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The four fundamental phases of onboarding

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The integration helps with the integration into the team and ensures that technical knowledge for the position in the company can be transferred as quickly as possible. This is therefore the social and professional integration of new colleagues. Newcomers are familiarized with the corporate culture, their area of responsibility and all procedures and processes in the company.

When we talk about induction or onboarding, we are referring to the professional, social and interpersonal integration of new employees into the existing company organization.

Various measures and instruments are used during onboarding. As a rule, there is an onboarding plan to which the responsible colleagues and managers can orient themselves. As a result, the new employee is shown support and appreciation from day one. This promotes employee loyalty and job satisfaction.

Why onboarding is so important in the "war for talents" - goals and tasks of onboarding

Onboarding helps new employees feel welcome and well taken care of. After all, if new employees are simply left to their own devices, they can quickly become overwhelmed in their new job. A new job is a big challenge. If newcomers set about their new tasks without any knowledge at all, this can quickly have a negative impact on their work. Successful onboarding should prevent this.

Thus, onboarding increases the motivation of new employees and at the same time promotes productivity. Good experiences during the onboarding phase also ensure greater loyalty to the company. Thus, a successful onboarding process can strengthen employee loyalty as well as the employer brand.

In short, onboarding makes employers attractive, reduces the quitting rate during the probationary period and helps employees stay with the company longer.

Basically, onboarding has the following goals and objectives:

  • Communicating the company's culture and internal processes,
  • The communication of guidelines for occupational safety and legally compliant behavior,
  • quickly familiarizing new employees with their tasks,
  • pointing out their own role in the company,
  • providing support in establishing contact with new colleagues and superiors.

How long does it take to train new employees?

What many don't know: The onboarding process does not begin with the first day of work, but already with the signing of the new employment contract. The length of the subsequent onboarding period always depends on the complexity of the job. The simpler the job, the faster the onboarding process. In principle, companies should assume that the onboarding process is completed when the probationary period ends. Thus, onboarding usually takes between three and six months.

In rare cases, onboarding can also take up to a year. However, this is only the case if the position requires an enormous amount of expertise and involves a large number of tasks. Successful onboarding ensures that new employees are fully operational after the onboarding phase and feel fully integrated into the company.

Who is involved in the onboarding of new employees?

As a rule, several people are involved in the onboarding of a new employee. While the HR department takes care of the organization, it is usually the direct supervisors who take care of the technical onboarding. This can be the head of department, the boss or the team leader. It is just as common for the predecessor of the position to train the new employee before he or she leaves the company for good. It also makes sense to involve direct colleagues. This is because they are usually just as familiar with the processes in the company and the tasks of the position.

Onboarding models - difference between 3 phase model and 4 phase model

There are various models for onboarding. The most popular onboarding model is probably the 3-phase model. This provides for the following onboarding phases:

  • The preparation phase: in the period before the first day of work,
  • the orientation phase: from the first day of work until about three months after starting work,
  • the integration phase: from the third month with the new employer until about six months after starting work.

The 4 phase model, on the other hand, still includes the familiarization process after the onboarding process, i.e., as soon as new hires have been with the company for more than six months. This is because even during this period, there may be questions regarding the areas of responsibility. This not only paves the way for a successful start to work, but also ensures continued successful collaboration.

The fourth phase includes, for example, regular feedback and feedback on the quality of work. These measures serve as orientation for the new hire and can positively influence processes in the company as well as the work of employees.

Successful onboarding in four phases

In the following sections, we explain how successful onboarding takes place in four phases. The goal here is to fully integrate the employee into the team and the workplace, and to communicate all content and information about the new job.

Phase 1: Before the first working day

Even before the employee's first day at work, the company's HR department has a lot to do. There is a lot to be done to ensure that the new employee quickly feels at home at his or her workplace and is comfortable in his or her new area of activity.

Ideally, HR departments proceed according to a checklist and prepare for the arrival of the new employee weeks before the employee joins the company. The following points must be taken into account:

Clarify formalities:

First of all, all the formalities should be settled. The following questions can help here: 

  • Is everything contractually regulated?
  • Are all access rights available?
  • Is uniforms available, if necessary?

Provide information:

Information should also be provided before the first day of work. A short e-mail with relevant content is recommended for this purpose. This should contain all the information that is important for the first few days of work and future collaboration.

Get welcome gift:

A small gift when starting work shows appreciation from the employer. Such an investment is always worthwhile, because it serves to make a good first impression and ensures that the employee is happy and motivated. The costs are rather secondary here. The important thing is that a sign of attention is set.

Prepare colleagues:

Preparing colleagues and the entire team is also an important step in the onboarding process. For this, not only the HR managers but all colleagues involved as well as supervisors, IT and the secretariat should be briefed in detail. This is the only way to ensure active support for the new employee.

Determine responsibilities:

It is equally important to define responsibilities before the new colleague starts work. If the position is one that did not exist before, responsibilities may shift. For this reason, a clear definition of all responsibilities is necessary. These should be professionally communicated by the senior manager to all the people involved so that there is no ill-feeling in the team in the first place. Here, too, it is advisable to have an induction plan that defines exactly which areas of responsibility the new employee will take on.

Prepare workplace:

In the ideal case, the new employee's workplace should also be fully set up on the first day of work. By installing the workstation, the new employee will feel immediately welcome, have a good first impression and be able to get started from day one. The most important things here at a glance: 

  • A fully functional computer,
  • Access rights to all important programs and networks,
  • access to all necessary work equipment,
  • a dedicated extension number including a working telephone.

Schedule appointments and trainings:

It is equally important to plan all appointments for the new hire. It is best to enter upcoming appointments in an internal calendar. This could be introductions to other departments and colleagues or even the first employee interviews with a manager.

The same applies to upcoming employer training sessions. These should also be firmly planned before joining the company. This speeds up the training period in particular, which has advantages for employees and the company.

Phase 2: The employee's start in the company

The orientation phase begins with the first day at the new workplace. As a rule, it lasts for three months and should be used to familiarize the new employee with his or her functions and tasks as well as to provide orientation regarding internal processes. The following procedures and tips should be considered:

Welcome the colleague:

On the first day, the newcomer should be welcomed in detail. The welcome gift can be handed over and a first impression of the new colleagues can be given.

Introducing the team and new colleagues:

In order to get to know the new team and the other employees, a round of introductions is recommended. Initially, it is sufficient to introduce the employee to his or her own department. A tour and getting to know colleagues from other departments, on the other hand, should only take place a few days or weeks after joining the company.

Have lunch together:

Another step in onboarding is the joint lunch. It can strengthen the sense of community between colleagues and inspires trust in the team.

Communicate upcoming processes:

Starting a new job can be exciting. Despite an orientation plan, new employees are often inundated with a lot of information. This can quickly become challenging and intimidating. To help the new employee keep track of everything, it's important to put it all in writing. This can be done using a guide or checklist. Ideally, the supervisor prepares a workbook or handouts regarding workflows and processes.

Assign first tasks:

After a few days and weeks of orientation, it is important to assign initial tasks. This integrates the employee into projects and allows him or her to actively participate in the design of activities. This increases motivation, integration and promotes a sense of belonging.

Establish legal framework:

If the employee is required to undertake activities that are subject to special legislation, it is important that the employer requires written consent from the employee. In general, all legal framework conditions should be communicated and signed off.

Present products and services:

Another important part of the orientation phase is the presentation of all the company's products and services. Such an orientation is not only important for employees in sales or marketing, but should also take place for employees in accounting, production or HR. Every employee should know exactly the products and services of his or her employer.

Communicate corporate goals:

Company goals should also be communicated to new employees during the onboarding process. The following questions can help here:

  • What sales targets are to be achieved in the coming quarter?
  • What expectations are placed on the newcomer's team and department?
  • What targets and goals should the new colleague achieve according to the manager?

Our tip: In order to permanently record and achieve goals, it is advisable to agree on objectives with the persons concerned.

Bringing corporate values closer:

It is equally important to introduce the new employee to the company's values. These can provide answers to the following questions: 

  • Are there opportunities to work in a home office?
  • Are cigarette breaks approved?
  • Is there a canteen?
  • What manners apply (salutation, hierarchy, etc.)?

Phase 3: The first weeks on board

The next phase begins when the new employee has already been on board for several weeks. In this phase of the onboarding process, the following tips and points are helpful for the onboarding plan:

Give feedback:

Regular feedback is an important part of the onboarding process. It involves evaluating the employee's behavior and work. In addition, feedback serves supervisors to receive feedback from the employee and gain insight into the employee's experience. Thus, feedback enables constant improvement and opportunities to optimize mutual cooperation.

Promote skills and knowledge:

Furthermore, companies should give the new employee the opportunity to expand his or her knowledge and skills. This can be done through targeted training, seminars, courses and workshops. Such development opportunities not only improve the employee's work, but also increase employee retention.

Promote contacts and connections:

Another step in onboarding is fostering contacts and connections with the new employee. This can be done through meetings, off-site events and team building strategies.

Phase 4: The time after the trial period

Once the probationary period is over and the actual onboarding plan has been worked through, the fourth phase of the new employee's onboarding process begins. In this step, the following points should be observed:

Schedule regular employee interviews:

Even after the actual onboarding, companies should adhere to certain principles. Regular employee reviews are an important part of the onboarding process in the fourth phase. Here, managers should give employees the chance to express themselves honestly. They can share their personal goals and plans, set guidelines for future collaboration, and learn about potential development opportunities. When supervisors respond to this need, it offers benefits for both the company and the employee.

Conduct systematic employee surveys:

Employee surveys can be helpful in finding out how satisfied employees are with their work. These provide important food for thought regarding management style and internal processes. They can be a valuable tool for strengthening the relationship between the company and its employees.


Due to the severe shortage of skilled workers, successful onboarding is becoming increasingly important in the "war for talent". Companies should draw up an onboarding plan based on a guideline or checklist. If the company succeeds in convincing the new employee throughout the entire onboarding process, the chances are good that he or she will stay and do a good job. This requires not only the support of the HR department and the direct manager, but also the support of every colleague and employee involved.

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