Employee Onboarding vs. Engagement - 9 Ways to Make Them Complement Each Other

Employee Onboarding vs Engagement - 9 Ways to Make Them Complement Each Other

Think of the first time you landed your dream job. After days of conversations and several rounds of interviews with many people, you finally made it. 

It is finally your first day at the job and you’re all excited.  

You show up in your best outfit, be it offline or in person. You’re eager to make an impression and ready to explore what lies yonder. But then, as things unfold, to your dismay, you find that the onboarding is boring. It is filled with sessions where people talk like zombies and walk off when the time’s up. 

Forget catching up over a cuppa with you, nobody bothers asking you about your apprehensions. Session after session, people turn up and it is the same droning you hear, with hardly a change in their tone.

How many times has this happened to you? And, how many times have you endured an awful onboarding, yet stayed back in the company for more than three years? More importantly, wouldn’t you hate to see this happen to employees who join your company? 

42% of employees do not complete three years following a structured onboarding process

So, in this blog, we’ll explore different ways to successfully onboard employees and engage them, so that they feel at home. Before that let us understand the differences between employee onboarding and engagement. 

Difference between employee engagement and employee onboarding


Employee engagement 

Employee onboarding 


A continuous process that lasts as long as the employee remains with the company throughout the employees job tenure 

One time - usually lasts a few days or a week 

When does it begin? 

Begins when an employee accepts the offer 

Begins when the employee is about to join the company 

When does it end? 

It ends when an employee leaves or retires 

It ends within a few days or weeks of joining 


Includes meetings, training, quizzes, fun events, etc. 

Includes presentations, introductions, and brief meetings 

Staff involvement 

Staff involvement is high, including staff from other departments 

Staff involvement is low. Generally handled by HR, managers, team leaders, etc. 

Growth opportunities 

Lots of opportunities to grow, inter-departmental transfers, etc. 

None, since it marks the beginning of an employee’s career is a one-time procedure 

Mentorship opportunities 

High, chances to work under mentors and coaches 



Culture is imbibed through all activities 

A basic introduction to the company culture


Employee engagement - A continuous process that lasts as long as the employee remains with the company throughout the employee’s job tenure.

Employee onboarding - One time - usually lasts a few days or a week.

When does it begin? 

Employee engagement - Begins when an employee accepts the offer.

Employee onboarding - Begins when the employee is about to join the company.

When does it end? 

Employee engagement - It ends when an employee leaves or retires.

Employee onboarding - It ends within a few days or weeks of joining.


Employee engagement - Includes meetings, training, quizzes, fun events, etc.

Employee onboarding - Includes presentations, introductions, and brief meetings.

Staff involvement:

Employee engagement - Staff involvement is high, including staff from other departments.

Employee onboarding - Staff involvement is low. Generally handled by HR, managers, team leaders, etc. 

Growth opportunities:

Employee engagement - Lots of opportunities to grow, inter-departmental transfers, etc.

Employee onboarding - None, since it marks the beginning of an employee’s career is a one-time procedure.

Mentorship opportunities:

Employee engagement -  High, chances to work under mentors and coaches.

Employee onboarding -  None.


Employee engagement -  Culture is imbibed through all activities.

Employee onboarding - A basic introduction to the company culture.

So, in effect, employee onboarding is a tool in the larger scheme of employee engagement. Clearly, it is a one-time affair. However, both of these are equally critical in the employee’s tenure that you cannot ignore either. 

Therefore, let us examine how to engage employees from the onboarding process until their departure. 

9 ways to engage with employees from their onboarding process 

1. Know them inside out 

I remember during the onboarding for my first job, there were about sixty of us signing our papers the same day! For the first few days, we struggled to remember everybody’s names and often got them wrong. 


But the Human Resource managers had seen our pictures and portfolios many times before we came onboard. They were so familiar with us that they picked specific instances of our college internships and referred to them in our conversations. That was a revelation! 

It showed their sincerity in knowing more about employees and making us feel comfortable.

2. Start engaging early 

Don’t wait for the employee to come to you to begin engaging with them. Speak to them often from the moment they start different stages of interviews. 

Look into their concerns and queries, and build a trustful relationship with them. As you begin to interact with them, realize that you’re one of the few people they know at the organization and spend enough time with them to make them feel comfortable. 

3. Involve your employees 

Get your employees and managers to speak to them even before they come onboard. It helps them understand the team and its members before they join. During the onboarding process, make sure you have people from all your departments speak to the new joiners. This way, they know who to reach out to for their queries. 

4. Get them a buddy 

Companies like Drift ensure every new employee has a ‘Driftmate’ to help them find answers to questions and to be a ‘connection outside their department.’ It helps new employees know about the company faster and the onboarding process is smoother. It also helps other employees take a little more responsibility outside their jobs and roles. 


A Microsoft survey found that 97% of new hires indicated that they became more productive after meeting with their buddies more than eight times in the first three months

Make it simple for the person assigned to be the new joiner's friend too. They already have a ton of work in their hands. Provide them a simple checklist of the things you expect them to complete for a new joiner. 

5. Share company-related documents 

Share documents that explain your company’s vision and values to employees who have accepted your offer. Make learning about the company more entertaining for new employees with fun facts, trivia, quizzes, etc. For senior employees, it could even be confidential information, such as sales numbers, product roadmap, etc. 

Even the smallest company has its own history, which only the founders know. This rich history needs to be celebrated to build a more inclusive workplace culture in the long run.

6. Share goodies 

As a company, if you have a budget for goodies, make sure your new joiners receive it. It could be anything ranging from coffee mugs, T-shirts, bags, notepads, etc. In a virtual onboarding session, it might be tough to ensure delivery of such goodies to employee homes, but try using innovative methods with virtual goodies. 


One good way could be to pair up a new joiner with an existing employee living nearby as a buddy, and deliver goodies to the former’s home. This gives an opportunity for people to meet unknown faces and to get to know each other.

7. Make it personal 

Add a personal touch to whatever you do to engage employees. It could be sending handwritten notes or letters or leaving a handwritten note at their desk, welcoming them. If you have a bigger budget, it could be pens or bags with their names engraved on them.

It serves two purposes: 1) Employees develop a sense of belonging. 2) It acts as a branding exercise as well- imagine a new joiner proudly flaunting a company bag in a subway - it is sure to attract more visits to your careers page. 

8. Use technology

Use technology as an enabler to better engage with your employees. For example, send surveys after an onboarding session and gather feedback from new employees to find out if the session was helpful. It could be as simple as spending an extra hour with the VP of Human Resources to know about growth opportunities.  


When you start collecting regular data over a 3-month period, you will notice a pattern. Use these insights to plan employee engagement activities that address these points raised by new joiners. 

9. Use videos 

Videos are the easiest-to-consume media in the present world. Companies that do not have an active strategy that uses videos to engage job seekers and employees will most definitely not be preferred. So, use videos to onboard employees faster. It could be pre-recorded sessions, demos of products/services, employee testimonials, etc. 

Remember, making videos need not be complicated and can be used for any occasion. For example, you want to catch up with an employee who has accepted your offer. All that you need to do is whip out your smartphone, record your message, and send it to them via a Google drive link. It is far more personal, efficient, and goes a long way in building trust. 


Besides, when you have a collection of such videos, you can also post them on your social media pages. Remember to use simple tools like a YouTube banner maker to have a thriving Youtube channel that attracts the right candidates. 


According to Deloitte Research, 85% of executives highly value employee engagement for their organizations. That’s because employee engagement deals with how employees feel about the state of affairs of a company and acts as a strong barometer for its overall health. 

Three factors stand out as driving forces for better employee engagement: 

  • There is stiff competition for Talent Acquisition
  • Due to social media and a thriving peer network, information flows seamlessly from inside the organization to outside 
  • Workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse 

That is why companies must plan their employee engagement activities and recognize it as a strategic need, rather than merely checking boxes. Fabulous onboarding is the first step in getting this right. 


This is a guest blog from Karthik Subramanian, Senior Content Manager, Picmaker

Originally posted on June 21, 2021

Karthik Subramanian
Written by Karthik Subramanian

Karthik Subramanian is a senior content manager at Picmaker. He loves all forms of SaaS marketing, especially the ones involving guerilla tactics. Besides that, he loves exploring the Japanese culture, and helping people make career decisions.

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