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Employee Development 101: The What, Why and How of Employee Onboarding and Training


Onboarding and training are the cornerstones of successful employee development. Together, they drive engagement, develop culture, and promote a positive employee experience.

After COVID-19, however, 48 percent of employees will likely work from home, and 32 percent of organizations will replace full-time employees with contingent workers. Creating a reliable, repeatable onboarding, and training strategy that works for everyone will be more challenging as a result.

In this blog, we break down the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of employee onboarding and training, and why they’re critical to focus now more than ever on your team’s development.

The ‘What’ of Employee Onboarding and Training

What it is:

Employee onboarding is the process that teaches new employees the required knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective members of an organization.

There’s a lot to include in the onboarding process. For example:

  • What should a new hire do before they start?
  • What legal or contractual paperwork must be completed?
  • What tools and technologies should new hires be able to use?
  • What working expectations (remote or otherwise) are there?
  • What can they expect from their first day on the job and how can they best prepare?
  • Who in the team do they need to meet?
  • What training do they need to complete and where can they find it?
  • What’s the process when asking for feedback?
  • How can the new hire give feedback on the onboarding process?

Regardless of whether you’re onboarding full-time, part-time, or contingent employees, a successful onboarding process will educate new hires about what they can expect from the job. It will also nurture engagement and, ultimately, improve employee performance.

Why is Employee Onboarding and Training Important?

There are many reasons why developing a robust onboarding and training strategy is essential. We think these are the most important:

Employee Turnover

According to Glassdoor, organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent. What’s more, Digitate discovered that people who had a negative onboarding experience were twice as likely to seek a different opportunity in the immediate future.

Onboarding and retention go hand in hand. If you want to hold on to talent, be sure to provide them the resources they need to perform a good job.


The average employer spends $4,000 and 24 days on a new hire. The average cost of replacing an employee is between 16 and 20 percent of their salary.

Given that 20 percent of new hires leave a job for a new opportunity within the first 45 days, you can’t afford to keep re-hiring and re-training. Make sure you get it right the first time!


77 percent of employees who had a formal onboarding process hit their first performance goals. Of those who don’t hit their first performance goals, 50 percent did not have a formal onboarding process.

A productive employee is a well-trained employee. How can you expect staff to perform to a high standard if you aren’t investing in their skills and job satisfaction?

Company Culture

Employees want to feel like they’re making a difference. They also want to feel engaged with the culture of the business and make friends along the way.

By leaving out culture-building activities from your onboarding process, you’re failing to engage employees in the one thing that matters most: a sense of community.

The ‘How’ of Employee Onboarding

There’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ when it comes to onboarding and training. Everyone learns and develops in their own way. However, a standardized and repeatable framework is essential for the process to be efficient and effective.

Fundamentally, there are four things to always include in a good onboarding strategy. According to Dr. Talya N. Bauer, an award-winning teacher, and researcher, it’s about ‘The Four C’s’:

  • Compliance: This includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.
  • Clarification: This refers to ensuring that employees understand their new job and all related expectations that come with it.
  • Culture: This is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms— both formal and informal.
  • Connection: This refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and communication etiquette that new employees must establish.

Once you have standardized these core areas, you can then begin to tailor your process according to a few key variables, including:

  • Whether or not it’s a full time, part-time or contract role;
  • Whether it’s a remote position or in-office;
  • The seniority of the role; and
  • The individual skillset of the new hire.

Below, we’ve shared a list of articles that highlight exactly ‘how’ you can improve your onboarding process, including:

Successful Employee Development Starts with Successful Onboarding

Bad onboarding is like neglecting the warm-up before a workout – ultimately, you’re destined for failure.

Not only is a poor onboarding process affecting your bottom line, it’s also costing the time of your HR staff, your new hire, and anyone else involved in the process. In fact, according to a survey by Gallup, 43 percent of HR managers actually agreed that “time and money are wasted because of ineffective onboarding processes”.

While your onboarding process is critical to employee development, it is just the first step in what should be a lifelong commitment to employee development. As explained by Cheryl Hughey, Director of Onboarding at Southwest Airlines:

“We want to focus on creating a memorable experience for the new hire in the first year rather than processing them in the first few weeks.”

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