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eBook: Modern Onboarding is the Bridge to a Successful and Productive Employee Journey

eBook: Modern Onboarding is the Bridge to a Successful and Productive Employee Journey

By: Meghan M. Biro


An Opportunity to Drive Engagement and Boost Retention

Onboarding is an enormous and untapped opportunity to drive engagement and retention among your employees. It’s not just a single phase and it’s not just a separate process: Modern onboarding is a way of guiding the employee through their entire journey — and continuously cultivate and strengthen the company culture the whole way. Done well, it turns successful candidates into successful employees, and into successful ambassadors of your company brand as well.

Modern onboarding is paperless, automated, mobile friendly, integrated and scalable. It’s efficient. It’s streamlined and easy to use. It starts the moment they say yes, but the onboarding experience continues far beyond Day One or even Week One.

The modern onboarding experience continues throughout the course of Year One, and then beyond. It taps into the excitement of saying yes and sustains it throughout the employee lifecycle.

Modern onboarding taps into the excitement of saying yes and sustains it throughout the employee lifecycle.

What’s Different, What’s The Same?

Of course your company needs to cover all the administrative needs your company has, so your employee is ready to hit the ground running and can do their job. But modern onboarding also helps create incredible connections — between employees and their team, their managers, the HR team, the company. It anchors the employee into the very culture of your organization. And this breed of onboarding continues during all points of transition for the employee, including: promotions, transfers, M&A, offboarding, and re-boarding as well.

Modern onboarding is not just a phase. It’s a sustained solution. It’s a long-term approach to talent management that factors in the realities of the world of work today, the new culture and behaviors of work, and our modern understanding of the employee journey. Because of that, it’s a tremendous tool when it comes to driving employee engagement and retention. It’s also largely untapped, as you’ll see.

Nearly half (49%) of organizations are in the process of updating their onboarding programs. This eBook is designed to help organizations make the best decisions about shifting to modern onboarding now, and tap into the incredible power of this vital part of the employee experience — for their benefit and for yours.

We’re also going to get the perspective of one company on the forefront of modern onboarding: Click Boarding, and we’ll discuss the long-term approach to onboarding with Patrick Rooney, Chief Marketing Officer.

Onboarding: Why It Matters Now

The Recruiting Challenge: A Model for Onboarding

We know that recruiting top talent is vital to organizational success. That successful talent acquisition depends on a range of elements lining up for each and every hire. Skilled, friendly recruiting teams. A winning employer brand and a dynamic marketing strategy that makes it stand out. A high-quality, memorable candidate experience.  By necessity we’ve turned the effort to hire great talent into a tremendous, multifaceted, multiplatform dance.

Companies are ever hungry for top talent — and willing to go the extra mile to land it. That’s in part because today, it’s a buyer’s market. It’s not a stretch to say we need employees more than employees may need us. The national unemployment rate as of October 2018 was still 3.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We need to fill positions more frequently than we did before, particular with younger employees. As of January 2018, the median tenure of workers ages 25 to 34 is only 2.8 years.  Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey found that 43% of millennials plan to quit their current job within two years, and only 28% plan to stay in their current role for more than five years.

The Employee Experience is Just as Key

With the rise of the gig economy, your talent is not just leaving for similar employment. Among millennials who would willingly leave their employers within the next two years, 62% would consider joining the gig economy instead of seeking full-time employment.

Add in the factor of decreased attention spans, yet ever more sophisticated radar — on messaging, culture, tone, appeal, alignment with an individual’s values and goals. All adds up to a sum total of candidate experience. It’s not surprise that the company and its recruiters and hiring teams that provides the best candidate experience usually wins.

Why bring up recruiting challenges in a book on onboarding? A great candidate experience is what transforms a search, click, and Sure, I’m interested into Yes. Now we need to do that for employees as well. The employee experience is just as critical — and onboarding is a profoundly powerful way to provide a phenomenal, meaningful employee experience that continues through the entire employee journey.

So if you want improved ROI on recruiting and hiring, you can’t merely settle for lackluster onboarding just because it’s free with your ATS or HRIS. Your employees, both new hires and HR — deserve better.

5 Vital Statistics

Make your onboarding program as strong and vibrant as it can be, and you’ll see a marked improvement in the health of your bottom line.

Companies with an engaging onboarding program retained 91% of their first-year workers. (SHRM)
New hires who went through a well-structured onboarding program were 69% more like to remain at a company for up to three years. (SHRM)
Companies with an efficient onboarding process enjoyed a 60% year-over-year improvement in revenue. (Aberdeen)
Companies with an efficient onboarding process also saw a 63% year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction. (Aberdeen)
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Onboarding improves company ROI by more than $79,000 per year. (Aberdeen)
How to Take Onboarding From Tedium to Engagement

Only 12% of workers think that their company does a “great job” of onboarding new employees.  That said, most employers would prefer to provide a better onboarding process and certainly a better onboarding experience. But the pressures of business can still cause us to shrink to a fallback position when it comes to onboarding, and revert to the same old traditional processes.

It’s a flawed compromise: this “all right then, let’s just get these new hires onboarded and we’ll tackle the big picture next year” school of thought. Every crop of new hires who experience this kind of fallback onboarding is not only at risk for increase disengagement, but they may well share their lackluster onboarding experience on portals and job boards. Call it the Yelp generation, but employers should assume that a negative experience is likely to be shared.

These are real quotes from employees about their own onboarding experiences, taken from such sources as What they show is that not only are employees paying attention to onboarding, they are more than willing to share their experience — as a caution — to others.

What’s a Company To Do?

Administration is vital, to be sure. Employers need all those t’s crossed. The forms filled out. Trainings accomplished. Enough direction, instruction, and information so that employees can get up to speed and join the workflow as soon as possible.

But too often, with this in mind, the process and its materials have absolutely none of the appeal and pizzazz of the recruiting and hiring materials. Some common complaints:

  • Paper or screen-based, It’s a clunky process.
  • It’s hard to use and confusing.
  • It lacks basic capabilities, like being able to save a form in progress and review before finalizing.
  •  It has a generic look and feel, bearing little that reflects the employer brand.
  • It requires the employee stay tethered to either in the HR department or in the office in order to fill out either proprietary documents, all in order.
  • It requires actual hand-offs from manager to employee and back again — a whole lot of manual time and energy for both of them.

Modern onboarding can fulfill the same function but also speak directly to what the employee needs and expects. It can provide a favorable experience that triggers assimilation and engagement — so that ultimately, the employee wants to be, and can be, an advocate for their employer and its brand.

“If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning”
John Mackey Whole Foods
What Modern Onboarding Looks Like

Focus on Employee Wants and Needs

Employees have a right to expect onboarding that provides them with a positive, engaging, interesting, seamless, intuitive user experience. Why? Because in every other realm of their experience, that’s what they get. They expect access and information at their fingertips. Even more so, they (and we) need it. In the digitally run workplace they are burdened with more tasks to accomplish in the same amount of time.

Employees want to know they were right to say yes. They want their initial decision to be reinforced. Modern onboarding may be the first experience to answer that question.

On a psychological level, employees want to know they were right to say yes. They want their initial decision to be reinforced. Modern onboarding may be the first experience to answer that question. When your onboarding expresses your value proposition as an employer, reflects the company culture and mission, and is clearly designed to support employees and convey that the employer appreciates their time and energy, the answer is the affirmative. And that is where employee engagement takes root.

“Companies need to change the way they manage and lead to match the way that modern humans actually work and live.”
Brian Halligan CEO, HubSpot

Review Needs with Key Decision-Makers

What the specifics of your own modern onboarding platform look like are entirely up to you as the employer. But what’s most important is that your onboarding system meets the needs of all the decision-makers involved in your process, is designed for ease of use, and reinforces the culture of your company — across departments, different employee types, and locations.

Take an inventory of tasks and requirements. Look at the company’s own culture and identify it, to make sure the onboarding platform — or platforms — embody your brand and values.

What do you need your onboarding system to do? Do you need it to integrate with ATS, HRIS, LMS? Whatever systems you use, onboarding should be best-in-class and accretive to all of the other investments you have made in HR Tech.

Also, look at your other HR processes: What is working? Look at recruiting platforms, as well as recognition or rewards software, automatic payroll. Is there a way to connect these together and make sure they can all function continuously? Can they all create useful data across the board? Are they speaking the same language?

What kind of culture and engagement efforts already exist, such as recognition and rewards programs, mentoring and advocacy, that could be connected to the onboarding platform?

What Employees Want From Your Onboarding System

  • Work / life integration
  • Seemlessness with other tasks
  • Customizable
  • Flexible and fixable
  • Easy platform with intuitive features
  • Mobile and secure
  • Self-guided from beginning to end
  • Reflects employer and company culture
  • Provides avenues of communication
  • Always on an accessible

Cover the Bases — Your Own Way

Every organization has unique onboarding needs. There’s a key difference between the requirements of a tech firm and the needs of a retail organization. A tech firm may need to provide a very specific roadmap for new hires that includes elements such as its codebase and code standards, its communication tools, its chain of command and informational resources, a directory of manuals. A retailer may need to get waves of new seasonal hires administratively processed in a hurry, than hold large orientation sessions to get them up and ready for the season. The tech firm may have no policies on dress code but the retailer has very specific requirements. Make sure you have all the bases covered for your industry, your company, and your culture.

Onboarding Functions: Which Does Your Company Need?
  • Applicant and Hiring Info
  • Screening Results
  • Background Checks
  • Benefits
  • Compliance
  • E-Verify
  • Self-Service
  • Mobile
  • Automated
  • HRIS Integration
  • Payroll Integration
  • LMS Integration
  • Administration
  • Documentation
  • Tracking
  • Reporting
  • Delivery
  • Training
  • Guided Experience
  • Self-Driven
  • Classroom-Based
  • Virtual Classroom-Based
  • Policy
  • Procedures
  • Safety
  • Equipment
  • Facility Tour & Training
  • Software Induction
  • Workflow
  • Engagement
  • Advocacy
  • Communication
  • Team
  • Coworker
  • Managers
  • HR Department
  • Leadership
  • Data
  • Analytics
  • Mentoring
  • Buddy-System
  • Networking
  • Week 1 Check-in
  • 30 Day Check-In
  • 60 Day Check-In
  • 90 Day Check-In
  • 180 Day Check-In
  • 360 Day Check-In
  • Exit Survey
  • Flexible
  • Configurable
  • Scalable
  • Extends Current HR Systems
  • Advances Security

Organizations must also remember that workers view the employer-employee relationship through a different lens than they once did. Employees are less inclined to stay with a job simply because it provides them with a paycheck. They signed up for a certain experience, and if they do not get that experience, they are more than willing to look elsewhere. Employees are consumers of the workplace. They are drawn to brands they can connect with. And they stick with — even advocate for — brands that honor their promises.

Gallup State of the American Workplace, 2017

Don’t think Onboarding. Think Through-Boarding.

Today, working means learning. It means continuously facing new challenges and new innovations that require us to adjust our thinking and improve our skills. Our skills and knowledge base are endlessly iterating. And that’s true for nearly every single employee.

So the question is: Why do we stop onboarding after a day, or a week? Why is onboarding confined to a sequence of static tasks, and then the employee is cut loose?

We may want to rethink the terminology here. I suggest the concept of through boarding.  It’s the same approach as onboarding. But it goes well beyond bringing someone on board. While conventional wisdom states that an employee should be up and running within 90 days, we know that’s not entirely true. It takes far more time to learn the norms and mores of the company; to develop a network that can help an individual employee navigate tasks and communications, and to gain the momentum, based on skills, fit, ease of interaction and confidence, to be fully productive.

That said, it probably takes about a year before an employee is firing on all cylinders. During this year, onboarding can help continue building engagement and supporting retention. It can continue supporting a sense of shared goals and alignment between employee and employer, another key driver of engagement and retention.

But it can only do it if it’s still part of the very operations and functions of work. If it’s a system of administration, support, communication and interaction that continues through the employee journey.

It’s been shown that employees whose companies have longer onboarding programs actually gain full proficiency 34% faster than those in the shortest programs.

Throughboarding enables the company to maintain it’s clear commitment to its people. It can continue developing and training the employee as part of the same seamless and integrated learning experience, which makes learning and development a continued part of working rather than isolated phases. That approach enables trainings and learning to happen in smaller, bite-sized, more digestible chunks — in keeping with our shorter attention spans and screen-based information gathering. A longer-term onboarding platform doesn’t need to overload the employee with information in a finite period of time. Employees can learn and develop at their own speed.

But there’s a culture power as well. Throughboarding also enables the employer message, values, brand, tone to extend well beyond recruiting and hiring to the initial in-the-door experience, and then to the entire first year and beyond. And this may also extend the employee’s perception of their own duration of time there.

With more learning and development happening along the same format, in the same flexible, interesting, engaging way, employees are not simply “marking their time.” This may well promote greater investment on the part of the employee in being able to continue to learn and build their own skills. And with more interaction and communication taking place within the onboarding platform as well — from mentoring to teams, from periodic check-ins with managers to informal discussions — the very culture of the organization is a part of the daily, functional life and progress of the employee.

Onboarding for the Long Term: A Conversation

Meghan M. Biro

Talent Culture

Meghan worked with hundreds of companies as a high-tech recruiter, from early-stage startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. She founded TalentCulture in 2008 to lead a conversation about the future of work with her peers in HR and leadership.

Patrick Rooney

Click Boarding

Patrick is challenging the status quo and conventional thinking to drive digital transformation at Click Boarding. He’s focused on the intersection of digital, business and strategy to help build and scale brands.

I sat down with Patrick Rooney, Chief Marketing Officer of Click Boarding, to discuss the concept of long-term onboarding in detail. Here’s what we talked about:

Meghan Biro: We’ve been looking at onboarding not just as a fast, temporary phase but a far longer-term process. Let’s talk about what that longer-term process looks like.

Patrick Rooney: Right. As you think about modern onboarding, you can distill it down to three different functional elements: preparation, immersion, and then enablement.

So, preparation – all the things you do to prepare someone to become an employee, getting them ready and legal to work. There’s the administrative side: tax forms, benefits, the things that typically get handled in the first day or two. It’s mundane stuff — time consuming, but important for administrators and for HR, since there’s some level of hazard from a compliance perspective. If it’s not done right and there’s an audit, there could be consequences.

MB: But here, preparation is just one part of a much larger and ongoing process.

PR: Yes. Then there’s immersion: immersing new hires in the culture, in their team and in the group, so they can absorb the ethos and start working within the cultural parameters of the organization. When you think about immersion, companies are investing in all of these cultural initiatives: special interest groups, intramurals, coffee talks.

MB: To me these all look like activities to support better employee engagement.

PR: Immersion really is another word for engagement, true. But everybody wants to get away from talking about engagement as a generic term. What we’re talking about from an onboarding perspective is this: How can we immerse someone in the culture of the organization so they can become a good and productive citizen?

MB: Yes — and that’s a good term: immersion. It implies you can move people into the culture, get them involved and engaged in the organization — using the right tools, the right technology and approach. So then we have that third element.

PR: The enablement. We want to prepare someone to come into the organization and do well. But then we also want to enable them to do well. So there’s some training in there, as well as feedback and reviews at regular intervals. There’s the hiring manager care: the new hire’s communications with their hiring manager and their team. There’s also a networking component. And it’s about giving someone the tools to do their job well — to get them off to a good start.

So functionally, modern onboarding goes beyond that first part of preparation, which is really the legal and administrative component, and extends to immersion into the culture —who to talk to, the legacy of the organization, the institutional knowledge. Then the onboarding continues to actually enable someone to get to work, with regular feedback, check-ins and reviews at regular intervals, training.

MB: Let’s talk about that networking component. That’s a great approach — a powerful way to connect the new employee into the company. But there’s even more to it than that, right? It’s a way to connect the company to the new employee as well.

PR: That’s true. The networking component is about networking within the organization, building a peer community. It’s about making friends and creating a social situation. From a social bonding perspective, new hires don’t have a social network when they come in. If you don’t have a social network within your own organization, then the relationship between employer and employee becomes just a transactional relationship — and that social contract is broken. That makes turnover far more likely. So there’s an emotional component here. But from a practical perspective, it gives someone the ability to far better navigate the organization efficiently, so they can get their job done.

MB: There’s this whole other perspective as well, as you’re saying: by enabling new hires to start building those relationships, the employer is holding up their end of the bargain, the social contract. To put it positively, that will likely reduce the prospect of turnover.

PR: Absolutely: The networking part of this does start earlier, during the immersion part of onboarding, when a new hire is starting to develop that institutional knowledge. But customarily it takes a long time for people to develop those networks, so making it part of onboarding enables them to get connected so much faster. They can be connected to people with similar interests, or fellow alums, or otherwise, whatever the parameters.

MB: But I can also see where these connections could start earlier, right? So in a sense these three elements of modern onboarding aren’t really in chronological order, but they can begin and then keep extending.

PR: These connections can start even before Day One — people can reach out ahead of time and say, “Welcome, it’s great to know you. We’re both from College X.” That’s especially important when it happens cross-organizationally. If I’m a new hire in marketing, and I’ve already made connections with somebody in engineering, somebody in finance and somebody in facilities management, that’s really valuable. I’m starting to know the organization, and know there are people like me here. Those multiple touch points help reinforce the culture. And as I do my job and need information from engineering or another department, I already know somebody I can go to. So it really does help me do my job better.

MB: So here’s where onboarding is actually enabling people to get truly on board.

PR: That’s exactly right. That then helps to accelerate productivity. And at the same time, because I’m making these connections, it helps reduce turnover. That’s a tertiary benefit: if I have these connections, and I have this sense of institutional knowledge along with it, I’m probably going to be happier to be here, and far more engaged. Because I’m dialed in. I like what I’m doing, I like the company. That means I’m probably going to be a pretty good advocate as well.

MB: Which leads us right back to the issue of retention, turnover, and engagement. As well as to recruiting: you’ve got people in the company able to be company ambassadors a lot sooner, and more effectively. Because the way they encountered the company, via their onboarding, was to become connected into the company right away and be able to build on these connections. So these three functional elements of modern onboarding all work together, and provide a far more connected candidate as well as employee experience. I think that’s a key differentiator a lot of companies are going to want to know more about. It’s really to their advantage to provide this kind of preparation, immersion, and enablement for employees — for all the reasons you just described.

PR: Yes. In essence, modern onboarding is a bridge — between talent acquisition, all the reasons that somebody said yes, and then with that person’s being able to be a truly successful employee. That means providing the things that they need to do their job: administrative, legal, training, but also those communication and interaction tools that facilitate connections, well into the employee journey.


We have remarkable technologies and tools at our disposal now, from SaaS and Cloud-based platforms to mobile capabilities that help us better integrate our work and our lives. For organizations, this means no less than a transformation when it comes to onboarding.

As a way to continue our commitment to our people, modern onboarding supports constant communication and interaction, streamlines administrative tasks, and provides automated functionality. But doing this, even more importantly, it puts the employee front and center.

Today, providing a phenomenal employee experience is more critical than ever to supporting the incredible investment companies make into their workforces. With modern onboarding, we can reduce hit all the marks we need to as employers, and enable our employees to be happier, more successful, and more productive.

About TalentCulture

TalentCulture is a metaphor for the social workplace, where participants share ideas and offer peer support through engaging digital forums, dynamic interest groups, and empowering blog content. Since 2010, we’ve been connecting and engaging professionals who want to understand and shape the human aspects of business.

Join thousands of professionals around the globe who look at the office landscape with independent eyes and welcome all to join our conversation.


About Click Boarding

Click Boarding is an onboarding platform that takes the stress out of employees’ first days — and beyond. The platform delivers a guided experience that removes HR burdens and minimizes employee anxiety related to any transition or internal mobility, from being a new hire, to being promoted, to changing roles or offboarding.

Click Boarding bridges the gap between talent acquisition and talent management to help you engage and retain talent. Visit to see how.