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Employee Onboarding in 3 Easy Steps

Blog / May 7, 2024 / with Lisa Debatin
Onboarding Process in 3 Steps

There are plenty of onboarding guides that will tell you how to get your new hires to be productive. But did you know that onboarding also has a direct correlation with how long you retain employees? 

First impressions matter, and all HR Managers know onboarding can be a make-or-break time for a new hire. 

Welcoming a new employee is a happy occasion, but there are several pitfalls you must avoid along the way. That’s particularly true for companies onboarding employees in a remote or hybrid setting.  

So, how can you make the onboarding journey successful – whether on-site or remote? We’ve identified three key phases of onboarding. Master each of the phases and you’ll increase your retention rates and keep your new hires happy. 



If you can integrate a new employee quickly, and they can get stuck into their tasks, you’ve often achieved the basic requirements of onboarding. 

Even this simple introduction can have a big impact on retention. Many employees just want the process to be structured and effective. Friendliness and fun are often welcome but are secondary to more practical concerns. 

Nevertheless, there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid during the process. An often-quoted statistic among recruiters is that up to 20% of new hires quit in the first 45 days of employment. This period, where employees aren’t yet fully integrated into their team and the company culture, can, therefore, be all-important. This is when an employee considers whether they can really see themselves working at the organization long term. If they encounter a poor onboarding process, they may find it easier to leave. 

This revolving door effect can be energy-sapping for other employees who have to take on additional work while regularly onboarding new temporary colleagues. Additionally, since new employees only become fully productive after 6-12 months of employment, the business has not seen the full productivity of these employees before they leave. 

It is also costly, given the financial investments involved in recruiting. A structured onboarding process can prevent such negative scenarios. 


While the primary objective of onboarding is to prepare employees for their daily tasks, it also needs to do much more. A great onboarding process will also provide the necessary resources to succeed – whether that’s practical information and training or connecting new hires to the right colleagues.  

Furthermore, onboarding new employees ideally integrates them into the company‘s culture. This interpersonal “feel-good” aspect should not be neglected under any circumstances. According to Haufe, one in four employees quit within their first year because they can‘t identify with the corporate culture. To avoid this turnover, you should add cultural integration to your onboarding process, in addition to the day-to-day practical needs. 


It is important to have a comprehensive and structured approach that is easy for the new employee to navigate.  

Employees who report having positive experiences cite the clarity and high energy of the process while also enjoying friendliness and a high level of engagement from all involved. They complete the experience feeling well-trained and prepared for their new challenge. 

Conversely, new hires are disappointed when the process is unclear or confusing, boring, and disorganized. At the end of these onboarding experiences, many report feeling undertrained and unprepared for their daily tasks. As many as 80% of unsatisfied new hires consider leaving the company soon.   


The onboarding of new colleagues officially begins when they sign their employment contract. Onboarding usually ends with the close of the probationary period. This can take six months, but the more formal elements of onboarding may finish earlier than that.  

In order not to put new employees under pressure, the onboarding period should be well planned. Preferably, the new hire’s line manager should build it in conversation with them and tailor it to their level of experience and the complexity of certain tasks. This can include the setting of certain KPIs that should be reached in the first weeks, months, and year. 

An onboarding plan benefits both sides here, providing a clear structure and expectations for the company and the new hire. 


As with all recruitment and talent management responsibilities, the oversight of onboarding falls to the Human Resources or People & Culture department. 

While line managers and supervisors play an essential role, it is up to HR to ensure that each new employee is optimally onboarded. Additionally, HR is also responsible for developing an organization’s onboarding structure and concept and rolling it out to each department. Supervisors should understand why each component of onboarding is important so that they can give it enough time and thought. It’s up to HR to make sure that all managers are on the same page. 

During the onboarding process, many different departments need to collaborate closely. The responsible member of HR will need to liaise first with a new hire’s supervisor but also with IT, Finance, and Operations to make sure that the new employee has everything they need. 


There are some complaints about onboarding that come up time and time again.  

A graphic showing common mistakes in onboarding, divided into four categories: administration, structure, communication, and fun. More information will follow in the text.

This list contains the six most common mistakes that are made during a new hire's first few weeks: 

  • Delayed contracts and administration. New hires often do not receive their employment contract or other important documents in a timely manner. Sometimes, even when they chase up information, they don’t get a response. This can be unnerving, especially if they are leaving a stable job or relocating for a new opportunity. Delays in paperwork and a lack of certainty about practical matters can undermine their trust in their new employer. 
  • No communication. Employees can feel isolated while waiting to start their new job. They might not know what to expect on their first day or in their first week. Even worse, they might continue to be in the dark after starting if the communication in the first week is poor. They may not even know precisely who to contact for specific questions. This can isolate an employee and make them doubt whether they are a good fit for the company.   
  • Too little contact with colleagues. Good touchpoints with colleagues are one of the things new employees value the most. If these are missing – especially when working remotely – it can have an immense impact on motivation. Not only that, but without regular exchanges with colleagues, employees will miss important information that is essential for their work. 
  • Missing structure. If the onboarding process is unstructured, there is a high risk that important topics will be overlooked and that new information will be forgotten in the long term. 
  • No clear goals. If new employees don’t know what is expected of them, there will be two negative effects. Firstly, they can hardly expect to achieve their goals if those have not been defined. Secondly, they will find themselves without a clear path forward and may quickly lose interest in their new role. 
  • Lack of feedback. Regular feedback provides orientation, both for the new employee and their manager. If it is missing, the new hire may feel like their work isn’t important or valued. They may also feel like their supervisor has no interest in supporting their career. Therefore, it's important to have regular check-ins with new hires during the onboarding process. 


When designing an employee orientation plan, it makes sense to divide it into different phases. First, the new employee starts with pre-boarding, followed by the start-up phase and then the ramp-up phase. Not only will this make the new employee's induction easier and more structured, but it can also be used by HR as a template for other new employees.

Here is an example of what a three-phase onboarding process might look like: 

A graphic showing the three phases of onboarding: preboarding, start-up, and ramp-up. The graphic features images of new employees at different stages of settling in.


Sending the employment contract and other important documents promptly should be a standard practice. But Human Resources departments can do even more in conjunction with any new hire’s department head. 

The new employee should have a personal contact person in HR whom they can contact at any time for practical advice before starting. 

They may be nervous about small details, like how to get into the office on their first day, where to park, and when to arrive. Sending a clear schedule can help to ease some of those worries. 

Furthermore, it is helpful to make materials about the company and the job available in advance to support preparation. Guides and information about processes, topics, and long-term projects help the new employee start with prior knowledge. They should also know who has been responsible for setting up their work area and IT access so that they can reach out if they have any issues on their first day. All of this information will help them to feel like they can hit the ground running when they arrive. 

Some companies may even want to encourage a new hire’s soon-to-be colleagues to reach out directly before the person starts work. They could offer to have a quick virtual coffee to say hi and answer any questions the new hire may have. This will help new employees to feel connected and welcome and ensure that they know a few friendly faces from Day One. 

Recruiters will know that corporate culture and values are already key during recruitment and interviews. Any of these values that appear on your website or in your interview process should be carried through into the pre-boarding and onboarding phases. It is, therefore, essential that your communication with new hires is reliable and transparent.  


The first few days of an onboarding process often decide the long-term success of the collaboration.  

There are several things an employer can do: 

  • Give new hires an official welcome within the team. This helps the new employee understand their role in relation to their team members and helps them integrate quickly. If they will be working in an office, it’s also important fort hem to start getting to know other colleagues on-site. Giving them a tour through the building and introducing them to key collaborators is a great place to start. 
  • To ensure that the new colleague isn’t left feeling at a loose end, their supervisor should schedule a meeting to talk about the most important things that they should be learning in the first days and weeks at the organization. This session is also an opportunity for both sides to clarify their expectations. 
  • If the company hasn’t already sent a welcome package during the pre-boarding stage, one could be waiting for the new employee to pick up when they arrive. This can include: 
    • Documents about the company 

    • Employee ID card or other access tool 

    • Business cards 

    • Information on employee amenities and benefits such as a canteen 

    • Logistical instructions, e.g., for parking and work equipment 

    • A schedule for at least the first week 

Virtual meetings are a good way of facilitating networking beyond the office. If you’re working in a hybrid setting, then it’s important not to overlook introductions between new hires and employees working from home. You can facilitate this by setting up 1-to-1 meetings between key colleagues. You can also use internal social networking events to establish relationships or use a randomized networking solution that can set up “blind dates” between colleagues. 

Our tip: With Mystery Coffee, new colleagues network with “long-term employees” at the virtual water cooler. Employees are matched to each other randomly. This can enhance the onboarding process and experience.


New employees should gradually become better acquainted with the company and grow into their tasks. The onboarding plan should be designed to allow this to happen at a reasonable speed over time. It should also be customized for each role and the individual hired.  

While the overall structure and some core elements should be common for all new hires, supervisors and HR should collaborate to ensure that an onboarding plan offers an appropriate level of support and challenge to each specific new hire. 

The core of any onboarding experience includes introductory events, training sessions, seminars, and one-to-one meetings. However, these usually taper off after the first few weeks. Onboarding often ends quietly and informally. However, the end of this phase should be clearly acknowledged and celebrated. 

Mutual feedback loops 

The first step is to hold an initial feedback meeting after a few weeks have gone by. Here, you should assess what the first impressions were on both sides and where there’s room for improvement. You should also share any positive feedback from the rest of the team. Acknowledge if there have been any missing resources, and give this feedback to HR so that it can be improved for new hires in the future. 

Continue to hold these meetings regularly throughout the first six months in a cadence that makes sense for your organization. Maybe HR only needs to speak to a new hire twice before onboarding is officially completed, but a direct supervisor may want to check in weekly or bi-weekly. 

In these meetings, you’ll want to return frequently to the KPIs and goals both sides agreed on in the first week. If these goals have been surpassed, make sure to set new ones that look a little further into the future. 

You should also use these sessions to discuss the new hire’s medium- and long-term development and career prospects. Maybe you’ve discovered that they had more potential than initially thought, and you can push them for promotion earlier than expected. Or maybe you’ve identified a couple of gaps in their knowledge or experience that they need to fill before progressing. Either way, an open discussion ensures that the employee knows exactly what is required of them and a rough timeframe. 

Make sure to celebrate! 

Often, the probationary period ends before a new hire is fully onboarded. That’s fine! Celebrate that they’ve passed probation and let them know that they’ll still have their supervisor’s full support while they get stuck into new projects. While HR might be taking a step back at this stage, make sure that they know who in HR they can ask any ongoing questions. 

And make sure to keep communicating. That isn’t just an instruction for HR and an employee’s supervisor, but it’s an invitation to create a positive culture of communication throughout your organization. When employees feel connected to their teammates and their colleagues in the wider company, they’re less likely to consider leaving.  


More and more employees work remotely or in a hybrid work model. Ever since Covid-19, most employees are expected to be competent at working from home. However, where there is no office available, onboarding is often particularly challenging. 

Isabelle Zimmer is Head of the People & Culture department at Mystery Minds, a company that has been fully remote since 2020.

"Remote onboarding can be a challenge for everyone involved. It starts with little things like setting up the laptop and extends to getting to know all of your colleagues from different departments," says Zimmer. "As a result, we have continually adapted our onboarding process over the past few years. The feedback we receive from new employees after the orientation phase is particularly valuable and necessary. This is the only way we can optimize the process in the long term.  

From her years of experience with remote onboarding, Isabelle has the following five tips to make remote onboarding easier:  

  • Access to a computer and digital workspaces is critical when a new employee starts. Test their hardware and software in advance and give them an alternative way to get in touch if they have technical problems on day one. All the necessary programs should be pre-installed, so all the new employee has to do is log in.
  • Even if your team or department isn’t normally scheduled to meet, add a quick 15-minute virtual check-in for everyone who is available. Introduce the new employee and allow all team members to say hello and describe how their role connects with the new employee’s daily tasks.
  • Schedule virtual meetings in advance on the new hire’s behalf. Make sure there isn’t a single day in the first two weeks where they don’t speak to anyone. Ensure that they also get to know people outside of their own team so that you don't create information silos.
  • Share your internal communication guidelines. These help new hires know how your company communicates in a remote setting and give them the fastest and most appropriate ways to reach out to colleagues. 
  • Encourage informal conversations. This can be difficult to enforce while working remotely, but it ensures that the new employee has the opportunity to talk to their colleagues casually outside of formal meetings. This helps them to get a better feel for the company culture. Virtual coffee breaks are a great way of implementing this.
  • Try to meet in person if possible. If your company does have an office, then try to encourage all your team members to be present for at least one day of your new hire’s first week. This will help them integrate with their new team while setting them up well for remote work in the future. If you don't have an office available, it's a good idea to organize an onboarding event in the first few days, where some team colleagues explicitly meet up in person. 

To find out more about how Mystery Minds helps organisations develop unique onboarding initiatives, read our article on Mystery Coffee for Onboarding.


Create a structure for new colleagues, communicate information on an ongoing basis, and provide a personal contact person both within HR and in the specific department: If companies keep this close to heart, they create a good foundation for smooth onboarding. Connected with this: An optimal work base of new people. And excellent chances of long-term employee loyalty to the company.

Build networks via virtual coffee breaks. Mystery Coffee helps you to connect colleagues, foster collaboration, and improve cooperation. Learn more now.

Originally published on May 7, 2024 at 3:05 PM, amended on May 8, 2024 at 3:22 PM


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