Best in Class Practices for Onboarding


Best in Class Practices for Onboarding

Author: Nancy Zentis, Ph.D.


Recent Research Findings


Studies conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council indicate that it’s important for new employees to quickly acclimate to their new work environment.  It’s important for new employees to start building rapport with colleagues so they can begin to assimilate into existing workgroups. By doing so, new employees experience a sense of purpose within their new organization and the transition into this organization is less disruptive.  Making employees feel welcome is an important part of the onboarding process.

Best-In-Class Practices


  • More than 90 percent of organizations surveyed have onboarding programs for full-time employees, and 81 percent have them in place for senior-level executives, only 66 percent provide on-boarding to internal job transfers.
  • Eighty-six percent of all companies believe it takes up to six months for a new employee to make a firm commitment to stay with that company longer term.
  • Best-in-class companies are more likely to formally include socialization into the standard on-boarding process (94 percent) and to assign a mentor or a coach to new employees (59 percent).
  • Best-in-class companies are also more likely to actually obtain feedback to verify a positive onboarding experience.
  • Ninety-three percent of all organizations offer two types of on-boarding programs: cultural socialization and mentoring.



Best-in-Class Metrics


A recent research study of nearly 800 organizations identified key performance indicators that separated best-in-class organizations from the industry average and laggard organizations. Seventy percent of all organizations studied are currently pursuing onboarding to impact new employee retention.

Among those that achieved the best-in-class designation in onboarding:

  • 100 percent improved their retention rate of new hires
  • 60 percent reduced time in new hire productivity
  • 57 percent increased completion rate for onboarding tasks/activities


Business Impact Metrics


The goal of onboarding is to improve business results, specifically the average time in days it takes to reach the minimum productivity expectations for new hires (often compared by job family). Metrics cited to determine business impact also include:

  • Voluntary turnover rates of new hires in the first six months.
  • Diversity voluntary turnover rates in the first six months.
  • Percent of involuntary terminations of new hires in the first six months.
  • The percentage of hires, when surveyed after six months on the job, who rank onboarding as a “major or critical contributor” to their performance.
  • The percentage of hires who left the firm within six months, who cited onboarding (in a post-exit survey), as a contributor to their leaving/failure.
  • New-hire satisfaction rates (including separate metrics on high priority hires and diversity hires) with both corporate and “local” onboarding processes after one month and six months. Note: this metric can reflect onboarding’s impact on your employment brand.


Research shows that an employee’s first 90 days with an organization are a critical time.  During these first 90 days, new hires may determine whether the organization is the ‘right fit’ for them.  In our experience, organizations should focus on providing new hires with engaging job-specific training and tools, support and guidance with development planning, coaching and feedback.

Many organizations take a short-term view of new hire onboarding, with limited, if any, new hire support beyond the initial orientation period.

The concept behind employee onboarding is best defined as a systematic and comprehensive approach to orienting a new employee to help them get “on board.”

Our best practice research shows robust world-class onboarding programs offer:

  • Customized on the job training, skill and competency development, and mentoring and coaching experiences
  • Integration processes that provide new hires with access to leaders, peers, teams, mentors, and other immersion activities that promote employee engagement
  • Onboarding process usually spans the new hire’s first year with the organization offering Ongoing Mentoring/Counselor Support, Structured Networking Opportunities with Other Employees and Leadership, Performance Review Processes That Provide Actionable Feedback, and Recognition of Key Milestones


Why is Onboarding Critical in Today’s Workplace?


In today’s global workplace market, potential employees are seeking cultures that meet their needs.  Implementing effective attraction, selection and retention, and onboarding processes can have a huge impact on the organization’s value proposition as an employer.  If candidates have a negative experience, they will complain, terminate, or not accept the job, and tell others about their experience.

Most new hires complain that after receiving their acceptance letter, the lackluster welcome and frustrating onboarding system – filling out papers, testing, communication, orientation, emails, cell phones, computers, and interaction with their new boss, peers and coworkers negatively impacted their experience.

Here are some tips to help onboard new employees:

  • Make new employees feel welcome and comfortable in their new surroundings
  • Minimize the time before new employees are productive members of their new workgroup
  • Increase employee satisfaction, performance and retention
  • Introduce them to senior leaders, internal and external customers, as well as other “team” members
  • Invite them to attend meetings, join projects, and social events
  • Assign a peer to help them learn how to navigate the system
  • Integrate them into the culture by demonstrating corporate culture behaviors


Impact on New Employees


  • Helps the employee to identify with their new employer
  • Allows the employee to understand the company’s values and priorities
  • Builds an optimistic attitude towards the company
  • Avoids misunderstandings
  • Helps the employee feel valued
  • Encourages socialization and creating a sense of belonging
  • Reduces new employee anxiety
  • Sets performance expectations
  • Decreases the learning curve

Key Elements to Success in Onboarding

Programs that take a system-wide approach to address these five key elements throughout a new hire’s first year are the most effective in increasing new hire time-to-productivity, engagement, and retention.


  • A managed, consistent experience – assistance and administrative support is needed to ensure the new hires are on-boarded consistently throughout the organization in a timely basis and that the progress is tracked and measured.
  • Tools and exchange with others that help the new hire understand his or her role, expectations, and company culture and norms.
  • Tools to identify performance goals, development activities and timelines, provide feedback and coaching, and track measurable outcomes of the process.
  • Training and development activities that enable new hires to develop skills and competence to perform their key job requirements.
  • Experiences that enable the new hire to build relationships, and connections, and feel valued.






Employee Onboarding Checklist

Here are some steps to help begin the onboarding process:

1. Cultural Integration Introduction to the Department

  • Meet with Supervisor weekly to provide direction and support immediately
  • Assigned to a Buddy for three months
  • Meet with key leaders within one month
  • Meet and interview with peers and coworkers immediately
  • Introduced to and meet with other departments
  • Review Department Goals and Objectives
  • Formal introduction in an all employee meeting

2. Performance and Feedback

  • Complete Compliance Training
  • Define Job Requirements
  • Receive a copy of Job Description
  • Discuss Job Expectations and Key Areas of Responsibility
  • Define Individual Goals and Objectives
  • Set 90 day Performance Goals
  • Identify Metrics and Timeline
  • Track Performance
  • Provide Follow Up Coaching
  • Evaluate Performance Goal Outcomes

3. Training and Development

  • Assess needs – New hire job assessment and gap analysis
  • Set development goals, create a development plan
  • Provide New Hire on the job training
  • Provide coaching and give and request feedback
  • Monitor results and follow-up

4. Relationship Building

  • Interaction with coworkers
  • Interaction with manager
  • Interaction with other departments and employees
  • Employee satisfaction with overall department and organization culture
  • Employee engagement level
  • Employee satisfaction with job fit
  • Career interests identified
  • Culture/Values fit

5. Managed Systems

  • New Hires enrolled on a timely basis
  • Onboarding Process Map defined and discussed
  • Assessments Completed
  • Development Plans Completed
  • Monthly Feedback Completed
  • Follow up reminders sent
  • New Hires Assigned a Buddy
  • Buddy Provides Feedback
  • New Hire Exits Onboarding Program and Completes Satisfaction Survey
  • Onboarding Program evaluated quarterly





If you are interested in learning more about Recruiting, Selection, Onboarding, and Engagement, check out our Talent Management Certification Program (TMCP).


The Institute of Organization Development,, offers an online Talent Management Certification Program (TMCP) for those interested in advancing their careers in the field of Talent Management.  Participants learn how to help their organizations implement an aligned talent management strategy and receive the guidelines, tools and resources needed to be successful.

The Talent Management Certification Program (TMCP) is offered online over 8 months, 3 hours per month to maximize your development as a Talent Management Strategist. Our expert faculty provide interactive discussions, activities, and examples to enrich your learning.



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This program gave me the experience I needed to help my organization implement an aligned talent management strategy.


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Dr. Nancy Zentis is the CEO of Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and OD Advanced Skills courses for ongoing learning.  She can be reached at  For more information about our certification programs and short courses, visit our website


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