Create an Onboarding Process, Not an Event

Mike Bensi
April 20, 2017

The struggle is real when it comes to onboarding a new employee. The hiring manager wants the new hire to start the job right away, but they’ll need time to train. HR needs the right paperwork filled out, but they also want the new hire to feel engaged and inspired to work at the company.

Trying to organize all the "to-dos" in bringing a new hire up to speed can be overwhelming for both hiring managers and HR. And when things start to feel overwhelming or confusing to an organization, it can feel the same to employees. A 2007 study from the Wynhurst Group found that new hires are 58% more likely to be at the same company three years later if they had completed a structured onboarding process.Without a strong process in place, employees don't understand their role or expectations. They feel confused or alienated. And then they leave.

To help us organize a better process, it's important to think about the three key themes of a strong onboarding process:


Some of you might wonder if orientation is the same as onboarding. Onboarding is the process. Orientation is only the first step in that process. It is the time to collect all the necessary paperwork for getting paid, acknowledgment forms, and acknowledging the acknowledgment forms.

Focusing too much energy here deflates all the goals you have for the overall process. Not enough focus, and the employee comes knocking on your door asking why he or she doesn't have benefits.

Pay attention to this area, but make it as simple, easy, and straight forward as possible. Technology is the answer. By creating self-service modules through your HRIS, you can eliminate the time and resources that employees, managers, and HR need. If technology isn't an option, create a standard packet of paperwork and share it with the new hire before he or she starts.It allows him or her to feel you're on top of the process, and the employee will feel like he or she is getting started quicker.


Even before the employee starts, you want to ensure he or she feels welcomed by the culture, but also as an individual. Allow time to communicate:

  • About the company: Convey your organizational culture, values, and brand. This can include meetings with key leaders about these various topics, and fun ways to reinforce your brand through custom swag (t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.).

  • About the team: Allow other team members, not just HR or the hiring manager, to be involved in the process as well. Simple ways to do this include team lunches or meetings. Mentoring programs can also work well. Whether it is one person or a team of mentors, creating connection with others can help build relationships and answer questions that might arise.

  • About the employee: During the recruiting process, we look for someone who can bring in a separate set of skills and experience to the culture. So don't forget to allow time in the onboarding process to talk about those strengths and differences. Creating opportunities for new hires to show their individuality, while joining a new culture, can also help in the overall process.


The theme of understanding within the onboarding process provides some of the most critically important activities to the new hire. In addition to teaching new hires about the mission, vision, values, and culture of the organization, we also must make sure employees understand their roles and how they connect to the company's goals. Employees learn expectations and how they'll be evaluated through:

  • Training. According to BambooHR, three-fourths of new hires said training during the first week on the job is most important to them. Strong onboarding processes make time for structured training both on-the-job, and beyond.

  • Listening. Employees want to understand how they fit in an organization, but also want to know what others are doing. Allow time to meet with other departments, as well as key employees and leaders. This helps build a team bonding as new employees know what other roles’ purposes are.

  • Expectation setting. Ensure you include time to introduce objectives and goals to the new hire to understand what matters and how they'll be successful. This will let him or her know off the bat what should be important.

  • Doing. Many companies make the mistake of not giving work to the new hire on the first day.However, having the new hire work right away helps ensure he or she is more engaged and productive in the long run. Focus on creating small projects for the employee to own quickly to reinforce the expectations.

Onboarding is overwhelming because it is so important to the overall employee experience. Creating an onboarding process, rather than a one-time event, can help new hires start on a longer-term path to success.