On-boarding is not just a way to make new employees feel welcome. It’s increasingly being viewed as a key strategic imperative to increase productivity and smooth processes as early as possible. It’s hardly surprising, then, that top employers are driving major new trends in how it’s done.

On-boarding is evolving and becoming increasingly strategic as businesses come to realise its profound influence on operational effectiveness, a new study has found.

The report, titled On-Boarding – HR Insights Report, is compiled by the Top Employers Institute and its findings are based on a sample of 600 organisations in over 100 countries, all of which are certified as Top Employers by the Top Employers Institute. The sample of certified organisations included in the study all employ at least 3 000 people locally or 5 000 internationally.

On-boarding refers to the process of

training and integrating new employees into an organisation.

Top Employers Institute CEO, David Plink, says seamless integration of new staff members has a “crucial influence” on staff retention and development.

“The benefits of having a seamless integration will mean a more engaged and productive workforce that is better aligned culturally. With talent attraction and retention high on the agenda, on-boarding plays a key part in how the company is perceived as a place to work and develop.”

“Employee preferences and expectations are changing. They have access to employer information that indicates if they are likely to be a good company to work for. In this climate, previous on-boarding approaches are no longer relevant. It has evolved from a first-day event to a continuous learning process, while social and cultural integration is now a major part, alongside senior management playing an active role,” Plink says.

In particular, the report noted five key trends emerging among certified Top Employers in South Africa, which include a move towards a process rather than a single event, with on-boarding increasingly lasting weeks or months rather than days. Some Top Employers begin the on-boarding processes during the recruitment phase and maintain it for 3-6 months following the start of employment. Some companies choose to maintain it for up to a year.

Added to the list was an increased focus on multidimensionality (business, situational and cultural focus); more active involvement of senior management; increased use of digital tools; and data-driven programme improvement (where key metrics were used and measurability was a prerequisite).

In South Africa, we see a 16,6% year-on-year average improvement in the usage of tools or activities listed below during the on-boarding phase of the employee journey. Specifically from 2015 to 2016, the use the internal social media experience sharing has increased from 49% to 63%, up by 14% and arranged social networking events for new employees increased by 14%, from 57% to 71%.

Digital tools also play a significant role locally, with 27% of certified South African participants offering a platform that tracks progress on completion of all tasks and activities; 85% provide a portal for new employees which contains all relevant information regarding their on-boarding programme; and 17% allow new employees access to an online/virtual on-boarding platform before their first working day.

The abovementioned involvement of senior management also increased. Executive Management in some 94% of certified organisations are promoting the importance of well-organised on-boarding programmes to the wider business, up from 87% in 2015.

Perhaps most importantly for long-term success of on-boarding programmes, Top Employers are increasingly focused on measurability. Key metrics are being tracked by the majority of certified Top Employers South Africa, measuring impact and effectiveness, particularly where the aim is to assimilate employees quickly and smoothly so that they rapidly become productive. Some 74% of Top Employers South Africa measures employees’ evaluation of their on-boarding experience in 2016, with 64% also relying on an HR evaluation and 53% using reporting on KPIs.

A number of the country’s Top Employers make use of several of the abovementioned strategies. Staff have access to a hard copy or online on-boarding programme, use of internal and external social media to connect with current employees, and meet with HR to discuss procedures. They have regular communication with their managers regarding their roles, tasks and expectations, with check-in meetings at specific intervals, as well as a post-hire assessment. Each new hire receives a buddy has a follow-up feedback session a year after joining.

Accenture, one of South Africa’s Top Employers has made an innovative move by developing an app for interviewees where job applicants can download it for details about the interviewer, the company, the job and even directions to the interview venue.

“An interview is not to see whether you are good enough, but really to see if you are a fit with that organisation,” says Brett Cairns, Talent Strategist & Learning expert for South Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Turkey. The objective is to give interviewees the opportunity to relax and really shine, so the company tries to give them every advantage. Additionally, it begins their learning before they start – which reduces stress, optimises productivity and creates a win-win situation.

“It’s about adjusting and adapting so that you can play to your strengths,” says Cairns.

The Top Employers Institute globally certifies excellence in the conditions that employers create for their people. Headquartered in the Netherlands, the company has recognised Top Employers around the world since 1991. The company is active in more than 100 countries and in six regions: North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Almost 1,100 Top Employers were successfully certified in 2016.

The insights in the On-Boarding – HR Insights Report are supported by the findings of the Top Employers HR Best Practices Survey. This assesses global organisations’ HR environment in the areas of strategy, policy implementation, monitoring and communication of employee conditions and development.


To access the HR Insights Report on On-boarding, please go to: For more on the Top Employers Institute, visit