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July 12, 2024
March 5, 2024
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The Employee Onboarding Process: Templates & Best Practices for 2024

What is the employee onboarding process?

Employee onboarding is the process of integrating a new hire into a company and preparing them to be a productive member of the team. It encompasses the first few days, weeks, and months of employment as the employee learns about the company culture, policies, processes, and job responsibilities.

Onboarding typically includes three steps:

  1. An orientation introduces the employee to the company and explains their responsibilities.
  2. Training teaches the skills needed for the job.
  3. Socializing helps the employee connect with co-workers and adapt to company culture.

Taking time to properly onboard improves employee satisfaction and retention. In short, it sets up everyone for success.

What is required for employee onboarding?

Ensuring a seamless onboarding process involves a series of key steps, from handling initial paperwork to providing comprehensive training and seamlessly integrating new employees into the company culture.

Start by fostering clear communication between HR and the new hire. This involves promptly sending out all necessary paperwork, addressing any queries the employee may have, and establishing transparent expectations for the onboarding journey. Equally important is ensuring that new hires gain swift access to essential training materials, policies, and procedures.

A crucial aspect of effective onboarding is assigning each new hire a mentor or buddy for support. This not only helps them feel more connected to the team but also provides a sense of security throughout the onboarding process. Thanks to Guru's knowledge-sharing capabilities, connecting with mentors and peers becomes a breeze, fostering a positive company culture.

Why is onboarding important?

The onboarding process forms the cornerstone of a new hire's entire experience with your company. Equipping them with the tools and knowledge to thrive in their role contributes to happier employees who are more likely to stay for the long term. This translates into improved employee retention rates, heightened productivity, and substantial cost savings for your company. As Amy Hirsh Robinson, principal of the consulting firm The Interchange Group in Los Angeles, put it, "Onboarding is a magic moment when new employees decide to stay engaged or become disengaged." It's incredibly important to get right.

What are the 4 C’s of employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is a key component of any successful business, as it helps to ensure that new hires have everything they need to succeed in their roles. One way to maximize the effectiveness of employee onboarding is by following the “4 C’s” model. This model focuses on four key elements: Communication, Culture, Compliance, and Capacity.


Compliance is the process of making sure your new employee meets all the legal requirements necessary to work for you. This includes background checks, tax forms, and any other paperwork or processes that need to be completed in order for them to become an official part of your organization.


Clarification is the process of making sure your new employee understands their job role, expectations, and any policies or procedures that need to be adhered to. This includes orientation sessions, company training courses, and other activities designed to ensure the new hire is aware of all pertinent information before they begin working.


Culture is the process of introducing your new employee to the culture and values of your organization. This includes team-building activities, team outings, and other activities designed to make sure they feel accepted as part of the workforce.


Connection is the process of making sure your new employee feels connected to their coworkers. This includes providing a mentor or sponsor, hosting social events, and other activities designed to help the new hire form relationships with their colleagues.

The 4 phases of the employee onboarding process

Phase 1: Pre-onboarding 

Pre-onboarding is the process of getting new employees acclimated to the company before their first day of work. Pre-onboarding can include offering the position, sending an acceptance letter, sharing what to expect (or bring) on the first day, and providing information about the company culture. By taking care of these things ahead of time, you can help new employees feel more comfortable and prepared for their first day on the job. Pre-onboarding is a great way to make a good impression on new hires and set them up for success at your company.

Warm welcome package

Who doesn’t like a little box of company swag on their first day? According to QZ, tokens of appreciation like these can go a long way to helping  employees feel connected. Some branded t-shirts, a few trinkets that reflect your company’s culture, and a greeting card from the team gets day one off to the right start. If you’re remote, ship a welcome package along with other WFH materials to their door! This extra touch will make even distributed team members feel closer to their co-workers and create a great first employee experience.

Prepare them for their first day

Day 1 can be a daunting experience for any new hire. To help them (and you) prepare, there are a few important documents they should bring with them: HR paperwork, identification, and payroll information. HR paperwork includes things like their offer letter, job description, and employee handbook. They'll need identification to fill out the necessary forms, and payroll information so they know when they'll be getting their first paycheck. If they have any questions beforehand, provide them with your contact information so they can reach out. By being prepared ahead of time, you'll help make their transition into the company as smooth as possible. 

Phase 2: Introductions

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, especially if you don't know anyone at the company. That's why it's important for managers and colleagues to take the time to introduce new employees to everyone they'll be working with. Introductions help new employees feel welcome and comfortable, and they can provide valuable information about the company culture and expectations. In addition, introductions help to build relationships and trust, which are essential for effective teamwork. By taking the time to introduce new employees to their colleagues, managers and co-workers can help them get off to a great start at their new job.

Send out an announcement

Remind the staff that someone new has joined the team! Find a template for people to share out their life stories, fun facts, and preferred working styles. Onboarding isn’t all about company policies and tax papers, it’s about getting to know the people you’ll be working alongside. Open up a space for your new hire to connect with their colleagues and find common interests! 

Set up tours, social time, and introductions

If you’re operating in an office, start things off with a tour to let new hires get acquainted with the space. This is a great time to introduce your new hire to interdepartmental coworkers and provide them with any keys or access codes that they may need for the building.

If you’re in a remote setting, don’t skimp out on the ‘office tour’! Get all your team members onto an orientation Zoom call on their new team member's first day, keep it to a casual first day coffee and chit chat to make your new coworkers feel comfortable and excited about the prospect of working with this team. Sharing photos and welcome videos of the team, the company HQ, or past bonding events is a great way to show your new hire what your company culture is all about.

Share policies, values, and guidelines with an employee handbook

An employee handbook is a document that outlines the policies, values and guidelines of a company. It is an important tool for communicating with employees and ensuring that everyone is on the same page. A well-written employee handbook can help to improve morale and reduce turnover, as well as providing a reference point for resolving disputes. It can also make clear what kinds of expectations a team member should have for their overall employee experience.

A handbook should be clear and concise, and should cover topics such as attendance, dress code, harassment, and workplace safety. In addition, the handbook should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure that it remains relevant.


Phase 3: Settling in

Starting a new job is exciting and stressful all at the same time. As a manager, you’re a coach, so lean into that part of your role by helping new hires settle in quickly so they can hit the ground running and be successful from the start. This not only helps reduce friction with existing employees, it lowers the chance that your new hire will regret taking the job and makes it easier to "fit in" right away.

Match new employees with an onboarding buddy

Setting up new hires with a point person to guide them through their first few weeks and months helps to ease the transition. And although their manager is there for any questions that they may have, sometimes it feels more natural to raise the little questions and growing pains to a peer rather than a higher up.

Provide onboarding checklists and valuable resources 

Equip your new hires with the resources they need to excel and get up to speed in their role with our guide for creating an onboarding checklist. When onboarding a new employee, it’s important to create a personalized experience based on their role. The onboarding process for new hires in sales will look differently than those onboarding in HR or People Ops and having a structured onboarding that includes role specific resources will help keep your new employee engaged and on track.

Consolidate new hire resources into one searchable place 

Give new team members a clear place to start. A simple welcome email with a dense to-do list will only make your new hire’s first day feel more daunting. Instead, try utilizing a user-friendly employee onboarding software that stores everything from company policies, new hire paperwork, device setup info, various tools and logins, and every other part of your onboarding program in one searchable place.

Onboarding software that keeps information accessible even after the formal onboarding process is over will help your new employees feel confident in their roles faster in the short term and give them the flexibility to look back on those early learnings to keep productivity up in the long term.

Curious how Guru uses Guru for employee onboarding? Check out this post by Bobby Lundquist, Guru’s Lead People Operations Specialist.

Phase 4: Follow up 

Once you’ve established clear expectations for your new hire, it’s important to check in with your employee regularly to ensure a smooth transition into their new role. Maintaining consistency with how an employee is doing can help with any hiccups or confusion they may have along the way. Being actively involved in a new hires onboarding will show that you’re invested in their experience and can help establish trust, as well as increase performance and workforce retention. 

Establish a plan for review

Onboarding doesn't end after the first few weeks or months at a new job and check-ins shouldn't either. A 30-60-90 day plan is an important tool for any manager to have in their arsenal. This simple document can help to ensure that a new hire is focused and has a clear understanding of their goals and priorities. It can also be used to track the progress of a new hire, and to identify any areas where additional training may be needed. 

When creating a 30-60-90 day plan, be sure to include a mix of focus areas, goals, and priorities. For each focus area, identify one or two goals that you would like the new hire to achieve. Then, prioritize these goals by order of importance. Finally, establish metrics of success for each goal, so that you can track the new hire's progress. By taking the time to create a well-rounded 30-60-90 day plan, you can set your new hire up for success from day one.

Use Guru’s 30-60-90 day plan template to create a check in cadence with your new hire to get continuous, long term feedback about their onboarding experience and to ensure you're setting them up for long term success.

Onboarding process examples

Let’s look at three examples of effective onboarding processes:

  1. Virtual Onboarding: Virtual onboarding typically involves a mix of online training sessions, video conferences, and other virtual resources. This type of onboarding can be effective for remote employees, as it provides them with the tools and resources they need to get started without requiring them to travel to an office.
  2. Buddy Onboarding: This type of onboarding involves assigning a mentor or buddy to the new hire. The mentor or buddy is typically an experienced employee who can provide guidance and support during the onboarding process. This type of onboarding can be particularly effective for new employees who may be nervous about starting a new job.
  3. Manager-Led Onboarding: In this type of onboarding, the new hire's manager takes the lead in providing training and support. This type of onboarding can be effective for employees who will be working closely with their manager or supervisor. It allows the new hire to establish a relationship with their manager early on and can help them feel more connected to the team.

Regardless of the onboarding process, the key is to ensure that new hires feel supported and engaged during the process. By providing clear communication, access to necessary resources, and a sense of community, organizations can set their new employees up for success. Additionally, using a solution like Guru can help streamline the onboarding process and ensure that new hires have access to all the necessary information they need to succeed.

Common challenges during employee onboarding

We’ve all been there: it's your first day on the job and there are names to memorize, processes to pick up on, new programs to learn, and positive first impressions to make. It’s overwhelming, and if you’re starting at a new company in a remote setting, it can feel even more isolating.

If all onboarding resources and training are spread across tools, email sends, and one-off Slack messages it’s easy for those feelings of stress and isolation to be amplified. Investing in an onboarding software that consolidates all of the materials that new hires need to get off to a productive start is a great way to make them feel immediately empowered in their position. And that matters; people who had a negative new hire onboarding experience are twice as likely to seek a different opportunity in the immediate future. 

Time to productivity is important, but don’t rush it. A Harvard Business Review article points out that up to 20% of employee turnover takes place in the first 45 days of employment, and that the most successful companies spend a year fully onboarding new hires.

Information overload

When a new employee starts a job, they are often bombarded with a plethora of information and tasks to learn and accomplish. This can easily result in information overload, which can be overwhelming and hinder their ability to perform well in their new role. However, a well-designed employee onboarding process can help mitigate this issue.

One way an employee onboarding process can prevent information overload is by breaking down information into manageable chunks. Rather than presenting a new employee with a long list of tasks and information all at once, an effective onboarding program will provide the necessary information in a structured and logical order. This could involve providing training materials that are divided into small, digestible sections, or assigning specific tasks in a logical sequence to help the new employee build their knowledge and skills gradually.

Lack of role clarity

One crucial aspect of a successful employee onboarding process is ensuring that new hires have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities within the organization. This includes not only a basic job description but also a deeper understanding of how their role fits into the company's larger goals and vision. To achieve this, an effective onboarding program should include comprehensive training sessions that provide new hires with a complete understanding of their duties and expectations.

In addition to training, it is also important to provide new employees with the tools they need to perform their job effectively. This may include access to company software or hardware, information on relevant policies and procedures, and connections to key team members or stakeholders. 

Not implementing role-specific onboarding

It’s important to recognize that every role within an organization is unique and comes with its own set of responsibilities, skills, and knowledge requirements. To ensure that the onboarding process is effective, a portion of the program should be catered specifically to the new hire's role. This could involve providing specialized training, assigning role-specific tasks, or connecting the new employee with key stakeholders in their area of responsibility. 

By tailoring the onboarding experience to the new hire's role, the company can help them feel more confident and empowered in their new position, leading to a smoother transition and faster integration into the team. Additionally, providing role-specific training and resources can help the employee become more productive and contribute more quickly to the organization's goals.

Providing accurate and up-to-date information

In maintaining successful onboarding processes, it is critical to ensure that the information new hires receive is up to date and accurate. Outdated information can lead to confusion, frustration, and ultimately poor performance. Moreover, inaccurate information can lead to misunderstandings and errors that can impact both the new employee's work and the organization as a whole.

Soliciting feedback

It’s often a missed step, but that doesn’t mean that soliciting feedback from new hires on their experience isn’t important. First, it provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of the onboarding program and helps identify areas that require improvement. Second, feedback from new hires can help organizations identify potential problems early on, preventing issues from becoming major obstacles later. Finally, asking for feedback demonstrates a commitment to employee engagement and development, which can help create a positive company culture and improve overall employee satisfaction. By actively seeking and using feedback from new hires, companies can create a more effective and positive onboarding experience for future employees.

Costs of employee onboarding

The real cost of onboarding and training a new employee is about $2,000 for smaller businesses to more than $3,000 for larger ones. Even the most successful companies can spend months fully onboarding new employees, meaning that most new hires don’t achieve full productivity for many, many weeks. 

Taken all together, these costs have a quantifiable impact on the bottom line: new hires (and transfers!) can reduce total revenues by between 1 and 2.5%. Regardless of the size of your company, that is a significant percentage of revenue lost in the process of improving your business

Learn how to cut the average cost to train a new employee.

Frequently asked questions during the onboarding process

Starting a new job can be both exciting and intimidating. With so much to learn and do, it's common to have a lot of questions. That's why a well-designed onboarding process is so important. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions during the onboarding process.

  • What benefits are available to me?
  • What should I wear to work?
  • How will I be trained?
  • Who should I turn to if I have a question or problem?

What is an onboarding workflow?

An onboarding workflow is a structured set of steps and procedures that new hires go through during the onboarding process. It typically includes a mix of orientation, training, and on-the-job learning. A good onboarding workflow should be comprehensive, covering all aspects of the employee's role and the company culture. It should also be tailored to the individual needs of the employee, as not all new hires have the same requirements.

With Guru, HR can create a streamlined and effective onboarding workflow that is customized to the individual needs of each new hire. Our AI-powered search function makes it easy to find the information needed, while knowledge-sharing capabilities enable new hires to connect with mentors and peers.

What makes a strong onboarding process?

A strong onboarding process is one that is comprehensive, engaging, and supportive. It should provide new hires with all the tools and resources they need to become fully productive in their role while fostering a positive company culture. With Guru, HR can create a comprehensive onboarding process that covers all aspects of the employee's role, including training, policies, and procedures.

What is the role of HR in the onboarding process?

HR plays a vital role in the onboarding process, as they are responsible for creating and implementing the onboarding workflow. Using Guru, HR can easily create a comprehensive onboarding process that is customized to the individual needs of each new hire; one that covers all aspects of the employee's role and fosters a positive company culture. With Guru, new hires can feel supported and connected, while HR can streamline the onboarding workflow, reducing the risk of errors and improving overall company performance.

Key takeaways 🔑🥡🍕

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into an organization, familiarizing them with the company's culture, policies, and expectations. It involves a series of activities designed to help new employees feel welcome, informed, and prepared to contribute to the company's goals. Effective onboarding can improve employee retention, productivity, and job satisfaction.

How long does employee onboarding typically last?

The duration of the employee onboarding process can vary depending on the organization and the complexity of the role. Some companies have onboarding programs that last a few days, while others may extend the process over several weeks or even months. It's important to provide ongoing support and training to ensure new hires are fully integrated and equipped to succeed in their roles.

What are some common activities in the employee onboarding process?

Common activities in the employee onboarding process include orientation sessions, where new hires learn about the company's history, mission, and values. Other activities may include training sessions on job-specific skills, introductions to team members and key stakeholders, setting up necessary accounts and equipment, and assigning a mentor or buddy to provide guidance and support. Many companies also organize social events to help new employees build relationships with their colleagues.

What are the benefits of a well-structured employee onboarding process?

A well-structured employee onboarding process can lead to numerous benefits for both the new hire and the organization. It can help new employees feel more engaged, motivated, and committed to their roles, leading to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates. Additionally, effective onboarding can reduce the time it takes for new hires to become productive, as they are provided with the necessary tools, knowledge, and support to succeed in their positions.

How can companies measure the success of their employee onboarding process?

Companies can measure the success of their employee onboarding process by tracking various metrics, such as new hire retention rates, time-to-productivity, and employee engagement scores. Conducting surveys and gathering feedback from new employees can also provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of the onboarding program. By regularly assessing and refining the onboarding process based on these metrics and feedback, organizations can continuously improve the experience for new hires and drive better business outcomes.

Written by
Christine Richardson
A version of this article was originally published in 2020.
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