11 HR Experts Share Their Top Employee Onboarding Tips

Everyone knows that companies grow and flourish when they’re able to recruit and retain the right talent.

Sadly, companies lose up to one third of their new hires within the first year. However, there are many companies that succeed at retaining talent. In fact, organizations with dedicated budgets and formalized employee onboarding programs retain more than twice the talent.  

So we decided to ask 11 HR Experts the question "What is the number one rule of employee onboarding companies must use to be successful today?" The responses we received from these experts were not only very insightful but also surprisingly varied. Some shared more than one rule, others added key statistics.  All of their responses are listed below.

Don't have time to read this now?

Then download your free guide and read it on the go. Plus get 2 Bonus Tips that are not included in this post.


1. “Quick tips for on-boarding”

Dave Ulrich   

Dave Ulrich
Rensis Likert Professor of Business, University of Michigan
Co-founder, The RBL Group
Daveulrich.com | Twitter

Help the new employee:

  1. Understand the firm’s culture - The norms, values, and unwritten rules that create the firm’s identity in the marketplace
  2. Find an early success - Make sure that first assignments lead to success
  3. Create a network of mentors/sponsors - Help new employee have advocates who will offer informal counsel
  4. Learn, learn, and continue to learn - Develop a growth mindset

2. “Talent acquisition is the most strategic people process for an organization”

Sesil Pir, Founder & Principal Consultant at Whirling Chief
Whirlingchief.com | Twitter  


Often, we think of talent acquisition as simply a selection exercise.

Talent acquisition is the most strategic people process for an organization and a thoughtful process calls for careful job analysis, strategic sourcing, thrill examination and cultural on-boarding. That last step is equally important!

Years of research shows us that effective on-boarding can make or break a new hire – meaning it can help a new hire get acclimated into an organization and break motivation in the initial 90 days.

On-boarding in 21st century requires immediate managers and teams to show care for their new team members not only professionally, but personally as well.

There is a list of formal and informal procedures, norms, behaviors a new hire needs to learn in a new job and inside of a new culture.

During this transition period, managers can provide support by purposefully introducing new hires into the workplace culture, by offering timely and constructive feedback, by providing context for the WHY of things as well as by educating on the HOW.

They can also provide emotional support by checking in on their internal change process by asking how they are feeling with regards to new workplace and organizational culture.
In return, new hires can seek support by purposefully connecting with key stakeholders, asking clarifying questions, connecting with team members to build trust and rapport and by inquiring for an internal mentor.

On a tactical level, a detailed orientation plan always help both parties focus objectives and keep track.

3.“Begin prior to their arrival on day one”


Debra Swersky
Founder & Principal at LBD Producers. Focused on producing the LBD of employee onboarding/training
Debraswersky.com | Twitter

The single most important rule of employee onboarding that companies must follow today is:

Never forget that you're onboarding a human being who you want to get started doing the work that you hired them to do as quickly as possible. Therefore, employee onboarding should be organized, concise, and begin prior to their arrival on day one.

No one's time should be wasted - neither yours nor the new hires. Once you have a comprehensive onboarding program, structure the content to be representative of your company culture.

Your new hires should inherently understand the tone your organization takes internally to be able to carry it through to their work.

4. “Help people feel they belong and do so quickly”

Perry Timms, Chartered MCIPD & Fellow: The RSA
Founder & (CEO) Chief Energy Officer: PTHR

The most important rule for employee on-boarding is to help people feel they belong and do so quickly.

Already excited about a new role, people will feel the need to quickly contribute (belong on merit); and get to know their colleagues (belong in the network).  

This is achieved by:

  1. An on-boarding partner whose dedicated role it is to work with solely with you for your first 3 weeks and continue to be connected but more loosely thereafter;
  2. A social network to explore; and
  3. Easy to access tools and information - ways to create friction-free contribution i.e. get on with the work they were brought in to do.

5. Onboarding and retention go hand-in-hand

Dr. Deepak Malhotra,  A doctorate in Management, MBA in HR, and a PGDPM&IR in HR.
Website | Twitter

It is important to take into consideration the specific industry, role, and the definition of the 'ideal employee' for the organisation.

Training should cover programs, best practices, technology, and equipment and have goals clearly stated; onboarding doesn't stop at company policies, facility tours, and department introductions.

Each year, technology advances and a new generation of applicants are joining the workforce. With it, the methods of attracting, guiding and retaining workers are transforming. My top ruls are:

  • Onboarding Is not the same as training

  • Structured onboarding impacts retention

  • Training must encompass the "how" and the "why"

If you look closely at the studies, you'll see that staff onboarding and retention go hand-in-hand:

  1. 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great on boarding

  2. Up to 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days

  3. New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years

  4. Organizations with a standard on boarding process experience 50% greater new hire retention

  5. Nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job

  6. 60% of companies fail to set milestones or goals for new hires

  7. It typically takes eight months for a newly hired employee to reach full productivity

  8. 22% of companies have no formal on boarding program

  9. Manager satisfaction increases by 20% when their employees have formal on boarding training

6. Have a plan, commit and use a checklist


Gregg Lindberg, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Managing Partner of Lighthouse Organizational Development LLC.
www.LighthouseOD.com | Youtube

We know that 4% of new employees quit after the first day, 50% of new employees leave their job within 4 months, and 40% of managers hired externally fail within the first 18 months of their job. So, it’s no surprise that onboarding is critical to employee success and engagement.

Here’s 3 rules of onboarding employees essential to integration and a smooth transition of new employees into their roles, and the organization.

  1. Have a plan, and use it. Organizations must invest the time, energy and resourcesnecessary to create an onboarding experience that clearly communicates organizational and role based expectations, introduces organizational culture, and makes the vial interpersonal and organizational connections for an employee to succeed. This strategic approach requires human resource professionals to deliver onboarding experiences, and support managers in doing the same.
  2. Commit to 365 days. Onboarding is so much more than a day one orientation session.Don’t get me wrong, it is critical to make day one special. But, great organizational integration takes much more time. Understanding an organization is associated with commitment, satisfaction, and engagement. Use milestones, such as 30, 60, 90 and 120 days on the job, and up to one year from day one to facilitate experiences and check in with your employee.
  3. Use a checklist. Your onboarding strategy should be brought to life with organization and job specific onboarding checklist. Human resource professionals must provide forunderstanding and support of the new employee and their manager. Everyone needs to understand their role and responsibilities in onboarding. A checklist, supported byaccompanying resources, provides a roadmap to the onboarding journey – and ensures consistent onboarding experiences for all new employees. Executed well, effective onboarding results in a faster learning curve for new hires, improvedcommunication, and a more productive and engaged workforce.

7. “Acknowledge the importance of the new team member”

Dr. Lisa J. Wicker, President & CEO at Linwick & Associates, LLC
www.lwaco.com | Twitter

Being prepared for the new employee's first day is most important. One way to do so is to acknowledge the importance of the new team member with proper introductions.

Be sure that coworkers, members of the leadership team know about the new employee and make the introductions early in the employee on boarding process.

Ensure that the employee's workstation is completely stocked and ready for them to arrive including email or phone accounts set up and ready to go.

8. “Make sure the very basics are done properly”

Jonas Van de Steene, Talent Acquisition Specialist
Website | Twitter


Of course, the onboarding process is crucial to HR because it's another important step in the recruitment flow.

What's the most important rule? Without any doubt, each company has to make sure the very basics are done properly before the employee starts:

  • Desk (if necessary)

  • Tools (phone, laptop, access cards, IT access)

  • Basic information about the company (culture, way of working, code of conduct, safety)

  • Company car

The day the employee starts, (s)he needs to feel at ease.  They should feel welcome and convinced by the fact the company has tackled his/her arrival in a professional way.

For example, in our organization we show an introductory video about our way of working, values, and culture and afterwards each employee will be invited to visit our plant(s). They also get the opportunity to get to know other internal stakeholders, which is a very interesting opportunity to build up their internal network.

I strongly believe a  lot of companies can improve this process. For many organizations, once they've (finally) selected a candidate, most of them seem happy and neglect the onboarding process, even though it's an important step in the recruitment of their candidate and in the bigger employer branding profile.

9. First impressions matter!


Lori Almeida, Chief Talent Officer at global brand strategy, design and experience firm, Siegel+Gale.
Siegelgale.com | @lorialmeida |  @siegelgale

Onboarding is the perfect opportunity to make a positive lasting impression on a new employee. New employees want to feel like they have chosen a company who is excited to have them on the team. The impact of a solid onboarding experience goes beyond the positive impression. It allows the employee to understand the job and the expectations.

The time you spend investing in new hires through onboarding greatly benefits their ability to succeed at your organization. Research has shown that effective onboarding has a dramatic effect on job performance and satisfaction, commitment and retention.

Gratitude, check-ins and making people feel like their contributions matter are all great ways to ensure that your new hires feel seen and heard and it costs you nothing.

10. “There should be a balance..”

Susan Ways, President and Founder of Inspired Success Coaching & Consulting
inspiredsuccesscoaching.com | twitter

Be prepared. You only have one chance to make a first impression and Onboarding can make or break that for a new employee.

There should be a balance between welcoming the employee to the organization and having an organized, planned orientation that provides the necessary foundation of information to set the employee up for success. This includes a warm welcome, a structured introduction of relevant information along with having the employee’s workstation, computer, phone and passwords all set up ahead of time.

Little things go a long way in building a first impression and companies have an amazing chance to begin building retention on day 1.

11. “Unfilled roles don't just impact productivity..”

Mervyn Dinnen, Talent Acquisition Analyst & Co-Author of Exceptional Talent | Two Heads Consulting
LinkedIn | Twitter

The cost of recruitment and the time it takes to fill open vacancies are rising. Unfilled roles don’t just impact productivity, but also have a negative effect on the morale of colleagues who are left to cover.

Around 1 in 4 new hires leave their role within the first six months, which further exacerbates pressures on cost and engagement. People leave because either the role isn’t what they expected or they don’t fit in culturally.  

The number one rule for onboarding is to make sure that every new hire knows exactly what is expected of them, how they can be productive, and that they are already connected to their new colleagues. This means making onboarding a process of integration that starts from the final interview and not an event that happens on their first day.


We are very thankful to everyone who contributed to this extensive post.  

There are many great tips here that you can implement today to improve your employee retention and engagement. Please share if you found these insights useful.  

Now it's your turn to weigh-in on this question:  “what is your number 1 rule for employee onboarding?”