What Is Onboarding?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you get a new job, you may feel eager to get started. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you officially transition into your new role. By preparing yourself for the new position, you can feel more confident and comfortable in your new company. In this article, we explain about onboarding, lists the steps involved in an effective employee onboarding process and share some tips to help you prepare yourself for onboarding into your new role.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into an organisation. It refers to the entire process through which you gain the knowledge, skill and behaviour required to become an effective team member. Onboarding helps you, as a new employee, understand more about your position in the organisation and enables you to integrate seamlessly into the work environment.
When you're hired by a company, you'll likely work closely with the human resource department as you progress through the onboarding process. An onboarding program can last several weeks or months, but the amount of training and knowledge-sharing you receive varies between employers.

Why is onboarding important?

The onboarding process is essential because it helps you acclimate to your role and company culture to ensure a strong and rewarding start. Here are some major reasons why onboarding is important:

  • Helps you to gain first-hand experience of the company's work culture

  • Gives you all the information needed to do your job effectively

  • Helps shorten the learning curve and improve productivity

  • Shows what it's really like to work in the company

  • Provides information on whether you've made the right decision to accept the job

Read more: Tips for Graduates Entering the Workforce During COVID-19

How does the onboarding process work

Here's a step-by-step process to guide you through the typical onboarding process in most organisations:

1. Receiving the offer

In most organisations, the onboarding process starts right after the recruitment phase. At first, you'll receive a welcome email from HR along with the offer letter, which contains all the details about your role's responsibilities, expectations and requirements. These types of emails are time-sensitive, so it's important to sign and return them at the earliest.

2. Offer acceptance

Once you have accepted the offer, some companies set up an office tour and gradually begin the onboarding process by giving access to any training materials or the employee portal. Often, the HR person may schedule a welcome call to provide information, review any forms and policies and set the right expectations. You also have to fill up and sign several HR documents, including those related to company policies, benefits, insurance and compensation. Some companies have a completely digital onboarding process with minimum paperwork.

3. On the day of joining

On the first day, an HR person usually welcomes you and shows you around the office. You may also get access to all the necessities such as email access, passwords and office supplies, including access cards, stationeries, workspace, keys. The HR person will discuss the formal onboarding plans and guide you through the employee induction program. They also provide necessary guidance on using internal software, communication and collaborative tools used in the company.

Sometimes, the HR person also sets up a meeting with your direct manager and introduces you to your team members, clarifying each person's role and how they may work with you. Eventually, as you settle in, you can also meet up with your department head and the heads of other departments that you might work closely with.

4. Training and orientation

Orientations and training sessions can bring you up to speed and help you get started at the earliest. Often the onboarding team prepares a role-specific training program based on your skill and knowledge. These orientation sessions can give you an overview of the organisation's work culture and provide an insight into the company's vision, mission, and goals. During these orientation programs, the HR or team lead sets role-based goals and checks in with you at scheduled intervals.

5. Onboarding during the first month

As you settle in, utilise ample opportunities set up by your HR department to socialise, develop yourself and integrate into the company. You can reach out to your manager or team members if you require any help to do your job. Often, the HR person continues to monitor your journey every few months.

Related: Preparing for the Future of Work

Tips for preparing yourself for onboarding

Here are some tips to keep in mind while preparing yourself for onboarding into your new job:

Confirm the offer letter conditions

Ensure that you fully understand and accept the terms and conditions of your contract before starting at the new position.

Know the start date

During your initial discussions with HR, you should also confirm when is your first day at work and what time you should show up at the office. Information on whom to report to and details on the onboarding process would also be useful too.

Usually, it's the responsibility of the HR administrator or team leader to inform you about the details of the first day. However, if no one contacted you with this information, write an email or call your contact person in the company.

Prepare yourself before the first day

It would be a good idea to research more about the company's background and culture before your first day. At some companies, the HR schedules meetings with you to share these guidelines and other tips before your first day at work.

Build connections

Dedicate effort and time to getting to know your teammates. They can help you transition into your new role and advance in your current career. Introduce yourself to colleagues outside your team as well to create a positive impression. Most times, you work with other teams in the organisation, so you should build a good relationship with them as early as possible.

Even if you don't get the opportunity to make introductions during the orientation period, you can introduce yourself to your colleagues in many other ways. You can ask your manager or an HR administrator to introduce you to all the teams associated with your position or you can make the introductions yourself.

Ask questions

Asking questions to your colleagues can help create a two-way conversation and build a relationship with them. It can also help you to know more details about the company and your job positions. Along with speeding up your learning process, it also shows your new employer that you are taking the initiative to learn.

Frequently asked questions about onboarding

Here are some of the commonly asked questions about onboarding:

How long does onboarding take?

There are no strict rules about the duration of an employee onboarding process. However, organisations that wish to maximise employee engagement and reduce employee turnover are very thorough in their onboarding process. Several companies have onboarding processes that last from a few days to a couple of months.

Many HR professionals suggest that an onboarding process should last about 90 days. However, others recommend extending the onboarding process to a year. This ensures new employees have all the resources needed to do the job and feel comfortable within the organisation.

Is onboarding the same as training?

Onboarding and training are two separate tasks, yet they need to coexist. Training covers all the details about the technicalities or tasks of the job. It discusses the processes for your job, provides guidance on how to complete tasks and gives in-depth training on the technology and equipment required to do your job.

On the other hand, onboarding focuses on the bigger picture of integrating you, as a new employee, into the company through a combination of training programs and support mechanisms. It's important to remember that one cannot exist without the other, but they must complement each other to succeed.

How's onboarding different from orientation?

Onboarding is an ongoing process of setting up engagement from the first contact until you have established within the organisation. On the other hand, orientation is a stage of the onboarding process where you learn about the company and your job responsibilities. Orientation aims to integrate you, as a new employee, into the organisation as seamlessly as possible.

Organisations conduct new employee orientation on the first day or week of employment. Often it's a conference-style event that brings together new hires from different teams across the organisation with presentations and question-and-answer sessions. Some companies also schedule time for executive-level managers and department heads to come in and greet new employees, introduce themselves and describe their roles within the organisation.

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