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New Hire Onboarding
What Is Onboarding? 6 Steps to Create a Scalable Onboarding Program [+ Checklist]

What Is Onboarding? 6 Steps to Create a Scalable Onboarding Program [+ Checklist]

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💡 Onboarding definition

Onboarding is the process of introducing new hires to an organization to set them up for success and support their transition into their role.

The hiring process is only the first step of your new hire’s journey. The next step—and arguably one of the most important—is onboarding. 

A good onboarding process ensures that your new teammate feels respected and valued. It also empowers them to become a meaningful contributor in less time.

But here's the deal: Without an effective onboarding process, new hires can't reach their full potential. In fact, only a shocking 12% of new hires believe that their organization has a good onboarding process. 

Wondering if your own approach is up to par? First, we’ll go back to basics and answer the question "What is onboarding?" Then, we'll guide you through everything you need to know about onboarding new employees, including how to level up your process with a free checklist.  

The importance of onboarding

So what does onboarding mean for a job? Onboarding introduces new hires to an organization. An effective onboarding experience sets your team up for success, brings them up to speed, and gives them the resources they need to do their best work.

Hiring managers or training managers will usually handle the process of onboarding a new employee, and it can take days, weeks, or months to complete. While every company's onboarding process is different, most include things like paperwork, training, and team introductions. 

Ideally, you'll tailor your new hire's onboarding process to equip them with everything they need to feel confident and supported. 

A graphic overviews what is onboarding, who handles it, how long it takes, and why it is important. ‍

An effective onboarding program has many benefits, including: 

  • Happier employees: Helps employees feel welcomed, valued, and comfortable in their new roles, leading to a greater sense of job satisfaction.
  • Greater productivity: Boosts productivity by 60% since it empowers your new employees with knowledge.
  • Better retention: Increases new hire retention by 50%, since team members feel supported, engaged, and equipped in their roles.
  • Faster knowledge transfer: New hires will start learning as early as their first day and get an early introduction to your company's culture of documentation. 

Onboarding also helps your new hires transition to their new jobs easier, allowing them to become more engaged with the team and start adding value earlier.

6 steps to onboard a new employee

We've covered the definition of onboarding and its benefits. Now it's time to talk about the process of onboarding a new employee.

The onboarding process is usually divided into four phases: 

  • Phase 1: Pre-onboarding. This occurs before the start date and includes setting up the new hire's accounts, doing facility tours (if applicable), and sending welcome packages. 
  • Phase 2: Initial onboarding. It's the orientation phase most people think of when they think of onboarding, where new hires are introduced to the company and fill out important paperwork. 
  • Phase 3: Job-specific training. The new hire will learn how to perform their job duties and go over standard procedure documents. 
  • Phase 4: Transition into the role. This is the time they'll start transitioning into the role and building a routine. 

Let's go over the six steps to build a stellar onboarding program—or improve a lackluster one. 

A graphic explains the steps of onboarding a new employee divided by the onboarding phases. 

Step 1. Start the onboarding process early

Phase 1: Pre-onboarding

The best onboarding programs start before a new employee's first day. Also known as “pre-onboarding,” this is when you can handle mundane tasks like paperwork before your new hire starts.

So, as soon as you make a hiring decision and extend the offer, send your new employee:

  • A formal contract
  • Their payroll information
  • Company-specific documents
  • Login information
  • Anything else they'll need to get started

Some companies go a step further and invite their new hires to the office for a quick tour or send them a care package with tasty treats and company swag as part of their pre-onboarding routine. 

Ideally, the onboarding process should be consistent across the company but still be tailored to each person and role. 

For example, the onboarding process for an executive will look a lot different than the onboarding process for a paid intern. It will also look different for your marketing, sales, customer service teams, and even remote workers. 

Step 2: Go over onboarding forms 

Phase 2: Initial Onboarding

Next, go over onboarding forms. This means walking new hires through the paperwork and helping them sign:

  • Internal documents
  • Policy documents
  • Emergency contact
  • Benefits documents

Although a necessary step, this can take time away from other important onboarding steps, so make it just like cooking Cup Noodles—quick and easy. Separate all of the documents that need to be signed ahead of time, so your new hires can read and sign them all in one go. 

Want to make it even easier—and more environmentally friendly? Upload your onboarding forms to an online platform with e-signatures.

This is also a good time to go over the company's policies and culture, overview the benefits, and answer any questions your new hires might have. 

💡 Tango Tip

Include a summary box at the top of the document explaining its purpose, or an FAQ section at the bottom so your new hires can quickly see what each document covers.

Step 3: Go into details about the role

Phase 2: Initial Onboarding

Once you handle all the onboarding forms, it's time to dive deeper into the role and expectations. 

During this phase, you should: 

  • Go over their schedule: Explain what they'll be doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Consider sharing a 30-60-90-day framework. 
  • Overview expectations: Go over company KPIs and talk about what you expect from them and what they can do to achieve it. 
  • Equip them with tools and resources: Walk through the tools they'll be using the most and where to find relevant how-to guides

This could also be the time to talk about some of their personal goals in the role and how you’ll help them achieve them. 

Step 4: Host a meet and greet

Phase 2: Initial onboarding

Your onboarding program should train new employees to do their job. But if that's all it does, you're missing the mark. Top-level onboarding makes new hires feel welcome.

One way to do this is by helping new folks make meaningful connections with the team. You can do this by: 

  • Making introductions: Take them to meet their colleagues for a quick introduction or schedule virtual coffee chats with different teammates. 
  • Scheduling manager meetings: Set up weekly meetings for new hires to connect with their supervisors and foster relationship building.
  • Hosting a team meeting: This can look like a team lunch or scheduled group meetings.

Meet and greets are 1) fun, and 2) a great way to give new hires a feel for their new company and team.

Step 5: Make training intuitive

Phase 3: Job-Specific Training

If you want to ensure that every new hire receives a similar onboarding experience, you need to document your onboarding processes

No matter who they are or what department they're joining, keeping training consistent will make it easier to achieve employee satisfaction and will give you time to focus on different tasks. 

Make training intuitive by setting up a self-guided onboarding phase where new hires can follow a schedule to complete any necessary training. To make that work, you should: 

  • Provide them with an onboarding checklist
  • Keep all how-to guides in one place
  • Create role-specific training videos 

To keep track of things, have them share their progress at the end of each week and answer any questions they might have. 

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Step 6: Assign an onboarding buddy

Phase 4: Transition into the role

One of the best ways to supercharge your new hire onboarding process is to implement a buddy system or an informal mentorship program.

Here's how to do it: Match new employees with more experienced teammates who help them navigate the ins and outs of their new job, like: 

  • Answering questions
  • Walking through tasks
  • Providing tips 
  • Hosting training sessions
  • Sharing institutional knowledge

The onboarding process might be for new hires, but having a buddy system is an opportunity for the whole team to get involved and build a strong culture of mentorship and community.

Best practices for onboarding a new employee

As you can see, an effective onboarding program is table stakes for setting new hires up for success. To streamline your process—and scale it over time—check out some onboarding best practices below. 

A graphic explains some onboarding best practices with checklists.

Make their first day memorable

First impressions matter, so welcome your new hires with open arms. This goes beyond being friendly and enthusiastic, so you can: 

  • Send a welcome email ahead of time 
  • Craft a creative welcome box
  • Throw a virtual theme party
  • Create a roadmap for success document 
  • Decorate their office space

To make them more comfortable, give new hires a list of staff contact information and who they can contact for specific questions and issues. 

Communicate with new hires regularly

An effective onboarding program goes beyond the first few days. Make a habit of connecting with your new hires and checking in—formally and informally.

Schedule a weekly check-in and go over any issues they might've had. Once they start transitioning into the role, set up a debrief to talk through their first few months.

Create an onboarding schedule

When a new hire comes in, they likely won't know what to expect for their first week. Ease their nerves by creating an onboarding schedule they can follow on their own. 

You can block out their calendars for weekly training and one-on-one meetings or assign them daily tasks. So when they start their day, they'll know exactly what to do. 

Use an onboarding checklist to make the onboarding process more streamlined and ensure you cover all of the bases before your new hire comes in.

Onboarding Checklist

Evaluate the onboarding process

Once you've built an onboarding program, continue to re-evaluate it.

Is the program working? Do our team training methods adequately prepare new employees for their roles? Do they feel appreciated, valued, and respected? Are team members driving results?

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," it’s time to re-evaluate your onboarding process and dig deeper into a few specific metrics:

  • Employee engagement: This measures the level of engagement new employees feel after going through onboarding. You can assess it by evaluating a new hire's work and sending new employees satisfaction surveys.
  • Time-to-productivity: This measures the time it takes for new employees to integrate into their roles and become productive team members. Choose the KPIs that will help you evaluate this metric for your specific team or company, then monitor them regularly.
  • Retention rate: This measures the rate employees leave your organization. A strong onboarding program that supports and empowers new hires from Day One should boost your retention rate.

These aren't the only metrics you can analyze, of course. But they should give you a good idea of the health and effectiveness of your company's onboarding program.

The bottom line

Asking yourself "what is onboarding?" (and how you can do it better!) is a great question. One you should probably ask yourself more than once. Needless to say, the onboarding process can make or break a new employee’s experience. 

Having a well-documented onboarding program is full of upsides for hiring managers, too. Once you set up one effective onboarding process, it’s a lot easier to do another. And when your new hires can do a lot of the legwork to get themselves up to speed, you can focus on other goals to move the business forward.


What is the purpose of onboarding?

Onboarding helps new hires adjust and start contributing to the company early on, setting them up for success.

What is a good onboarding process?

A good onboarding process is consistent across the company and introduces new hires to everything they need to know to take ownership of their role.

What is an example of onboarding?

An example of onboarding is introducing them to their new role and company culture. This means going over what's expected and how things are handled.

Who owns onboarding?

The hiring manager or a training manager will usually own the onboarding process for new hires.

Onboarding vs. training: Are they the same thing?

Onboarding and training are not the same thing. Onboarding introduces new hires to an organization which will usually include training. Training is an ongoing process, and it can happen even after the onboarding phase.

Is there a difference between onboarding and orientation?

Onboarding introduces new hires to an organization. Orientation, which is usually a part of onboarding, is when the company welcomes a new employee and introduces them to the company and colleagues. It usually happens on their first day.

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