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How Long Does It Take to Onboard a New Employee?

Many HR professionals have asked this exact question — how long does it take to onboard a new employee?

HR professionals know that the average time to onboard a new employee can vary from business to business. An onboarding program should give employees a comprehensive view of the company, help them understand safety and company culture, and give them a chance to ask questions to get better used to their position.

What factors can affect the average onboarding time?

Trying to figure out how long onboarding should last is one of the most important questions you can answer. However, viewing the answer to this question in isolation from the various factors that can impact great onboarding is a fool's errand. There is no set answer to how long it should take to fully onboard an employee, as numerous items can impact completing onboarding.

So, how long does it take to onboard a new employee? That depends on many factors, including:

  • The complexity of the job. It will be much harder to set up a structured onboarding process for someone who has a highly customized and complex job than for someone who has a relatively simple one. The more complex the job, the longer the onboarding process can take.

  • The safety measures that must be taught to a new employee. In some cases, this is telling people to be careful with equipment. In other jobs, like those heavy with physical labor, there may be days or weeks' worth of procedures that must be taught.

  • The complexity of paperwork — it's annoying but necessary. There may be many forms to fill out and conversations with HR that need to happen. This paperwork can hamper time to productivity, but for legal and financial reasons, it's always necessary when it comes to onboarding a new employee.

  • Relationship building. In some cases, an employee may need to engage in extensive relationship building, working with their new colleagues to develop a level of comfort with each other. If this is the case, it may take a long time for onboarding to be completed, as your new employee will have to take the opportunity to get to know their new colleagues. The reverse is also true: Already-existing employees will have to "feel out" these new employees to better understand them and how they will work together.

  • Technology. The proper implementation of technology can often speed up the onboarding process. This acceleration can occur if technology can be used to confirm that an employee understands their new role, watches necessary educational material, and fills out the paperwork online.

What are the phases of employee onboarding?

Every company will have different phases of employee onboarding, but generally speaking, steps proceed in some form of the following:

  • Preparation. During this time, an employee has made an offer and accepts the offer. After this, scheduling is completed, and paperwork is prepared. A company can begin to prepare a customized onboarding schedule that is altered depending on the level of information that an employee needs, the level of complexity in their job, and how quickly an employee needs to be up and running.

  • Orientation. Paperwork is signed and processed, and an employee is given their basic information and equipment. Employees learn the basics of their job, including general expectations, where they will work, and more. The information taught during this phase will likely apply to anyone in the company. This period will also begin the process of introducing a company to the specific culture of the organization.

  • Position and team orientation. During this time, customized information will be reviewed to discuss the expectations for the employee in their specific role. In addition, employees will be introduced to team members, taught safety information, and have the specifics of their job laid out for them.

  • Monitoring and evaluation. A good employee onboarding process continues to the point of an initial evaluation. Extra care and attention are paid to the employee during this time, as they will likely need additional questions answered. Guidance is provided on an as-needed basis, and the company will work closely with the employee to ensure that they are fulfilling their roles adequately.

Want to learn more about the employee onboarding process?

Hiring managers know that the average time for employee onboarding varies based on various factors. A lengthy or short onboarding isn't necessary to have a great onboarding process: What's more important is that the onboarding experience is comprehensive to ensure that you have a fully productive employee. Don't look for a set answer to the question, "How long does onboarding usually take?" The answer depends on many different factors, and there are many different phases to onboarding.

Remember this: If you wonder, "How long does it take to onboard an employee?" you're asking the wrong question and setting yourself up for a poor onboarding experience. Instead, you should ask how long it takes to create a positive impression of your work environment, reduce employee turnover, and set expectations for your new employee to ensure a fully productive member of your team.

Looking for more articles about the average time it takes for employee onboarding, employee retention, or engaging employees? Check out some of our additional resources:


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