Analysis of Onboarding Practices in India: A Proposal for Post Pandemic Scenario.

AuthorElembilassery, Varun


Human Resources (HR) systems of an organization contribute to its competitive advantage and is an important factor that determines the culture (Lado & Wilson, 1994). Organizations invest a considerable amount of resources to get the best people into their fold. Equally important is how the new employees are onboarded effectively and provided with a conducive environment. Onboarding is distinct from traditional orientation programs and focuses on defining multiple roles, cultivating the key relationships, ensuring access to information and follows a phased implementation (Derven, 2008) which could span to a few months. Many organizations have incorporated several activities as part of onboarding. However, empirical evidence indicates that 22% of the attrition happens within 45 days of joining (Virtway, 2019). The scenario is likely to be more troublesome owing to the post-pandemic shifts in work practices. Hence, it is imperative to understand the best onboarding practices that are currently followed and how some of these practices may be better suited for the post-pandemic future.

The COVID pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has forced organizations into adopting virtual work for most of its workforce. This has also necessitated a change in HR practices towards virtual induction and training. In India, most companies are moving towards a virtual onboarding process (Basu, 2020). Onboarding a new employee is an important process which could not only enhance retention rates but also reduce the time required to achieve full productivity. However, virtual onboarding has its challenges and if not done appropriately it may have detrimental effects on the culture of the organization. This study is an attempt to understand the best onboarding practices that can be refined and extended to the post-pandemic work scenario. The paper starts with a succinct review of the literature to bring out the theoretical underpinning. This is followed by deriving appropriate criteria for the selection of firms for the study. Information from secondary sources was used to understand the best practices. A conceptual analysis of current onboarding practices was done and then logically extended to create a proposal for the post-pandemic scenario. The paper concludes with practical implications and directions for future research.

Theoretical Background

Effective management of onboarding could fulfil the distinct needs of both the new individual and the organization. The onboarding experience could reinforce the joining decision and inculcate the feeling of belongingness for the new individual as 90% of the new employees take a decision to continue in the new organization within the first 6 months (Tarquinio, 2006). On the other hand, onboarding could reduce the time to proficiency of the new joiner (Baek & Bramwell, 2016) benefitting the organization. For example, it takes a new leader four months to be fully functional in the new job (Dai & Meuse, 2007) and a well planned and executed onboarding process has the potential to reduce the time to proficiency by two months (Ganzel, 1998). An onboarding program provides the organization with an opportunity to secure the investments it had made during the talent acquisition process and could hence increase retention and enhance engagement levels (Guangrong & De Meuse, 2007; Jung, 2014) if planned and executed in a thoughtful and standardized manner.

As organizations design and plan the onboarding exercise, they try to ensure that the new employee understands his or her role, organizational expectations from him/her and how would he/she perform for achieving the objectives (Davidson, 2018). It also becomes necessary to make them feel confident in their ability to contribute, valued, and connected with the organization (Baek & Bramwell, 2016). This could be facilitated if he/she becomes knowledgeable about the organizational culture (Chao, O'Leary-Kelly, Wolf, Klein, & Gardner, 1994) and is also socialized. The process of socialization becomes a critical component of the onboarding process as it helps the individual to acquire the attitudes, behaviors and knowledge needed to successfully participate and contribute to his/her company (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979).

Bauer (2010) in her 4 C's model on onboarding emphasizes the importance of culture along with compliance, clarification and connection. Compliance pertains to informing the new employee about the basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations (Bauer, 2010) which could be delivered through a well written appealing employee handbook which has all the formalized policies and could act as a ready reckoner. Though such a material is generally shared with the new joiners in the first week of their employment, however, companies which share such materials during the pre-boarding can secure more time for other activities during the first day or week and also able to retain 81% of their new hires in the first year (Davidson, 2018). The connection ensures the formation of interpersonal relationships and establishment of information networks which would facilitate the performance of the new employee and could be achieved through mentorship and arranging introductory meetings with reporting manager and subordinates. Clarification would entail imparting knowledge about the role and the entailing expectations of the organization. When informed about individual targets, timelines and assessment methods early on, new employees found it easy to achieve those goals and also perceived greater importance around the job (Jung, 2014). Clarification could be ensured through meetings with relevant stakeholders and introducing the new employee to employee network groups.

There are several possibilities in the approach and multiple activities that are undertaken as part of the onboarding efforts. Hence, it is very likely that different organizations and industry sectors would be following a different approach to onboarding. Traditionally, onboarding activities have a very high component of physical presence and face to face interaction. The current pandemic has forced many firms to migrate to virtual work to a greater extent. In the post-pandemic period, the attempt would be to reduce the normal face to face interaction to a very low extent possible. Hence, the current approach to onboarding may be not appropriate for the future scenario. The need is to critically examine the current approach and activities, to create a new approach to onboarding that is more conducive with the high virtual work scenario.


To create a proposal for the postpandemic scenario it is imperative to understand the current onboarding best practices in India. For the same, it is necessary to select the most appropriate industry sectors based on suitable criteria. The first criterion was to identify the industry sectors that have a large number of exemplary organizations worth studying. And the second criterion was to select industry sectors that have a possibility of virtual interaction inbuilt into...

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