If you ask HR managers for their onboarding definition, you’ll likely get a varied array of responses.

“Onboarding is the first week of classroom training and compliance.”

“Onboarding involves the first six months learning the job and working with a mentor.”

“Onboarding is the pamphlet we hand out when we hire new employees.”

With so many definitions, the true onboarding definition can be hard to pin down. Furthermore, these varied ideas can create confusion for new hires during their onboarding process, leading to a slow learning curve and high turnover rate.

So what really is onboarding? And how should your company create and implement a thorough onboarding definition toward training and development success?

Onboarding Definition

An Onboarding Definition

Onboarding is the process that a new hire goes through to learn the company and the job function. But onboarding isn’t just giving them a handbook and showing them where their desk is. Onboarding is a crucial moment for companies to set the tone for their future employees. It is the organization’s first impression on a new hire—and that first impression will shape the rest of that individual’s time with that company.

In this way, onboarding becomes crucial for future employee retention and engagement. Thus, onboarding should be more than just the process of initial training. Onboarding is the full development and integration of a new individual into the organizational culture and atmosphere. Onboarding includes some sort of growth for the new hire in a way that they feel they have gained new skills or knowledge within their new role.

What To Include In Your Onboarding Definition

So what should you include in your company’s onboarding definition to ensure that the onboarding process is thorough, productive, and successful?

  1. Objectives and Expectations

The goal of onboarding should be to outline and clarify the new hire’s objectives and expectations within their new role. What is their job function and description? What do you expect them to accomplish? What are their goals? How will they achieve these goals? Where do they have room to grow?

This is the time for clarity. There should be no confusion about their job function moving forward. Even if they don’t have all the necessary skills yet, onboarding tells them what skills they will need to develop in order to perform the job. They understand communication expectations, technology usage, and other work processes that they will utilize for their job. They know what they will need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis to get a good review.

In this way, onboarding becomes a great opportunity for new employees to set short term and long term goals in their new position. Some companies even choose to formalize the goal setting process to ensure that their workers understand where they are going and how they are going to get there.

  1. Company Policy

Aside from job requirements, new employees need to understand company policies. While HR handbooks and training manuals are a good tool, they are not enough to fully incorporate a new hire. Company policies—from benefits to rules to days off—need to be thoroughly discussed.

Oftentimes, companies will forgo traditional classroom or one-on-one settings and will instead use online training modules. These web-based videos ensure standardization of disseminated information, while saving Human Resources time and energy. Online training is also a great way to complete legal and industry compliance with new hires.

  1. Company Culture

Beyond handbook policies and regulations, you want to integrate the individual to the culture of your organization. You want to make them feel comfortable from day one by giving them the specifics of what the day-to-day feel at the office or workplace is.

What is the dress code like? What is the primary form of communication? Does your company recycle everything in keeping with the green mission? Do people go out to eat on Fridays? Does everyone take a 5-minute break at 3pm to line dance? You might want to let a new hire know this information ahead of time, so they’re not nervous or uncomfortable.

  1. Peer Introduction

To further make your new hires comfortable, they should be formally introduced to their peers the first or second day on the job. Giving them a network right away will help continue the onboarding process beyond HR’s capacities. Their peers can become mentors and friends who will further teach them about the job and the company.

  1. Job Shadowing

The most important thing to remember when building your company’s onboarding definition is that onboarding is not “welcome week.” Onboarding should last at least three months, and it encompasses a variety of learnings and introductions.

The most important aspect of this initiation process should be on-the-job training and job shadowing in conjunction with online trainings. This is the time where the new hire will not just hear about the role and organization, but they will experience it. They will learn by watching their managers and they will learn by doing themselves.

Still, it is important to ensure that onboarding doesn’t just happen “on the fly.” Trial by fire ensures that someone gets burned. Instead, job shadowing should give the new hire the opportunity to watch their boss or peer in action, while also allowing time for reflection, review, and questions.

Pro-Tip: The most successful onboarding definition and training plans have both on-the-job training as well as online video training. This blend allows employees to build new skills and then go out and use those skills in their field.

  1. Feedback

Onboarding is also the ideal time to encourage the individual to share their concerns. What aspects of the job are they nervous about? Where do they feel most uncomfortable? From there, the organization can work to solve these issues before the individual is fully immersed (and disoriented) in the role.

Furthermore, you want to get their feedback about how the onboarding process went. Follow their progress and their successes after three months, six months, and twelve months. How well did the onboarding prepare them for their role with the company? What did they think of your onboarding definition? What could be improved for future onboarding processes?

The Bottom Line

When creating your company’s onboarding definition, it is important to think of the process not as a first day or first week training. Onboarding should be an ongoing process of learning, growth, and integration into the company that fully preps the new hire for success.