Onboarding - the final step in a successful recruitment

Onboarding is more than an introduction programme and checklists. Onboarding fundamentally concerns making sure that the new employee gets off to the best possible start in his/her new job. This may sound simple, but requires careful consideration by both colleagues and manager. 

Some of the questions you can ask yourself as a manager are:

  • How can we ensure that the new employee quickly understands the workplace culture?
  • How can we ensure that the new employee achieves a good relationship with his/her new colleagues and management?
  • How can we ensure that the requirements set up matches the ambitions, expectations and skills of the new employee?

It is therefore important that the onboarding is based on the new employee’s needs and not only what the department/unit wishes to present.

Before the first day at work

After the employment contract has been signed and before the employee starts in his/her new position, the department/unit has an opportunity to introduce the new employee to the workplace, and to clarify expectations. 

At this point, the new employee is particularly open for receiving new information. It is therefore a good idea to send information and welcome material to the new employee, so that he/she already feels welcome and part of the workplace before the first day at work.

All new employees will automatically receive an invitation to the Digital Welcome to Aarhus University when they have set up their AU password and AU email address. Therefore, it may be a good idea to help new employees gain access to their AU email as early as possible after employment. We also recommend you to send any relevant local information such as welcome guides and/or letters along with an overview of the employee’s closest colleagues. 

During this period, all of the practical details such as desk, computer, chair and access to various systems, etc., must be prepared. See the checklist in the toolkit to the right.

Information concerning international employees

Certain aspects must be considered in relation to onboarding new international staff:

  • Should the new international employee be offered Danish language and cultural training? If yes, should the training take place during working hours as part of starting in the new job? 
  • Consider whether the department/unit should offer to cover relocation expenses, airfare, costs of work and residence permit (for non-EU citizens), cf. AU’s legal basis.
  • Tax advice may also be necessary. In these cases, consider whether the department/unit pays for external tax advisory services.

Consider whether there will be accompanying family members that may require special attention prior to their arrival.  They may benefit from special offers from International Staff Office Expat Partner Programme and from Relocation Service.

The first day at work

After the first day at work, the new employee will go home with many new impressions. It is therefore important that the immediate manager, the closest colleagues and the buddy set aside plenty of time for the new employee to feel welcome.

It is also a good idea to consider how many people the new employee will meet during the first couple of days. 

The first day at work can include elements as:

  • Breakfast with closest colleagues and manager
  • Meeting with closest colleague(s) or buddy
    An informal start-up meeting with the closest colleague(s) or buddy, at which the new employee is introduced to the local rules/normes and has the opportunity to ask questions.
  • Meeting with the employee’s immediate manager
    A meeting with the immediate manager, where sufficient time is set aside to introduce the organization, the department and focus on the team's tasks, processes and how the new employee can contribute to them. It also focuses on workplace culture. What characterizes the department/unit in terms of social tone, collegial interaction, well-being, meetings, etc.

    In your preparation for the start-up interview, you can find inspiration in the following reflection questions:  
    • What characterizes our culture today? 
    • Do we have challenges with our workplace culture that should be shared with the new employee? How do we work with these? Have we launched initiatives?
    • What characterizes a good employee and colleague here with us?
    • How can the new employee contribute positively to the culture of the department? 

       Remember to leave room for the new employee to ask questions.

  •  Specific assignment
    Give the new employee a small, but specific assignment to complete on the first day. The assignment should not be too extensive or require too much external contact, but may be a minor task in the new employee’s portfolio of tasks.

Information concerning international employees

For international employees, the first day at work should focus on:

  • Encouraging the international employee to attend a Getting Started in Denmark event, to obtain a CPR-number (civil reg.), tax card, and EU residence permit, as well as important information about practical matters upon arrival.
  • Information about or a visit to the Helpdesk for International Staff, where employees can drop by to receive an international welcome package and get answers to any questions.     

The first 30 days

The first 30 days is the period in which the employee forms an impression of the workplace and is introduced to and assigned tasks.

It is therefore important to set aside time to discuss observations and considerations made. The considerations may relate to almost anything, but there should generally be focus on the following topics:

  • Culture - at least one meeting should be arranged at which any surprises and observations can be discussed.
  • Rules and processes - it is important that a person is available to answer any questions about rules and processes.
  • Networking and cooperation – the new employee should be introduced to the working networks central to their performance. The immediate manager and colleagues play a special role in helping the new employee into the relevant networks.
  • Competences and competence development - the new employee should, as a minimum, be able to independently undertake minor tasks and be acquainted with the most central processes.

The new employee’s buddy, colleagues and manager have a special responsibility to ensure that the new employee receives ongoing feedback.

Information concerning international employees

  • Culture - in connection with introduction of international employees, there should be special focus on the workplace culture. Therefore, you should consider your workplace culture and describe this carefully, since nothing will be a given for new international employees. 
  • Family - if there are any accompanying family members, this can have a considerable impact on the employee’s well-being. Ask about the family and make sure that they have access to the assistance and the resources needed.

The first 90 days

At the end of the first 90 days, a three-month follow-up interview will be held at which the manager and employee evaluate the first 90 days. As a manager, it is important to continuously clarify expectations, provide feedback and be clear about aspects such as:

  • The complexity of tasks
  • The volume of tasks
  • The quality of deliveries
  • Independence in the performance of tasks

It is also important to focus on:

  • Culture - after 90 days, the new employee will probably have built up a relatively good sense of the formal and informal culture in the organisation.
  • Rules and processes - by this time, the new employee should be familiar with the rules and processes. This can be ensured by e.g. e-learning, meetings, peer-to-peer training, etc.
  • Networking and cooperation - if only the formal networks have been introduced at this point, it may be a good idea to focus on the informal networks.
  • Competences and competence development – at the end of the first 90 days, the new employee should have the opportunity to discuss competence development and any career perspectives with their immediate manager.

The new employee’s buddy, colleagues and immediate manager still have a responsibility to ensure that the new employee gains an understanding of this.

Information concerning international employees

  • Culture - with regard to international employees cultural aspects play a more significant role.
  • Networking and cooperation - social relations must typically be built up from scratch, and it is therefore important that the workplace helps the new international employee in this respect.
  • Competences and competence development - if the employee is expected to learn Danish, it is important to follow up and ensure that the international employee develops the required Danish language skills.

Being a buddy

A buddy is a colleague who engages closely with the new employee, in order to give him/her the best possible start. The buddy is typically responsible for welcoming the new employee on his/her first day at work, eating lunch together, answering questions about the informal rules and norms, and introducing colleagues, etc.

Usually, the buddy will support the new employee during the first one-three months. A buddy is not a mentor., It is therefore important that the person who is professionally responsible is not assigned to be the new employee’s buddy as well.

When finding a buddy, it is important to find an employee who:

  • is motivated for the role
  • is empathic and can put themselves in the place of the new employee
  • has good communication skills

It is important to allocate the necessary resources to create a good relationship, and the role should be characterised by a high degree of voluntariness.

Information concerning international employees

Consider whether the new international employee should have both a Danish and an international buddy. There may be a need for both. The Danish buddy can help to introduce the Danish culture, values and norms, and help to create relations across cultures. The international buddy can share “insider knowledge” and provide an introduction to Danish culture from an international angle, to make life easier for the new international employee.    

Tools and checklists

Checklist for onboarding

Welcome letter

Digital Welcome

Employment at AU Intro Webinar

Three-month follow-up interview

Seminar about AU as a workplace

Training and instruction

The workplace has a statutory obligation when it comes to ensure that the new employee's work is safe and healthy.

In The Danish Working Environment Authority's guide on training and supervision of the work the following is stated:

The employer must ensure that the employees receive adequate and appropriate training and instruction in executing their tasks in a safe manner. In addition, the employer must make sure to supervise that the employees actually carry out their work in a safe way and follow the instructions (...)

At AU, the occupational health and safety organisation's task is to establish principles for training and instruction for the employees. The principles must be adapted to the working conditions and the employees' needs.