On-Boarding – The First Employee Training Initiative

Employee orientation is certainly not a new concept. Organizations have been using various levels of orientation for many years with varying degrees of success or return on investment. In recent years, orientation has been recognized as a key element in the lifecycle of employees and has been expanded to help bridge the gap between recruitment and retention. It has long been recognized that the initial impression and experience of new employees during the first hours and days of a new job has long-reaching and permanent effects toward the successful motivation and retention of that employee.

While typical orientation/induction programs vary from one to five days, onboarding expands this concept, evolving simple orientation into a more effective nurturing strategic vehicle that provides fast-tracking new talent through the organizational and cultural maze of the new employer, and creating a pathway to ensure a productive and engaged employee. It is an element of the talent management process and represents the first training initiative that organizations provide.

Onboarding has become a major strategic factor in many organizational talent retention programs as its importance to financial stability and long term planning has been recognized. Companies today must do more than just attract new talent. They also need to lay the groundwork that will encourage new employees to grow and stay. Investing in effective onboarding helps new employees get up to speed quickly, equips them with the information they need to excel at their jobs, and creates a sense of commitment to the organization.

It has become an essential first step in employee training and development practices, demonstrating the organization’s commitment to ensuring successful alignment with the company’s core values, philosophies, and culture.

Although the time period for onboarding programs can vary from a few days to a full year after an employee accepts a job offer, most organizations are recognizing the need for continuing programs through a minimum of six months after hire. This period coincides with research that shows 90% of new employees decide whether or not they will stay at an organization or begin looking for a new position during their first six months on the job (Getting on Board, Booz, Allen, Hamilton).

Because of these statistics, inculcating employees into the organization and its culture, making them feel welcome and valued and keeping employees motivated and engaged “early and often” is key to a successful retention program.

While traditional orientation programs normally begin the first day of employment, onboarding activities commence from the date of job acceptance, well before the new employee begins their first day on the job.

This is one of the unique features of onboarding that secures immediate employee commitment and begins the inclusion process by utilizing pro-active methodologies such as providing new employees with a welcoming email from the General Manager or Department Head, having employees complete required paperwork in advance, and generally making them feel welcome well before the first day of work.

Careful monitoring throughout the onboarding process is required to keep employees focused and to measure employee levels of comfort, satisfaction and engagement.

The best method for determining employee attitudes is through the survey process. Satisfaction and engagement surveys can be conducted online, through a written process or personal interview. Consistent attention to new employees by both Managers and Human Resources during the initial onboarding phase is essential for the success of the program. Perhaps the best solution to ensure an effective day-to-day employee monitoring period during the onboarding process is the appointment of a mentor to each new employee.

The job mentor can be an experienced employee from the same department who guides the new employee through daily processes and helps eliminate fear and anxieties that are normal during new job orientation. The mentor can be instrumental in anchoring the new employee and helping them to become established in both the social and business development process that is required during the orientation period. Onboarding requires investment of time and resources. However, most organizations cannot ignore effective retention strategies which begin with on-boarding programs. As competition for skilled talent increases globally, employers need to find ways to better recruit, retain, develop and reward their Human Capital assets.


Allan Gardner, PHR, HRMP, MHRM has over 35 years of experience in the Human Resources field. Currently, he is an expert Human Resource Trainer throughout the EMEA region and also teaches HR and Strategic Management programs for MBA students at the UAE campuses of Chifley Business School Australia.

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