-term, achievable actions that can help them feel as though they are already contributing right off the bat.

As they begin to settle in, arrange for them to have meetings with the people they will be working closely with and other important people within the organization. It is recommended to set meetings with the head of their department, and the heads of other departments that they will be working closely with. Schedule one-on-one meetings with key members of their department, if it is a large one, or with all members if it is possible.

Try to organize a meeting with the CEO. Many companies choose to schedule this during lunch, as it is more low-key and sociable, and makes the new employee feel valued.

Ideally, each person can teach them a different aspect of their new role, as well as answering general questions about the company, the technology, the products, or whatever else might come up.

This is also where the new employee will learn the general schedule they will be following: Which meetings happen on which days, who they need to check in with daily, and how long specific tasks might take them.

They will develop and understand their long and short-term goals, their immediate tasks, and what their responsibilities will be.

Goals for the first week

  • Throughout the week, introduce the new hire to all of the people they will be working closely with.
  • Develop an understanding of the goals for the new employee. This should include goals to achieve before the trial period ends, as well as the goals they are expected to achieve after one year and goals for longer career development. Please note: write these goals down!
  • The new hire should undergo training sessions to know and be comfortable with the technology they will be using, understand their team schedule, and begin working on smaller tasks.
  • The new hire has a support network that they can turn to for help.

Best practices

1. Set the support team and start tasks in advance. All of this should be settled before the new hire starts. Being organized will demonstrate to the new hire that your company is stable, thoughtful, and takes the time to do things right. It gives a positive first impression.

2. Anticipate that your new hire will take some time to settle in. Be realistic about what you expect them to do, and communicate that early and often. Discuss the goals and how you will help the new hire reach them.

3. If possible, introduce the new hire to someone who has worked in their role. If that person was promoted out of the role, they will be able to share valuable insights about the growth potential of the company, best practices for fulfilling the role, and in general, will be a key person for the new hire to meet.

4. Set one-on-one sessions with team members, if possible, so they can tell the new hire more about what they are doing and introduce themselves. They can explain how the new employee can help them in their work, and be part of really important work at the very beginning of their journey.

4. Onboarding during 1 month

As your new hire settles in, you should work to provide them with ample opportunities to socialize, learn, develop themselves and integrate into the company. This can be something large, such as company-wide events like ping pong tournaments or BBQs, or smaller get-togethers, like coffee with colleagues or one-on-ones with supervisors.

Check-in with them regularly, follow up with their team and direct supervisor and make sure that they are being offered all of the resources they need. This is especially important at the one month mark. A good tool to use at a 30-day check-in is a survey. Consider the following questions, and think if there are others that you could ask a new hire that are more specific to your organization.

Example survey questions:

  1. Do you feel like you are a valued part of the company?
  2. Do you feel like the company is meeting your expectations?
  3. Are you experiencing any difficulties with our technologies or work-related tools?
  4. Do you feel like you have the tools and resources you need?
  5. Have you outlined your goals with your supervisor?
  6. Do you feel you are making progress towards your outlined goals?
  7. Do you know the strategic goal of the company for the future?
  8. Do you have any thoughts on how to make our onboarding process better?

Goals for the 1st month

  • Make sure that your employee is on the path to success within your company by offering continued support, development opportunities and check-ins with relevant team members.
  • Foster a community culture within your organization through team-building and one-on-one exercises.
  • See how the organization’s onboarding can be improved.

Best practices

1. Supervisors should establish a regular schedule for checking in with the new hire. Goals, current and upcoming projects, and concerns should be addressed in these sessions.

2. Use technology like Slack’s Donut integration to assist with connecting random team members for virtual meet and greets.

3. Have one-on-one sessions with the supervisor or department head at the end of each week. This serves to touch base, make sure that things are going smoothly, and all questions or concerns can be quickly addressed.

4. if you have a trial period in your company, set a one-on-one meeting with a supervisor after it has passed. There should also be a survey so that the HR department can learn more about overall results and employee satisfaction.

5. Create a variety of activities, so that all employees can find something for them: yoga, exercise, painting, cooking, or sports. Have a variety of different challenges and invite new employees to participate.

Cooking event with colleagues

Cooking event: It’s better to become friends with the Head of Design during the first month.

6. Don’t stop onboarding after one month. Continue to monitor your new hire’s journey with your company, develop their talents and invest in them. Consider doing 3 month, 6 month, and 1-year check-ins.

Employee onboarding process best practices

1. Have a comprehensive, written, formal onboarding checklist

Studies have shown that companies with formal onboarding checklist report significantly better rates of retention.

You can download our onboarding checklist in PDF, PNG, Google Sheets, and Excel templates. Use them as they are, or modify them according to your needs.

Use a prepared Trello template to manage the onboarding process in your company. It will help you track each new employee, assign tasks and responsible persons, set due dates, and many other things.

New Employee Onboarding Trello template by Valamis

2. Have a detailed, written explanation of the job description

This should be developed during the hiring process and shared with all applicants, to remove the possibility of hiring a person who cannot perform the main functions of the role.

3. Select a peer to help the new employee get acclimatized in their first few weeks

In selecting this person, make sure they have a positive and helpful attitude. This will set the tone for your new employee and help them feel welcomed into this new space.

4. Involve different departments of the company

When drafting the onboarding plan, include making introductions to all of the different departments. From product development, marketing, human resources and sales, it is important to include departments other than the new hire’s department.

It makes it easier for the new employee to find points of contact inside the company and helps them to understand company structure.

5. Ensure a clean workspace and facilitate incoming paperwork

Coming into a new office and having an unclean workspace will make a person feel unwelcome or as if the company is unprepared for them.

The same goes for paperwork – having everything set up and ready will show that this person has been anticipated and is a valued member of the team already.

6. Organize an enthusiastic welcome for the new employee

Through email or a staff meeting, let everyone know that there is a new employee.

Organize a welcome lunch or another event to introduce the new hire.

The first day will set the tone for their employment, make sure your new hire feels welcomed.

7. Monitor their progress over time

Having regular check-ins at set intervals will allow management to track the onboarding process – which can take up to a year.

Making sure the employee is on track, and solving any issues that have come up, will increase the rate of employee retention.

8. Make short, medium and long-term goals clear

Without clear goals, you are leaving your employee to guess what they should be doing, and it will not end well.

By setting clear, achievable goals, you make your expectations known, you set a path towards achievement and your new hire knows where they stand.

Sit down with your employee and set one week, one month, six month and one-year goals for them, and talk through how these goals might be achieved.

Remember to write it all down!

9. Get feedback from the new employee

We cannot emphasize how important this step is!

Your new employee has got fresh eyes and recent experiences from other companies.

You want to hear their feedback about your business, processes, everything that they have encountered during their onboarding experience.

This is some of the most valuable insight you can receive, so don’t miss out on it.

10. End of probation period discussion

This should be held by the supervisor before the probation time ends.

Don’t forget, there should also be a ‘feelings check’ with HR 45 days into the new hire’s employment.

Both of these discussions open the door for the new hire to ask questions, solve issues, and generally receive company support.

11. Create a friend book

Ask employees to introduce themselves, create a friend book where employees can tell something about themselves, what they do, what they like, what are their hobbies and so on.

This helps employees to know each other better, and find friends for the new employees with similar interests inside the company.

Download book of employees template DOCX.

FriendBook screenshot

Remote onboarding tips

More and more, organizations are moving towards remote work. As COVID-19 has shown us, we can perform just as well, or in some cases better, when we are not in an office environment.

But one area that suffers is onboarding. Meeting new colleagues, receiving direct training, reaching out with questions – all of these are made much more difficult when everything is online.

However, there is always a solution, it just takes some creativity.

Here are some solutions that your organization can use for onboarding remote employees.

  • Make sure that all of the necessary equipment has been delivered to your new hire and that they have been able to set it up. Schedule a session with an IT person a few days before they are due to log in the first time so that any issues can be found and solved before their official first day.
  • Keep in mind that endless video meetings will drain a new employee. Break their schedule up with hour-long meetings followed by an hour of tasks. First-day tasks could be getting familiar with new platforms, setting up Slack, Google Drive and email, or logging into the company LMS and taking the first course. Repeat throughout the day. Set longer or more complex tasks as the onboarding continues.
  • Introduce the new employee to team members in 1:1 calls, where the team member is tasked with teaching them part of their new role. Each person can offer a unique insight into the company processes and will break up the day a bit.
  • Consider recording training sessions, so that the new employee can refer back to it later on. This helps them feel like they don’t have to be laser-focused 100% of the time, and they know that they won’t miss anything important.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments! Make announcements in the company-wide chat, send little gifts to team members who have gone above and beyond, reach out personally to thank people for their effort. It’s really important to foster a sense of connection in a time when so many people feel disconnected.

FAQ about onboarding process

How long is the onboarding process?

According to this survey, onboarding programs tend to be from one day to one month long. In fact, more than 50% of onboarding programs last one week or less.

This is not ideal – in a perfect world onboarding would take at least 90 to 100 days, and could even go up to a year.

What do new hires want from onboarding?

New hires want to come in and be able to contribute quickly. They want to learn their role, their closest colleagues and know who they can turn to for help.

They also want to have a clearly defined role, a schedule created for them that they can follow the first week or two, and clear communication.

Is onboarding part of recruitment?

It is! Onboarding starts the minute that someone becomes aware of your organization, especially in relation to a job posting. The impression that you give will stick with the person, so you should strive to make sure it is a good one.

During the recruitment stage, it is especially important to cover some of the first steps of onboarding, so potential employees know what to expect from your organization. If you have a good onboarding program, you will find that it is easier to recruit quality employees.

Is onboarding the same as training?

Onboarding and training often go hand in hand, but they are different things.

Training is about teaching new skills to a person and has to do with the tasks the new hire is expected to perform.

Onboarding is about bringing a new person into the culture of the company, integrating them in with the staff, the management and the overall environment.

Does orientation count as the start date?

It can, depending on when it happens, before the starting day or on the first day.

Some organizations choose to have an orientation session before the official start date, others have the two on the same day.

What is the difference between a new hire orientation and onboarding?

A new hire orientation is a one-time event, usually on the first day, where new employees are formally introduced to the company values, ethos, leaders, policies and administrative procedures.

Onboarding is a much longer process, which does include orientation, and is where the new hire is introduced to all aspects of their new role. This usually includes job training, goal-setting, introduction to company culture, meeting other employees and serves to help the new hire get adjusted quickly and become productive.