What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding

Employee onboarding is a company’s process of introducing new hires to the organization and position, training them in their roles, and helping them adjust to new surroundings. It involves strict coordination between HR, training staff, and department leadership to ensure new employees are well set up for success.

Orientation vs. onboarding

Orientation is often a one-time event during which a new employee is given important information and asked to complete paperwork. Onboarding, on the other hand, is more personal and lasts longer as the employee adjusts to their new role. Not every company has a standardized onboarding process, but those that do find it to be one of the most valuable aspects of their culture.

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Why is effective employee onboarding important?

An organization’s onboarding process is a new employee’s first impression of the organization and can influence whether they think the company is well managed, well organized, and efficient—or disorganized, poorly managed, and ineffective. By putting new hires into a well-defined, reliable onboarding process as soon as they start, a company can show they’re an excellent workplace.

Additionally, onboarding isn’t just a benefit for the employee. Onboarding allows the employer to introduce new hires to the company, make them feel connected to their work, and present them with goals, expectations, and cultural norms. Employees who undergo a well-designed onboarding process are more likely to understand their role, execute their duties efficiently, and be productive. They’re also far more likely to stay with their job beyond the first year.

How long does it take to onboard a new employee?

Much of the onboarding process work takes place between the potential hire receiving their offer and the end of their second week of work. However, onboarding an employee continues long after that point, and benchmarks should be set to evaluate how employees adapt to their new role after one month, six months, and one year. 

How much does it cost to onboard an employee?

The cost of onboarding an employee is hard to calculate, but between interviews, orientation, and early assistance, it may cost as much as 20% of a new hire’s salary. However, putting more resources into the onboarding process leads to better retention, which reduces costs over time. 

The five C’s of new employee onboarding

There are five main goals that a company should aim to meet while designing its onboarding process. These goals typically progress from the basic first-day tasks to longer-term relationship-building: 

  • Compliance: The legal rules and obligations an employer and an employee must follow at the beginning of the job. This includes completing necessary paperwork and receiving the required equipment or software. Creating a checklist for employees during the onboarding process may prove helpful.
  • Clarification: Employers shouldn’t expect new employees to fully understand their roles from day one, especially without guidance. Clarification represents the need to guide employees in understanding what is expected of them behaviorally and within their role, and who they report to within the organizational structure. While these may seem obvious from the perspective of an established employee, they are common questions new hires will have. 
  • Confidence: New employees will need time to become confident in their day-to-day roles. Employers can encourage confidence in new talent by giving them the tools they need to succeed and maintaining open lines of communication. Thorough training programs and positive feedback also help boost morale. 
  • Connections: Employees who feel connected to their coworkers and leadership are more likely to perform well and stay longer. Building connections within the organization helps strengthen every aspect of the work. 
  • Culture: Every workplace is different and has different expectations, allowances, and goals. A company’s history, policies, and management all contribute to the larger culture, and employees should have a good idea of what this culture is like after their first few days on the job.

The stages of employee onboarding


Before an employee starts their first day, there is a preparation phase for new hire onboarding. This involves sending the crucial employee documents on company policy, signing any necessary pre-arrival paperwork (such as work authorization forms or NDAs), and introducing them to the company culture through informal documents and calls or emails from individuals they’ll be working with. This is especially important during remote onboarding, to ensure everyone is on the same page.


The first working week is often an orientation week, during which new employees are in meetings, filling out paperwork, learning about company standards and expectations, and being introduced to leadership and team members. This period also includes training, shadowing coworkers, reviewing company policy, and signing up for benefits. 


Many employees don’t start a typical workflow until the second week. After that point, they should meet with their supervisors to gauge their progress, introduce new tasks, and set goals for the rest of the month. After the first month, it’s time to check back, evaluate their progress, and adjust.

After six months of employment, it may be time for an informal performance review to give the new employee an idea of how their work compares to their goals, the company’s goals, and the work of their peers. Integrating into a new role and culture takes time, and employees should be guided throughout the process.


After a year, the employee should start participating more widely in the company. They should feel secure in their role and be rewarded for their success over the previous 12 months. The key to this phase of employee onboarding is personal relationships. Companies that find ways to encourage personal relationships—through programs like meet-and-greets, happy hours, luncheons, seminars, coffee hours, and cross-training—will see greater engagement, productivity, and retention levels in the long run.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.