HR Glossary: What Is Employee Onboarding

Employee onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, plays a pivotal role in shaping the success and integration of new employees within a company. In the United States, where up to 25% of the workforce is made up of organizational newcomers undergoing the onboarding process, its significance cannot be overstated. This comprehensive process ensures that new hires acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective contributors to the organization.

Definition and Process

Onboarding, often referred to as “induction” in standard English, encompasses the formalized mechanisms through which new employees are introduced to the operations, culture, and expectations of the organization. This process includes a variety of tactics such as formal meetings, lectures, videos, printed materials, or computer-based orientations. In other parts of the world, onboarding is known as ‘induction’ or ‘training.’

Benefits of Onboarding

Studies have consistently demonstrated the positive outcomes associated with effective onboarding. These include higher job satisfaction, improved job performance, greater organizational commitment, and a reduction in occupational stress and intent to quit. The term “onboarding” itself, though often considered management jargon, encapsulates the strategic approach taken by organizations to integrate and retain their workforce.

Antecedents of Success

Researchers identify three key components influencing the success of onboarding: new employee characteristics, new employee behaviors, and organizational efforts. Proactive personality, curiosity, and the level of employee experience are crucial characteristics, while behaviors such as information seeking, feedback seeking, and relationship building contribute to a successful onboarding experience.

Tactics in Onboarding

Organizations employ various tactics in onboarding, with approaches ranging from systematic to “sink or swim.” The Van Maanen and Schein model (1979) identifies six major dimensions characterizing onboarding tactics, including collective vs. individual socialization, formal vs. informal socialization, sequential vs. random socialization, fixed vs. variable socialization, serial vs. disjunctive socialization, and investiture vs. divestiture socialization.

Jones’ model (1986) simplifies these dimensions into two categories: institutionalized and individualized socialization, reflecting the structured programs vs. more independent learning approaches.

Elements of Onboarding

Formal orientation programs, recruitment events, and mentorship opportunities are crucial elements in the onboarding process. Formal orientations, whether traditional or online, play a key role in introducing employees to company culture. Recruitment events help identify suitable candidates, while mentorship enhances the socialization of new employees, fostering knowledge about the organization and providing support.

Online Onboarding

The digital age has ushered in online onboarding, allowing organizations to conduct training partially or fully online. While this approach offers advantages such as standardized training, flexibility, and accessibility, it also presents challenges, including the absence of face-to-face interaction.

Steps in the Onboarding Process

The successful integration of a new employee involves a structured plan, beginning with the definition of short, medium, and long-term business objectives. The subsequent steps include preparing for the candidate’s arrival, the first day of employment, the integration period, a review of the trial period, and long-term monitoring.

Benefits of Onboarding for Company Performance

Implementing a robust onboarding process yields several benefits for company performance. It strengthens the company’s brand image, increases employee retention, ensures immediate employee productivity, improves communication and cohesion, and enhances the utilization of resources.


Employee onboarding is a powerful and strategic system that goes beyond the first day or week of a new hire. It is a continuous process that, when executed effectively, contributes to the overall success and profitability of an organization. As the workforce landscape evolves, organizations must adapt their onboarding processes to meet the changing needs and expectations of new employees. Investing in onboarding is an investment in the future success of both the individual and the company.

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