The Ultimate Guide To The 4 Phases Of Onboarding

A structured onboarding program can lead to higher productivity levels, faster knowledge acquisition rates, and higher retention rates. Ultimately, onboarding is a critical part of affirming a new hire’s decision to join the organization. 

At Roundtable Learning, we recommend that our clients conduct onboarding through the following four phases: 

  • Orientation — Introduce the new hire to the organization and key team members, reviewing the handbook, important policies and related compliance materials, and exploring the organization’s values. 
  • Role Training — Teach a new hire about their day to day job duties and any information they need to set them up for long-term success.
  • Transition — Train organizational leaders so that they can help new hires gain a solid understanding of their position and become fully productive.
  • Ongoing Development — Create plans for continued career and personal growth so that both the individual and organization can reach their goals and achieve success.

Without a structured onboarding program, organizations lose 25% of new employees within a year. 

There’s no doubt that onboarding can benefit an organization, but how can you ensure that your onboarding program is effective? At Roundtable Learning, we recommend developing onboarding in four phases, each with their own set of unique goals and activities. 

This article will discuss what onboarding is, the benefits of onboarding new employees, and the four onboarding phases.


What Is Employee Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process of introducing a new employee to their role, organization, and team. Doing it well is essential because it creates the first impression a new hire has of an organization and affirms their decision to join. It also sets them up for success in their role and the organization by providing them essential information and skills.

Proper onboarding doesn’t happen by chance. It’s built with input from across the organization and expert instructional design. It can be done in-person or online and can incorporate immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Developing a comprehensive onboarding program ensures that your employees are successfully beginning their journey down a path of personal development, professional growth, and success. 



3 Significant Benefits Of Comprehensive Onboarding

Onboarding is essential because it equips new employees with knowledge regarding their job and helps them understand how they fit within the organization. Without proper onboarding, a new hire may feel lost in their role and never become fully operational. 

A structured onboarding program has many benefits, including:

  • 50% higher employee retention
  • 54% higher productivity levels
  • 34% faster full proficiency gained among employees

At Roundtable, we believe the best onboarding programs reduce first-day anxiety, demonstrate a healthy and inclusive culture, review performance goals and expectations, and lead to operational efficiency. Without onboarding, organizations risk losing 25% of all new employees within one year, experience quicker turnover rates, and need to wait longer for the new employees to become fully operational.

Read More: Day 0 Onboarding: Why It’s Important and 5 Ways to Prepare


The 4 Phases Of Onboarding Recommended By Roundtable



Phase 1: Orientation

Phase 1 of the onboarding process is orientation. This initial phase introduces the new hire to the organization, senior leadership, and fellow team members. It is important that the content in this phase of onboarding remains consistent across your organization and paints a clear picture of what your organization stands for. 

Orientation typically includes the following elements:

Organizations use a variety of approaches for this phase of onboarding. While it is optimal to have at least the introductions be done in person, other elements of the orientation phase may be suited to a self-paced learning approach. There are also opportunities to leverage technology including AR and VR. Gamification can be also used to engage learners better and scale your onboarding program. 

For example, an organization could use AR to send new hires on a scavenger hunt around the workplace. An organization could create a different type of learning journey by putting QR codes on posters strategically placed throughout the building. Learners would explore the workplace and learn more about their organization’s history and culture by scanning the QR codes which would open videos or text about various aspects of the organization. 

Phase 2: Role Training

After orientation, phase 2 of onboarding is role training. Role training teaches a new hire about their day to day job duties and sets them up for long-term success. Once employees know what they need to do, they can carry out the key functions of their role with more confidence. 

Role training often involves the following elements:

  • Review Performance Expectations
  • Technical and Process Training
  • Job Shadowing
  • Safety Training

To avoid generic and unengaging training, interactive technology, like VR, can keep learners captivated. For example, learners could work through different emergencies that train them in workplace safety. Learners can be placed in a simulation with all of the warehouse’s real-life sights and sounds and practice safety protocols without putting people or equipment in danger. Employees are more likely to respond well in an emergency if they’ve practiced the steps in a VR environment. 

Phase 3: Transition

The third stage occurs 60-120 days in and is referred to as the transition phase. At this point in the onboarding process, the new hire is transitioning to their permanent role and their primary source of development and support is their direct supervisor.  It is critical that managers and front-line leaders have the skills to support new hires through the following:

  • Effective communication
  • Strategies for growth and improvement
  • Importance of authenticity

With a blended approach, managers can learn key pillars of leadership, like coaching and feedback, and then practice in an immersive VR experience. By navigating difficult conversations in the virtual environment, leaders can see the direct result their decisions make on employees. Completing these activities can help organizational leaders fine-tune their soft skills. 

Phase 4: Ongoing Development

The final stage of onboarding is ongoing development. This phase involves creating a plan for continued career and personal growth. By creating a long-term plan, employees can see how they can continue to contribute positively to and grow within the organization. This way, both the individual and the organization can reach their goals and achieve success. 

This stage usually involves the following elements:

  • Competency Assessment
  • Career Mapping
  • Individual Development Plans
  • Personal and Professional Goal Setting


Are You On Board With Onboarding?

In this article, we’ve covered the importance and goals of onboarding, as well as its four phases. As we’ve discussed, onboarding programs ultimately need to equip new hires with the skills and confidence they need to excel in their role.

Ready to take the first step toward revamping your current onboarding program or create a new one? Start designing your project today!


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