How to build an effective onboarding programme

About onboarding

Getting new employees up to speed in their new job is an important topic for both the new employees and the organisations they start to work for. People have to learn all kinds of new things to be at their best in a new job. It’s not only about knowledge and skills but also about cultural aspects, such as ‘how we do things around here’. A well-designed onboarding programme will be a good investment, with a long-lasting effect. So, let’s have a closer look at the most important elements of an effective onboarding programme.

The most important features of an onboarding programme:

For optimal onboarding, five elements are important to include in the the onboarding programme (see the checklist below for a detailed list of topics):

  1. Experience: Help new hires to feel welcome, to find their place within the organisation and their team, to help them identify themselves with the organisation (purpose, customers, culture, values) and to create a sense of pride that they work for the company.
  2. Knowledge and info: Provide the most relevant and important information the new employees need to get up to speed in their new job.
  3. Skills: Offer the additional skills the new hires might need to get up to speed in their new job.
  4. Tools: Explain the specific tools used in the organisation to get the job done (including compliance topics).
  5. Connections: Get to know and build initial relationships with other people who are relevant to get the new job done.

Besides the five elements, it is important to choose the right mix of ‘channels’, interventions and tools to give the new hires access to what they need. This can be:

  • Live events, which will have the highest impact when it comes to experience and connections
  • A platform as ‘the place to go’ for all kinds of digital resources
  • E-learning to provide essential knowledge
  • Checklists, work procedures and other job aids
  • Training to build the additional skills needed
  • Instructions to learn how to use specific tools

aNewSpring supports the following features for onboarding:

  • Events
  • Blended learning
  • Adaptive learning
  • Social and Mobile Learning
  • MemoTrainer™ as retention tool
  • Conditional learning activities
  • Certificates of participation
  • Hand-in assignments
  • Video hosting
  • Catalogue
Onboarding learning journey anewspring

Why invest in an onboarding programme?

New hires might land their first job after finishing college or university. Mostly, it’s a big shift to switch from student life to working life. In addition, excellent employees who switch from one organisation to another will have to adapt and adjust to their new situation. Getting new hires on board and up to speed is an important challenge for organisations. The shorter the ‘time to competence’ can be, the earlier the organisation can benefit from the added value of the new hire. Further, for the new employee, it is rewarding to be able to deliver added value as soon as possible in a new job. And, of course, a sense of belonging is important for optimal employee engagement. Being able to deliver and being highly engaged are two major factors for excellent performance. So, a good onboarding programme is worth any Pound, Dollar or Euro invested.

Checklist for topics to consider to include in onboarding:

Organisation’s history and background

  • History
  • Culture
  • Philosophy
  • Mission, vision, values
  • Purpose, goals, direction
  • Logo, slogan, tagline
  • Leadership team
  • Financial position
  • Locations
  • Structure
  • Products/services
  • Clients, customers, markets
  • Competitors


  • Work hours
  • Ethics
  • Safety rules
  • Emergencies
  • Computer/Internet/social media usage
  • Commute, parking, travel
  • HR cycle (performance evaluation, goal setting, mid-term reviews)
  • Training, development, coaching, mentoring

Where will I find…?

  • The lunch area
  • The restrooms
  • My work area
  • Supplies
  • Equipment
  • Files/records
  • The helpdesk


  • Do I operate the telephone/computer/printer?
  • Will I be trained?
  • Will I be evaluated?
  • Can I handle email?
  • Can I order supplies?
  • Can I plan for holidays?


  • Is the senior management
  • Can I get help from?
  • Do I report to?
  • Will I interact with?


  • Do I go for lunch/take breaks?
  • Will I be paid?
  • Will I be evaluated?
  • Should I report my results?
  • Can I expect to leave each day?


  • Are my job requirements?
  • Are my manager’s expectations?
  • Are the standards of performance?
  • Are the most important policies and procedures?
  • Are the procedures regarding dress code, smoking, sickness, vacation, parties, travel and expenses?
“Being able to deliver and being highly engaged are two major factors for excellent performance. So, a good onboarding programme is worth any Pound, Dollar or Euro invested.”
Ger Driesen, Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring

Tips to design onboarding programmes

The 7×7 framework is a useful model to plan for all the elements of an onboarding programme. The idea is to not only think of the crucial elements a new hire needs to ‘survive’, but also to create the best and most-effective experience during the first seven seconds, seven minutes, seven hours, seven days, seven weeks, seven months and seven quarters at the new organisation.

Combine the 7×7 framework with the five elements mentioned earlier, and you’ll have a useful design grid for your onboarding programme.

Click on the image for a large version

Use this model for analysis and design. For real implementation, it will depend on how many new hires you’ll have at a certain moment, the geographical locations involved and the availability of senior management, specialists and logistics. These circumstances or constraints might force you to apply the 7×7 in a way that is less strict than on paper.

Patricia van der Have

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