Employee onboarding

Employee adaptation at work: stages, participants, examples

Anna Stelmaszyk
Employee adaptation at work: stages, participants, examples

An employee's adaptation, implementation process, or maybe onboarding or orientation - are they always the same thing? Today we're cleaning up the onboarding dictionary and allaying doubts about what these terms specifically mean. So let's get to it!

What is the process of employee onboarding?

Do you know the stories in which a new employee struggles to find his way in the company's organizational structure since the first day? Or when he or she is left high and dry and doesn't even experience a welcome meeting with a direct supervisor or a person responsible for his or her implementation? The example is quite extreme, but unfortunately such situations occur in the labor market.

What is reliable employee adaptation?
Employee adaptation is the process by which a new hire adapts to work in a new environment, in a new role and organization. To put it simply, it is an effective implementation of a newcomer, and a process after which, he or she achieves full productivity at work.

In a nutshell, the adaptation process is well-planned onboarding. Hence, very often, the two terms are used interchangeably. In fact, employee adaptation is a much broader concept than onboarding. It is worth remembering that the adaptation of new employees should be based on a plan which has been developed and improved over the years. Then it will be held more successfully. And it is not just about the smooth handover of company's equipment and a warm welcome to the candidate.

Stages of employee adaptation process

It is no coincidence that employee adaptation is increasingly referred to as the process of employee adaptation. It is not just a point on a timeline. The implementation of new hires does not happen overnight. For this reason, the previously-mentioned process is divided into stages. Their order and content is not a work of chance. So let's take a look at what the ideal adaptation of a new employee looks like.

The employee adaptation process can be compared to a train consisting of many cars which are stages.
The employee adaptation process can be compared to a train consisting of many cars which are stages.


Preboarding is the period between the completed hiring process and the first day at work and the moment when a new hire feels mostly excitement and joy. However, these emotions can quickly turn into stress and uncertainty if there is a lack of contact from the new employer.

That's the reason why the employee adaptation mechanism should begin immediately after the recruitment process. Obviously, the idea is not to overwhelm the new worker with an overload of emails and presentations on how the company operates. Nevertheless, before the employee appears at your company, there is much you can do to make the adaptation processes even more successful.

Your role at this stage, therefore, is to offset any tension and negative emotions in the candidate. When starting the adaptation of a new hires, build their loyalty and commitment, reduce stress and deal with potential doubts at the preboarding stage. You can achieve this by creating a positive onboarding experience in your communication with the candidate.

Who is responsible for this stage?
This stage of employee adaptation won't happen without the coordinated action of HR and payroll, HR and the manager, and even the IT department, which will use this time to set up equipment for the new employee (yes, it's a good idea to take care of providing the employee with equipment as early as the preboarding stage). Anyway, communication at the preboarding stage facilitates interactions. By the time the candidate is on his or her job, one will already know a few colleagues, and will even know who to go to for help to solve problems.


The welcome includes the first day at work and sometimes even the whole week (the so-called welcome week). At that time, make sure that the new employee feels welcome to the company and the team. Introduce them to co-workers, organize a team lunch, show the workplace and hand over access to necessary tools. 

It is really important that at this stage the new employee's interactions should not be limited to the immediate supervisor. The rapid adaptation of the employee also consists in allowing the new organisation member to get to know all the colleagues. Admittedly, the first days at work are not as socially relaxed as, for instance, team-building trips. However, it is worth maintaining a friendly atmosphere and breaking the ice faster.

Who is responsible for the greeting?

A huge role in preparing a warm welcome is played by the manager, HR and buddy. The comfort of the new employee in the first days at work depends on their mutual communication and division of roles. Undoubtedly, the support of an experienced employee, or buddy, will be at a premium here because such a person acts as the good spirit of the implementation, is the first point of contact and a companion who can be asked about all sorts of things in the early days of work.

Often, those first days and the associated division of roles show whether a well thought-out plan for the implementation of a new employee has been created in the organization. An example of chaos, when team members do not know who is supposed to take on the role of buddy is sometimes a valuable lesson for the future and allows us to eliminate possible mistakes that need to be corrected. However, it is probably the best way not to allow this to happen!

Implementation into the organization

Adaptation of a new employee also includes the stage of introduction to the organization's culture. Specifically, it involves introducing the employee to all the company's procedures, providing general information about the company, its strategy and values. Thus, it is the  time of intensive basic training and implementation meetings. The purpose of this stage of an employee's adaptation is to assimilate general knowledge of the formal and informal rules and customs of the organization.

Who is responsible for implementation into the organization?

In organizational implementation, the HR department plays the first fiddle. The adaptation of the employee to his responsibilities or job characteristics should be aligned with the training schedule planned by the HR department.

Position implementation

Presumably, this is the most operational stage of onboarding - and the most crucial. Unfortunately, there are many indications that the employee adaptation process limps along at this very stage in many organizations. What is the reason for this assumption? Let's refer to the numbers.

As our survey shows, 26% of employees in Poland point to onboarding and job implementation as the areas they missed most during onboarding.

Competency implementation is supposed to prepare a new employee to perform the duties of the position independently. This is the time to set the first goals and tasks, as well as for mutual feedback between the manager and the new person. It is worth devoting a lot of attention to this stage because without it, the whole adaptation of a new employee can go wrong. A newcomer who doesn't feel confident in his role and doesn't have the support of a manager will quickly start looking around for a new job.

In extreme cases, an employee's adaptation does not end with the success of signing a permanent contract despite the fact that thanks to the mutual efforts of the HR department and the supervisor, the ideal candidate for the position has been found.

Who is responsible for the position implementation phase?

This phase is led by the novice's immediate supervisor. His or her task is to create an operational plan for the probationary period, monitor the newcomer's progress and support him or her through potential difficulties. For the new employee, good communication with the supervisor, the opportunity to ask him/her about details, to get feedback, and to take his/her time is crucial at this stage.

How long does it take to adapt a new employee? 

In many companies, onboarding is sometimes reduced to a welcome week or just the first day of work. However, it is impossible to prepare a new employee to be fully productive and independent in a newly learned position in such a short period of time.

Although his motivation level may be high, the employee may not feel secure enough to fully commit to his duties yet. A week is far too little for even the best-planned adaptation of an employee to allow them to fully spread their wings. It's also not enough time to successfully adapt the principles of cooperation with other team members. And, after all, the organization cares about the synergy effect, because everyone has to play to one goal.

In an ideal working world, it should take from 3 to 9 months for an employee to be properly implemented. Only then the habits associated with the new duties are constituted, and the employee is on an equal footing with the rest of the team to achieve business goals.

How to check the effectiveness of the employee adaptation process?

Seemingly, measuring the onboarding process may seem controversial. However, it is not about putting pressure on results from the first days on the job, but about thoughtful monitoring of onboarding. Thoughtful, that is, one in which you examine the relevant indicators that are crucial at a given stage of the adaptation process. A realistic belief that the employee's adaptation process is going well allows you to assume that in the future the candidate's performance will be at a high level.

We recommend examining three issues in particular:

  • satisfaction level,
  • knowledge retention,
  • practical activities (i.e. performance, accomplishment of tasks and goals)..
Individual indicators are worth examining throughout the adaptation process
Individual indicators are worth examining throughout the adaptation process

Employee satisfaction survey (pulse-check)

Popular pulse-checks are anonymous surveys that allow you to catch potential problems faced by a newcomer in time. Remember that an employee's difficult adaptation does not necessarily have to result from his or her mistakes. On the contrary! Often it is the fault of the imperfect adaptation process provided for the position.

Thanks to pulse-checks you can check:

  • how the employee enjoys the first weeks at work,
  • what kind of support he/she needs,
  • how he/she evaluates the training materials
  • how his/her cooperation with the manager or buddies looks like.

Knowledge retention survey

With this indicator, you check how the new hires do in assimilating onboarding knowledge.

Reach for short quizzes or online tests in an engaging rather than overwhelming format. It's better to do them more frequently and test smaller portions of knowledge. The key word here is: microlearning.

Performance analysis

Yes, surveying the performance of the work done is also important in the process of adapting a new employee. Therefore, create an operational plan with clear goals and objectives for the time of competency implementation. On its basis, prepare performance indicators that will be used to verify the new person's performance.

Remember that the bar should be suspended adequately to the stage the newcomer is at. Don't put too much pressure on him.  Instead, create a space for him or her to complete tasks and first operational goals in the new role. Remember about the purpose of such a plan. It's about introducing new employees smoothly to real work, not about enforcing and evaluating performance right now, right away.

Employee adaptation, onboarding, orientation - are they always the same thing?

As we mentioned earlier, the terms "employee adaptation" and "onboarding" are used interchangeably. However, if we look at the adaptation process in a broader perspective, we can see that it applies not only to new employees. In their professional journey in the organization, each employee, regardless of seniority, often has to get accustomed. They are part of the life of every company.

A new team leader, a promotion, returning to work after a long illness break - these are just examples of situations in which the work environment or perspective of a particular employee changes. The employee must follow this change, and it is the employer's duty to support him or her on this journey.

Employee adaptation can be read as a much more capacious concept, one that includes both onboarding and reboarding, and adaptation to a change in responsibilities and even in the structure of the organization.

And what about orientation? We go from the general to the specific. Orientation is a narrower term than the process of adaptation. In foreign labor markets, this is how one of the stages of onboarding is referred to, specifically the introduction to the organization or the organization's culture. It usually covers the first week or weeks of new hires.

Adaptation of a new employee - examples

Turning theory into practice, using the example of our clients, we want to show you three interesting adaptation processes that make employees ready for work in an engaging way. Each organization puts emphasis on slightly different stages of onboarding. You may be inspired by them!

Extensive organizational and product training

Danone attaches great importance to the education of new employees and invites them to the 3mam with DANONE program. From the first day of work, new employees can use the Gamfi onboarding application, where they have access to all knowledge. In addition, at the various stages of implementation, employees solve quick knowledge tests, so the company can measure the effectiveness of the program's learning process. Here, the adaptation of a new employee means, first of all, intensive learning about the company and its product offerings.

Engaging preboarding

BGK places emphasis on the first stages of adaptation and strongly supports its employees right from the preboarding phase. This is when new employees are given access to the Gamfi Onboarding application, which they also use during the welcome and induction stage of the organization. What's more, BGK monitors the implementation process on an ongoing basis, surveying employee feedback after one week, three months and one year.

Implementation into a new space

Together with EFL, we faced an interesting challenge to introduce former employees to the new way of working in the new office. From the first day at the new location, employees used an onboarding platform where, guided by a storyline, they discovered the new office and its rules. We used a number of mechanisms that increased employee engagement and motivation to complete missions on the platform. You see? As we mentioned. Employee adaptation is a broad concept. It can also mean the process of implementation into a new environment.

The better an employee's adaptation is planned and carried out in a more thoughtful manner, the greater the chance of an accelerated adaptation process and better results resulting from the hiring of individual employees.

Efficiently adapt a new hire to a new job, role or situation.

Test the Gamfi Onboarding app for free!

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