The Ultimate Business Acumen Guide



For over a quarter-century, we’ve worked with some of the world’s largest & most successful organizations to help their people successfully onboard into their positions, both in-person and virtually, after a warm (and informative) welcome. How have we done this? By supporting our clients’ orientation and onboarding efforts with interactive, team-based programs that create a “wow” factor, introduce new employees into the business and what it’s all about, and socialize the culture of the organization.

Successful onboarding is a multi-step process and differs between roles, organizations, and industries. According to Gallup’s report, “Creating an Exceptional Onboarding Journey for Employees”, adequate onboarding is no longer sufficient: exceptional onboarding is the only type of onboarding that reduces turnover and boosts employee morale and productivity.

“If you want exceptional employee outcomes, you must have exceptional onboarding.” – Gallup

What are orientation and onboarding?

What are orientation and onboarding?

Many organizations differentiate these terms as follows:

Orientation is the initial welcome and introduction to the organization, typically on the first day(s) or early in the employee’s time with the company.

Onboarding often can include the orientation period and go beyond the first days or weeks into more in-depth, department-specific or role-specific training. Some organizations consider an employee in an onboarding phase until they become fully productive employees.

orientation - an initial welcome into an organization and time it takes for new employees to get their bearings

onboarding - the learning process for new employees until they become fully productive in their new roles

In a practical application, orientation and onboarding can be combined to create an initiation process for new employees that engages them in the organization’s mission, introduces its values and how to demonstrate them on the job, and helps them understand how they – by being successful in their role – can contribute to the organization’s vision.

The components of exceptional in-person and virtual orientation and onboarding are as follows:

  • A “wow” welcome experience
  • Introduction to and exploration of the organization’s culture
  • Understanding of how the business works (high level)
  • Manager and team involvement
  • Access to resources and a network of supporters
  • A multi-step (Gallup recommends a yearlong) process for onboarding
  • Metrics to gauge progress and refine as necessary

With so much to cover and only one chance to make a first impression, onboarding and orienting a new employee is something no organization can afford to get wrong.

Read our eBook to learn more about the onboarding experience.

Who benefits from well-crafted orientation and onboarding?

Who benefits from well-crafted orientation and onboarding?

Everyone! Many organizations have realized the benefits of well-crafted orientation and onboarding over the last several years, especially as they relate to engaged employees. According to Jobvite, 29% of new hires have left their job within the first 90 days. Further to that, iCIMS says that 26% of American workers have quit a job because they were dissatisfied with the onboarding process.

Here’s how different types of employees benefit from engaging orientation and onboarding.

New Employees

To make new employees feel confident in their choice of new organization, welcome them with a “wow” experience. Communicate what to expect on their first day, clear directions for where to go and when (and don’t forget dress code – everyone wants to fit in on their first day). After that, make the first day a memorable one. Most people expect boring, lecture-based introductory days full of paperwork and yawns. Surprise them with an interactive program (or onboarding game) that introduces them to the business, the mission, vision, and values, and how they fit into the big picture of organizational success. Even better if they can meet other new hires face-to-face during this experience and make friends and contacts right away. Of course, you also need time for the paperwork, but that need not be the focus of the day.

After the first day(s), ensure the onboarding high doesn’t fade when the new employees head to their respective departments and start to learn their new roles on the job. Encourage team lunches or breakfasts to get to know the new team member (and vice versa), mentoring (formal or informal), and a support network of resources.

New hires who feel immediately integrated into the company’s culture report higher satisfaction and lower turnover within the first year. Providing them with a high-level understanding of the company, its mission, vision, values, and how it makes money will help new hires become productive in their roles faster. Creating a “wow” experience for the first days will validate their decision to join the organization.

New Leaders

Great leadership in an organization requires alignment and follow-through, living out the organizational values they expect their teams to emulate. Many leaders are promoted internally – or hired from external sources – without previous leadership training or without exploring how to live out those values on the job as examples to their direct reports.

Gallup refers to this process of onboarding for internal promotions and role changes as “reboarding” and goes on to recommend, “Every time someone changes roles, teams or managers, it’s time to reboard. While the company culture doesn’t change for an employee who moves internally, team culture, expectations and relationships do.”

In addition to demonstrating valued behaviors, leaders could use practice (in a safe training environment) exploring challenges they might encounter on the job and how to address them in alignment with organizational processes.

New leaders who have an opportunity to share and learn best practices from other leader peers while exploring these concepts in an interactive, team-based format will be more confident to handle tough situations on the job – and will be better equipped to demonstrate the organization’s values, leading by example from day one.

“There’s no quicker way to lose a star or disrupt a team than promoting someone beyond their preparation and not supporting them throughout their transition.” – Gallup

Existing Employees

When an organization revitalizes its values, key competencies, or even revises its mission or vision statements, existing employees need to be caught up, too. And not just through a company email or slide.

If you invest in a new program for orientation and onboarding that allows new employees to explore the culture hands-on but you don’t bring the rest of the organization up to speed with the same program, the new hires will go into their teams and roles and immediately see a disconnect. Once they perceive that disconnect or see values not being displayed by their peers, they will begin to question the honesty of the hiring process.

Maintaining the brand and culture that were highlighted during recruitment, hiring, and orientation is crucial to the early stages of an employee’s retention.

Directors & Executives

Similarly, if culture is not demonstrated from the top down, it will lose credibility and importance. Furthermore, it could risk spurring employee dissatisfaction or erode trust in other areas of the organization. When designing an exceptional orientation and onboarding program, the buy-in and input of senior leadership are vital – and it will serve to gain their buy-in of the importance of this initiative.

Where can you see the impact of<br> exceptional onboarding?

Where can you see the impact of
exceptional onboarding?

Everywhere! The impacts of an engaged workforce, whether in-person or virtual, can be felt throughout an organization, especially in its culture. Organizational culture can be a crucial differentiator for employers and a highly desired item for jobseekers. The better the organizational culture (and the more it adheres to how it’s described in the recruiting process), the more likely employees are to stay and be productive.

Talent Acquisition & Development

When people are happy in their roles, they tend to stay and they also tend to promote the business to their personal networks, which can bring in talent referrals. Increased retention also drives down the cost of employee attrition and replacement, allowing talent departments more time to focus on the other part of the employee spectrum: talent development.

Top and Bottom Lines

Organizations that prioritize exceptional onboarding will reap the benefits in new hires coming up to speed faster and more efficiently. New hires in revenue-producing roles becoming productive even a month sooner because of exceptional onboarding will positively impact the organization’s top line. Similarly, if employee attrition decreases, so too do the costs of replacing people and recruiting for those open roles, which benefits the bottom line.

Succession Planning

When employees remain engaged with an organization and learn their business faster and more efficiently, they become prime candidates for high-potential assignments, growth opportunities, and succession planning. Having team and manager involvement in the onboarding process and beyond can also provide well-rounded insights into an individual’s future potential (how quickly did they learn, how did they display emotional intelligence in the integration process, how well did they handle transitions, how curious were they about the business).

When should organizations consider a new approach to orientation and onboarding?

When should organizations consider a new approach to orientation and onboarding?

Several indicators in a business will tell you when your current approach to orientation and onboarding aren’t working or are falling a bit short of the desired mark or when they’re failing altogether. It’s best to make an improvement in your orientation and onboarding approach earlier than later, before new hires are exiting in droves before their first anniversaries.

When a Feedback Trend Emerges

One way to assess the efficacy of your current orientation and onboarding programs is to solicit feedback from participants (immediately after and after 90 or 180 days), managers, and existing employees.

Ask participants to rate their overall experience. Was it helpful? Was it enjoyable? What did they learn? How did it help them prepare for their new roles?

Ask managers how well it prepared their new hires with general knowledge about the organization, the organization’s culture, and other topics that are helpful. Solicit their input about what they think the orientation and onboarding stages should include. Include them in the onboarding process, as much of what happens in a new hire’s journey after orientation will be dependent on the guidance and help of their manager and new team.

Consider soliciting wider input about orientation and onboarding from your existing employee population. It’s likely that the new hire experience has evolved during your existing employees’ tenure, and you can learn from that. When they were being onboarded, what worked well? What didn’t? What did they wish they had experienced in onboarding? How did they learn the culture of the organization? Do they believe in the organization’s culture now? Why or why not?

If not, you’ll have a bigger issue on your hands, but knowing the climate your new hires are walking into will prepare you to address it. If an organization says one thing to new hires about its culture that’s contradictory to what current employees experience, this could be another reason for retention issues that don’t have as much to do with onboarding. Solving this, however, will set up your onboarding program for better success.

When the Numbers Alarm You

Metrics have a role to play in assessing the effectiveness of your onboarding program. Beyond retention and attrition metrics, Gallup recommends tracking other metrics that relate to onboarding, such as, “Quality of Hire, Ramp-Up Time, Employee Engagement, Turnover, Reasons for Leaving, and Manager Effectiveness.”

The most alarming metric is arguably high employee turnover (attrition), but a long ramp-up time also costs the organization. If the quality of hire is low, this is a leading indicator to attrition. Each of these metrics (and there are more) can shed light on issues that, once solved, will contribute not only to employee engagement, but also to the organization’s bottom line.

Onboarding programs have been shown to increase retention by 25 percent and even improve employee performance by up to 11 percent. - SHRM

When You Want to Be Best in Class

Gallup’s research indicates that “if you want exceptional employee outcomes, you must have exceptional onboarding.” Without the “wow” experience, employees will not find inspiration from day one, and without enough of a well-planned onboarding journey behind it, no matter how great your day-one orientation may be, it will lose steam and new hire engagement. Similarly, if managers and teams aren’t included and advocates of the onboarding process, efficacy will suffer.

The organizations with best-in-class onboarding are also cited in “Best Places to Work” lists and excellent ratings on It’s all correlated. But if you think you have work to do, you’re certainly not alone.

“Only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees.” – Gallup

If you do embark on the journey of rebuilding and refining your orientation and/or onboarding with inclusion of managers and teams and feedback from the organization, keep these stats from Gallup in mind for the light at the end of the tunnel:

  • “Employees who strongly agree they have a clear plan for their professional development are 3.5 times more likely to strongly agree that their onboarding process was exceptional.”
  • “Employees with an exceptional onboarding experience are 2.6 times as likely to be extremely satisfied with their place of work.”
Why should an organization develop better orientation and onboarding?

Why should an organization develop better orientation and onboarding?

For long-term employee engagement as well as new hire immediate engagement and faster productivity, it’s imperative for organizations to create a world-class orientation and onboarding journey.

Ensuring that the brand promises and cultural attributes shared in the recruiting process remain true once new hires are on the job will have far-reaching, organization-wide impacts.


An engaged workforce (of existing employees and new hires) starts and ends with culture. Creating a culture in which the mission, vision, and values are more than posters on a wall takes time. The goal is leadership by example and employees that are bought in and advocates for the mission and vision, who display the values in their everyday interactions.

Creating an onboarding program that delivers the brand message of the organization and allows new hires to explore the culture, understand the mission and vision, and tackle scenarios on how to display the values day-to-day will start new hires on the right path to become advocates for that culture. Ensuring the rest of the employee population is bought in will ensure that new hire advocacy doesn’t fade – instead, growing stronger during their tenure.


The costs of employee attrition have been estimated to be between a portion of a new hire’s salary to a multiple of it depending on their level, available talent in the area, and industry competition for talent.

profitability - a metric used to determine the scope of a company's profit in relation to the size of the business; measurement of efficiency – and ultimately its success or failure

The best onboarding programs correlate with employee satisfaction and tenure. When firms measure ramp-up time as well, the onboarding that best equips new hires (and provides support for new hires’ first full year) also contributes to faster productivity, which, for revenue-producing roles means a positive impact to the top line.

During onboarding, providing new hires with an understanding of the organization, how it does business, its customers, and how they contribute to its success will equip them with the knowledge necessary to drive better efficiency and contribute to company profitability in their new roles.

Talent Growth & Retention

Other than the importance of reducing the costs (both financial and organizational) of employee attrition, the benefits of talent retention escalate all the way into succession planning and cultivating another generation of engaged leaders. Retaining top talent also means satisfied employees referring more talent into the organization. It also leads to new hires becoming leaders who are advocates for the importance of embodying the organization’s cultural attributes and inspiring others about the organization’s mission.

Best Places to Work

Beyond being a company that people want to work for, an organization that prioritizes its people, focuses on its mission, and lives its values is an organization that customers want to work with. World-class onboarding creates a foundation of employee engagement and productivity that benefits an organization from every angle.

Competitive Advantage

In a global market that competes for top talent, an organization that’s known for delivering the value proposition it makes during the recruiting process and supports new hires with world-class onboarding can stand above the rest. Don’t lose your top talent just as you’ve acquired them. Don’t lose out on the benefits they can bring to your organization by not supporting their learning curve during their first year in their new team.

How do you empower your organization with business acumen?

How do you empower your organization with business acumen?

Creating a world-class orientation and onboarding for new hires will lead your organization on a path to higher employee engagement, retention, faster ramp-up time, and energized employees who are aligned to the core mission, strategy, and values of the organization. Align your managers and existing workforce to the importance of advocating for effective onboarding, for living the organization’s values, and for creating a positive working environment for new hires – and for everyone.

Programs should be flexible and can accommodate one or a hybrid approach of the following - in-person, live virtual, or self-paced asynchronous. The beauty about this is that we can help meet new hires where they are.

Relevance in the onboarding program also is essential. It’s not just about learning about the organization, its culture, and how new hires fit into it; it’s also about driving meaningful insights about the enterprise as a whole and how to contribute to its success. Can the learners take the experience and apply it directly and immediately to their roles in ramping up, contributing to the mission and vision, living the values, and strengthening the financial performance of the company?

Finally, it needs to be memorable. Conventional wisdom shows a huge gap between knowledge retained from traditional instructor-dependent classroom training and knowledge gained from more interactive learning experiences. According to some estimates, most people retain just about 75 percent when they are actively involved in their learning experience.

“Would you want to be in back-to-back presentations, or would you want to break up the day with some fun bonding activities and actually get to know some of your peers? Use this time to make a great first impression and let your new hires know that they made the right decision.” – The Glassdoor Team

We stand ready to support your interactive, team-based onboarding programs to reenergize your onboarding and make your program world-class.

Getting new hires up to speed and achieving onboarding objectives doesn’t have to be a bore.

Organizations are using fun and engaging solutions to deliver a memorable and lasting onboarding experience.

Onboarding & Strategic Alignment Solutions Infographic