What is the onboarding process and why is it so important?

Some time ago when I graduated at the faculty of electrical engineering I have found my first job. It was in a rather small local company which was dealing with computer software, having about 10 employees on board. First day at work I have received a huge book on my desk with a simple instruction from one of my colleagues: „Read it!“ It was a book about Fortran, an important programming language at that time. And that was pretty much all regarding my onboarding process!

I didn’t know my colleagues, or the company hierarchy, I didn’t know anything about their daily activities, priorities, etc. As a fresh graduate I didn’t dare to ask much and when I did on few occasions, the answers were brief, cold and in a patronizing tone leaving me even more reluctant to ask anything further. It was a nightmare for me! I have barely spent one month there and I left that company never regretting my decision.

When I think about this experience today I can completely relate to the circumstances back then. Those guys simply did not know better, there was no process in place for onboarding a newcomer, hardly there were processes for anything else in such relatively small company. Probably the same situation was in other organizations at that time and it was „normal“ for a new employee to manage himself/herself and somehow eventually fit into the team.

Nowadays the situation in business world is luckily very much different, especially when it comes to the larger companies/organization, and as I advanced with my professional career I have experienced various onboarding processes. Some of them were better, some could have been better, but at least they existed!

What is actually an onboarding process? It is a structured procedure for integrating a new employee into the organization and its culture. Good and well-organized onboarding process is important for both, the company itself and the employee.

Name one company that does not like to have so called „plug and play“ solution when hiring a new employee! Having professional onboarding protocol will get the company faster to this desired goal and the process itself will be more efficient. New employee will be fully operational and able to contribute to the company, he/she will receive a necessary training, he/she will know what is expected from him/her and where he/she can search for any further information needed.

So, when the employment contract is signed and all other administrative formalities are done, then the real onboarding process starts. It takes a thorough and timely planning and organization to welcome a new team member in a professional way. Below are main steps to follow:


·      New employee’s direct supervisor needs to prepare an onboarding plan in advance (could be in excel for ex.) for the period of 1 to 3 months (period may vary related to the position) containing a timetable of all foreseen activities and people in charge. This plan is to be sent to all involved upfront, so everybody knows exactly what to do and when. The activities here include: tour around the office, presentations from colleagues about their part of job, meetings with regular business partners, online learning and many more.

·      Organizing a complete workspace and tool for a new employee upfront, so that he/she can be fully operational from day 1. (desk, computer, keys, IT access, mobile phone, etc)

·      Preparing a Workbook for a newcomer with all information and activity data to store. (hard copy or e-version, does not matter, important is for newcomer to understand what is it for and work on it)


·      New employee for sure already explored the web site of the company he/she is starting to work for. Nevertheless, it is right time to explore it even further in depth and do assigned web based trainings (preferably interactive ones), get familiar with the policies & procedures and company culture. It is best to have introduction on this verbally and the actual learning individually, in most cases electronically.

·      Some large companies have „Welcome to the team video“ from CEO which gives a personal touch and helps newcomer understand the values of the company.


·     “Welcome to the team” card (with a photography) or some other kind of general announcement is to be sent electronically upfront or/and put on the office kitchen board, so that everybody is familiar with the news and can welcome a newcomer.

·      First day at work may be crucial. Inviting a newcomer for a lunch and integrating him/her from day 1 into a team is a small gesture, but high on the importance list.

·      Conducting a tour in the office – this step will make new employee comfortable to understand where the office facilities are located and it is also good chance for some informal conversations with colleagues.

·      Assigning a colleague who will be a newcomer’s first contact point in a company. That is not a direct supervisor nor HR responsible, rather a peer or a senior colleague who can be working on a complete different position, but knows the company culture and procedures well. In some companies this position is called „Mentor“, but even simple „First contact“ is OK.


·      Regular periodical follow up and feedback with direct supervisor is very important. Onboarding is happening at the same time as a probation period and giving and receiving information about what is good and what still can be improved leads to successful continuation of the employment contract.

·      Organizational charts can be very helpful for newcomers to easily memorize who is who and what they do, especially in larger companies with many departments.

·      “Face time” with key people in the company, including direct supervisor, should not be neglected as it puts a solid ground for future communication.

·      Encouraging activity by giving some concrete tasks to do, so that newcomer does not feel like he is not doing anything in the first days.

Having good onboarding procedure is a huge asset for any company. It takes time, effort and “know how” to build it, but once it is there it soon brings tangible benefits for both the company and the employee. For sure it contributes to the employer branding through its own employees who will advocate it further.

At the end, it is important to say that every onboarding process is “customer tailored” with regard to the size and nature of a company, but also “situation tailored” as we face COVID-19 crisis and need to switch many activities to e-form.

Autor: Daniela Marušić Gajica


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