Human Resources

What are the 4 Phases of Onboarding? Tips & Best Practices

Published on April 13, 2022 • Updated on February 22, 2023 • About 7 min. read

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Great employee onboarding means well-integrated hires and better business performance. Get it right, and you’ll also be able to build efficient processes that save you time. To do all this, though, you’ll need an understanding of best practices.

So, what are the four phases of onboarding? What are the objectives of each phase? And what should you be doing to support new hires throughout this crucial time?

Let’s dive in and find out.


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What is a phased onboarding process?

A phased onboarding process gives structure to employee onboarding, with each phase focusing on a different aspect of the employee’s integration into their team and company. We normally think of there being four employee onboarding phases, which we talk about, below.

What are the benefits of dividing employee onboarding into phases?

While onboarding can vary in many ways depending on the organization – or even department – you can still divide it into basic stages, so new hires always receive the attention they need at the right time.

Some of the advantages of approaching employee onboarding in this way include:

  • Being highly organized so you always know what the priorities are for new hires’ development
  • Being consistent, so no new hires are given less attention than others
  • Helping teams and managers know what to expect throughout onboarding
  • Giving new hires the support they need without ever overloading them

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What are the 4 phases of employee onboarding?

There are four distinct phases to employee onboarding, with each one playing a crucial role in helping to settle in newcomers without disrupting their teams. Here we take a look at each of the four phases, starting not at the beginning, but before it.

Employee onboarding phase 1: Pre-boarding

Pre-boarding starts from the moment a new employee agrees to join the company – usually by way of a signed document either via email or in person.

Why is pre-onboarding important?

One of the key things to remember throughout employee onboarding is that both parties wish to make a great first impression. You can help everyone do this by giving new employees a warm welcome, providing them with all the key information they need to get started, and by being highly organized so no time is wasted on their first day.

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Employee pre-boarding best practices

It’s important to have all the paperwork arranged during pre-boarding, as this will give new hires more time to spend doing the important things when they start, like meeting their new teammates and learning the ropes.

Here are some of the key documents you can arrange and information you can provide during pre-onboarding:

  • Confirmation of start date and schedule
  • Official contract of employment with job description
  • Tax forms
  • Banking details
  • Non-disclosure form

But pre-onboarding doesn’t stop there. You can also utilize this period before a new hire starts to organize any equipment they’ll be using, provide them with access to tools, files, and folders, and sort out physical workspaces for in-office workers.

You might also use pre-onboarding as an opportunity to share replays of recently recorded team meetings. This will give new hires the chance to learn a little about company goals, departmental targets, and the company culture – and it’s easy to do with a user-friendly, browser-based video engagement platform like Livestorm, which provides unlimited replays.

When is pre-onboarding complete?

Employee pre-onboarding ends on your new hire’s first day of the job. Then we move into phase two.

Employee onboarding phase 2: Introductions

Phase two starts on the first day of the job and continues for at least a few days or a week – or longer – depending on the nature of the work and size of the organization.

Introductions during the onboarding process

What makes phase two of employee onboarding so influential?

Phase two of employee onboarding is arguably the most important of the four phases, as it sets the tone for how new hires communicate and interact with their peers, teams, and managers. With a successful second phase of onboarding, employees will always know who to turn to when they need support, which is crucial to their building confidence and settling in.

What do new hires find out during phase two?

The first week of a new job can be overwhelming for the best of us, so structure the week carefully as you introduce new employees to their teams.

At Livestorm, we make sure new employees have breakfast with a teammate every day during their first week. That’s because we value team spirit, establishing a positive working environment, and eating breakfast. And you should, too! After all, we depend on our teammates, so developing a rapport with each other isn’t just fun, it’s important to our collective professional performance.

As well as getting to know everyone, phase two of employee onboarding is the time to acclimatize to a new company culture, essential processes, and key principles. It’s also when to introduce employees to the tools they’ll be using – which is why you should organize equipment, access, and permissions during the first onboarding phase.

Of course, it’s great for new hires to meet the team in person, but they can also have face-to-face meetings using a tool like Livestorm – and there are some key benefits to this:

  • If you’re remote onboarding, you’ll need a video conferencing tool for daily interactions (including breakfast)
  • If you want to automate the onboarding process for better efficiency and scalability, it’s easy to integrate meetings with an online tool into your workflows
  • You can use Livestorm’s engagement features like polls, emoji reactions and breakout rooms, which are great for team-building during the onboarding process

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When does this phase two of employee onboarding end?

Determining the completion of phase two really depends on each different organization, but normally, once someone’s familiarized themselves with their new routine, software, or equipment, and they’ve had the chance to meet their new teammates and manager, they’re ready to begin learning the specifics of their new role. Which takes us to phase three.

Phase two of onboarding new employees

Employee onboarding phase 3: Discovery

Onboarding so far has introduced your new hires to their teammates, tools, and ways of working. But they still don’t know the job fundamentals, which are at the heart of phase three.

What are your key goals during the discovery phase of employee onboarding?

During the discovery phase, your objective is to support new hires as they learn about their new role, start to better appreciate the company principles and missions they first saw in phase two, and gain a fuller understanding of their responsibilities.

By the end of the discovery phase, new employees should have seen around 80% of what their role entails.

Discovery phase best practices

Naturally, the specifics of phase three entirely depend on the position itself, but our top recommendations are:

  • Assign each new hire a buddy for phase three of onboarding. With a buddy system, new hires always have someone to ask key questions about the job that could prove useful for months ahead.
  • Use digital tools wherever possible as part of an automated onboarding process. This gives new employees greater autonomy but also allows you and the management team to easily track their progress.
  • Set milestones new hires can achieve throughout phase three, which you can recognize with a friendly message, a cheerful announcement to the team, or even a small prize, like a lunch or online voucher.

Recognizing milestones is a fantastic way to reward an employee’s engagement in their work and commitment to professional development. Examples of milestones you recognize could include independently completing tasks or projects, successfully using specific software, or handling a first client meeting.

When do you know the discovery phase of onboarding is complete?

At the end of this period, which may last a month or longer, you should organize two meetings for new hires:

  • One with their manager, where they can exchange feedback on what was learned, performance, and upcoming projects and goals
  • And one with your onboarding team, so you can gauge their confidence and comfort, address any concerns, and make adjustments to the onboarding process in the future

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Employee onboarding phase 4: Review

During the final phase of onboarding, new employees start to take ownership of their projects, putting into practice what they’ve discovered, and, we hope, successfully working together with the team.

What can you do to support new employees as they complete their employee onboarding?

While most of your onboarding responsibilities are complete once employees enter phase four, you can continue to facilitate their smooth transition into the role by:

  • Setting up regular meetings between new hires and their manager
  • Providing new hires with additional employee training. Here, a solution like Livestorm is ideal as you can use unlimited event replays and engagement analytics to track what employees have watched
  • Meeting with their manager to ensure their performance meets expectations
  • Continuing to conduct regular check-ins to make sure new employees are satisfied with their role and the company culture. During these check-ins, you can have further reviews to gain feedback a better understanding of how successful the onboarding process has been

How do you know when the employee onboarding is finished?

A final onboarding check-in is useful around six months into a new job. By this time, employees in most roles are fully engaged with their tasks and embedded in the company culture, able to accept their various responsibilities with confidence, and take important decisions autonomously. Well done you.

Values, culture, team spirit, and proficiency

Your role in integrating new employees into the organization plays a crucial part in their future success. And that means you’re having a direct impact on business performance, too.

By organizing a structured approach to employee onboarding with platforms like Livestorm, regular check-ins and reviews, and a system of recognition, you provide new hires with crucial support.

And in doing this, you’re paying attention to more than just the essential paperwork, equipment, and on-the-job training – you’re also helping to develop their understanding of the company mission, your way of working, and their sense of confidence within their new team.

Frequently asked questions about 4 phases of employee onboarding

What is the onboarding process for a new employee?

There are 4 phases to employee onboarding. These are:

  1. Pre-boarding, where new hires complete essential paperwork before their first day
  2. Introductions, where they meet the team and learn about company culture
  3. Discovery, where they being on-the-job training proper
  4. Review, where mutual feedback is provided to improve everyone’s performance

What is the first step in onboarding?

Following pre-boarding, the phase during which essential paperwork is completed, the first step in employee onboarding is a warm welcome. This could be in the form of an email, a video call, or an in-person meeting, where you introduce the new hire to the company basics, and express your enthusiasm for their joining the team.

What is an example of onboarding?

A good example of onboarding an employee is a team breakfast on the first day to welcome a new employee. This could be followed by connecting the new employee with an experienced colleague, as part of a buddy system. Then the newcomer can be introduced to some of the tools they’ll be working with on a daily basis.