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< Productivity Glossary

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of incorporating new employees, new clients, or new users into a company or organization. It involves providing the new hire with the information, tools, and support they need to become a productive and successful member of the team. Establishing a comprehensive and well-planned onboarding system lays the groundwork for employee engagement, happiness, and loyalty in the long run.

Onboarding goes beyond basic orientation and paperwork. It involves activities that help new employees understand their role, company culture, and how their work fits into the bigger picture. Effective onboarding makes the transition smooth for new hires and creates a strong foundation for their success within the organization.

How onboarding works

While specific onboarding programs vary between companies, there are common stages in a successful process:

  • Pre-boarding: This phase begins after a job offer is accepted but before the start date. Hiring managers handle all necessary paperwork, set up technology and accounts, and potentially send a welcome package to the new hire.
  • Orientation: The formal introduction to the company. Orientation generally covers company policies, values, mission, and practical details like workspace setup and introductions.
  • Training: Job-specific training provides the new employee with essential skills and knowledge to perform their duties. This may involve shadowing colleagues, formal instruction, or online learning modules.
  • Social integration: Helping new team members build relationships within their team and across the company. This can include mentorship programs, team lunches, and informal social events.
  • Ongoing support: Onboarding shouldn't end abruptly. Regular check-ins, feedback mechanisms, and additional resources and opportunities for further development ensure the new employee feels supported and engaged.

Onboarding is an ongoing process, not just a single event. Its effectiveness depends on planning, communication, and a commitment to helping new hires achieve long-term success.

Benefits of effective onboarding

A good onboarding process offers significant advantages to both the new employee and the organization as a whole:

  • Improved employee engagement: Onboarding helps new hires feel welcomed and valued, increasing engagement and motivation.
  • Faster time to productivity: Clear training and support allow new employees to become productive contributors more quickly.
  • Higher employee retention: A positive onboarding experience reduces early turnover and increases the likelihood of employees staying with the company long-term.
  • Stronger company culture: Onboarding helps reinforce company values and culture, promoting a sense of belonging in new hires.
  • Reduced stress & anxiety: A structured onboarding process helps new hires navigate the initial uncertainty of a new job, decreasing stress levels and increasing confidence.

Best practices for onboarding

Here's a breakdown of best practices for creating an exceptional onboarding process, along with tips on how to apply them:

  • Start early: Begin the onboarding process before the new hire's first day by handling paperwork, setting up accounts, and providing pre-arrival information.
  • Set clear expectations: Clearly outline the new hire's role, responsibilities, and the goals you expect them to achieve in their first few weeks and months.
  • Assign a mentor or buddy: Pair new hires with an experienced team member to offer guidance, answer questions, and provide social support.
  • Provide structured training: Develop a training plan that combines various methods (e.g., hands-on experience, job shadowing, online resources) to cater to different learning styles.
  • Emphasize company culture: Go beyond job specifics and introduce the company's values, history, and overall mission to new hires.
  • Check-in regularly: It's always a good idea to keep in touch with new employees in their early days and weeks on the job. Regular check-ins can be a great way to make new hires feel comfortable, provide feedback, and address any concerns they may have while keeping track of their progress.
  • Collect feedback: Gather feedback from new employees about the onboarding experience to continually improve the process.

Challenges with onboarding

Even with the best intentions, companies may encounter obstacles during the onboarding process. Here are some common challenges to keep in mind:

  • Information overload: Bombarding new hires with too much information at once can be overwhelming and counterproductive.
  • Lack of structure: Unorganized onboarding programs leave new hires feeling lost, uncertain of their place in the company, and unsure how to get the support they need.
  • Poor communication: Inconsistent or unclear communication between the new hire, their manager, and HR can cause confusion and frustration.
  • Neglecting company culture: Focusing solely on job tasks without immersing new hires in the company's culture can make it harder for them to feel connected and invested.
  • Insufficient technology setup: Delays in getting new employees the tools and access they need hinder their ability to get started and contribute effectively, especially if they're remote employees or high-tech workers.
  • Limited social integration: Failing to provide opportunities for new hires to build relationships with their colleagues can lead to feelings of isolation.

Examples of onboarding activities

Onboarding programs can include a diverse range of activities. Here are a few common examples:


  • Welcome emails with introductory information and instructions for setting up technology
  • Completion of necessary HR paperwork (digital or in-person)
  • Sending a welcome package with company swag and resources


  • Company overview presentation covering mission, values, and history
  • Workplace tour and introductions to key team members
  • Review of company policies, procedures, and benefits


  • Hands-on demonstrations of job-specific tasks
  • Job shadowing with experienced employees
  • Online learning modules or courses
  • Access to knowledge bases and internal documentation

Social integration

  • Mentor or buddy program for informal support
  • Team lunches or informal meet-and-greets
  • Company-wide social events to encourage networking

Ongoing support

  • Regular check-in meetings with managers
  • Performance reviews and feedback sessions
  • Opportunities for professional development

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