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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Graduate Onboarding

Crafting Graduate Onboarding Journeys

What Is Graduate Onboarding?

Graduate onboarding goes beyond a one-day welcome to your organization. Onboarding in their first career role is a big step for a recent graduate, so your onboarding experience has to deliver. 

Effective graduate onboarding focuses on nurturing the new employee’s sense of belonging, highlighting potential career paths within the organization, and fostering a culture of continuous learning. Graduate onboarding tends to extend over a longer period than traditional onboarding to ensure that recent graduates receive support as they evolve from novices into competent, confident professionals.

Learn more about graduate onboarding, what makes it special, and how to provide new graduate hires with the best possible introduction to your company.

Graduate Onboarding: The Basics

Graduate onboarding, also known as entry-level or early-career onboarding, is a specialized process designed to integrate recent graduates into the workforce through a set of structured activities, training, and support mechanisms. 

A graduate onboarding program recognizes the unique developmental needs of early-career employees. It aims to lay a strong foundation for their growth and long-term success within the company. Successful graduate onboarding equips new graduates with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to contribute effectively to the organization while building their careers.

Unlike traditional new-hire onboarding, which encompasses employees with varying levels of experience, you can tailor graduate onboarding to the unique needs and expectations of new hires at the beginning of their careers. 

Graduates often lack practical workplace skills, exposure to corporate culture, and an understanding of organizational dynamics. As a result, graduate onboarding places a greater emphasis on foundational training, mentorship, and skill development. Activities might include comprehensive training programs, mentor pairings, rotational assignments, and ongoing feedback mechanisms that help graduates navigate their roles and responsibilities.

The Graduate Onboarding Process: A Timeline

A great onboarding experience takes place over a few months, giving new grads plenty of time to adjust to and integrate into the company. Check out these four stages of the onboarding process and how to support new grads at each step along the way.


You don’t have to wait until your graduate hire’s first day to welcome them on board. Preboarding new graduate hires is an important process that helps to ensure a smooth transition into your company. Preboarding occurs between when your new hire signs their offer letter and their first official day of work.

Start by providing all necessary paperwork to new hires, including offer letters, employment contracts, and background checks. After they’ve returned this paperwork, provide a package that includes the resources new hires need to get started. If they’re working remotely, that could include work-related equipment. Begin opening accounts in HR and work software programs for new hires to get them set up to work right away.

Additionally, distribute important information about the company’s mission, vision, values, and culture. Provide team- and role-specific information that anticipates common new-hire questions. Let them know what to expect from the onboarding process, including the agenda for their first few weeks.

Finally, don’t wait until day one to introduce new hires to their manager and teammates. Encourage the team to reach out and welcome the new hire before they start, building connections and relationships that fuel effective teamwork. Nudge managers and teammates with questions they can ask to get to know the new graduate better, and to personalize their first day.

Check out more tips for recruiting and onboarding recent graduates in this blog 👉 “5 Tips for Recruiting and Onboarding Recent Graduates

The First Day

On day one, aim to make the onboarding process as smooth and enjoyable as possible. This includes setting up a comfortable work environment, introducing the new employee to their team, and providing additional information about the company and job role. 

Tip: Remember that this could be many recent grads’ first full-time job, so they may need more guidance than a seasoned hire with industry experience. 💟 

A great onboarding experience includes a “getting to know you” session with colleagues followed by a tour of the office (or the tools used in a remote environment) so the new hire can familiarize themselves with their work environment. Aim to get new hires set up to begin work on their tasks during their first day.

Onboarding can be overwhelming for new hires and especially for recent grads. New hires often are bombarded with information on their first day, from meeting new people to learning about the company to getting started in their new role. Instead of trying to cram that much information into one day, develop a content campaign to feed the right information to new hires at the right time. To prevent new hires from feeling overwhelmed, automate the delivery of necessary content so they receive it as they need it.

The First Few Weeks

During the first few weeks of onboarding, new graduate hires will experience a variety of role-specific training sessions to prepare them for day-to-day job responsibilities. 

Additionally, HR teams can introduce new grads to career growth and professional development options, including options to move within the org chart and guidance on how to expand their skill set. Similarly, HR teams also can help connect new grads with mentoring or buddy systems at work to support their growth.

Finally, reinforce relationships between the new hire and their team. This can be done through team-building activities, such as virtual happy hours or group lunches. Regular check-ins between team members and supervisors can create a supportive environment and ensure that questions are answered in a timely manner. Done right, the first few weeks on the job will provide a sense of community and help new grads begin to feel like part of the team.

The First 6 Months

As the onboarding period progresses, managers should continue to provide regular check-ins with graduate hires to ensure they meet job expectations and understand their responsibilities. During the first six months and beyond, managers should regularly review progress and begin transitioning the new hire from onboarding to ongoing HR processes, including performance reviews and career development.

Use HR workflow software to automate nudges to remind managers of the different topics to address with new hires during their first six months. For example, managers should address options for growth within the employee’s first month on the job, showcasing paths for internal mobility.

4 Elements of a Successful Graduate Onboarding Experience

Transitioning from being a student to being an employee is a big shift for recent grads, but an effective onboarding program can make the experience easier. Check out four elements that go into a successful graduate onboarding experience.

Delight New Hires With a Welcome Package

A welcome package delivered on or before the new hire’s first day can help to create a positive, welcoming work environment. A welcome package can contain items that help make the new hire feel at home, such as some of their favorite snacks or beverages, customized company swag, or gift cards for local experiences. 

You may deliver your welcome package alongside your resources and information packet during preboarding or separately as a unique experience on the new hire’s first day. 

Check out how Enboarder helps companies create the “best first day ever.”

Offer Training and Development

Training helps new employees understand their job responsibilities, company policies, and how to use role-specific systems and tools. Development helps new employees improve or learn skills and capabilities that enhance their contributions to the organization and career potential. Both are critical to a positive graduate onboarding experience.

Training and development also provide an opportunity for new employees to ask questions, build relationships with their colleagues, and familiarize themselves with the company culture.

Provide Mentorship and Support

Strong manager relationships are key to effective graduate onboarding, but other types of relationships can make it easier for recent grads to acclimate to a professional setting. 

Mentors may be chosen based on the new hire’s career goals and tend to provide more role-specific support. For example, they can provide advice on how new hires can cope with the stress of transitioning into their new role or offer a line of sight into growth options down the line.

Buddies, on the other hand, help new hires adjust to daily life within the company. They can provide knowledge about the organization, its culture, and its policies that can help new hires integrate and excel. Additionally, buddies can help new hires feel more comfortable and confident by listening to their concerns and offering encouragement. 

Both mentors and buddies support a stronger sense of belonging and inclusion, which can help them adjust more quickly to their new workplace.

Introduce Performance Evaluations

Performance evaluations are important elements of graduate onboarding because they help set expectations, foster positive relationships, and provide the graduate with feedback and guidance. 

Performance conversations allow graduates to build relationships with their managers, learn how to effectively manage their work, and contribute to the company in meaningful ways. Furthermore, they provide a platform for the graduate to showcase their successes and accomplishments and to gain recognition.

Make sure new hires have access to performance management software from day one and know how to find their job descriptions so they understand how their performance will be evaluated.

5 Challenges of Graduate Onboarding

Onboarding is a critical time for all new hires, but especially for those transitioning from higher education to a professional role. Discover some of the unique challenges your organization may face when onboarding recent graduates.

Helping Transition Grads From School to the Workforce

Graduate hires coming directly from a school setting have been in relatively structured environments with set behavioral and performance expectations. The workplace is much more dynamic and requires employees to adapt quickly to changing expectations. Many new hires lack the professional experience of navigating complex interpersonal dynamics at work, but a designated buddy system can help.

Managing New-Hire Expectations

Graduate recruitment can be highly competitive, which means that companies have to market themselves as a great place to work for college graduates. That branding effort contributes to preconceived notions about the job and your company — and if these expectations aren’t met, new grads may feel lied to and disengaged before their first week is out. 

Additionally, graduate hires may not know what’s realistic to expect from a new job. Guidance offered through a workplace mentor program can help them recalibrate their expectations.

Identifying and Closing Knowledge Gaps

Graduate hires may lack the experience and career track record of their more seasoned peers, making it difficult to accurately assess their skills and knowledge. You need a plan for quickly identifying potential gaps so you can help managers provide targeted support to train new hires to excel.

Providing Role Clarity

Without a clear understanding of their responsibilities, graduates may find it difficult to adjust to their new roles and develop their skills. Additionally, because of the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of the workplace, it can be difficult to provide graduates with a comprehensive overview of their role and the expectations that come with it. This complexity can lead to confusion and frustration, making it difficult for graduates to settle into their new roles and make the most of their onboarding experience.

Mentors can help explain the new hire’s role in greater detail and provide support as they try new tasks and alter their performance.

Personalizing the Onboarding Experience

Within large companies, graduate onboarding programs can involve hundreds of people, making it difficult to tailor the onboarding process to everyone. Graduates’ wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and expectations further complicate HR’s efforts to create a unified onboarding experience that caters to everyone’s needs.

HR workflow software can help managers follow consistent onboarding processes with timely nudges and conversation starters. At the same time, workflows can be customized for different roles and to meet each new hire’s unique needs.

How HR Software Supports Graduate Onboarding

HR software provides consistent support to HR teams, managers, and new hires alike during graduate onboarding processes. HR software can help produce better graduate onboarding experiences by streamlining the administrative tasks associated with onboarding. This includes automating the onboarding process, providing personalized workflows, and tracking important documents. By automating these tasks, HR software reduces the amount of time it takes to onboard a new graduate, allowing more time for them to become familiar with the company and their new role — and creating a more personalized, meaningful experience for each new graduate.

Graduate Onboarding: The First Stop on a Successful Career Journey

By investing time and resources into graduate onboarding, employers can ensure that their new hires are equipped to do their best work and have a positive experience in their new roles. This will help you build a strong and productive team and establish a long-term relationship with your recent graduate new hires.

Want to learn more? Discover “How to Raise the Bar to Deliver World-Class Career Experiences.”