Written by:Poul

Date: 9. November, 2023

Recruitment and onboarding

[This is part 12 of PeopleTools’ article series on the optimal recruitment process. You can find an overview of the other articles here: “The Ultimate Guide to Recruitment”]


When is a recruitment process complete?

When the selected candidate is found? Or when the new hire has had their first day?

In many companies, the recruitment process is considered complete when the contract is signed and the new employee is welcomed with bread and coffee in the canteen.

But actually, it’s only now that perhaps the most important time in the new employee’s employment begins.

Namely, onboarding.

Because the time from signing the contract to the employee’s first 90 days is crucial to whether the employee is still with the company in a year’s time. Or whether to start a new recruitment process.


Onboarding and retention

Today, onboarding doesn’t get quite the same attention as the previous parts of the recruitment process. This is despite the fact that it’s becoming more and more important to organizations.

Today, high employee turnover is a basic condition in a market where it can be difficult to attract and recruit the right candidates.

However, even though we change jobs more often than before, data also shows that 25% of new hires leave their position within the first year (Allied Workforce Mobility Survey).

In fact, data shows 22% of new hires who leave their jobs do so within the first 45 days of employment (Bersin), while 4% never return after their first day on the job (Moscate).

In other words, many organizations lose talented employees before they even get started.

According to research, 69% of people who experience a successful onboarding process are more likely to stay with the organization for over three years. However, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a good job of onboarding new employees (Gallup).

That’s why retention through good onboarding should be high on the agenda – and is as much a part of recruitment as, say, job interviews. Because preboarding and onboarding can be part of the key to retaining employees and keeping them (pre)motivated, engaged, loyal and performing faster. But they also show us that we have a long way to go.

So how do we make onboarding an important part? And what should be included in an onboarding process so that it both prepares the new employee for their tasks in the organization and ensures long-term retention? How do we ensure that onboarding is more than just handing over a computer and completing a checklist?

We take a closer look at this in this article.


Why is onboarding important?

Let’s take a closer look at why it’s so important to focus on onboarding.


Employee satisfaction:

Research suggests that good onboarding can increase employee satisfaction (Harpelund and Højberg, 8). That’s because it’s through the onboarding process that new hires gain the knowledge, tools and relationships they need to thrive and feel a part of the company – and to be prepared for their new job.


Improved performance:

As mentioned, the intention behind onboarding programs is to make the new hire feel welcome and part of the organization and its community. The focus should not only be on the task at hand, but also on the sense of belonging and collegiality. Because happy employees perform better. In fact, a comprehensive study on happiness and productivity by Oxford University found that a happy employee is 13% more productive than an unhappy employee and that organizations with a standardized onboarding process experience 54% higher productivity from their new hires (Lombarde, 2011).


Employee retention:

At a time when unemployment is low and a record number of Danes are changing jobs, one of the biggest challenges for companies is retaining skilled employees. Much of the foundation for our new employee’s loyalty to the organization is created early on in the hiring process. Research suggests that a good onboarding program can increase retention rates. In fact, new hires who go through a structured onboarding program are 69% more likely to remain employed for up to 3 years (Ganzel, 1998).


Engagement and motivation:

When starting a new job, most people are highly motivated and ready to get started. Some stay motivated on their own. But unfortunately, too many lose motivation and engagement during the early days. Effective onboarding helps the new hire get the tools and knowledge they need to be productive and happy in their role. Studies show that effective onboarding can have a significant impact on new employee motivation and engagement. In fact, organizations with a standardized onboarding process experience twice the engagement level (Lombardi, 2011), and an engaged employee is 87% less likely to leave an organization within the first 12 months (Gillespies Associates, 2016).


Reduced time-to-performance:

The rule of thumb is that it takes a new hire more than six months to generate more value for the company than it cost to hire them. Research also suggests that good onboarding can reduce time-to-performance by 60 percent (Bauer, 2010). This means the new employee contributes to the company faster.


Job satisfaction:

Employees who experienced their onboarding as highly effective are 30 times more likely to experience job satisfaction.



Research suggests that good onboarding results in lower stress levels for new employees (Harpelund and Højberg, 8).


The quality of onboarding a new hire experiences will influence and set the tone for their relationship with the organization and the relationship between employee and employer. Research shows that ultimately, the onboarding experience can determine whether or not this relationship will be fruitful. Onboarding is an investment in the long-term success of both the new hire and the company.

There’s no doubt that an onboarding program can be both expensive and time-consuming to design, implement and execute. But based on the data above, the question is, is it more expensive not to?


What is onboarding?

The term “onboarding” refers to the process a person goes through when starting a new job, integrating the new employee into the workplace so they feel comfortable and ready for their new role, tasks and responsibilities.

Many companies associate onboarding with a new hire’s first few weeks at the company, where there may be an induction program planned and a checklist to plow through. But onboarding is more than just an introduction to the company, colleagues and tasks. In fact, it’s more accurate to consider the induction program as part of the onboarding period. Because a good onboarding program doesn’t just focus on the task-related things about a new hire.

An onboarding process has two purposes. 1) Ensuring that the new employee gets a good introduction to the job so that they can get up to speed faster and add value to the business; and 2) Welcome the new employee so that they feel part of the organization from day one, feel comfortable, thrive and become part of the organization’s culture faster.

For this to be successful, onboarding must have a complete focus on the employee and also address the emotional aspects of starting and changing jobs. The purpose of the onboarding program is not only to introduce the new employee to the company’s work processes and conditions so they can get started on their tasks. It is also a process to ensure retention, engagement and motivation by, among other things, making the individual feel comfortable in the professional, social and cultural context of the organization.

Because all new employees are onboarded.

But what makes the difference is the quality of the onboarding process.

Too often, onboarding consists of giving a new employee a pile of forms to fill out, a quick tour of the company and ad hoc introductions. When onboarding is done well, however, it lays the foundation for long-term success for both employee and employer. It can improve productivity, build loyalty and engagement, and help the employee succeed earlier in their career with the new organization.


Onboarding is a psychological process

As mentioned, in many organizations, onboarding is seen as a hands-on process of getting ready for a new employee to join the organization and perform tasks. The employee is introduced to the organization, the team, the tasks and the different tools they will need.

But this approach is not a true onboarding program. It’s more of an orientation course.

Because as Christian Harpelund and Morten Højberg write in the book Onboarding – Flying from the startFor example, a new employee can “watch hours of video, read the employee handbook front to back, have met with every line manager and created a career plan without necessarily feeling even a hint of a sense that this is where she belongs and that she is an important part of the organization” (14).

When designing and planning an onboarding program, the focus should be on the employee and their needs. Because what many organizations forget (or perhaps don’t realize) is that onboarding is primarily a psychological process – onboarding is all about emotions.

For the organization, this means that an onboarding program is about creating and managing the emotions that are evoked in the new employee when they encounter the job, the team, the tasks, the culture and us as an organization. We need to design an onboarding program that empowers the new hire “to feel like ‘one of us’ – as an important player on the team, as someone who contributes and performs, is well-liked, and likes the larger narrative of the organization she’s a part of” (Harpelund and Højberg, 15).

For onboarding to be successful, the new employee needs to feel like they belong, feel like they understand and fit into the organization’s culture, feel like they can do the job, feel like they can contribute to collaboration, and feel like they can perform and contribute to the organization. Employees need to feel like they belong and have a meaningful and important contribution to the organization.


What is preboarding and why is it important?

Many organizations believe that an employee starts the day they walk in the door for their first day of work.

However, studies show that the time between contract signing and the first day of work is a crucial and effective period to strengthen onboarding efforts (Walker, Bauer, Cole, Berneth, Feild & Short, 2012).

This period is called the preboarding period.

There is no time when a new employee is more motivated and excited about a workplace and tasks than when they have just signed an employment contract.

But the joy, excitement and motivation of the new job is also accompanied by other emotions, such as nervousness, insecurity and uncertainty about whether you’ve made the right choice. Feelings that can result in insecure and potentially negative thought patterns. Especially if you’re a new hire and don’t hear anything. Thoughts like “Do they like me?”, “Do they even know I’m coming?”, “What do they expect?”, “Will I even be able to do my job?” are not uncommon.

That’s why attention and contact during this period is crucial.

When we as an organization show the new hire that we’re expecting them and looking forward to them starting, it helps them feel a part of the new company: that they belong and that we’re excited for them to be a part of “us”.

There is no research on why the period before the first day of work is so critical. Simply that it can make a big difference to employee calm and engagement – and that should be reason enough for us to focus more attention on it.


What is preboarding?

Preboarding is the period from contract signing to the employee’s first day of work, where the actual onboarding starts.

Since it usually takes 3-4 months from signing a contract to the first day of work, it’s important to stay in touch with the prospective employee and keep them motivated. This is an opportunity to introduce them to the workplace and set expectations.

Communicate when the new hire’s first day is, what will happen and what they can do to prepare. As mentioned, the new hire is extra receptive to new information at this time, which is why the foundation for a good onboarding and future employment is actually already formed during this period. And the more we as an organization communicate and inform, the less we leave to the new employee’s own interpretations. This also means we are more likely to influence the new hire’s personal narrative and understanding in a way that matches our wishes.


Why focus on preboarding?

But when our employee is going through a well-planned onboarding process, why should we also focus on the time before that, the preboarding?

There are actually quite a few good reasons for this!

As mentioned earlier, at no point will a new employee be more motivated than the period leading up to the first day of work. This motivation is influenced by both what we as a company do and don’t do. So, for example, if we don’t reach out to the prospective employee before their first day, we leave it up to them to interpret what the lack of contact means. For example, we can leave the impression that the person is not important. Or that our expectations of the employee’s contribution aren’t very high. Maintaining contact and being available to answer any questions that may arise can help create a stronger bond between the organization and the new hire.

Preboarding can create a sense of security and alleviate the doubts and uncertainty that can creep up on a new employee before their first day if they don’t hear from you. This can help the new hire feel a sense of belonging with the organization, colleagues and tasks more quickly, which can ultimately help retain them in the job and the organization in the long run. By keeping in touch before the first day of work and inviting the new hire to relevant events, for example, you’ll help sow the seeds of psychological safety and help the new hire feel part of the organization faster.

Secondly, it can make the first day of work more manageable. If many of the formalities (such as signing documents, filling out forms, collecting important data, etc.) are completed before the first day of work, you can focus on culture and relationships instead. This can also lead to a quicker experience of becoming part of the organization for the new hire.


Activities during the preboarding period

So what can we ask the prospective employee to do in the time between signing the contract and the first day of work – and how much?

Overall, preboarding should consist of a number of activities that together ensure engagement, motivation and loyalty from day one. These activities are designed to help ease the new employee’s first-day jitters. It should also give them the tools to get to work faster.

According to Harpelund and Højbjerg, organizations can afford to include a lot of activities during the preboarding period. In the book Onboarding – Flying from the Start, they mention an industrial company where the preboarding period consists of 25 hours of training that the new hire must complete before the first day of work (201). This can be anything from certifications that they must “possess before they can even start working” (Harpelund and Højbjerg, 153) to sending learning materials that introduce the new hire to the organization and its history, values, culture and mission.

According to Harpelund and Højbjerg, giving new hires activities to complete during the preboarding period helps increase retention and time-to-performance. This is because as an employee, you can get up to speed more quickly to be able to do something or accomplish something.

“The more necessary learning we can put in before day one, the better” (Harpelund and Højbjerg, 153).

Of course, this requires aligning expectations with the prospective employee. If it is not possible for the employee to complete, for example, 25 hours of training before the first day of work due to other work and private life, this must of course be taken into account.



Have all contractual formalities been taken care of? Have access rights been clarified? Are any legal and confidentiality agreements signed? Is possible. Pension plan, health insurance, etc. been informed?


Practical information

Make sure the new employee receives all relevant and practical information well in advance of their first day. They shouldn’t have to spend energy worrying about what to wear, where to go, etc… They should be sent an informative onboarding plan a few days in advance that tells them everything they need to know.



All colleagues involved in the process must have all necessary information. Are they clear on their role and any to-do list?

Next, other staff and colleagues should also be informed that a new person is starting. The addition of a new member to the organization and/or team also has a huge impact on colleagues – and can create as much anxiety and uncertainty for existing employees as it does for the new hire. Some employees may worry that the new hire is more skilled, will take over their role or “steal” their tasks. Italicize these things so that talk and worry don’t take place in the corners.


How to ensure a good onboarding experience

With a well-planned preboarding program, the next focus is onboarding.

But how do you plan and organize an onboarding process? What should be included in the process, how should it be carried out and over how long?

As mentioned, Harpelund and Højberg write that onboarding is about emotions, and that good onboarding is about arousing the “right” emotions in our new hires. We need to think beyond the practicalities. Of course, these should be included, but the psychological needs of the new employee should be the focal point of the program.

When planning and designing an onboarding process, it is important that we as organizations support “three important psychological movements” (Harpelund, 22). The shaping of the employee into the culture of the organization. The connection of the employee to the organization and the formal and informal networks that can be found here. And the unfolding of the employee’s capabilities so they can perform and deliver value to the organization.

We help support this through the activities selected for the onboarding process. Planning and implementing an effective onboarding program is ultimately about choosing the right activities and executing them well.


Activities in the onboarding process

According to Harpelund, we can divide the different activities in an onboarding process into five different groups:

  • Welcome activities that are all about meeting the new employee.
  • Information activities, which are about giving the new employee knowledge or informing them where they can find knowledge
  • Learning activities that are about acquiring competencies, e.g. training in the use of specific tools or procedures
  • Support activities, which are activities where we follow up on how the onboarding is going
  • Output activities, which are about the new employee delivering or performing something, such as a presentation or a task. It’s a beneficial way to learn about everything from systems, processes and rules when knowledge is linked to practical experience

It’s important that an onboarding process contains a good mix of all five types of activities. However, many organizations have a preponderance of informational activities, which can reduce new hire motivation.


How to select onboarding activities

So how do you select activities for the onboarding process? Here it’s important to remember that the activities should maintain and increase the engagement and the altitude that the new employee came into the organization with.

We don’t do this by piling on activities just to “fill time” or tick things off.

The activities are designed to help the new hire find their place in the organization, among colleagues and with their tasks and responsibilities. The activities should reinforce the new hire’s sense of accomplishment and importance to the organization. As the next section on output activities delves further into, it’s recommended to assign the new hire a project as soon as possible to give them the opportunity to take ownership of a specific task and gain a visible role in the organization. It also shows the new employee that you as an organization trust that they have the skills and abilities to do meaningful work.

In addition, activities should be planned according to when they make sense in terms of the new hire’s tasks and “learning path”. Instead of introducing the employee to all systems and programs in the first week (and risk overloading them with information), wait until the employee actually needs to use a system/program/knowledge.

A good way to assess how your onboarding process compares. activities, is by creating an understanding of what we already do. For example, you can do this by writing down all the activities that are currently part of your onboarding program. Do you see a pattern? This will give you a first-hand impression of how you prioritize the experiences you give your new employee. There is no right or wrong pattern. But maybe there are areas/activity types you prioritize very highly, while others don’t get much focus.

Generally speaking, it’s better to have fewer well-thought-out activities than many that aren’t.


Turn up the output activities: Empower the new employee with quick success experiences

Harpelund and Højbjerg recommend ramping up output activities and having specific tasks ready for the new employee from day 1. As mentioned earlier, most employees are highly motivated and eager to prove themselves when they start their new job. And as an organization, we should respond to that.

But isn’t it too much to ask for the new employee to deliver from day 1? Shouldn’t they be allowed to land first?

No, not according to Harpelund and Højbjerg.

When we make demands on the new employee, it shows that we as an organization believe in them so much that we are convinced they can contribute to the organization from day one.

For the new hire, it can create a sense of contribution and can help alleviate any doubts they may have about whether they can live up to expectations. “Allowing a new employee to deliver is extremely more rewarding than if she is primarily receiving information. Therefore, regardless of job type, it’s a good idea to have specific tasks ready for new employees from day one” (Harpelund and Højberg, 41).

Demands and expectations need to be aligned on an ongoing basis, as both too high and too low demands kill motivation. Tasks should not be so difficult that they cause frustration or uncertainty. They should also not be so easy that they cause boredom. “They should be just difficult enough to motivate our new hires to develop and push themselves beyond the limits of their abilities” (Harpelund and Højbjerg, 157).

Another reason why ramping up output activities can be beneficial is that it helps to show how you do things in your organization. Just because someone is hired for their skills and experience doesn’t mean they know how to implement that knowledge and experience in your business. Even new hires with expert knowledge can become insecure when they suddenly feel like beginners.

The activities – and especially the output activities – in the onboarding process are therefore not so much about the new hire creating concrete results. It’s more about strengthening the new hire’s belief in their own abilities to perform a task and achieve a goal.


Onboarding and practicalities

Of course, part of the onboarding phase is making sure that all the practicalities are in place and that there is actually a workplace for the person – and that it’s ready.

Some say it takes 7 seconds to form a first impression. Other researchers say it only takes a tenth of a second (Wargo). But what all the research suggests is that the term ‘first impressions’ may not be entirely accurate. Because the first impression you get of a person or workplace is almost impossible to change! (Brannon & Gawronski)

This means it’s important that you’ve thought about what’s going to happen on the new hire’s first day – and that you’re ready!

Of course, the tools the new employee will need – whether it’s a drill or an IT program – need to be in order. The same goes for your desktop, email address, computer, passwords, etc. So make sure you get all the digital, technical and practical stuff sorted out before the first day of work – it sends a message that things are in order and under control.

Aside from the obvious impact on efficiency, there’s also an emotional perspective to having the practicalities in place. It signals that they have thought about the fact that they are starting out, are expected and welcome – and that as a new employee they are both “important and valuable” (Harpelund and Højberg, 73). It’s important to make an effort, because first impressions are important and can be really hard to change.

It’s all about making them feel (really) welcome. Have a welcome gift or bouquet of flowers ready on their desk. It costs max. 500 for the company, but as the introduction of this section shows, the price of a good first impression is priceless.


Colleagues, relationships and buddy system

“An organization is a network of people who need to coordinate and collaborate. And onboarding should wrap the new employee into the network” (Harpelund and Højberg, 92). Our focus in the onboarding process is therefore also about supporting the new employee in forming new relationships.

And this part is essential for more than just collegial and social reasons.

A meta-study has shown that the social element is one of the most important components of successful onboarding (Saks, Uggerslev & Fassina). At the same time, Gallup research has shown that employees with just one or two strong “partnerships” in the organization create better performance, better retention, better safety, greater creativity and higher productivity (Stein and Christiansen, 2010). Most contacts and relationships will often be automatically created along the way. However, we still need to stimulate the formation of relationships to “ensure the employee’s flight altitude and feeling of getting on board” (Hapelund and Højberg, 100).

That’s why it’s important that from day 1 (and preferably in the preboarding phase as well), new hires are invited into informal networks and included in social activities, so they feel welcome and have the opportunity to form relationships with their new colleagues. “For onboarding design, it’s about creating access to situations where the new employee can build trust with others – and vice versa” (Harpelund and Højberg, 115).

At the same time, it almost goes without saying that the better connected a new employee is to others in the organization, the easier and better access they will have to information and be able to move around the organization independently. Because it is in the “successful attachment to others that our new hires typically first experience belonging, but it is also where they experience being able to act autonomously” (Harpelund and Højberg, 92).

But the responsibility is on your shoulders! It can be difficult to take the initiative when you’re just starting out in a new job and organization. One way to help this process along is with a buddy system or two.


Onboarding and buddy scheme

Basically, a buddy is someone who partners with the new hire for a fixed period of time. For example, a buddy can meet the new hire on their first day of work and have lunch with them. It’s the buddy’s responsibility to answer the new hire’s questions on everything from social to organizational to strategic, etc.

A buddy system can be a great way for new hires to gain insight and knowledge of the informal rules, contracts and networks present in any workplace. It’s also a way to share all the knowledge that long-time employees take for granted. Additionally, knowing who to go to if they have any questions can give the new hire some peace of mind. Plus, you can feel less alone if you feel like you “know” at least one person.

That’s why it’s a good idea to start the buddy scheme during the preboarding period.


Who can/should be a buddy?

However, it’s important to consider who you appoint as a buddy for the new hire, as a buddy will most likely have a big impact on the development of work habits in this organization and their entry into the (informal) networks and communities.

It’s important that the buddy is motivated for onboarding and has some of the necessary professional and social skills required. Next, time must also be set aside for the buddy to onboard the new hire. For example, you can use their personal profile (link to personal profile) and choose a buddy with special talents in areas such as Relationship building so that this person also feels that their talents are seen.

Onboarding shouldn’t be seen as an extra task for an employee who already has too many. It should be considered a “real” work task and resources should be allocated to it.


Accessibility, follow-up dialog and alignment of expectations

The goal of an onboarding process is to get the new hire settled into the organization so well and quickly that they can confidently and independently perform their tasks.

However, this doesn’t mean that we should lose contact with the new hire as soon as possible. Even if the new hire seems to be doing well.

It is important that the immediate manager/buddy/contact person/onboarding manager is as accessible as possible during the onboarding process. Both to ensure that everything runs smoothly and as planned and in case the new employee has any questions, doubts or reservations. Because when you start a new job, questions are bound to arise. Questions that require answers from different parts of the organization. The new hire shouldn’t feel like the questions are piling up over a long period of time.

By signaling to the new employee that the onboarding manager is always available to answer questions or help them, you also signal to them that they and their feeling/experience of onboarding is important to the organization.

In addition to being accessible, you should also have an ongoing follow-up dialog where you check in, take the temperature and address any issues, questions or misunderstandings. It’s better to address these things on an ongoing basis than at the point of termination because the new hire hasn’t felt seen/heard or is unsure of their duties, responsibilities, etc.

A good way to keep in touch is to schedule an informal follow-up meeting 1-4 times a month. Sometimes the conversation lasts 10 minutes, sometimes an hour.
Again, it’s important to point out that the responsibility for booking these lies with the organization and the manager.


So what should the follow-up meetings be about?

There doesn’t need to be a set agenda for each meeting, but instead talk about what’s going on with the new hire.

However, as a manager, it can be good to have a few questions prepared. For example, “Are you happy?”, “Is there anything that is more difficult than expected?”, “Is there anything you are unsure about?”, “Are you (still) happy to be here?”, “Is there anything regarding tasks, responsibilities, etc. tasks, responsibilities, etc. that we need to change?”, “Is there anything we as an organization/leader need to do differently?”

A follow-up meeting can also be used as an opportunity to talk about performance, as well as the employee’s own perception and the organization’s perception of how they are doing with their efforts, tasks and results.


Use your candidate knowledge in onboarding!

As individuals, we are different.

Just as we have different preferences and ways of approaching our work and collaborating, we also have different frameworks within which we perform best.

We must also take this into account when preparing an onboarding program.

Many organizations have a one size fits all onboarding solution where all employees go through the exact same process.

However, it’s not optimal at all!

In fact, studies show that new hires who receive individualized onboarding are as much as “157% less likely to leave the organization early than those who do not” (Harpelund and Højberg, 40).

Does this mean we need to create a completely new onboarding process and plan for every new employee we hire into our organization? No! But one way to create individualized onboarding is to use the data and insights gained about the candidate during the recruitment process when planning the onboarding process.

Today, many organizations use testing tools such as personal profiles and cognitive tests in the recruitment process. Unfortunately, the tendency is that this data is forgotten once the employment contract is signed and is not used to qualify the new hire’s onboarding. Surprisingly few people apply this knowledge and insight to onboarding (Bauer, 2010)!


Personality testing and onboarding

A personality test and personality profile provides insight into the new hire’s preferences for collaboration, attention to detail, structure, pace, motivators, work preferences, etc.

Next, you’ll know where the candidate can have “free rein” and where you as an organization/buddy should support the new hire. For example, if an employee is very holistic, they may need help focusing on details. If they’re a very inward-looking person, they may need help connecting with their colleagues.

For example, we use PeopleTools’ Talent Report and Strengths Report, we get a picture of the person’s talents, development opportunities and an indication of which tasks will energize them and which will drain them. The strengths report shows us which talents are particularly important to get into play as soon as possible.


Cognitive testing and onboarding

A cognitive test provides insight into a new hire’s cognitive abilities. Our cognitive abilities describe the level at which a person learns, understands instructions and solves problems. That is, the way a candidate thinks, solves problems and is able to process information.

We can use this to assess how much new knowledge and information we can “load” the new hire with and how quickly they will get up to speed. Use the knowledge from the cognitive test to design the onboarding program to match the new hire’s way of acquiring knowledge. In addition, you can also adjust the complexity of the information the new hire is introduced to match their cognitive level.


How to bring the accumulated knowledge about the person into play

When you use testing tools in the recruitment process, you have a lot of data and insights about everything from personality traits and motivational factors to strengths and talents, which is very relevant in terms of how preboarding and onboarding should and must be approached and planned to target the individual person.

Use this knowledge to tailor engagement initiatives for the new hire right from the start. Using insights about personality traits, motivators and talents can have a huge impact on how quickly a new hire feels like a valuable and equal part of the team and organization.

In addition, you can also use knowledge from both personality and cognitive testing to select the tasks that can kick-start the new hire’s time in your organization. From the section on “Output activities”, we know that having concrete tasks ready for the employee from day 1 helps them feel like they can contribute and eliminates any doubts they may have about whether they can perform up to expectations. We can use the accumulated knowledge to select the type of task the new hire will be most successful at. Should they focus on the details or the big picture? Does he or she need to see results here and now or can it be a task where the process is a bit longer?

Next, it’s also a good idea to revisit the insights throughout the onboarding process and retention phase.


Onboarding takes longer than you think

So how long should a (successful) onboarding process last?

In many companies today, a typical onboarding process lasts around 14 days (Harpelund and Højberg, 9).

However, that’s far too short a time!

In fact, an onboarding program should span six to twelve months depending on the position, its complexity and responsibilities, and the industry. Because the new hire needs time to experience a variety of situations, observe others, master systems and processes, practice and learn how to collaborate with their colleagues.


Critical periods in an onboarding process

There are four critical periods in an onboarding process:

  • From contract signing to first day of work – preboarding. This is where you need to stay in touch with the new hire. Inform about the first day of work and the plan for the first few weeks, as well as any activities and preparation. When you set expectations beforehand, both you and the new hire know what they’re getting into. Even here, a buddy function can be valuable. It can do more than just talking to the hiring manager.
  • The first day of work. First impressions matter a lot – and they can be hard to change. That’s why it’s important that the new employee feels welcomed and seen when they start. So make the most of this day. Ex. If you have video screens, it’s a good idea to advertise and welcome people that way, e.g. “Welcome to [navn]. He/she is a new hire at [afdeling].”
  • The first 30 days. During the first 30 days, the new hire will face tasks and be challenged on their skills. Here it can be beneficial to look back at the job and person profile and the insights you gained from the different assessment methods.
  • The first 90 days. For most people, this is the end of the trial period, where you’ve had a chance to get to know each other and the match.

Statistically, it’s around these time milestones that a new employee will leave if they haven’t been onboarded properly. Therefore, organizations should “have a strategic plan for how they utilize and manage the critical periods in the onboarding process” (Harpelund, 31)

By having a long onboarding process, you also have the opportunity to dose the information over time. We all know the feeling of being bombarded with information, while simultaneously absorbing a lot of new impressions and having to deal with acting in a new role and context among new people. Important information and impressions can get lost in the crowd. By dosing the information and impressions over time, the new hire also gets a better insight into the company and has the opportunity to digest it all.


New employee preboarding and onboarding checklist

The checklist below is divided into five different phases. Preparation before the new employee starts, the first day of work, the first 30 days, the first 90 days and after the 90 days.

You can use the checklist to remember the different elements of a pre- and onboarding process and to delegate tasks and roles when welcoming a new employee. Of course, the checklist should be adapted to your organization, industry and circumstances.


Onboarding checklist

Click the image to download the onboarding checklist.

onboarding checklist



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