Onboarding dictionary: Defining the new hire process from A to Z

    Onboarding, in a nutshell, is a comprehensive, 2-way process designed to share knowledge, communicate values, build connections and manage compliance to transform new hires into confident, empowered team members and ambassadors.

    Good onboarding spans the entire new hire lifecycle and touches on a myriad of topics and techniques, some of which are still newly developed concepts.

    In this definitive onboarding dictionary, we’ll be defining each and every facet of onboarding. From preboarding to crossboarding, offboarding and beyond! We’ll be covering standard industry terms, as well as some more advanced terms for those of you out to become onboarding experts.

    To help you on your way, we’ve developed a key to give each word context and clarity within the wider onboarding world.


    Key Concept






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    # A B C D E F G H I J K L M
    N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z  




    4 C's of Onboarding

    The 4 C’s of onboarding refers to the 4 core levels of onboarding that correspond to an organization’s legal, performance, cultural, and relational dimensions. They are the building blocks of good onboarding.

    Compliance | Legal
    Refers to completing all paperwork and administrative tasks involved with bringing a new employee into your organization. This step covers everything from setting up direct deposit and benefits to creating logins for email and other company tools needed for the job.

    Clarification | Performance
    Is about expanding the new hire’s understanding of the job. The goal for this step is to clarify performance expectations and responsibilities both for the new hire and for his/her manager and team members.

    Culture | Values
    Covers teaching employees the spoken and unspoken “rules of the game” at your organization. As they absorb your culture, they will discover ways to navigate and successfully achieve their work objective.

    Connection | Relations
    Dedicated to helping new hires feel like a part of the family. In this step, employees integrate into their new team and begin contributing to the company’s mission.



    Activation Rate

    Activation rate is a term used by digital onboarding providers to indicate the number of onboardees who log-in at least once to their onboarding portal or app.

    Some organizations use the activation rate as a way to measure employee engagement.


    API | Application Programming Interface

    An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a software ‘middle-man’ that allows two applications to talk to each other. In other words, an API is the messenger that delivers your request to the provider that you're requesting it from and then delivers the response back to you.

    Onboarding software developers use APIs to integrate 3rd party applications with their own software.


    ATS | Applicant Tracking System

    An ATS, or Applicant Tracking System, is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment and hiring needs. An ATS can be implemented or accessed online at enterprise or small-business levels, depending on the needs of the organization.

    In onboarding, application tracking systems are most often discussed in relation to their compatibility with digital onboarding solutions. The best digital onboarding solutions can utilize an API to integrate with a range of ATS’ to facilitate the flow of information between the recruitment and onboarding lifecycle stages.



    Attrition is the rate at which employees leave your organization.


    Automate Onboarding

    Automating onboarding means digitizing labor-intensive processes, such as new hire documentation, data collection, work-flow assignment, and content delivery.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Learn more about automated onboarding.



    Buddy | Buddy-system

    A buddy system is a knowledge sharing method used in onboarding. It involves assigning each new hire a workplace buddy. The buddy is an existing employee who guides the new recruit through the first few weeks or months on the job.




    A chatbot is a software application used to conduct an online chat conversation via text or text-to-speech, in place of direct contact with a live human agent.

    In the context of onboarding, a digital chatbot is used to answer new hire questions and/or prompt action by the onboardee.

    Not all chatbots are created equal. Some use advanced AI to progressively become better at answering onboardee’s questions, whereas some function simply as an interactive Q&A with all answers pre-programmed on the back-end of the system.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Meet Eva, Talmundo's digital onboarding chatbot.



    Cloud-based computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user.

    Modern employee onboarding systems are usually ‘cloud-based’, allowing users on-the-go access.



    Content-driven is an approach to onboarding that puts storytelling at the forefront.

    A content-driven onboarding journey uses interesting, varied content (such as training videos, interactive quizzes, deep-dive articles, and more) to engage and educate onboardees. It represents an understanding that your new recruits are intelligent, capable people who want more than just an orientation PowerPoint presentation and a guided tour of the office.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Become an onboarding content master with our free webinar.


    Content Delivery System

    A content delivery system is a piece of digital infrastructure used to deliver information to your onboardees at specific times during their onboarding lifecycle. This ensures employees aren’t overwhelmed and receive relevant information when they need it most.



    Crossboarding happens when an organization utilizes an existing employee to fill a job vacancy instead of hiring an external candidate.

    The process helps to equip the internal hire with the necessary skills and competencies to perform in the role, and (if applicable) introduces them to a new team, department, and social ecosystem.

    Crossboarding can also be used to describe the process of re-integrating employees into a new company structure following a merger or acquisition.



    Digital Onboarding

    As the name suggests, digital onboarding is when an onboarding process is powered by technology, allowing it take place predominantly online. Good digital onboarding utilizes automation, saving time for HR and streamlining the onboarding process.

    Digital onboarding helps HR departments to spread the new hire journey out over a longer period of time, leveraging the preboarding phase to provide a more comprehensive support system for new employees.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Read more on the post-COVID future of digital onboarding.


    Drip-fed Content

    See ‘Content Delivery System’.



    Elevate Onboarding

    Elevating onboarding means capturing learnings and key measurements, both positive and negative, from your new hire journey and applying them for future business performance.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Learn more about elevated onboarding.


    Employee Engagement

    Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to their organization, and go over & above what is expected of them in their day-to-day role.

    Employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction.

    Good onboarding is proven to increase employee engagement by up to 33%, and organizations with an engaged workforce outperform their competition.

    See also ‘Employee Satisfaction.

    Discover how to engage with your employees during COVID.


    Employee Satisfaction

    Employee satisfaction is a measure of how content an employee is with their job, whether they like the job as a whole, but also individual aspects of the job such as the nature of work or supervision.

    Employee satisfaction is not the same as employee engagement and does not provide any insight into employee performance.


    Experience-based Onboarding

    Experience-based onboarding places the focus on the candidate’s journey from the moment they accept their offer, through until they are fully integrated into the company.

    Experience-based onboarding marries process and engagement for a seamless new-hire journey.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Get the facts on experience-based vs. process based onboarding.




    Filters are used in onboarding to digitally segment your employee base. They enable HR to deliver different content to different onboardees based on a range of employee attributes such as job title, department, or global location.

    Try this example: New hire Jane works for Company X in their London office. Company X sends an automated email to all new hires the day before their first day, with information on parking, public transport routes, and nearby lunch options.

    As the organization has 4 office locations, they set up a ‘Location’ filter that ensures Jane only receives London-specific content.



    Hybrid App

    Hybrid apps are essentially web apps that look like native apps. Once they are downloaded from an app store and installed on a device, they use an internet browser to connect to a web-hosted version of the application.

    See also ‘Native App’ and ‘Web App’.



    Integration | People

    In onboarding, an employee is considered integrated when they have a strong understanding of their job and responsibilities, a growing social connection to their team and the wider organization, a good grasp of company policies, and can navigate the spoken and unspoken rules of their new workplace.

    Onboarding ends when a new hire is fully integrated into an organization.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Try these tips on employee integration from leading global employers.


    Integration | Software

    An integrated onboarding solution is software that can communicate with your existing HR framework and systems, to form a streamlined digital HR ecosystem.



    Induction is the process of welcoming a new team member into the fold. It might involve a PowerPoint presentation on team culture, a meet-and-greet with relevant co-workers, and maybe even a buddy system to ease first-day nerves.

    Induction is short term, it’s usually a one-and-done activity completed on a new hire's first day.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Explore the difference between induction, orientation and onboarding.


    Internal Benchmarking

    Internal benchmarking is the process of looking within your own organization to try and determine the best practice or methodology for conducting a particular task.

    In onboarding, internal benchmarking is often used to compare the new hire processes of different departments and locations, to see where improvements can be made.



    Manager Onboarding

    Manager onboarding is the process of bringing an employee on board in a management position. This can be either as a new hire or as part of an internal promotion.

    Successful manager onboarding takes into account the needs of a new manager and delivers additional support at an operational and leadership level.


    Mass Onboarding

    Mass onboarding is the process of bringing high levels of staff onboard in a short time frame.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Learn how to onboard at speed and scale during COVID.



    Native App

    A native app is a software program that is developed for use on a particular platform or device. They are installed through an application store (such as Google Play or Apple's App Store).

    As they are developed specifically for one platform, native apps are able to take full advantage of all the device features - they can use the camera, send notifications, access the GPS, and so on.

    Native apps require the development and maintenance of stand-alone iterations for each operating system (iOS, Linux, Android, etc), and are more prone to compatibility issues than web or hybrid apps.

    See also ‘Hybrid App’ and ‘Web App’.




    Offboarding, or ‘employee exit management’ is a process that comes before the formal separation of an employer and their employee, whether voluntarily or otherwise.

    A robust offboarding process should smoothly transition the employee out of the business, facilitating the sharing of knowledge with other employees and ticking compliance and privacy boxes.

    Offboarding can also help protect an organization's employer brand and give HR departments insight into their company's problem areas.



    Onboarding is an umbrella term that spans the full new-hire journey. From signing their contract, and landing on Day 1 [preboarding], during their first days and weeks on the job [induction & orientation], through until they are fully settled in their new role - whether that’s 3 weeks, 3 months or even a year [integration].

    The purpose is to deliver an ongoing, all-inclusive experience that builds loyalty and confidence, transforming your new hires into confident, empowered team members, and ambassadors.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Explore the difference between induction, orientation and onboarding.


    Onboarding Journey

    See ‘Onboarding Lifecycle’.


    Onboarding Process

    See ‘Onboarding Lifecycle’.


    Onboarding Lifecycle

    The onboarding lifecycle is a term to describe an employee's onboarding experience from signing their contract until they are fully integrated into their new organization.


    Onboarding Software

    Onboarding software is the supporting digital infrastructure of a modern onboarding process.

    The best onboarding software supports experience-based onboarding, uses automation to free up time for HR, and can manage onboarding across multiple locations and departments simultaneously.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 What to look for in an onboarding software solution.



    Orientation is the process of familiarizing new hires with company policy and guidelines. An effective orientation should get your new hire up to speed on processes, paper-work, and the general administration of your company.

    Orientation is a short term activity, often done-and-dusted by the end of a new recruit's first week.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Explore the difference between induction, orientation and onboarding.



    Passive Onboarding

    See ‘Process-based Onboarding’.



    Preboarding is the process of engaging your new hires from the moment they accept a job offer, through until their first day on the job. The process should alleviate new hires' first-day fears, give them the tools to be up & running faster, and ultimately drive engagement and retention.

    Effective preboarding is an essential part of a greater onboarding puzzle.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Explore how preboarding can impact new hire retention.


    Proactive Onboarding

     See ‘Experience-based Onboarding’.


    Process-based Onboarding

    Process-based onboarding is an antiquated form of onboarding, where priority is centered exclusively on ticking administrative boxes and managing compliance.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Get the facts on experience-based vs. process based onboarding.


    Pulse Check

    A standard pulse check is delivered digitally to a new hire at key intervals during onboarding in the form of a mini ‘quiz’ where the onboardee can rate an experience out of 5.

    Pulse checks are an easy way for HR departments to gauge an employee’s feelings for, or understanding of, an aspect of their onboarding journey.




    Reboarding is most commonly applicable to staff members who have been away from your organization for an extended period, be it for medical purposes, parental leave, or secondment.

    It is designed to re-familiarize your returning colleagues with your company, bring them up-to-speed on relevant changes, integrate them back into the culture of your workplace and empower them to get back to ‘business-as-usual’ as soon as possible.

    Recently, reboarding has been used by organizations to bring their teams back-on-board following the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Learn how to bring your employees back-on-board after COVID-19.


    Reinvent Onboarding

    Reinventing onboarding means taking what you’ve done in the past, and turning it on its head with fresh, engaging ideas.

    From building strong onboarding stories, tailored to your new hires’ needs, to creating journeys that are experience-based, content-driven, and consistently delivered across your entire organization.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Learn how to reinvent your onboarding.


    Remote Onboarding

    Remote onboarding is an onboarding journey that happens exclusively out-of-office without direct face-to-face contact. It is most commonly used by organizations hiring staff who work out-of-country.

    During COVID-19 remote onboarding was used extensively to onboard new staff when traditional measures became impractical due to lockdown orders.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Onboarding your staff remotely during COVID-19 (and beyond).



    Employee Retention refers to your organization's ability to hold on to its employees.

    Retention is ‘cultivated’ by an employer by maintaining a working environment that supports current staff in remaining with the company.

    Good onboarding is proven to increase new hire retention by up to 82%, and organizations with a high employee retention rate can save millions in net revenue.

    Icon-Observation-Yellow-01 Learn how ManpowerGroup UK increased new hire retention by 22% with effective preboarding.



    Seasonal Onboarding

    Seasonal onboarding is the process of investing time, effort, and budget into an onboarding journey for non-permanent employees including contractors, interns, and holiday staff.

    An effective seasonal onboarding program will help safeguard an organization against long-term reputation damage and revenue loss.


    Streamlined Onboarding

    Generally speaking, a streamlined onboarding program centralizes key information, saves time for HR, facilitates on-the-go access for onboardees, delivers a consistent cross-location experience, and integrates with your existing HR infrastructure.

    See also, ‘Automate Onboarding’.



    Time-sensitive Content

    Time-sensitive content is content or information required by an onboardee at a specific point in their onboarding lifecycle.

    The company dress code is an example of time-sensitive content. A new hire requires this BEFORE they land on day 1 to ensure they can dress appropriately.

    See also ‘Content Delivery System’.



    Time-to-productivity is a measure of how long it takes a new hire to contribute to an organization. It is influenced heavily by two main factors; the overall candidate experience and the effectiveness of an organization’s onboarding program.

    Good onboarding is proven to increase time-to-productivity by up to 70%, and organizations with a short time-to-productivity curve see dramatic reductions to their bottom line.



    Web App | Web Application

    A web app is a software program that is accessible using any web browser.

    On a mobile device, web apps are accessed through the mobile's internet browser and don’t require users to download or update them.

    Web apps have the advantage of being accessible by any user, from any device or platform with minimal compatibility issues, and can be set up to mimic the appearance of a native app on most devices.

    See also ‘Hybrid App’ and ‘Native App’.

    Ready to take the next step in your onboarding education? Download our Onboarding Whitepaper and get ready to revolutionize your new hire process.

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    Topics: Onboarding , Featured
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