What is Onboarding? The Ultimate Beginner Guide

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    As businesses strive to attract and retain top talent in today’s competitive landscape, a crucial element that cannot be overlooked is the onboarding process.  

    An effective onboarding process is not just a mere formality, but a strategic investment that sets the foundation for a successful employee experience, leading to improved productivity, increased job satisfaction, and higher employee retention rates.  

    In this blog post, we will delve into the components of onboarding and provide key insights on how to create a stellar onboarding experience that sets the stage for long-term success, both for the new employee and the company as a whole.  

    Whether you are a small business owner, a manager, or an HR professional, this beginner’s guide to onboarding will equip you with the knowledge and tools to ensure a seamless and impactful onboarding process for your organization. So, let’s dive in and unlock the power of onboarding! 

    What is Onboarding? 

    Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into an organization and familiarizing them with its culture, goals, values, and practices that will help them succeed in their role as an employee or partner.

    It goes beyond being just a mere formality and serves as a strategic investment that sets the foundation for a successful employee experience. 

    The components of successful onboarding are multi-faceted and may vary depending on factors such as company size, industry, and specific needs. Some companies have formal onboarding programs that last several weeks or even months, while others may take a more informal approach.

    However, regardless of the approach, the key components of successful onboarding include providing clear expectations for job duties and performance standards, offering training and support to help employees or partners learn quickly, and fostering effective communication between managers, HR professionals, and other team members. 

    Investing time in creating an effective onboarding program pays off in various ways, including improved partner and employee retention rates, increased productivity levels among new employees, and better overall morale within the organization. 

    How Does an Onboarding Process Look Like? 

    Onboarding process is not a one-size-fits-all approach and may vary depending on the organization’s specific needs and goals. However, a typical onboarding process has 7 phases. 

    What Are The 7 Phases Of Onboarding?

    1. Preparing for Day One: Before the new employee’s first day, HR professionals or hiring managers may send out important paperwork, such as employment contracts, tax forms, and benefit enrolment forms, for the new employee to review and complete. They may also provide information on company policies, dress code, and other relevant details to ensure the new employee is prepared for their first day. 
    1. First Day Orientation: On the new employee’s first day, they may receive a warm welcome from the team and participate in an orientation session. This session may cover an introduction to the company’s history, culture, mission, and values. The new employee may also receive an overview of their job responsibilities, team structure, and expectations. 
    1. Paperwork and Documentation: During the onboarding process, the new employee may be required to complete various paperwork and documentation, such as completing employment contracts, tax forms, and benefit enrollment forms. 
    1. Training and Development: To ensure the new employee is equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their role, they may undergo training and development programs. This may include online courses, on-the-job training, shadowing experienced team members, or participating in formal training sessions. 
    1. Introduction to Company Policies and Procedures: HR professionals or hiring managers usually provide an overview of company policies and procedures during the onboarding process. This may include policies related to attendance, code of conduct, safety, and security.

      It’s important to ensure the new employee understands and complies with these policies to maintain a positive work environment. Instead of going over each process with new employees individually, these policies and procedures can be effectively taught through an interactive LMS, where it’s also easy to return to at a later time as well. 
    1. Introduction to Team Members and Company Culture: Building relationships with colleagues and understanding the company’s culture is crucial for the new employee’s integration into the organization. HR professionals or hiring managers may facilitate introductions to team members, arrange team-building activities, and provide opportunities for the new employee to socialize and network with their colleagues. 
    1. Ongoing Support and Check-Ins: The onboarding process doesn’t end after the first week or month. HR professionals or hiring managers may continue to provide ongoing support and check-ins with the new employee to ensure they are settling in well and have the necessary resources and support to perform their job effectively. This may include regular meetings to address any questions or concerns, provide feedback, and offer guidance. 

    Onboarding is a crucial process for any organization that wants to retain its employees and maintain high productivity levels. By providing new hires with the necessary tools and information they need to succeed in their roles, companies can ensure that their workforce is motivated, engaged, and ready to contribute from day one. 

    READ: Mastering Onboarding Process: The Path to a Thriving Workforce 

    Popular Onboarding Tools 

    Effective onboarding requires the use of appropriate tools to ensure a smooth and seamless process. Here are some essential tools that can be used for successful onboarding: 

    1. HR Information System (HRIS) 
      An HRIS is a software application that helps manage employee data and personnel files, including payroll, benefits, tax forms and other important documents. 
    2. Learning Management System (LMS) 
      A LMS is an online platform designed to deliver training materials to new hires. It provides access to various resources such as videos, manuals and quizzes which help employees learn about their roles quickly. 
    3. Employee Self-Service Portal 
      An Employee Self-Service Portal allows new hires to access information about their employment status, benefits packages, company policies and procedures from any device at any time. 
    4. Performance Management Software 
      Performance management software enables employers to set clear expectations for new hires while providing continuous feedback throughout their probationary period. 
    5. Real-Time Communication Tools 
      Real-time communication tools like video conferencing or instant messaging apps enable remote teams to communicate effectively during onboarding sessions. 

    Employers who utilize these types of onboarding tools will have more success in engaging with new employees early in the hiring process and ensuring they have all necessary information needed for effective job performance right from day one! 

    Best Practices for Onboarding 

    Our Learning Designers in Claned work with multiple industries and various types of organizations making them familiar with the best practices of onboarding. We asked Chris and Aino what tips they have to offer people who are looking at creating an online onboarding process which utilizes an online environment. 

    Tip 1: Begin the Onboarding Process Even Before Day 1 

    Leveraging a Learning Management System (LMS) for basic onboarding allows new employees to access the platform at their own convenience. You can ask your new hires to register to your LMS and start the onboarding process even before their official start date, some times know as pre-boarding.

    This not only saves time, but also helps new employees feel more confident and prepared before they begin their work.

    By providing early access to the LMS, you can set a positive tone for the onboarding experience and ensure that new employees are equipped with the necessary information and resources from the very beginning. 

    Tip 2: Use a Blended Format to Maximize Learning 

    The best way to approach employee onboarding is through a blended format, combining online learning with practical application. With the increasing trend of remote work, an LMS can facilitate remote onboarding by providing access to training materials online.

    This decreases the need for in-person training sessions and allows new employees to complete onboarding training from anywhere, making it convenient and accessible.  

    One of the key benefits of a blended approach instead of having a manager sit down an onboard the employee for a hour, the employee will show up prepared for their practice shift. This significantly saves the manager’s time as the employee can immediately start applying what they have learned, accelerating their learning process. 

    Another benefit of using an online learning platform is that the employee has access to the materials even after the initial training. This allows them to easily review and reference the content if they forget something later on. This ensures that the new employee is equipped with the knowledge they need to perform their tasks effectively and confidently. 

    Furthermore, managers can easily monitor the progress of employees through the online learning platform. They can see how employees have scored in the assessments and provide feedback either within the system or through face-to-face interactions. This allows for continuous improvement and personalized feedback, helping employees to constantly enhance their skills and knowledge. 

    By utilizing a blended format of online learning and practical application, employee onboarding becomes more efficient, effective, and engaging. It saves time for managers, provides ongoing access to learning materials for employees, and allows for personalized feedback and improvement. 

    Tip 3: Transform Manuals, Policies, and Procedure Outlines into Engaging Learning Content 

    Many companies already have a wealth of materials that new or existing employees need to familiarize themselves with, such as manuals, policies, and procedure outlines. However, these materials are often heavy and lack engagement, making it challenging for employees to learn effectively. 

    To turn this basic content into a short, engaging course, follow these five steps: 

    1. Chunk the information into smaller, manageable sections that are easy to digest. This helps prevent information overload and allows employees to focus on one topic at a time. 
    1. Utilize your Online Learning platform to deliver the content in an organized and accessible manner. This makes it convenient for employees to access the materials at their own pace, anytime and anywhere. 
    1. Provide a brief introduction to each section that explains why the content is important and how it relates to employees’ roles or the overall goals of the organization. This sets the context and relevance for the learners. 
    1. Incorporate real-life examples or relatable stories that illustrate the concepts or procedures being taught. This makes the content more relatable and memorable, increasing engagement and retention. 
    1. Include short quizzes at the end of each section to assess employees’ understanding and reinforce the learning. Quizzes encourage active participation and help reinforce key concepts. 

    Voila! By following these steps, you can transform your existing content into an engaging learning experience that promotes effective learning and retention. With a well-structured and engaging course, employees are more likely to be motivated and equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their roles. In addition, you are able to track that everyone in your team or organization has completed mandatory trainings

    Tip 4: Make it Social 

    Onboarding can sometimes feel isolating if social interactions are not taken into account. However, incorporating social elements into onboarding is relatively easy and can greatly enhance the experience.

    One effective approach is to encourage learners to share their ideas and insights, allowing them to get to know each other better and contribute to the learning process.

    For example, you can pose questions such as “What do you think are the most important qualities of a (insert job title)?” Or something more general like “What are you looking forward in the upcoming weeks?” and invite new employees to share their thoughts and learn from each other’s perspectives.

    This encourages interaction, collaboration, and the exchange of ideas, fostering a sense of community among new hires. 

    Another creative idea is to involve existing employees in content creation. You can ask people to write a short introduction about themselves and don’t forget to use team and individual pictures! If you want to take if further, why not ask them to film a “My Day” vlog, where they share a typical day in their role. 

    Some other great ways of involving existing employees is to ask them to generate tips or greetings for newcomers. For instance, they could add some personal thoughts or tips they have related to a particular topic or what it is like to work in the company. This not only increases engagement but also promotes a sense of inclusion among employees. 

    Another way of involving existing employees into the process is to have new hiers approach them for information specifically related to the old employees department or tasks. So where to find particular resources, or how to use a tool or software. People learn best from watch and interacting with others in informal settings.

    This process can be thought of a micro-shadowing. When using this approach plan ahead, so people can be prepared and ensure that there is an attitude and culture that supports return visits and question asking – people often need more than one attempt before they learn to do something entirely independently. 

    By incorporating social interactions into your onboarding process, you can create a supportive and collaborative learning environment that helps new employees feel more connected, engaged, and motivated, leading to a smoother and more successful onboarding experience. 

    Checklist for Your Onboarding Process  

    1. Pre-Day 1 Onboarding: Ensure new employees have access to the online learning platform and can complete relevant training modules prior to their first day of work. 
    1. Blended Learning Approach: Give your learners and onboarding schedule that lists out all the days that they will be doing shadowing, practicing, or on-the-job training and what modules need to be completed beforehand. 
    1. Bite-sized Learning Content: Break down training materials into smaller, manageable sections that are easy to digest and retain. 
    1. Engaging Content: Create engaging and interactive learning content that includes videos, quizzes, simulations, and other multimedia elements. 
    1. Social Interaction: Incorporate social elements into the online learning platform, such as discussion forums, chat groups, or peer-to-peer interactions. 
    1. Tracking and Feedback: Use the online learning platform to track the progress of new employees, including completion of training modules, quiz scores, and other performance indicators. Provide timely feedback and support to help them improve and succeed. 
    1. Support and Assistance: Provide support and assistance to new employees as they navigate the online learning platform. This can include orientation sessions, training guides, and a designated point of contact for questions or concerns. 
    1. Ongoing Learning Opportunities: Use the online learning platform to provide ongoing learning opportunities beyond the initial onboarding process. This can include continuous training, professional development, and skill-building courses to help employees grow and thrive in their roles. 
    1. Evaluation and Improvement: Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the onboarding process utilizing the online learning platform, gather feedback from new employees, and make improvements as needed. Continuously assess and optimize the training materials and learning experience to ensure maximum impact and success. 

    By following this checklist, you can create a comprehensive onboarding process that effectively utilizes an online learning platform to support the learning and development of new employees, leading to a smooth and successful transition into their roles. 

    FAQs On Employee Onboarding

    What is the actual purpose of onboarding?

    The purpose of onboarding is to ensure that new employees are integrated into their roles, the company culture, and its values. It is a comprehensive process that provides employees with the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge to be successful in their new position.

    How long should onboarding last?

    The length of onboarding can vary depending on the organization and the position. However, onboarding generally lasts for several weeks to several months. The onboarding process should be long enough to provide new employees with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to be successful in their role.

    What is onboarding vs orientation?

    Orientation is a one-time event that typically occurs on the first day of employment. It provides new employees with an overview of the company’s policies, procedures, and benefits. Onboarding, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive process that can last several weeks or months.

    It involves providing new employees with the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge to be successful in their new position. Onboarding also focuses on integrating new employees into the company culture and its values, whereas orientation is more focused on administrative tasks.

    Here Are 5 Best LMS For Onboarding


    Remember that every company’s onboarding process will be unique based on its culture, industry, and goals. However, by following the fundamental principles of what is covered in this article, you can ensure a smooth transition for new employees and help set them up for long-term success within your organization. 

    Investing time in creating an excellent onboarding experience not only benefits new hires but also helps lay the foundation for a positive work environment where everyone can thrive together. So start implementing these tips today and watch how they transform your company’s onboarding processes.  

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