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What is Onboarding and Why is it so Important?

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the term given to the manner in which a business/company/organisation brings on-board new employees. It is typically concerned with how these companies (their HR and Training functions) integrate these new staff members and, effectively, get the “up to speed” with….

  • The Job Itself
  • Policies & Procedures
  • Systems
  • Colleagues
  • Clients

What is our Objective with Onboarding?

The objective of onboarding is to help new employees to get acquainted with the new role and the organisation quickly and effectively. The idea is that this will allow them to be productive quicker. Also, by providing new employees with a comprehensive onboarding programme, you can help improve morale, transition employees to the new role in a smoother manner and also provide new employees with the skills and competence to carry our their work.

What is the Problem we are Trying to Resolve?

Think of the typical scene that most people have experienced on their first day in a new organisation. You meet a member of the HR team for a brief chat. You are quickly offloaded to the Manager or Supervisor of the team you are joining. You are showed to your desk and the dreaded words that follow are….

“I’ll let you get settled in there!”

You’ve been stitched up! Run!!!

Well, not quite but close enough. This is a scenario that happens all too often. You are then left to get used to your surroundings. I’m not sure how long it takes to familiarise yourself with your keyboard, mouse and phone! Eventually, someone rescues you and it’s time for a tea break to meet some of your colleagues.

A little anecdote from my own experience. I started a new role a number of years back, I had come into the job from another role in a parent organisation. It was on the same level but the job I was leaving gave me great autonomy in the role and allowed me to work above my grade to a certain extent. On starting in my new role I was handed a stack of files, told that this would be a great way for me to see their systems and swiftly pointed in the direction of the filing cabinets. Onboarding who!

This is a problem that is replicated in organisations up and down the country and right across the world. Why invest all that time with a comprehensive interview process when we don’t provide a comprehensive onboarding programme.

So What Does a Comprehensive Onboarding Programme Look Like?

This depends on the type of organisation, but let’s look at a few options…


  • A comprehensive meet and greet
  • A full tour of the premises
  • Establishing a mentoring programme with a colleague
  • Introductions to clients/customers


  • A training programme should be devised to bring the newbie up-to-speed with their role
    • The Training Department should be the owners of this task
    • On-the-job elements should be the responsibility of the employee’s Supervisor/Manager, under the direction of the Training Department
    • Consider video-based methods of delivery or online learning tutorials
    • Consider micro-learning units (small, bite-sized modules) spread out over initial days/weeks so as not to overburden the new entrant
    • The mentor should also be part of this process
    • This should be monitored by the Training Department
    • Online and offline methods of delivery should be considered to combine self-directed learning with hands-on, classroom-based learning

Organisation Structure

  • Organisation chart outlining the overall structure
  • An overview of general policies & procedures
  • An in-depth look at job-specific policies & procedures


  • Your onboarding programme should be mapped out with detailed schedules and appropriate timelines built-in
  • This map/schedule should be distributed to the key stakeholders (Unit Manager/Supervisor, Training Manager/Supervisor, Mentor, Employee, etc.)

How Long Should It Last?

Again, this is a moving feast and is dependent on many factors, such as the nature of the organisation, the size of the organsiation and the nature of the job. If you consider your current role, how long did it take you to get familiar with the job and properly up-to-speed with your role? Many people would say 3-6 months. It is also worth noting that many people’s probationary period lasts for anything between 6-12 months. Given this, I would suggest that a comprehensive onboarding programme would certainly be in place for the first 3 months for a new entrant. This would allow them enough time to make a positive impression after the onboarding programme has been completed and where a probationary period is set at 6 months, for example.


Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences…..

2 thoughts on “What is Onboarding and Why is it so Important?

    1. Hi Breffni. If you think of it in this way…

      Induction is typically concerned with with the short term act of inducting the staff member into the organisation. This might involve reviewing policies and procedures, signing documents, chatting to HR, examining the organisation structure and being introduced to roles and responsibilities.

      The process of Onboarding, however, encompasses everything involved in retaining that employee from their first impression of the organisation to their role, right through to a comprehensive training programme to help them get to grips with the job and possibly even a mentoring programme. Onboarding of new employees is generally seen as a longer term process as opposed to induction, which is a short-term task that is often more focused on form filling and an introduction to policies and procedures.

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