A Brilliant Guide To Employee Onboarding

June 5, 2024

As an internal comms (IC) pro, improving the employee onboarding experience can be a major win for you at work.

Think about it. Is your company actually setting up employees for success from the start?

All too often, organizations drop the ball with employee onboarding. One Gallup study found that only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. Yikes.

If done well, employee onboarding helps new folks feel welcomed, supported, and prepared to contribute to the organization. The result? Higher job satisfaction, better performance, and reduced turnover. That’s a measurable win for the IC teams who take up the challenge.

But employee onboarding involves way more than paperwork. Our Research Team conducted a benchmarking study to uncover what organizations of all shapes and sizes do to brilliantly onboard employees. We reviewed eight companies and spoke to employees at different levels in a variety of roles.

Let’s dive into it all so you can leverage our brilliance for your next major win at work.


Employee Onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into the organization. It can last as long as a year, and in some cases, more. Onboarding extends beyond the introduction activities and ensures that new hires are fully assimilated into their new environment. It typically involves providing new hires with the tools, information, and support they need to succeed to set the tone for what’s to come.

Internal communicators can enable and accomplish this by structuring employee onboarding around the organization’s culture, mission, vision, core values, and key business strategies.

Employee Onboarding vs. Employee Orientation

In our study, our Research Team asked participants to describe their onboarding philosophy. We found that most participants referred to orientation and onboarding as two separate elements of the employee experience.

Employee Orientation is the process of introducing new hires to the workplace. It usually lasts two to five days. Employee orientation activities can include a brief overview of the company and department, mandatory paperwork completion, answering general questions, and a quick meet-and-greet with key internal stakeholders.


While each organization often takes a unique approach in designing its processes, a few elements are often consistent between programs. Across the board, the companies we studied shared five key onboarding components:

1. Structured New Hire Orientation
Brilliant programming generally combines essential information with introductions to the organization and the new hire's role, using self-paced e-learnings and culture sessions led by senior leadership or executives.

2. Shared Key Topic Areas
Top organizations also ensure managers equip new hires with information about company culture (mission, vision, values), company history, how they work, what they do, product overview, IT/security, compliance, benefits, and payroll details.

Here’s an overview of how companies typically share these topics with new hires:

Topic: IT & Security
Facilitator: IT
Timing: Day 1
Delivery: Live sessions

Topic: Company Culture & How We Work
Facilitator: HR and/or leadership
Timing: Day 1 or Week 1
Delivery: Live sessions with PPT, interactive discussions, e-learning/videos

Topic: Company History
Facilitator: HR and/or leadership
Timing: Week 1
Delivery: Infographic/timeline via live session or video

Topic: What We Do, How We Work & Product Overview / Portfolio
Facilitator: SMEs
Timing: Week 1
Delivery: Live sessions with PPT, product demos, interactive discussions, e-learning/videos

Topic: Compliance
Facilitator: L&D
Timing: Assigned Week 1 – Deadlines vary up to 60/90 days
Delivery: Depending on Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) assignments – live sessions with trainers, e-learning courses, documentation review

Topic: Benefits & Payroll
Facilitator: HR SMEs
Timing: Week 1
Delivery: Live sessions with PPT and discussions

3. Robust Checklists for New Hires & Their Managers
HR and IC onboarding managers provide pre-boarding checklists along with checklists for the first 30/60/90 days to drive accountability.

Tasks that people managers may be required to complete by a deadline:

  • Introduce new hires to the team
  • Identify and share key contacts and team members
  • Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins for the first 90 days
  • Assign all necessary trainings
  • Ensure IT is aware of the new hire and provides needed access
  • Outline 30-, 60- and 90-day goals with new hires

4. A Focus on Measurement
Pulse surveys are typically conducted for both new hires and managers. Specific questions vary depending on when HR or IC sends the survey is sent.

Week 1 surveys generally gauge whether the new hire has what they need to get started, whether they know who to reach out to for their role, and their sentiment around onboarding information. Conversely, 30-, 60- and 90-day surveys focus on assessing levels of connection, support, and understanding roles and objectives.

5. Organized Buddy Programs
Assigning a buddy is a key component of nearly every onboarding program we studied. Companies recognize that it’s critical to create connections and provide new hires with someone specific who can answer questions. The buddy is typically assigned by the hiring manager during the first week. — typically someone on the same team who can be an additional resource to get new hires up to speed on the nuances.

3 Brilliant Onboarding Experiences

Companies are catching on that making a brilliant first impression by onboarding employees the right way leads to favorable long-term results. When we spoke to several companies, these were some of the experiences that made a positive impact on their employee experience:

1. High Levels of Senior Leadership Participation

A few of the companies have built-in programming during onboarding for new hires to meet with senior leaders and other employees directly. Participants who have attended these sessions shared positive feedback and found it meaningful.

Live Leadership Welcome Sessions
All new hires take part in a virtual executive session during days eight to 12, where they are welcomed by senior leaders and can ask questions.

In-Person Focus
New hires spend their first two to three days in the office to connect with other new hires, tour the office, and have lunch with their team, senior leaders, and managers.

Team-Building Quarterly Cohorts
For three months, all new hires who join around the same time participate in engagement and culture-focused activities to compete and work with their teammates to gain points.

Face Time with the CEO
A live session where new hires meet with the CEO/Co-Founder during the first 6-8 weeks to get to know leadership and ask questions.

Speak Up Session
One onboarding session focuses on making employee voices heard, asking questions, and facing challenges head-on.

Networking Pilot
Encourage employees to meet new people within the organization by scheduling 15-minute “meets” with others (new hires must take part during their first 90 days).


Companies using interactive experiences create more dynamic sessions and activities to engage, inform, and welcome new hires. Here are a few unique program elements organizations are experimenting with:

Digital Onboarding Assistant
A conversational AI bot that supports new hires through the onboarding process.

Immersive Orientation 2.0
A highly interactive and live Orientation 2.0 (separate from the initial orientation session), facilitated by founders and/or leadership with panel discussions, demos, networking sessions, team breakouts and a luncheon with colleagues.

Tailored Onboarding Journey
A specific onboarding journey for each new hire, designed to consider the progression of the new hire’s career goals.

Account Management Approach
A pod of support for each new hire with assigned roles such as managers, HR, L&D, etc.


To simplify processes and streamline the onboarding experience, some companies have built or purchased an internal portal for new hires to access all tasks, resources and tools that they need during onboarding.

An intranet that stores all the necessary links, documents and information can save everyone a lot of time. Build out a resource library that stores everything new hires will need. Create a space for frequently asked questions.

Our team has helped dozens of companies gather platform requirements, create a shortlist, decide on a solution, populate it with content, and make a splash with a fun rollout.

Ensuring your intranet is set up makes everyone's lives easier — not just new hires.

Set the Stage for Success with Brilliant Employee Onboarding

Effective employee onboarding is essential for setting new hires up for success and integrating them into the company culture. Our study reveals that while approaches vary, the most successful programs share common elements such as structured orientation, robust checklists, continuous measurement, and the incorporation of buddy systems.

By adopting these best practices and tailoring them to fit your organization’s unique needs, you can create an onboarding experience that welcomes new employees and prepares them to contribute meaningfully from day one. Be sure to measure and track your progress so that IC gets credit for boosting job satisfaction and performance, while lowering turnover!

As you can tell — we’re big fans of stellar onboarding. If you’d like some expertise on your process and how to secure some quick wins for IC, reach out.

Happy employee onboarding!

Maira Sarwar-Sheikh

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