Glossary of HR Terms

Looking to brush up on all the latest HR acronyms, buzzwords, and common terms? This glossary is for you, sort of like the ABCs of HR. It's everything you need to know in the realm of employee experience and human connection, defined in easy-to-understand language.


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Employee Onboarding

Employee Onboarding: A Definitive Overview

What Is Employee Onboarding?

Employee onboarding is an essential process for helping new hires become successful in their new roles — but it’s also a complex one.

Employers and human resources (HR) teams often struggle to know how much to support new hires adapting to their new role, colleagues, and company. Unfortunately, only 43% of employees surveyed for O. C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report received more than one day of orientation and a folder with benefits information.

Onboarding is the bridge between how outside candidates view you and what the employee experience is actually like. Great onboarding requires more than a day of orientation and an information packet. If you want to treat onboarding as your best chance to make a great impression, what does that look like in practice?

Discover what employee onboarding is, how to deliver an effective and engaging onboarding experience, and how to assess your program’s impact on employee outcomes.

Employee Onboarding 101

Employee onboarding is the process of introducing new hires to the organization and giving them the tools and resources they need to thrive. Traditional onboarding programs start with an orientation that introduces the new hire to the organization’s policies, processes, and culture.

From there, new hires learn more about their specific job duties and expectations. Following orientation, most onboarding programs shift from classroom-style information delivery to one-on-one conversations with managers. These conversations can include role-specific training and performance expectations. Done well, they build trust between managers and new hires.

Onboarding as we know it is evolving. Modern employee onboarding isn’t just focused on tactical, task-related learning. It’s more about fostering long-term, strategic growth by helping new hires learn to navigate their surroundings and meet the right people who can help them become the best they can be.

Effective employee onboarding helps new hires feel welcome, connect with colleagues, and get excited about building their career with your company. Your employee onboarding strategy should lay the foundation for a successful long-term relationship with new employees.

Why It Matters: Onboarding and Employee Engagement

It’s never too early to double-down on employee engagement. A well-designed onboarding process engages employees from the moment they accept your job offer. By making new hires feel welcome and valued, they’re more likely to become loyal and committed employees. This, in turn, helps to foster an engaged and committed culture that drives organizational success.

Onboarding is also a great opportunity to set clear expectations. This removes ambiguity, helps employees understand their job responsibilities, and empowers them to perform to the best of their abilities. Your employees will feel supported and are more likely to have the tools they need to succeed.

If you can turn onboarding into a meaningful and enjoyable experience, employees will be more satisfied and more likely to stay with the company in the long run.

Octave, a mental health startup and Enboarder customer, needed to scale its onboarding program to integrate an increasing number of new contract therapists without sacrificing engagement. Octave’s provider relations team developed personalized and automated campaigns. These delivered bite-sized content to new contractors throughout their onboarding. The change paid off, resulting in a 97.8% engagement rate and an employee satisfaction score of 4.5 out of five.

3 Employee Onboarding Challenges

When creating effective onboarding programs, HR professionals must consider the importance of employee engagement and experience. Creating an onboarding process that gives employees a positive and productive start is easier said than done.

Here are some of the challenges you may face when designing onboarding programs — and how to overcome them.

Balancing Consistency With Customization

One challenge with onboarding is balancing consistency and personalization. On the one hand, it’s important for companies to give each new hire an equivalent onboarding experience. Everyone should have the same thorough understanding of company policies and procedures, for example. On the other hand, it’s equally important to provide a personalized onboarding experience so that each new hire feels supported in their particular role.

Give new hires and their managers some onboarding guidelines, but leave it up to their discretion to determine the level of customization each new hire needs. One way to address the problem is to provide every hiring manager with an onboarding checklist.

An effective onboarding checklist includes core actions every new hire needs to experience, such as developing connections with their manager and team. From there, the checklist can be customized based on the new hire’s job role or the level of support they require. A seasoned hire may require less training on certain systems than an entry-level employee, for example.

Sandvik, a multinational engineering company, needed to standardize onboarding processes across different hiring managers and job types. The company opted to automate many of its onboarding elements through Enboarder to produce a more consistent experience for new hires.

“We wanted to find a solution that would create a consistent onboarding process and a more welcoming experience,” said Kylie Cook, recruiting and talent manager at Sandvik. “Some of the managers were too busy or just didn’t know the onboarding process at Sandvik to provide that consistent experience.”

Customization of the onboarding journey was quickly built out. Enboarder allows the team to alter the steps and content depending on role or location: “We have onboarding workflows for both corporate and deskless staff, and we have different content depending on location so we can cater to different cultures and preferences,” Cook said.

The changes in the process produced a much better experience for everyone involved, while scaling back the time spent managing onboarding by hours per new hire.

Connecting New Hires With the Right Resources and People

New hires often have a steep learning curve for their new employers’ processes, tools, and resources. Absorbing all these new systems, procedures, and knowledge can be difficult to manage without a structured process.

Workflow management software can streamline the onboarding process and keep new hires from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communication, content, and resources. By feeding information to new hires in a structured manner, they learn what’s expected of them at a reasonable pace.

An effective onboarding program includes connecting new hires with people who can answer their questions and help them acclimate. Consider implementing a buddy system at work so new hires have a built-in resource to help them adjust to the company’s norms and values.

Lonza, a manufacturer serving the pharmaceutical, biotech, and nutrition industries, needed to deliver a global onboarding experience that made employees feel welcome as soon as they signed their offer letter.

To do that, the company drew a distinction between “hard onboarding,” which covers the compliance documents and tech logistics, and “soft onboarding.”

“Soft onboarding is about giving them the information they need to be prepared and excited to join us on day one,” said Alice Bally-Frankenne, senior director of global HR. “This is about ensuring they’ve had some interaction with their hiring manager and buddy before they start, so they have a support network and feel welcome.”

The results have been staggering, with extremely high engagement rates: 99% for buddies, 98% for hiring managers, and 99% for new hires. “For new joiners, they feel much more welcome,” Bally-Frankenne said. “On day one, they feel more connected not only with Lonza as a company but also with line managers and team members.”

Integrating New Employees Into Company Culture

Feeling comfortable within the company culture is fundamental to a strong work relationship, but achieving this can be challenging. New hires may have trouble navigating unspoken norms and expectations, among other obstacles.

Existing employees are your No. 1 resource for helping new hires embrace the company culture. Mentors and buddies can help new hires explore their new surroundings and ask questions. Give new employees the chance to mingle with their direct colleagues and others across the organization.

Integrating new hires within company culture can be challenging during a digital onboarding experience, especially for remote employees or those with mostly remote colleagues.

Global advertising and communications firm Ogilvy shifted from paper to digital onboarding processes to create a consistent experience, regardless of where they logged in from each day. Enboarder helped Ogilvy rethink new-hire communications, embracing a drip feed of fun, engaging content people could interact with on the go and on their own time.

Now, new hires can get excited about Ogilvy’s culture before their first official day through fun questionnaires and videos from hiring managers. These elements can be delivered virtually, during digital employee onboarding, while still immersing new hires in the company’s culture.

3 Employee Onboarding Tips

Onboarding employees is easier when you have clear priorities. Here are a few tips for creating a more engaging and effective employee onboarding experience.

Develop Rich Content Campaigns

Your onboarding experience should give new hires all the information they need to be comfortable and confident in their new role. How do you achieve this? Through rich onboarding content. Use your workflow management tool to deliver the right information at the right point in the onboarding journey.

Start with an overview of the company’s mission, vision, and values. Connect the dots between the company’s larger purpose and the role each employee plays in bringing the vision to life. Logistics and compliance are other key areas. Make sure new hires are informed about company policies and procedures, as well as any other relevant rules and regulations.

Present content in an engaging and easily digestible format. Video, audio, and visuals can be effective ways to communicate key information without overwhelming new hires. Additionally, interactive activities such as quizzes and mini-games can make the onboarding process more engaging while helping people learn.

Empower Managers to Deliver a Great Experience

Proactive managers drive successful onboarding experiences. They are the difference between new hires who thrive immediately and those who feel adrift and disconnected.

Give managers access to training materials, mentors, and other resources that can help them provide the best onboarding experience possible. Use your workflow management software to send managers smart, timely nudges reminding them to connect with team members and share important information. Offer managers regular feedback and guidance on interacting with new hires and how to assess their progress.

Work with managers to come to a clear understanding of the new hire’s job description and expectations. This helps managers focus on providing new hires with clarity and guidance on tasks and goals.

Foster Connections From the Start

New hires should regularly interact with their manager and colleagues, especially direct teammates. These interactions can be in-person, virtual, or a mix. The important part is that they occur so the new hire feels welcome, can ask questions, and begins to build relationships.

Facilitated activities, such as team-building exercises, can forge and strengthen connections between new hires and their colleagues. Team-building activities can include informal conversations, team lunches, or formal outings. Whatever you choose, the goal should be to create camaraderie. Doing so will help the new hire feel like a part of the team and get comfortable collaborating with their new colleagues.

How to Measure Success: Employee Onboarding Metrics

Measuring success in employee onboarding programs is an important part of any HR strategy. Track important onboarding metrics such as time to productivity, new-hire retention rate, and employee satisfaction to determine your program’s effectiveness.

Real-time survey responses are a great way to gauge what percentage of the workforce is satisfied and engaged so that HR teams can act quickly and make any needed adjustments.

Long-term, data-driven reporting provides a more comprehensive view of success by tracking key metrics such as employee engagement, productivity, and retention. This allows HR teams to make informed decisions based on reliable data, rather than relying on anecdotal evidence.

With the right reporting tools, HR teams can identify successes and areas for improvement, helping them make informed decisions that have a positive and lasting impact on the organization.

Build a Brighter Future Through Employee Onboarding

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding, every employer can benefit from having a well-planned onboarding process. From developing an onboarding plan and setting expectations, to providing feedback and offering ongoing support, you can make sure your new hires feel welcomed and well-prepared for their jobs.

Ultimately, successful onboarding is a two-way street. HR leaders, managers, and new hires all have clear roles in achieving long-term success for themselves and the organization.

Ready to dive deeper? Check out our “Hybrid Onboarding Template” and take the first step in designing an exceptional onboarding experience!