What Is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the crucial process of employers integrating a new teammate into their company. This is often employees’ first impression of their new company.

Written by Hailley Griffis
Published on Dec. 19, 2022
What Is Onboarding?
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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The onboarding process includes getting login credentials, gaining access to tools, learning internal systems and coming to understand the company’s structure, goals, culture, overall mission and more. 

Onboarding is the first experience an employee will have at a company, which makes it a significant time for a new hire. On day one, new teammates are often placed into the onboarding process. The goal of onboarding is to get employees into all the tools they need, get them up to speed on critical projects and ultimately help them succeed in their new role. 

Related Reading From Built In ExpertsHow to Create an Effective Onboarding-From-Anywhere Process


What Is the Onboarding Process?

Onboarding differs by organization. In some cases, onboarding may be completed in a couple of days, while in other organizations, onboarding may take several months. Onboarding also differs based on the way a company works. For example, remote teams will likely have very different onboarding processes than in-office teams. Onboarding in person often starts with one person assigned to help a new employee get started and give them a tour of the office. In contrast, remote onboarding focuses on providing access to tools to kickstart team communication online

Onboarding a New Employee: 6 Steps

  • Send welcome email ( to personal email) with details for gaining access on day one and what to expect upon arrival or signing in
  • Grant access to email and other internal tools 
  • Introduce new employee to the team 
  • Send an employee handbook 
  • Add new team member to upcoming projects 
  • Schedule regular check-ins with a manager and sometimes another member of the team 


Why Is Onboarding Important? 

 As the first experience a new employee has at a company, the importance of onboarding cannot be overstated. New teammates will have difficulty succeeding in their roles without proper onboarding. Not only do employees need access to all the necessary tools, they need to know where to look for information and to quickly operate independently in order to start doing the work the company hired them to do. 

Quality onboarding is also an opportunity to improve retention and productivity.  According to research by SHRM, “good onboarding leads to good retention rates.” They found that “new employees who attended a structured orientation program were 69 percent more likely to remain at the company up to three years.” And the opposite is true of poor onboarding, which doubles the likelihood of the employee finding another position states Sapling HR. Finally, when it comes to performance, eLearning Industry found that “77 percent of employees who go through onboarding programs do well and meet their goals in their first performance reviews.”  

Onboarding takes a lot of time, effort and coordination across departments. Often, onboarding also needs to be adaptable to change. For example, with many companies having shifted permanently to either fully remote or hybrid approaches, their onboarding needs to be similarly adaptive to new employee experiences. Despite the effort involved, the benefits of onboarding are much more powerful, with a successful onboarding program helping to bring new teammates up to speed, making them feel welcome and even improving retention and productivity. 

Five Steps to World Class Onboarding (SHRM Keynote 11.11). | Video: Emily Bennington


Onboarding Examples

 Every company approaches onboarding differently, but here are some specific examples.

Doist recommends making an excellent first impression, creating a new-hire checklist and pairing new teammates with mentors. Doist, a fully remote and asynchronous-first productivity software company, uses its own tools to onboard employees. They ask new hires to share 10 interesting facts about themselves after they join, and they incorporate mentorship trips during their onboarding period so that new hires can spend a week working with their mentor in their first month at the company. 

A strong example of intentional in-office onboarding comes from pre-Covid Twitter when they were still an entirely in-office workforce. According to a 2019 Hierology article on their onboarding program, Twitter’s goal was “to provide an exceptional experience to all new team members right from the start.” For in-office onboarding, they had 75 touchpoints between the new hire and other teams like HR, recruiting and IT. For their onboarding program, Twitter ensures that new hires are thoroughly welcomed even before they arrive at their new desk. They are given “a full tour of the office, followed by customized training on the tools and training they'll need to succeed in each of their roles.” It’s not all so serious, though. New teammates also arrived at their desks to find a t-shirt and a bottle of wine waiting for them. 

Ultimately the onboarding process is a tool to both help new employees be successful in their roles, get to know company culture and become comfortable with their new team and responsibilities. 

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