Talent Development Glossary Terms
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What Is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process through which organizations equip new employees with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at their jobs. Unlike new employee orientation, which is usually an isolated, single-day event, the employee onboarding process should start with the first contact an organization has with a new hire and continue through the employee’s first year on the job.

What is the onboarding process for a new employee?

The most important thing to remember is that onboarding programs should not be generic; role-specific considerations should be made. Organizations also might use different terminology for various parts of the onboarding process.

Some organizations divide their onboarding process into activities that take place in four areas:

1. Before the employee starts or pre-boarding,

2. Welcoming on the employee’s first day,

3. Transitioning into the new role, and

4. Ongoing development with various checkpoints throughout the employee’s first 90 days until their first year on the job

Other organization’s structure onboarding based on the type of content the employee is learning. These onboarding programs generally focus on:

  • Organizational onboarding—Employees learn the organization’s history and culture as well as procedures.
  • Social onboarding—Employees acclimate to their new team and its social dynamics.
  • Technical onboarding—Employees learn how to perform the tasks associated with their new job.

ATD has developed an approach to onboarding known as the 5R Model. This model promotes a holistic onboarding process that encompasses reviewing your current onboarding practices, recruiting for retention, establishing roles and responsibilities, building relationships, and collaborating to deliver results.

What are Onboarding Activities?

Onboarding is more important than ever. A recent study conducted by the Brandon Hall Group found that a “strong onboarding process improved new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by more than 70 percent.” The cost of a bad onboarding process has never been higher. In fact, most new hires make up their minds if they want to stay in an organization within the first six months of starting a new job. While some of the more usual activities are always needed, such as benefits training and paperwork, sending the new hire an employee handbook, introducing them to team members, and injecting some more fun into your onboarding activities can go a long way.

Some suggestions are:

  • A welcome packet with company swag or card from the team
  • A company buddy
  • Welcome lunch on the first day if in-person or a gift card to lunch if remote
  • Entry interview with loose goal setting
  • New hire happy hour
  • Scavenger hunt
  • A 30-60-90-day plan
  • A company mentor
  • Regular checkpoints set up for the first 90 days
  • One-on-ones with the manager set up bi-weekly to monthly for the rest of the year

Who Is Responsible For Onboarding?

The short answer is many people. While human resources professionals are primarily in charge of creating and organizing the company’s overall onboarding strategy and activities, it takes effort from the entire organization to onboard an employee effectively.

The learning and development department may be involved with creating onboarding materials and orientating the new hire on the first day. Departments such as IT, finance, and customer service also may play a role in the onboarding process by setting up the new employee’s computer or financial records or training the new employee on customer service protocol. And, of course, the direct manager and team are responsible for welcoming the new employee, getting them acclimated to the new role and organization, and answering the new hire’s questions on institutional knowledge.

When the entire organization welcomes a new hire, the new hire will feel more engaged and part of the community. By offering a warm welcome to the new employee, your organization is setting up the new hire for a longer and more productive experience within the role.

How Long Does Onboarding Take?

The most popular timeframe for an onboarding program is between 30 and 60 days, according to the Aberdeen group. However, about25 percent of companies are still only offering a one-day orientation process. Anything less than a month can be damaging to an organization’s retention rates.

Some organizations are extending their onboarding process out from three months to the entire first year. By creating a yearlong program, you help ensure the new hire has a positive and productive experience with all their performance, social, and organizational needs being addressed.

Virtual Onboarding

For some organizations, virtually onboarding new employees is not new, but for most companies, the COVID-19 pandemic increased remote work and has changed the way onboarding is being delivered.

Along with ensuring that new hires have the technology for a smooth remote work experience, it is vital that new employee virtual onboarding creates a successful experience for the employer and employee. Human resources and talent development professionals recognize that onboarding starts weeks even before the new hire’s first day on the job and extends past the first 90-day journey into the employee’s first full year. Onboarding is more than an orientation into the organization; it is an important part of employee development and retention.

Although the new employee is not physically in the office, there is a strong need for human connection, which can be difficult for employers to provide. Face-to-face video calls and other personal touches can help. One way many organizations do this is to provide a buddy system so employees outside of a new hire’s department can connect with the new hire early and often to help them understand the workplace culture and norms.

The employee’s first day can be overwhelming, so the virtual onboarding process should include some down time for the new employee to reflect on the new information they have received.

Free Virtual Onboarding Checklist

Successfully onboarding new colleagues has never been more important than it is today. Regardless of whether your workforce is remote, in the office, or a combination of both, your organization should be modifying its approach to onboarding. While you may not have the ability to implement all of the items on the checklist, find at least three that you can take action on in the next week.

How ATD Can Help You With Onboarding

ATD’s mission is to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace, and developing talent starts with the onboarding effort. Designing effective onboarding programs involves instructional design, training, evaluation, and other aspects of workplace learning. ATD curates the best content from the world’s leading experts in the field, providing resources to help HR/OD professionals improve their organization’s onboarding practices.

We look at talent development holistically and understand how onboarding fits into the entire employee life cycle, starting with recruiting and hiring, and impacting employee engagement and culture.

For access to even more resources, including practical tools and templates, research, and insights, you’re invited to become an ATD member.Learn more.

For more information on Onboarding, visit the following:

Attend OrgDev
ATD’s Talent Strategy and Management Topic Page
New Employee Onboarding Certificate
Sign Up for the ATD Talent Management Newsletter

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