The Importance of Onboarding

Orientation Alone Isn’t Enough

We frequently hear “We already have an employee onboarding process.” in our discussions at People Element. By digging deeper, we have learned that this statement has different meanings depending on who we are speaking with. Often times, people are using the terms onboarding and orientation interchangeably. They are not the same thing. New hire orientation is an event during the onboarding process. Onboarding is the process used to assimilate new employees into your organization.

Why is Employee Onboarding Important?

Research from Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) shows that turnover during the first 18 months on the job can be as high as 50 percent. Organizations are realizing they must move beyond the standard new hire orientation and create an effective onboarding process. This is critical to improve employee retention.

An effective onboarding process will help your new hires feel more valued, better understand their role, and increase their productivity and performance, resulting in increased engagement. The onboarding process begins as soon as an offer is accepted and typically lasts through the first year of employment, at a minimum. Since onboarding is more similar to a strategic plan, you should begin by mapping out critical touch points.

Elements of an Onboarding Process

At a minimum, your employee onboarding process should include:

Welcoming Your New Hire

To help your new hire feel part of their team, you must make them feel welcome. Find opportunities for your new hire to interact and socialize with both their team and anyone they will be working closely with. Schedule a group lunch for the new hire’s first day for an informal opportunity to get to know each other. Get different departments or managers involved to share information and/or an overview of their function. This will help the new hire better understand how their role fits into the organization.

Mentor Program

At People Element, we assign a mentor to each new hire. The mentor provides additional support for the new hire and helps them through transition. The overall role of the mentor is proactive, which assists a new hire in understanding the big picture of the processes and the sequencing of events. This will sometimes involve helping with prioritizing on a daily basis. The mentor will be the first point of contact for questions that are not related to a specific training activity.


Supervisors should schedule regular one-on-one meetings with their new hires to both give and receive feedback. Regular one-on-one meetings can build trust and a strong relationship between the new hire and supervisor. These meetings are typically more informal and ideally scheduled weekly or bi-weekly.

Many organizations take a more formal approach with 30, 60 and 90 day new hire check ins in addition to one-one-one meetings. The purpose of the formal new hire checks ins is to receive feedback and learn what your new hire is lacking to be successful. Typically 30, 60 and 90 day check ins have a consistent questions set that is used across the organization with a few unique questions specific to each department or job function. Feedback can then be aggregated and used to measure the effectiveness of the onboarding process.

Career Conversations

It is never too early to begin conversations about career growth. Megan Younkin, Director of Consulting at People Element, has found that regardless of the industry, there is a big gap between expectations and reality when it comes to career growth and development, even very early on in an employee’s tenure. She states, “It’s not unusual for us to find strong dissatisfaction with career opportunities from employees with only a few months tenure, often because expectations weren’t set well enough and early enough with new employees. This includes expectations around when/why/how for upward mobility, whether or not there is a clear path for career growth within a certain position, and available developmental opportunities for employees.”

Your onboarding process should be tailored to your unique organization, aligned with your culture and customized to the function and role. A solid onboarding process focuses on strengthening the new hire’s connection to the organization. The process is complete when the new hire is fully assimilated, and contributing to department and organizational goals.

Contact People Element to learn how we can help you to improve the effectiveness of your onboarding process by identifying early disengagement triggers and obstacles inhibiting a new hire’s success.

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