Clearing up the confusion: A guide to employee onboarding terminology


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What do you call the process of bringing successful job applicants into your business?

Is it employee onboarding or pre-boarding or orientation or induction or employee socialization or…

The fact is that all of these terms, in one form or another, are used to describe the awkward grey area that exists between recruitment and HR services.The lack of established industry terminology or agreed definitions for this transitory stage helps to highlight why it's such a challenging area to properly manage.

It’s estimated that nearly a quarter (24 percent) of HR managers’ time is typically devoted to the task of coordinating everything that’s needed to integrate new employees into a business. So for something so vital - it’s s about time we tackled the confusion over terminology.

Here’s the webonboarding breakdown of the key terms and definitions that reflect the modern day approach to employee onboarding:

Employee onboarding

This covers the entire HR process from the moment a job offer is made to the completion of company induction. Successful onboarding means finding fast and efficient ways to handle the complex interchange of information that’s required between HR, hiring managers and onboardees. Employee onboarding starts from the moment the role has been offered.

It includes all of the administrative essentials, such as contracts, references and payroll information. But it should also help to fully integrate new hires into the culture of a company - providing a positive and engaging overall experience.

This could mean helping providing a new employee with helpful information to take the stress out of relocation and providing company guides, videos and welcome packages. So onboarding covers everything that’s needed for efficient admin and productive new employees.


This is a term that’s often used to describe any of the HR processes that take place before a successful new hire starts a role. . So when using the pre-boarding definition, onboarding,  would start after the new hire  has joined the company, with everything prior referred to as pre-boarding. Pre-boarding is a popular term in the USA.

This kind of distinction, however, is becoming increasingly blurred as a new generation of digital onboarding systems provide a seamless process. Paperwork tasks that used to be completed as part of on-site induction can now be pre-completed online before day one.

It’s this changing way in which new hires are able to be handled which is why webonboarding regards the whole process - from job offer to employee integration - as being ‘onboarding’.


This is the part of the onboarding process that takes place after a new hire has started. The form and time it takes varies greatly and depends on the job role, company and HR team.  The challenge with induction is that it can last anywhere from a week to months. It is this part of the process that helps a new hire not only understand a business but their role and enabling to perform as part of that. There are elements of an induction process that can be issued prior to starting a role however it can and often is an ongoing process on arrival at a company.


Orientation tends to look more at the integration of an individual within an organization - making them feel comfortable and to be aware of the wider structures and objectives of the company when they arrive without the learning and development that is associated with induction.

Employee socialization

Another term that covers similar ground to induction and orientation. The emphasis here is more on integrating new hires into the company culture, helping them to bond with colleagues and to ‘fit into’ an organization.

This can be particularly useful for employees who have relocated, helping to provide opportunities for them to build new social circles and discover suitable out-of-work activities. It’s an area that’s easily handled via a digital onboarding solution with guides and links provided to company related clubs and groups.

The onboarding gap

The reason there are so many different interpretations of these terms is because they all cover aspects of the same grey administrative area that exists between recruitment and HR. It’s the ‘neither one thing nor the other’ nature of this onboarding gap that makes it so tricky to define - and also to manage.

A failure to effectively manage employee onboarding continues to be a costly problem for many HR teams. A 2017 global study, commissioned by webonboarding, found that nearly one-in-five (19 percent) of the employees surveyed had left jobs within the first few months because of negative and frustrating onboarding experiences.

It’s the reason that more companies are starting to implement digital onboarding solutions to close the gap and provide a simple, fast and effective way to handle new hires. Along with reduced administrative burden, it’s  able to deliver a much more engaging and positive experience for people coming into a new company.

The verdict

So while it can be frustrating trying to untangle the various terms and meanings - it really doesn’t have to be. ‘Employee onboarding’ is a term that covers all of the different processes and HR tasks that are required to bring new hires into a business.

The webonboarding solution manages onboarding which naturally covers the pre-boarding stage up to and including orientation. A modern cloud solution can seamlessly handle the often ‘grey’ area known as the onboarding gap, taking a preferred candidate right through to day one.


Webonboarding provides a smarter way to onboard new employees into your business - reducing admin time, boosting efficiency and improving employee engagement.

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