What is an onboarding process?

By Talent Management

Integrate new hires into your organization for long-term success

What is an onboarding process?

Onboarding is a process that introduces new employees to an organization and its culture. Onboarding helps them integrate and gain the right knowledge and skills to carry out their new responsibilities. Strategies to help a worker become acclimated include orientation, training, mentoring and employee social events.

Behind the scenes, hiring managers also handle onboarding administration and logistics such as setting up benefits and payroll, and providing equipment for new employees.

Many organizations have some form of onboarding process. However, it can range widely in approach and complexity, depending on company size and hiring requirements.

Onboarding may be as simple as an ad-hoc interview, a tour of the building and signing a few forms. On the other hand, large organizations may manage thousands of workers and depend on onboarding software, employee portals, orientation programs, training and more to integrate their new talent.

In addition, some industries have to manage their workforce based on fluctuations in service demand such as retail holiday shopping or tax season. Where short term hiring is needed to meet volume, there is less focus on retention. Getting workers up to speed quickly is what counts.

Those organizations that formalize and automate their onboarding programs have seen efficiency gains and lower costs from streamlining processes, reducing paperwork and increasing productivity. Another benefit is more time for managers to focus on value-added onboarding activities, which can further benefit a new employee.

According to the Aberdeen Group, 54 percent of organizations with a formal onboarding process find that their new hires are more productive, and 50 percent also experience greater retention of new workers.[1]

Job seeking through onboarding: Anytime, anywhere and on any device See how to provide a transparent and responsive experience for jobseekers, from job search through onboarding, on any device of the user’s choice. Watch video

Why the onboarding process is important

An effective onboarding process assists new employees and sets them up for success. The faster they adjust to their new responsibilities, the sooner they can start to contribute value to the business.

Bringing in talent is the first step. The second is holding onto workers once they are on board. On average, companies lose 17 percent of their new hires in the first three months.[2] This can mean significant costs in lost investment and productivity.

Positive onboarding experiences are key to worker retention. When employees have regrets about accepting their current job, they’re three times as likely to want to leave, says the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute. Conversely, positive employee onboarding can reduce these outcomes.

Other research suggests organizations should spend up to a year to help employees get up to speed, and capitalize on the skills and knowledge they bring to the enterprise. In some cases, successful onboarding programs not only help to retain new hires, but can translate into increased profit.[3]

Good onboarding processes recognize the value of employee retention and the long game. They enable organizations to integrate new hires and create the right environment for their long-term success.


Key features of an effective onboarding process

A positive environment, where workers can contribute and are valued, is associated with greater productivity. And employees with the most positive experiences are three times less likely to search for a new job.[4]

By engaging and integrating new hires at the outset, companies can help them become valued contributors. With that in mind, here are a few onboarding best practices companies may want to consider:

Foster a sense of community among new hires – Hiring managers can check in regularly during the early days and assign existing employees to be mentors.

Put the right tools and resources in place – HR may want to provide a means for new hires to share information before their start date. As well, they can outline the tools and processes that are available to help them.

Train managers on the importance of onboarding and the impact of their actions – When managers spend time with their new hires on the first day and throughout the first week, job regrets are much lower.

Use technology to enhance the onboarding experience – An online community and onboarding software can smooth and streamline the transition process.

Case studies:

Dave & Buster’s finds the fun in hiring with IBM Kenexa

Dave & Buster’s needed a partner to help them find “Fun Ambassadors” to ensure every guest has the best experience possible. Turnover is high in the hospitality industry, and the company is constantly looking for talent. IBM Kenexa talent software helps the organization find the right people with the right personality.

The application process is seamless for applicants. As soon as they go to the company’s career page, they can apply online. Recruiters can also do online assessments for early team members, and see the assessment results directly in the talent application.

“We can go from somebody applying to automatically moving them to a background check to automatically moving them to onboarding. All of this makes it simpler and we don't have to touch any buttons.” Kerri Walters, HRIS Manager, Dave & Buster’s Read success story

H&R Block maximizes same day hiring

H&R Block uses field seasonal hiring processes to hire its 80,000 tax office associates for each tax season. With the help of IBM, the company uses applicant tracking and automation to decentralize hiring tasks. Hiring managers can access the system and review their own candidates, and extend offers themselves.

The company has also been able to implement a same-day hiring initiative. It allows thousands of associates to apply for a job, receive an offer and complete their onboarding within 24 hours.

“Before we implemented these tools, we had many people sitting behind the scenes clicking buttons to move a candidate to a new HR status or send a communication or check on status. We have now implemented quite a bit of automation that has allowed us to repurpose these back-office operations teams for much more value-added activities.” Katie Waldo, Manager, Talent Acquisition, H&R Block Watch video

Red Lobster: Finding, attracting and nurturing talent

Red Lobster was looking for ways to shorten the hiring process and find better candidates. Since hiring managers are not professional recruiters, it was important to minimize the amount of time they spent in the application review process.

With the help of IBM Kenexa software, the company has been able to deploy tools and application resources that help streamline hiring in different areas of the organization including the hourly workforce.

“We wanted to get more from less. To shorten the amount of time that a candidate needed to spend but get greater predictability of who were the best candidates out of the process. IBM helped shepherd us through that.” Jim Hughes, Senior Director of Human Resources, Red Lobster Seafood Company Watch video

IBM blogs:



Should I stay or should I go? Gain insights into how organizations can reach new talent and what could be driving talent away. Read now

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[1] http://aberdeenessentials.com/hcm-essentials/perfecting-onboarding-funnel/

[2] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/onboarding-key-retaining-engaging-talent.aspx

[3] https://hbr.org/2017/06/your-new-hires-wont-succeed-unless-you-onboard-them-properly

[4] https://public.dhe.ibm.com/common/ssi/ecm/lo/en/low14354usen/collaboration-and-talent-solutions-ibm-collaboration-solutions-white-paper-external-low14354usen-20180606.pdf