The HiringThing Guide to Meaningful Employee Onboarding

Employees design an employee onboarding experience around a computer.

Your Organization Needs an Onboarding Strategy

Good employee onboarding increases employee engagement, productivity, satisfaction, and retention, yet 88% of companies admit they aren’t great at executing a solid onboarding experience.

While traditional onboarding begins once an offer letter is extended, savvy organizations know that onboarding begins during the recruiting process, with even a job posting starting to get potential candidates engaged and set up for success. Onboarding encompasses compliance issues, administrative work, and getting candidates excited about their new role, which is extremely important since 1 in 5 candidates who accept an offer letter don’t show up on their first day of work. 

If your organization’s onboarding strategy starts on a new hire’s first day, you’re starting too late. 

This guide is designed to teach you about the basics of good onboarding. We’ll go over ways to imbue your recruiting with onboarding strategies, establish the components every good onboarding strategy has, and discuss why savvy organizations will automate onboarding to save themselves valuable time and resources. 

Onboarding is defined by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) as “the process of integrating a new employee with a company and its culture, as well as getting a new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team,” is an integral part of the employee experience. 

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Onboarding Benefits

Good onboarding can ensure that the employees you spent the time and resources hiring stick around past their first day and become engaged, productive members of your workforce. Good onboarding also helps save your hiring team valuable time in getting new hires up and running as productive employees. 

Better retention is one of the most significant benefits of a good onboarding experience: 

Good onboarding increases overall employee retention by 82%—that’s huge.

Other benefits of strong onboarding include: 

  • Businesses with structured onboarding see an average of a 60% annual revenue increase.
  • Organizations with effective employee onboarding see 33% higher employee engagement and a 70% increase in new hire productivity.
  • Good onboarding helps employees reach full proficiency 34% faster than those without one,
  • 77% of new hires who underwent structured onboarding hit their first performance milestones faster and showed a 62% higher time-to-productivity ratio.

According to SHRM, standard onboarding processes increase new hire productivity by 50 percent. Additionally, employees with exceptional onboarding experience are 2.6x more likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace. 

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Setting Up a Solid Onboarding Strategy 

With all the weight put on it, onboarding might seem daunting, but we promise it’s not, especially since you’re probably already doing some onboarding if you already have a solid recruiting strategy. 

If you don’t have a strong recruiting strategy—or haven’t revamped yours in a while—fear not, HiringThing has The Guide to Increasing your Applicant Traffic and the HiringThing Guide to DEI Recruiting.  

In this section, we’ll review the importance of establishing goals—a “why”—for your onboarding strategy and the components that make up a successful onboarding strategy. 

Establishing Onboarding Goals 

To establish your onboarding strategy and meaningfully track its success, it’s crucial to determine your goals. What’s most important to your business goals? Is it getting new employees to show up the first day, retaining them for one year, creating a more productive workforce, upping engagement, or saving time? Remember that you can have multiple goals, but it’s important to establish and rank, which is most important to come up with KPIs and measure the effectiveness of your strategy. 

Suggested Activity: We recommend completing this exercise before reading the rest of this guide. You could always come back and change your answers, but it will get you thinking strategically about onboarding and what business goals it can help you achieve. 

  • What are the goals of your onboarding strategy?
  • When will your onboarding start? How long will it last? HiringThing Pro Tip: Start onboarding during recruiting. 
  • What tasks and takeaways are non-negotiables for new hires to complete and come away with when they accept an offer and start their new role?
  • What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of their first day? What must happen to achieve this desired outcome? 
  • What are the top 5 things new employees need to know about your company culture and work environment? 
  • What stakeholders should participate in the onboarding process? What resources will each of these people need? 
  • What kind of goals will you set for your new employees? HiringThing Pro Tip: 60% of companies don’t set goals or milestones for their new hires—set yourself apart by having potential employees outline goals as part of their hiring process (or providing them with a list of what you expect them to achieve by when). 
  • How will you gather feedback on your program and measure its success? 

When creating your onboarding strategy, always keep your organization’s “why” in mind: Why are you onboarding new hires the way you are? How does your onboarding strategy coincide with your company’s mission? What is the primary goal of your onboarding (it doesn’t have to be any deeper than “get hires to show up on the first day” if that’s your main goal, either)? This will help you ensure your strategy always supports your primary goals. 

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The Components of Good Onboarding 

According to SHRM, there are four distinct building blocks of employee onboarding that form a successful process. These are four non-negotiables that every onboarding process should have. 

We’re also adding one of our own to the list: 


Employees must understand basic legal and policy-driven rules and regulations and are, in fact, legally able to perform their roles for your organization (and submit the required paperwork, rendering them legally able to do so). 

Compliance Training 

Every company operates with both written and unwritten rules that govern employees. While long-time employees explicitly understand these norms, new hires will need dedicated training to get up to speed and ensure they adhere to company standards. 

It’s crucial to build compliance training into the onboarding process. It helps streamline the learning curve associated with compliance and equips them with the resources to thrive at your organization. 

Background checks are a step many companies choose to take to ensure employees are legally compliant. The scope of background checks varies, but most thoroughly screen the validity of work experience, education, and legal records. This process typically takes a day but can be extended if an organization wants to go deeper. Typically, you run background on a new hire once you’ve qualified them for a position. 

Requisite Paperwork 

While compliance is important, digital paperwork is vital for HR professionals to onboard each cohort of new hires. To help with this process, develop standardized workflows that allow your HR staff to easily administer and collect necessary paperwork. The typical onboarding “paperwork” today’s employers need to collect includes:

  • HR Payroll Paperwork 
  • W-4 forms
  • ID/Badge forms 
  • Employee handbook acknowledgment of receipt 
  • Technology acceptable usage policy 
  • Employment contracts 
  • State-required notifications 
  • Enrollment forms for benefits 
  • Procedures and policy forms  

Suggested Activity: Does your organization require any additional “paperwork” not included in this list?  Make a list.

Frontload the paperwork at the start of the onboarding process to ensure the new employees can devote the bulk of their attention to compliance training and other aspects of onboarding. This will also give your HR professionals time to double-check and process the paperwork.


Part of onboarding’s role is to clarify what is expected of new employees. Good onboarding means that an organization preemptively answers new hires' questions about their role. 

Good onboarding means that new hires should clearly understand their role, expectations, company values, responsibilities, and practical processes, like where to for IT help or who can help them replace a lost name tag. 

HiringThing ProTip: As part of the job application, ask candidates which specific duties they’ll excel at and, optionally, which duties they may need additional training to master. Ensure they know this isn’t a way to weed them out but to support them once they come on board. 

Suggested Activity: Brainstorm with several of your colleagues—or send out a company survey/set up discussion panels if you have the time/resources—on what questions you had when you first started. These could be super high-level questions—How should the company’s mission impact the way I perform my role?—or very base level—How do I order extra supplies? How does one call out sick? Compile a list of these questions and use them to build your onboarding strategy. 

Map Out Progression

A good way to clarify what new employees should know is to map out a timeline of what they should master and when. What should new employees understand on their first day? First week? Master within the first 6 weeks? 6 Months? Year? We’d encourage all organizations to map out timelines that work for their roles—a seasonal position doesn’t need a year check-in, for example—and be as transparent as possible with them. Put them in job descriptions. Discuss them during the interview process. Provide them in a concrete form—digital or paper, depending on the work environment— for new employees on their first day.

Preview The Role Accurately

Giving your potential employee a realistic idea of what their job will be like is essential to a solid onboarding process.

SHRM calls this realistic job preview, and writes that 

While you may drive away some potential candidates, you will ensure the quality of those who pursue the job after seeing what it is really like. An unnamed firm discovered interesting results after conducting an experiment where one group of candidates was given a Realistic Job Preview, and the other group was not. SHRM reported that in this firm, “The RJP group was more likely to reject a job offer, but they had 50% less turnover than the non-RJP group.”

Some ways to ensure you realistically preview said job include: 

  • Writing clear job descriptions that provide a clear, concrete list of responsibilities and expectations. 
  • Being transparent about your hiring process and how long each step will take. Likewise, being transparent about how onboarding will occur. 
  • Answering questions about your organization openly and honestly. 
  • Not selling your organization and company as perfect. Be open about challenges.

Company culture is often one of the toughest—but most important—aspects of an organization for a new hire to learn and navigate, which is why it’s one of the core four components of good onboarding. 

Your employees must understand your organization’s mission, values, and working environment. Forward-thinking companies will also consider new employees as tools for growth, ensuring they know you welcome positive changes and contributions. 

Go Over the Applicable Company History and Your Mission/Values

New employees need to have at least a basic understanding of the company's history (and overlooked “history” many organizations overlook is the evolution of a department). We suggest including this on a career page, in your job description, and relevant portions of the hiring process. 

Suggested Activity: Break down what parts of your company’s history (or department’s evolution) are most important for each role to understand. 

The company mission should be reiterated at every step of the interview process so that new hires start their first day with a strong sense of what the company aims to do. 

HiringThing Pro Tip: Have all current employees share what the company mission means to them and compile them in content—a blog, video, etc.—and then ask job candidates how they feel they can add/enhance the company mission. 


The final component for SHRM's onboarding is building solid connections and networking opportunities. This will help new employees acclimate faster and enhance creativity and productivity for your entire organization. 

A strong offer letter drives a 17x more emotional connection to a company for new employees. That’s huge. If possible, personalize offer letters; if that’s not scalable, do your best to imbue them with a sense of belonging and excitement about bringing your new employees aboard.  

Team Structure

New hires should know their manager's name, understand the company hierarchy on a high level, and know the names and positions of the team they’ll interact with daily before their first day.

HiringThing Pro Tip: Include as many of the candidates' team as possible in the hiring process--starting a new role, already being able to say “I know that person” goes a long way in making a new employee feel accepted (you can also encourage teammates to reach out to new hires in an informal way!). 


A new hire shouldn’t feel nervous or apprehensive on their first day. You want your new hires to feel welcome and comfortable in their new environments—research shows that’s when you get the best work. 

HiringThing Pro Tip: Send new hires a welcome package showing them how excited you are for them to join the team. This could be some coffee or company mug, or simply a personalized note/email from a manager letting the new hire know they’re valued before they start.

72% of employees say one-on-one time with their direct manager is a very crucial part of onboarding. Try ensuring that’s a crucial part of your onboarding strategy. Below, you’ll find a checklist example for what should go into a first-manager meeting: 

Involve Your Team

Onboarding isn’t just about the new employees. It’s also about ensuring they're a productive part of a team. A random new coworker shouldn’t just show up one day. Your existing employees should know who they are and their role and be ready to welcome them. 

Let current employees know about their new colleagues via email or meeting. Information you should provide them includes: 

  • The new employee's name, title, and start date. 
  • Their office location (if applicable) and who they’ll work with the first day, week, etc. 
  • Some of the new employees’ backgrounds (work experience, education, skills, and interests). 
  • Highlight the time and date of the welcome and who should be welcome when. 
  • What do you expect each team member to assist with? 
Solicit Feedback

Historically, only 20% of companies asked employees for feedback on the onboarding process, even though new hires are 91% more likely to improve their connection with the managers right away when asked for meaningful feedback. Build this into your onboarding strategy. 

HiringThing Pro Tip: Ask your current employees what worked and what didn’t during their onboarding process. Encourage them to be honest and create a list that you can use to amend the strategy you’re working on.


A formal onboarding with planned and executed steps works better than an informal onboarding process. Standardization ensures every step is complete, best practices remain constant despite employees moving around the organization, and results can be measured and changed.

HiringThing ProTip: List the formal steps of your onboarding process somewhere all stakeholders can easily access.

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The Importance of Automating Onboarding 

Despite the myriad benefits onboarding can provide, 42% of companies don’t have dedicated onboarding technology, only 26% fully automate onboarding in any capacity, and only 50% want to increase their investment in onboarding tech.

Automating onboarding can save organizations time—small business owners spend up to 40% of their working hours on tasks that don’t generate income—and high-performing organizations are 2.5x more likely to use technology for their onboarding process.


  • 42% of HR managers who don’t capture onboarding information electronically spend three or more hours per employee manually collecting and processing onboarding data
  • Automating onboarding tasks results in a 16% retention increase and 18% improvement in initial performance. 
  • Companies can save money by automating their document management: an average of $20 per paper on filing, $120 spent on looking for lost documents, and $220 spent on recreating lost documents.

27% of HR professionals say that technology is the missing ingredient from their organization’s onboarding program, and 47% of companies struggle with onboarding employees because they don’t have the correct technological infrastructure. 

Luckily, HiringThing has you covered with our brand new onboarding solution, which we’ve specifically built to help organizations digitize, standardize, and strengthen their onboarding, which you can use in conjunction with the HiringThing applicant tracking system (our proprietary recruiting solution) or on its own. Want to check it out? 

Check Out Onboarding

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Only 12% of U.S. employees believe their company has a good onboarding process. Gallup, who collected this data, found that 1 in 5 employees has a “bad” onboarding experience—they also found that employees who reported “exceptional” onboarding experiences were 2.6x more likely to be extremely satisfied with their organization.

A lengthy, structured onboarding strategy may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. It takes work, but as we’ve outlined, the benefits far exceed the effort you’ll put into building this strategy. Completing the suggested activities, audits, and checklists in this workbook will get the bulk of the work started for you. After that, it’s up to you to work with other key organizational stakeholders to tailor your onboarding to your company’s specific needs.

About HiringThing

HiringThing is a modern recruiting and employee onboarding platform as a service that creates seamless talent experiences. Our white label solutions and open API enable technology and service providers to offer hiring and onboarding to their clients. Approachable and adaptable, the platform empowers anyone, anywhere to build their dream team.

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