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What is Employee Onboarding?

Tips and best practices to successfully onboard new employees.

Published

January 8, 2024

There are many terms floating around HR. Benchmarking, Employee Experience, Change Management, and more—industry jargon can easily confuse even the most sophisticated employee. With that being said, one critical process should always be clear: employee onboarding.

Read on to learn about what employee onboarding is, why it’s important, different steps to plan for, and some best practices to make your employee onboarding experiences wonderful.

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of bringing new hires into your organization. From helping them understand their role and responsibilities, to the company culture and policies, onboarding processes are crucial to ensuring new employees are equipped to do their best work.

Employee onboarding can take many forms. For some companies, this process includes meetings with managers, reviews of paperwork, and an office tour. For others—especially remote companies—onboarding takes the form of video calls, emails, and sharing logins to company apps.

Regardless of the format, the goal is the same: ensure new employees are supported, and given the resources necessary to succeed in their respective roles.

Why is employee onboarding important?

Your employee onboarding process is the first material experience a new hire has with your company. According to a Harvard Business Review report, positive onboarding experiences lead to a 50% increase in employee retention and 62% increase in productivity. Consequently, negative onboarding experiences lower employee engagement, confidence, and commitment. For those reasons, creating positive onboarding experiences are crucial for long-term employee and company success.

It can be helpful to consider your onboarding process like a first meeting with an important person. Beforehand, you would plan for the expectations of that meeting, asking:

  • Where is the meeting taking place?

  • What are the expectations of each attending party?

  • How should materials be prepared for you to successfully accomplish your meeting objective?

  • Which goals are prioritized in this meeting? Are there any that shouldn’t be prioritized?

In this context, considering each point is a given. However, what’s straightforward in theory can often become complicated in the workplace.

Goals of employee onboarding

By now you’re familiar with the general goal of onboarding, "to equip employees with the resources and support systems required for them to succeed." This goal is important, yet there are more nuanced objectives you should plan for.

Compliance

Ensuring employees complete necessary paperwork and understand regulatory, HR, and quality requirements of your organization.

Goals

Setting specific performance objectives for employees around training, comprehension, job performance, and output. These are sometimes referred to as:

  • OKRs - Objectives and Key Results

  • KPIs - Key Performance Indicators

  • SMART goals - goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely

Impression and integration

Helping employees seamlessly connect into your company’s apps, community, and culture, while leaving a positive first-impression.

Benefits of employee onboarding

Breaking down your onboarding process into these steps has incredibly positive, lasting effects not just on that employee, but your company as a whole:

  • Increased Productivity: shorter learning curves lead to more action and output.

  • Higher employee engagement: employees that feel seen and heard are more likely to get involved.

  • Better communication: great onboarding experiences help foster a culture of transparency and collaboration.

  • Better employee retention: empowered, educated, connected employees are more likely to stay.

  • Stronger company culture: it’s easier to run towards a goal when all team members are aligned on the values, mission, and direction.

What are the phases of employee onboarding?

The best onboarding experiences come from processes, not just moments. Onboarding should begin when a job offer is accepted—not when a new employee walks in the door. Consider focusing your efforts on the following intervals when building your onboarding experience:

Pre-boarding

  • Happens: between an accepted offer and an employee’s first day.

  • Consists of: adding employee information to systems, setting up access to company apps, and preparing required paperwork.

Orientation

  • Happens: on—or right before—an employee’s first day.

  • Consists of: completing necessary paperwork and providing employee with information about the job, expectations, and requirements.

First-Day Onboarding

  • Happens: on an employee’s first day.

  • Consists of: tour of office, apps, and benefits, completing and filing required paperwork, reinforcing clear expectations of goals and boundaries, meeting other team members.

Ongoing learning and development

  • Happens: continuously.

  • Consists of: ongoing sharing of processes, lessons, and resources required for employees to maintain high competence in respective positions.

Best Practices for Employee Onboarding

There’s undoubtedly lots to do when onboarding new employees, but don’t be overwhelmed! Checklists, automations, and collaborative tools help streamline this process and eliminate friction.

How do you automate new employee onboarding?

A valuable use of time is automating your manual tasks. The best part? You don’t even have to be technical to do it! Take, for example, automation tooling like Zapier. In just a few clicks, you can set up an automation that activates new employees in your company's knowledge base when they're added to your HR system. With minimal effort, you’ve ensured new hires automatically have access to training materials.

Read more about automations: The 3 Most Helpful Zapier Workflows for Your Training System

Why an onboarding checklist is important

Regardless of your company’s tech stack, onboarding checklists must be a part of your process. Like all great things, successful onboarding processes are the result of deliberate, consistent actions taken over time. On your checklist, consider including:

  • Timing: when an action needs to occur for the new employee and company.

  • Roles & responsibilities: who is responsible for ensuring an item is taken care of, checked, and signed-off on.

  • Apps and tools: which software needs to be accessed, by whom, and when? Who/what is responsible for delivering that access?

  • Regulatory: market the specific local and federal requirements for when your regulatory standards should be met and filed.

Offer remote onboarding (even if you’re not a remote workforce)

According to a Pew Research Center study, hybrid and remote work is here to stay. With that flexibility comes added pressure for companies to build more adaptable onboarding systems. Video conferencing and messaging apps replace 1-on-1 meetings, and virtual training and knowledge systems replace binders of paperwork. Even if your company is fully in the office, having these remote tools in place helps maintain agility amid changing employee needs and expectations.


Onboarding is an often changing, nuanced process. Whatever your company needs, remember to build onboarding systems that are consistent, measurable, and simple for new hires to understand.

The best way to achieve that goal, is with Basewell. Companies use Basewell to centralize their company training and knowledge, streamline their onboarding flow, quickly train employees, and measure how their training is impacting people and goals. Start your free 14-day trial today to see how powerful Basewell can be for your organization.