Onboarding is the process by which new employees are welcomed and integrated into a team. There are many reasons why onboarding is important and more and more companies are becoming aware of the importance of integrating and supporting new recruits, however many still struggle to find the right combinations to make the process successful.

This guide includes all elements to consider for developing an effective onboarding process within a company that delivers on its promises.

What is onboarding and what is its purpose?

It is difficult to find a single definition of onboarding. In reality, it is up to each HR team to personalise the process so that it incorporates the particularities and vision of the company. However, it is possible to describe the overall approach that supports this integration technique.

Definition of onboarding

In HR jargon, the term “onboarding” means “embarkation” or “integration”. It often corresponds to the probation period of the new employee and marks the beginning of their experience as a member of the company’s staff.

However, onboarding sometimes separates from the notion of integration because the concept implies, in addition to the simple assimilation of the new employee into the existing team, the implementation of a methodology and use of dedicated tools.

Therefore, it is more accurate to define onboarding as a journey or a series of well-organised sequences around several key points.

Understanding the onboarding process

From the above, it appears that the onboarding process represents the structured approach used by the company to welcome and facilitate the adaptation of new employees within teams. It is the new hire’s introduction to the role and the entire organisation.

The process is defined by the different stages that each recruit must follow to become effectively operational. It can be conceived as a kind of agenda for the first days of work, with key moments, essential information, and important tasks.

The onboarding process provides employees with the opportunity to plan and prepare for training sessions, meetings, and gatherings that will take place in the coming weeks or months. It is, therefore, a reference of information.

What is the purpose of integrating new employees?

Before presenting the benefits of well-conducted integration for a company, let’s address its purpose. Integration can be considered a key element in the optimisation of an impactful recruitment process.

Onboarding supports recruitment and ensures its results. It reduces the risk of the new employee leaving after the first year, thus saving the company thousands of pounds.

Furthermore, the employee integration process acts upstream of recruitment as it contributes to creating a brand image that will undoubtedly attract potential candidates.

A company that highlights its integration plan for new employees also shows future talent that it cares about them.

When applying for a vacancy, candidates will be more confident about their future within the organisation if the onboarding plan is laid out within the job ad, helping increase candidate motivation and interest.

What are the benefits of effective integration?

When an integration plan is well formulated and implemented, it provides the company with several long-term benefits.

These are varied and affect not only the employees to whom they are addressed but also the entire structure. Here are three advantages to be gained from a successful onboarding process.

Building a positive corporate culture

The term corporate culture refers to a set of practices, norms, values, and ideals shared within an organisation.

When the onboarding process is effective, the company can build a positive culture where employees feel supported, valued, fulfilled, and engaged.

But how can the integration of new employees have this impact? To implement a process worthy of the name, you need to communicate the values of your company to employees, as well as norms regarding belonging, diversity, and inclusion.

You should also create an atmosphere of trust fuelled by constructive and respectful feedback.

By proceeding in this way to facilitate the integration of a new employee, you will inevitably build a positive culture that will be beneficial for everyone and have a lasting impact.

Combatting impostor syndrome

An employee is said to suffer from impostor syndrome when they doubt their abilities, feel they do not deserve their position, or believe they are not talented enough to be part of a given team.

This syndrome can lead to a loss of self-confidence, rejection by others, and ultimately burnout, which can result in resignation or dismissal.

Fortunately, in the integration plan, the company is required to provide the new employee with clear short-, medium-, and long-term objectives.

Armed with these instructions, the new hire is no longer lost and does not doubt their usefulness within the team. Assigning a mentor is also a positive action that encourages employees to find their place within the company.

Learning opportunities for new employees

Effective integration offers new employees several learning opportunities. The company spends several weeks training and informing employees to give them time to familiarise themselves with their new environment and the rules in place.

Some organisations even grant recruits unstructured time (outside of training) that they can use to increase their knowledge through documentation (reading notes and documents provided by superiors) and exploring their new workplace.

All these opportunities given to new employees allow them to learn more about the organisation’s functioning, find their bearings, and prepare to tackle projects effectively.

Why is onboarding important in recruitment?

While the concept of onboarding impacts all the company’s activities, its benefits are undoubtedly felt more in the recruitment process.

In fact, some consider it the last stage of this process, while others see it as the first. The latter believe that the proper integration of new employees is essential for seeking new talents.

Reduces employee turnover

A Robert Half survey shows that during their first month of work, one in two employees thinks about resigning. Among the reasons cited for this feeling is a poor welcome, leading to a loss of confidence and then turnover.

This is a disadvantageous situation because it is costly for the company. It is important to know that replacing employees, especially outside of traditional recruitment, costs between 30% and 400% of the annual salary. Through onboarding, companies reduce turnover by improving the welcome of new recruits.

They use welcome messages, meticulously prepared schedules to guide them during the first weeks, as well as training sessions to help them familiarise themselves with the work environment, etc.

Reveals the company’s employer brand

In this context, the employer brand is not taken in its brand image sense. It refers to the set of missions and values that the organisation promotes. These identity traits must be integrated by all staff.

The employee integration journey involves revealing the organisation’s employer brand to new talent. However, it is important that they do not notice a significant gap between the information received during the interview and after hiring.

Moreover, the integration plan should not only involve distributing a document containing the employer brand. It should be designed so that all actors play their roles and effectively demonstrate their involvement in creating the brand image.

Boosts productivity

In a good onboarding plan, the company plans to provide new recruits with all necessary work tools in the first days. It prepares the environment by making practical information and tools available.

This approach eliminates time loss and, above all, boosts the productivity of the new hire.

The new hire can immediately focus on the high-value tasks assigned to them based on their position. They will be operational from the start. This is a real performance factor for the company, which begins to see returns from the start of employment.

Improves engagement and retention

A motivated and happy employee is committed to their company. When the company’s integration is successful, new employees are reassured in their decision and know they made the right choice. It must be said that in all things, the first moments are highly impactful.

The company has the responsibility to anticipate the employee integration journey, make it attractive and appealing to gain engagement and retain its employees. This is why some professionals say that onboarding and offboarding are linked.

Although the latter concerns departing employees, it should not be forgotten that they were once new recruits. If they were part of an integration programme, it is likely that the acquired sense of engagement and retention facilitates their departure, which often happens under the best conditions.

Positively impacts the HR department

The HR department is significantly impacted by implementing an integration plan for new employees. The steps to implement, the administrative tasks, the software and tools used, all of this revitalises the HR work.

Furthermore, onboarding strengthens teams and gives the entire department the opportunity to recall and correct a number of things. Vision, brand image, values, and objectives are reviewed, making it easier to optimise the company’s talent management.

HR becomes more adept at certain points, such as organising training sessions, internal promotions, team cohesion, etc.

How to set up your onboarding integration process:

There are several important steps to follow to set up onboarding in a company. The HR department must start very early to ensure the effectiveness of each step.

Choose an HR software for integration

Several integration softwares have been designed to offer new talent an optimised experience while simultaneously easing the work of HR.

The HR departments of several companies have noticed that adopting an automated integration method allows them to centralise important elements, keep objectives in sight, and above all, save time.

To successfully choose the best onboarding software, it is recommended to clearly define the objectives of the approach based on the company’s reality, the position’s requirements, and the type of talent recruited.

Choose the duration of onboarding

In general, the duration of the integration process depends on each organisation. However, it is essential to allocate enough time for steps such as paperwork, introduction to the work environment, training sessions, and the orientation period.

At a minimum, new employee integration should extend throughout their probation period. However, it is preferable to define a duration ranging from 6 months to a year. Several studies have shown that companies with year-long onboarding achieve more significant results.

Structure the pre-integration process

Pre-integration is the period between accepting the job offer and the employee’s start date. HR should use this time to complete the tasks necessary for welcoming the new employee.

To do this, they should use tools like an integration checklist. This is very useful when assigning tasks to the new recruit, starting from the first day.

During pre-integration, it is essential to communicate certain instructions related to the first day to the future employee to help them prepare.

The HR manager can, for example, create a preformatted and concise email containing contact details, dates, times, and locations, as well as necessary instructions on behaviour and dress code.

Receiving such an email before the first day gives future employees time to discover the tasks to be performed and ask questions.

Organise the employee’s first day

Since most of the administrative tasks necessary for the new employee’s installation will have been completed during the pre-integration period, the manager and their team will only need to organise the first day, incorporating relaxing and fun elements.

It is recommended to prepare a welcome pack with some information on the company’s policies, job benefits, procedures, technology expectations, etc.

It is also an excellent idea to organise a tour of the premises, introduce the employee to key staff members, provide them with access codes, and set up their workstation, etc.

Clearly define the role and work objectives

The first week should be dedicated to conveying job expectations and specifics, performance objectives, monitoring indicators, and work culture. A conducive environment for feedback should be established, allowing employees to voice their concerns.

Objectives should be SMART, i.e., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The work culture should be presented clearly and implemented by all company personnel.

When each onboarding step is followed scrupulously, it facilitates insertion, improves engagement, and retains employees. These steps should also be accompanied by regular checks to make improvements and adjustments as needed.

How to succeed in the onboarding process?

All companies can implement an onboarding plan, but not all succeed. The success of the approach depends on a few crucial elements that make all the difference.

Properly prepare for integration

A well-thought-out preparation allows the HR department to effectively implement the steps outlined above.

For example, a survey revealed that several employees who appreciated the first day’s welcome still complained about the confusion and poor organisation that seemed to prevail. Good preparation would not have left this aftertaste.

Constantly communicate with the recruit

Communication is the foundation of successful integration. It must be present and relevant throughout the process.

The danger is to stop communicating when it is assumed that the recruit has understood everything. However, there is a risk that they might reconsider their position, feel neglected, or even decide to resign.

Assign a mentor to the new employee

Companies that have adopted mentoring have quickly realised that this approach is effective in gaining employees’ trust.

They feel more comfortable when they have a single point of contact who accompanies them during integration. They are more willing to ask questions and share their feelings.

Regularly monitor the process

Given the complexity and duration of onboarding, it cannot be effective without regular monitoring. It is therefore recommended to schedule frequent meetings with the new recruit to track their progress, gather their opinions, and adjust the approach as needed.

During these meetings, the manager might realise that the integration period needs to be extended.

Overall, to succeed in onboarding, you must prepare well and encourage listening and feedback. This is why companies adopting participative management can easily implement an integration that meets its promises.

Onboarding: Key takeaways

In summary, onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into an organisation. It starts right after the job acceptance and can last up to a year, depending on the company or employee.

To implement a relevant and effective integration plan, it is important to:

  • Prepare an action plan in the form of a checklist;
  • Define the practical and logistical aspects of the approach;
  • Constantly communicate with the recruit;
  • Organise the arrival and welcome properly;
  • Provide quality support;
  • Set clear objectives to avoid any confusion in the tasks to be performed.

Thus, the company can expect a certain level of engagement and loyalty from its new employee. It can improve employee retention rates and especially reduce early resignations that cost it money.

Onboarding is a process that has already proven itself in adopting a 2.0 recruitment process within all companies that have decided to change or adjust their practices.