What does employee onboarding mean?

The traditional definition of onboarding is as follows:

‘The process of moving a new hire from applicant to employee status ensures that paperwork is done, benefits administration is underway, and orientation is completed.’

According to the Society for Human Resources Development, employee onboarding is:

‘The process of helping new hires adjust to social and performance aspects of their new jobs quickly and smoothly, learning the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and behaviors required to function effectively within an organization.’

But these are rather simple definitions, for a rather complex process. Let’s have a more in-depth look at onboarding.

Employee Onboarding Deconstructed Definitions

Let’s have a look at the key elements of onboarding and then break their definitions down too.

Formal Onboarding - A term used to describe an onboarding process which uses organized tasks and procedures to help accommodate new employees to their new role. Formal onboarding often means that new employees are seperated from other employees for the onboarding period. In order to go through co-ordinated activities of orientation, training, mentoring, socialization and the classic bureaucracy that is a necessary part of any onboarding period.

Informal Onboarding - Informal onboarding refers to a more ad-hoc, semi-organized and slightly more fluid onboarding process. This informal approach is also geared to make sure an employee is learning about their new role. Techniques used in informal onboarding include job shadowing, recurrent one-on-ones with managers and senior leaders. It also means greater interaction from the offset with a wide range of colleagues.

Initial Orientation - Orientation is often confused with onboarding. But it is important to know the difference. While onboarding is a process or a series of events, orientation is usually a one or two time time event, welcoming the new employee to the company.

Workplace Culture and Business Background - Every company will have a workplace culture and background. An important part of onboarding is to explain and show the employee the companies history and culture. It helps the employee become more comfortable and begin the process of engagement with the employee.

Internal Policies - Internal policies are a set of documented guidelines which outline company procedures and employee behaviours. They have to meet given legal requirements. Internal policies include grievance, harassment, pay and remuneration, dismissal and more.

Compliance - An important part of onboarding is compliance. Compliance means conforming to rules, policies, expectations, standards and law. In onboarding it is imperative to make sure the new recruit understands your compliance policies.

Role Clarification - This involves discussions to clarify expectations, priorites, processes, goals and much much more.

Do you think we’ve missed anything? If so, let us know?

If you are interested in the topic of onboarding we’ve got loads more for you. Have a read of: ‘Onboarding a new employee: Do's and Do Not’s’, ‘Onboarding for new hires: How to make it a success story’, ‘Employee Onboarding Process: Why it Matters’, ‘5 Key Employee Onboarding Process Steps to Master’ or ‘How to Create an Employee Onboarding Process Template’.


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