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The Critical Role of Onboarding in Employee Retention and Mitigating Human Risk

Effective onboarding goes beyond mere orientation; it is a comprehensive process that integrates new hires into the organizational culture, aligns them with company values, and equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their roles effectively. Patel and Mohanty (2023) highlight the evolution of onboarding practices, emphasizing the shift towards virtual onboarding and the integration of technology and automation. These trends not only reflect the changing nature of work but also underscore the importance of personalization and continuous learning in retaining talent.

The study further clarifies the impact of onboarding on organizational culture and turnover rates, demonstrating that well-structured onboarding programs are crucial for building a positive organizational culture and enhancing employee retention (Patel and Mohanty, 2023). This is particularly relevant in the technology sector, where the rapid pace of change and the need for specialized skills make employee engagement and retention paramount.

The Impact of Onboarding on Engagement and Retention

The research by Walker-Schmidt et al. (2022) provides empirical evidence of the positive impact of onboarding on employee engagement and retention in the IT sector. Their findings indicate that employees who participate in extended onboarding programs exhibit higher levels of engagement and are more likely to remain with the company. This underscores the value of onboarding in not only mitigating human risks but also in building a loyal and committed workforce.

Here are a few other key statistics (Georgiev & Dobrilova, 2023):

Key Onboarding Statistics

  • 58% of programs prioritize processes and paperwork with an average of 54 tasks to complete.
  • A negative onboarding experience means 2x the likelihood of employees seeking new opportunities.
  • Standard onboarding boosts retention by 50% while great onboarding leads to 69% of employees staying for three years.
  • Job satisfaction triples when career development is a focus during onboarding.
  • Effective programs lead to higher productivity and a 54% increase in employee engagement.
  • 77% of new employees achieve their first performance milestone with formal onboarding.

With the cost of employee turnover ranging from 16% to 20% of the employee’s salary to re-fill the vacancy, companies cannot afford to neglect having a robust onboarding program. 

Further exacerbating this scenario, 60% of companies reportedly do not set any goals or milestones for new hires, a practice pivotal for guiding new employees through a structured progression path during their initial period in an organization (Georgiev & Dobrilova, 2023). Over one-third of companies lack any structured onboarding process at all, indicating a substantial gap in the adoption of comprehensive onboarding strategies. This suggests that despite the widely recognized importance of effective onboarding for employee retention, productivity, and satisfaction, a significant portion of the corporate world has yet to fully embrace or invest in robust programs.

The absence of a robust onboarding process in many companies can be attributed to a variety of factors, each contributing to the oversight or undervaluation of comprehensive onboarding strategies, including:

  • Lack of Awareness or Understanding
  • Resource Constraints
  • Organizational Culture and Resistance to Change
  • Rapid Growth or High Turnover Rates
  • Misalignment of Priorities
  • Lack of Feedback or Evaluation Mechanisms
  • Technological Limitations

However, the benefits of investing in comprehensive onboarding programs—ranging from enhanced employee engagement and retention to reduced compliance risks—far outweigh these challenges.

Onboarding and Human Risk Management

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the opportunity to effectively incorporate onboarding as part of a comprehensive Human Risk Management (HRM) plan. HRM involves identifying and mitigating risks related to employee behavior that could affect an organization’s cybersecurity posture. The benefits include:

  • Behavioral Change: Targeted training is focused on changing behaviors by addressing the specific risk profiles and learning needs of employees.
  • Increased Vigilance: By focusing on the areas of greatest risk, training during onboarding increases awareness and vigilance among employees about the cyber threats most relevant to their own roles and behaviors.  
  • Empowerment of Employees: Onboarding gives the company the opportunity to empower employees by providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to recognize and respond to cyber threats, fostering a proactive security culture.
  • Compliance and Risk Management: Targeted training also supports compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards. This approach helps manage legal and operational risks by ensuring that training is relevant and effective. 
  • Reduction in Incident Rates: The ultimate goal of targeted training during the onboarding process is to reduce the rate of incidents caused by human error. By addressing the specific ways in which employees are most likely to contribute to security breaches, organizations can see a measurable decrease in cyber incidents, which in turn reduces the potential financial and reputational damage. 

In essence, targeted human risk management training during onboarding is a critical component of a comprehensive HRM strategy. It not only moves the needle on decreasing cyber incidents caused by human error but also builds a more resilient and security-aware organizational culture. 


Creating a Robust Onboarding Program

A robust employee onboarding program is a critical component of an organization’s success, ensuring that new hires feel welcomed, valued, and prepared to contribute to the company’s goals from day one. Here’s what should be included in a comprehensive onboarding program:

Pre-boarding Activities

  • Welcome Communication: Before the employee’s first day, send out a welcome message or package, including details about the first day, what to expect, and any necessary paperwork that can be completed in advance.
  • Access Setup: Ensure that new hires have access to necessary systems, email accounts, and equipment prior to or on their first day.

First Day Orientations

  • Formal Introduction: Introduce them to the team and key contacts and provide a tour of the office facilities when possible.
  • Company Culture Overview: Present the company’s mission, values, and culture to align the new employee with organizational expectations and ethos.
  • Administrative Onboarding: Complete of any outstanding paperwork and logistical setup including workspaces, IT access, and security clearances.

Comprehensive Training Program

  • Role-Specific Training Related to Cybersecurity: Provide detailed training sessions tailored to the new employee’s job responsibilities, including tools, software, and processes they’ll be using.
  • Role-Specific Task Training: Provide detailed training sessions covering the spectrum of job tasks the employee will be expected to perform.
  • Company Policies and Procedures: Review important policies, such as security, privacy, HR policies, and compliance requirements.
  • Mentorship or Buddy System: Assign a mentor or buddy to provide guidance, answer questions, and help integrate the new hire into the team.
  • Access to Knowledge Bases: Direct employees to resources or knowledge bases where they can find information and answers independently.

Integration into the Team

  • Team-Building Activities: Engage in activities designed to foster relationships with existing team members, encouraging collaboration and camaraderie.
  • Meetings with Key Stakeholders: Schedule meetings with key stakeholders to establish important working relationships and understand cross-departmental dependencies.
  • Social Events: Encourage participation in company-wide events, team lunches, or other social gatherings to build personal connections within the team.

Continuous Learning and Development

  • Ongoing Training Opportunities: Provide access to resources for continuous professional development, including workshops, courses, and seminars.
  • Career Path Discussions: Discuss career progression, goals, and how they align with organizational objectives.

Regular Feedback and Evaluation

  • Initial Check-ins: Schedule regular meetings within the first weeks and months to address questions, provide feedback, and adjust the onboarding process as necessary.
  • Formal Review Milestones: Set up 30, 60, and 90-day review sessions to evaluate the new employee’s adaptation to the role, provide constructive feedback, and discuss any adjustments or support needed.

Implementing a robust onboarding program like this ensures that employees feel supported and engaged from the outset, laying the foundation for a productive and long-lasting relationship with the organization. It’s an investment in the workforce that pays dividends in terms of employee satisfaction, retention, and overall organizational performance.

Onboarding is a critical strategy for employee engagement and retention as well as mitigating human risks. By aligning new hires with organizational values, equipping them with necessary skills, and fostering a culture of continuous learning and development, onboarding programs can both reduce cost and improve overall organizational resilience. As the technology sector continues to evolve, the importance of effective onboarding in managing human risks and supporting long-term success cannot be overstated. Organizations that recognize and invest in the strategic value of onboarding will be better positioned to navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape and achieve their objectives in an increasingly competitive and fast-paced industry.



Georgiev, D., & Dobrilova, T. (2023). 33 Startling Employee Onboarding Statistics to Know in 2024). TechJury. Published Jan. 2024

Patel, P., & Mohanty, R. (2023). Trends in Onboarding Improve the Employee Retention: An In-depth Literature Review. Journal of Applied Management – Jidnyasa, 15(1), 39–50.

Walker-Schmidt, W., Kaul, C., & Papadakis, L. C. (2022). Onboarding Effects on Engagement and Retention in the IT Sector. Impacting Education, 7(4), 8–15.


Steve King

Senior Vice President, CyberEd

King, an experienced cybersecurity professional, has served in senior leadership roles in technology development for the past 20 years. He began his career as a software engineer at IBM, served Memorex and Health Application Systems as CIO and became the West Coast managing partner of MarchFIRST, Inc. overseeing significant client projects. He subsequently founded Endymion Systems, a digital agency and network infrastructure company and took them to $50m in revenue before being acquired by Soluziona SA. Throughout his career, Steve has held leadership positions in startups, such as VIT, SeeCommerce and Netswitch Technology Management, contributing to their growth and success in roles ranging from CMO and CRO to CTO and CEO.

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