Onboarding is the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new team members, whether they come from outside or inside the organization. The prerequisite to successful onboarding is getting your organization aligned around the need and the role.

Onboarding, On-boarding, or New Employee Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new team members, whether they come from outside or inside the organization. The prerequisite to successful onboarding is getting your organization aligned around the need and the role[1].

The above definition is very specific to New Employee orientation. In a more generic usage - OnBoarding can be defined as the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new users into a system, culture or methodology.

Align: Make sure your organization agrees on the need for a new team member and the delineation of the role you seek to fill.
Acquire: Identify, recruit, select and get people to join the team.
Accommodate: Give new team members the tools they need to do work.
Assimilate: Help them join with others so they can do work together.
Accelerate: Help them (and their team) deliver better results faster.

Onboarding is certainly a core management skill. Effective onboarding of new team members can be one of the most important contributions any hiring manager or Human Resources professional can make to long-term organizational success, because onboarding done right drives productivity, significantly improves talent retention and builds shared culture. Onboarding is particularly important for executives transitioning into complex roles (see the entry on “executive onboarding”) because it is difficult for individuals to uncover personal, organizational and role risks in complicated situations when they don't have formal onboarding assistance.

Onboarding is becoming standard operating procedure. Recruiters and interviewers are starting to ask job candidates how they will prepare to onboard, if they receive an offer. Some candidates, anticipating the question, bring 100-Day or 90-Day action plans to interviews. In the past HR owned onboarding. Increasingly, hiring managers own onboarding of their new team members.

Post questions and join a discussion on onboarding at the LinkedIn group: Onboarding: Best Practices


Acquiring new team members involves identifying, recruiting, selecting and getting people to join the team. Those most effective at this start to prepare for their new employee’s success even before starting to recruit. They clarify their destination by creating a recruiting brief, laying out their onboarding plan and aligning stakeholders.

It’s important to recruit in a way that reinforces key messages about the position and the organization. Those doing this well create a powerful slate of potential candidates. Then they evaluate those candidates against the recruiting brief while pre-selling. Finally they make the right offer and close the right sale the right way.

For more on acquiring new team members see entries on recruitment and human resources.


Accommodating new team members is about giving them the tools they need to do work.

Cost reduction in the onboarding process often focuses on the replacement of paper forms processes with electronic processes that are faster, more accurate, eliminate document shipping costs, eliminate data reentry costs, and mitigate risks. This aspect of onboarding is known as transactional onboarding.[2] These processes can be implemented through a direct translation of paper forms to electronic forms, but more significant cost advantages are gained with technologies that improve the process; vendor examples of the former being KMS Software Company [1] and Adobe Systems [2] and of the latter being the Workforce Empowerment Suite by Mangrove[3], Emerald Software Group [4], and TALX [5]

Regarding employment law, significant risk is assumed by the organization through the collection of employment tax information and work authorization status for immigrants, particularly when hiring an outside candidate for an employment role. Organizations seek to mitigate this risk through the implementation of an onboarding strategy. Hence, onboarding processes are typically expected to ensure the quality of the data collected from the candidate, the completeness and accuracy of the forms they submit, and to interface their data to government (primarily for new hire reporting and immigration control, such as the Department of Homeland Security’s e-Verify program) and 3rd party vendors (most often for background and drug testing). An onboarding technology’s application of business rules and related technology is often of interest to the organization in mitigating risk. Robust onboarding systems mitigate this risk by fully integrating the transactional onboarding process with non-repudiated signature technologies and employment authorization verification.


One important aspect of onboarding is the process of converting a candidate for a role into that role within an organization. The candidate may be new to the organization, or may be an existing person within the organization that is assuming a new role. Candidates may become employees or contractors, and may be assuming permanent or temporary roles. This aspect of onboarding can also be referred to as: socialization, acculturation, and indoctrination.[3] Many different consulting and technology companies provide products and services to automate or define the onboarding process; hence, there are widely varying definitions of onboarding. Fundamentally, however, process definition and control of onboarding seeks reduction of costs, better and more effective assimilation of the candidate into the new role, and mitigation of certain risk.[4]

Organizations also may seek to quicken the candidate’s effectiveness in the new role through a more effective onboarding process. This aspect of onboarding is commonly known as acculturation, assimilation or socialization, and is most often achieved through the deployment of a specialized enterprise portal that provides information about the company, the candidate’s new role and peer workers, the company’s benefits offering, and provides access to forms automation and training tasks.[5] While an onboarding portal may be a component of the organization’s HRMS system or Employee Self Service portal, it can also be implemented as part of the company’s intranet, or in some cases as a standalone onboarding portal. Vendors known for their work in this aspect of onboarding include HRM Direct [6], KMS [7], Enwisen [8], and Silk Road Technologies [9]. It has also been pointed out that Microsoft’s SharePoint product can be utilized as an acculturation onboarding platform.[6]


The real value of onboarding is getting new team members up to speed and delivering better results faster. To accelerate transition, onboarding should include new job preparation efforts to give new employees a head start before day one, an announcement process that sets the new employee up for success, resources, support and follow through the first 90 to 100 days, at a minimum.

Accelerating transitions is different for internal promotions and external hires. In the former, the new leader may know many of their stakeholders, and may be familiar with some of the landmines and threats. These transitions need to emphasize the change in relationships with former peers and managers, shifting old roles and responsibilities to others, and providing new insights and new opportunities. In contrast, the external hires focus on rapidly learning the landscape, the supporters and detractors, understanding the core issues, and clarifying your role. Both, however, require articulating the strategies, operational methods and people strategy that will lead to a rapid successful outcome.


"Onboarding: How To Get Your New Employees Up To Speed In Half The Time" - George Bradt and Mary Vonnegut (John Wiley & Sons, 2009)
(Go to onboarding-tools.com to download a summary of this book.)

"Deciding Who Leads: How Executive Recruiters Drive, Direct, & Disrupt the Global Search for Leadership Talent" - Joseph Daniel McCool (National Book Network, 2008)

"The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan" - George Bradt, Jayme Check and Jorge Pedraza (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, revised edition 2009)
(Go to onboarding-tools.com to download a summary of this book.)

"The First 90-days" - Michael Watkins (Harvard Business School Publishing, 2003)

"The Total Onboarding Program: An Integrated Approach To Recruiting, Hiring and Accelerating Talent" - George Bradt and Ed Bancroft (Pfeiffer, 2010)

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