Organizations large and small acknowledge the necessity in onboarding new employees– after all, one never gets a second chance to make a first impression. As HR processes continue to be revolutionized, supercharging this first engagement between an employer and employee is nothing short of essential. In his recent article about employee experience, Josh Bersin points to onboarding as a means of improving productivity, wellbeing and output.

Just as journalists apply the 5 questions of who, what, when, where and why to their research, we use this approach to examine onboarding through the lens of the new world of work.


Onboarding is targeted at actively engaging new hires from the time they are recruited and throughout their first year of employment. Be sure not to overlook internal moves to new roles, or those created via merger/ acquisition. As we enter a gig economy, onboarding processes for contract workers, part-timers or remote workers are also important to consider.

Onboarding is “everyone’s job”—not just HR’s. Maximum success is achieved through collaboration with individual employees and business leaders. This explains why best-in-class companies introduce new hires to relevant people in the company as part of their onboarding processes (Aberdeen Group 2016).


The Oxford dictionary defines onboarding as “the action or process of integrating a new employee into an organisation or familiarising a new customer or client with one’s products or services.” The onboarding journey that ushers in a new employee and lends them support in the first year is crucial to ensuring their productivity and successful integration. This success translates into greater self-confidence on the job, clarity of the role and improved social integration, which inevitably are reflected in performance.

Gone are the years of relying solely on training in a classroom setting. Winning onboarding strategies encompass onboarding roadmaps, orientation programs, mentoring/coaching, ongoing meetings to monitor progress, and peer integration. Onboarding tools will facilitate a faster learning curve for new hires and improve communication, ultimately creating a more productive and engaged workforce.

No two organizations will onboard in an identical way, as their process is shaped by company culture and size. Nevertheless, common principles found in onboarding processes include compliance, logistics, management, training, and cultural engagement.


There is no hard and fast rule for when onboarding should begin or end. Consider that a new hire thinks about their new role and team from the moment they apply. From that point, they are already invested in the company to some degree, and employers must ensure that emotional investment is not misplaced. According to the Aberdeen Group it seems most do, with best-in-class companies 53% more likely to begin onboarding before the new hire’s first day.

‘Pre-boarding’ fills the gap between the actual signing of a contract and the first day on the job. Granting a new hire access to internal social networks encourages integration, instills enthusiasm, and gives a taste of culture and inner workings.

With a whopping 22% of staff turnover occuring in the first forty-five days of employment as (The Wynhurst Group, 2007), investing in a pre-boarding plan in conjunction with regular progress review meetings will lessen the likelihood of this happening.

Research suggests that employees have 3 months to prove themselves in a new job. Goal setting for a new employee’s first 30, 60 and 90 days will focus efforts, align expectations and provide supervision and support. A personal development plan will map out potential opportunities for ambitious new hires. Taking such measures will likely reduce employee resignation in the first year, which can costs employers as much as three times their salary. With 90% of employees making the decision to stay within the first year, implementing these efforts ought to inspire belonging and loyalty.


Today’s companies are at a strong advantage over the past with all the solutions HR technology brings to market. As so many tasks and stakeholders are involved in the onboarding process, managers must effectively leverage tools to streamline the process. One example is an employee self-service system to capture employee details, which eliminates administrative work and frees up HR and line managers to focus on personal interaction with new hires.

Channels utilised to onboard vary by organisation, but as businesses bring consumer experiences into the workplace, they are better equipped to effectively welcome, guide and train new recruits. Automation that incorporates capturing personal data, task management and integration with HR systems will improve efficiency. Personalising the onboarding experience and the use of a community platform will heighten engagement.

The use of video and other creative media for orientation/ training over stale classroom settings has produced new recruits that are far more satisfied than those trained in old school ways.


Countless studies present findings that reinforce the ROI of onboarding. The Aberdeen Group in 2016 showed that structured onboarding results in higher productivity faster (65%), higher employee engagement and inclusiveness amongst team members (69%), higher retention (50%) and better immersiveness of new hires in their teams (49%).

Research by experts Talya Bauer and Sushil Nifadkar proved that newcomers to an organisation built more relationships and sought out more information when they felt they belong.

Organizations cannot risk incurring the expense of replacing quitters, with steep costs of as much as 400% for some executives. Those employees who experienced a structured orientation program are 69% more likely to remain at the company for up to three years, according to SHRM.

Let’s Add ‘How’ to the List

Now that you’re convinced that onboarding is critical to business success and well worth the investment, let’s conclude by considering how to achieve ROI from onboarding. Here’s a short list of best practices:

  • Determine who has ownership of onboarding strategy.
  • Define clear objectives, goals and milestones.
  • Measure the success of onboarding through checklists or surveys to assess and track progress. This data is invaluable for organizations to constantly improve their onboarding process.
  • Deploy tech processes that are easy to use, intuitive, scalable and collaborative.
  • bob gets new joiners oriented seamlessly using features that reduce your admin time, provide customized workflows, and encourage social integration.

from Nora Stark

Nora is Head of Communications at Hibob. She brings her background in psychology and passion for storytelling to her role. Often confused with the Starks from the North, Nora is also on a mission to travel and explore other cultures. An avid reader and podcast listener, she can be found discussing the latest pop culture news around the office. Nora is thrilled to discover where the future of work is headed through bob.