Exceptional onboarding: creating an outstanding employee experience from the start

Munich, December 2023

Exceptional onboarding: creating an outstanding employee experience from the start Munich, December 2023


reat onboarding makes a difference to any employee journey. As the automotive industry’s transformation process accelerates, attracting, integrating, developing, and retaining employees with mission-critical capabilities is key to assuring future readiness and successful transformation.

Here we outline a “but different” recommendation for onboarding programs.

The automotive industry finds itself at a crossroads, navigating the challenging transformation driven by connected, autonomous, shared, and electric (CASE) vehicles in a digitized world. In this era of unprecedented change, future readiness and successful transformation inevitably require the ability to reshape capability and skill portfolios efficiently. It’s not just about staying competitive – it goes beyond simple competitiveness – it’s about dynamically redesigning the capability portfolio that serves as a foundation for driving future innovation and delivering greater customer value.

To address this challenge, the industry recognizes the pivotal role of onboarding both new hires and existing staff coming from upskilling and reskilling programs. The effectiveness of this process is crucial for closing strategic skill gaps and ensuring the rapid integration of new arrivals. At the same time, it acts as a protective measure and validates the substantial investments made in acquiring talent, fostering leadership, and developing functional skills. Against the backdrop of a shrinking average employee tenure, onboarding has emerged as a critical success factor. It acts as the driving force behind boosting commitment, strengthening retention rates, speeding up time-to-productivity, and ultimately cutting down on staff turnover. Onboarding goes beyond its usual role, becoming a strategic necessity that not only tackles challenges but turns them into chances to improve organizational effectiveness.

Facts tell a different story, but underline the importance of exceptional onboarding:

  • In 2021, a mere 12% of employees in the United States felt that their onboarding experience was satisfactory, according to Gallup (2021)
  • 1 out of 3 HR professionals reported that the quality of their company’s onboarding processes was not up to standard (ClickBoarding, 2020)
  • 35% of companies have zero spend on onboarding (Enboarder, 2019)

On the flip side, a remarkable 70% of those who underwent exceptional onboarding describe their job as “the best possible job” (Gallup 2021). This contrast highlights the immense potential onboarding holds for shaping employees’ perception of their roles and, by extension, their commitment to the organization.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is more than just setting up your laptop and finding your seat; it’s about grasping your responsibilities, understanding the context of your role, familiarizing yourself with processes and tools, and immersing yourself in the company’s unique culture. And it should be even more than that. As we see it, onboarding is the art of forging connections and relationships, instilling purpose, weaving the company’s DNA, and nurturing commitment.

In essence, onboarding must create those legendary moments that can define the trajectory of high-performing employees. The efforts put into recruitment and people development should come to fruition during the onboarding process. However, the reality looks different. Onboarding processes often seem to be “undermanaged,” leading to a disconnect between potential and performance.

So, what concrete results can be achieved by an exceptional onboarding process?

  • Improved retention rates by more than 50% (Harvard Business Review, 2018) 
  • Increased productivity by over 60% (Harvard Business Review, 2018)
  • Strengthened employee commitment by almost 90% (BambooHR, 2023)

By the way, we are not simply talking about the onboarding of a few individuals in this article. Reviewing our actual project landscape, we conclude that it regularly involves hundreds, and even up to several thousand new team members annually at certain clients. This large-scale onboarding requirement and its significance cannot be overstated. In practical terms, it goes hand in hand with CASE-related upskilling/reskilling initiatives, venture building projects, the setting up of new hubs and plants, post-merger integration situations, and lots more.

The four phases of onboarding

Source: Berylls Strategy Advisors

Onboarding – cornerstones of a “but different” concept

The onboarding journey is far more than just a day-one matter. It begins long before the new employee walks through the office doors or embarks on an upskilling journey. A strong focus is usually on the first 6–12 weeks, but it extends well up to the end of the first year in a new position. Effective onboarding is a journey, not a destination where the mutual understanding that you are an exceptional employer is established.

To ensure an outstanding onboarding process, our latest project experience indicates that a holistic approach that combines a fluid offering of collective and individual nuggets, action orientation, culture alignment, and networking is key. For organizations dealing with a significant number of new employees, especially in a global environment, the digitization of onboarding is essential in order to meet the efficiency requirement.

So lastly, here are the “but different” key factors that can help secure the ultimate success of your onboarding program:

1. Modular and flexible learning journeys: Firstly, onboarding is based on purpose and outcome. Tailor onboarding content to specific roles and requirements, allowing for individualized learning. Offer a mix of mandatory and optional content and provide additional nuggets for those who want to explore further and deeper. Onboarding should be focused on action, with a “learn, apply, experience” approach. Avoid overwhelming employees with information and ensure that the content aligns closely with daily business needs.

2. Purpose and culture integration: Instill a sense of belonging by aligning onboarding with your organization’s purpose and culture. Create emotionally empowering experiences and moments that foster a shared mindset, e.g. a special brand, product, or cultural experiences. Make new employees or team members feel like essential teammates and celebrate their unique talents, contribution, and perspectives in meetings and all-hands situations. Always provide equal and transparent access to information. Help employees to feel like they can be their true self and make sure you find ways to openly value differences.

3. Fostering networks and relationships: Building relationships within the organization is key. Invest time in fostering cross-functional relationships, whether in digital, blended, or physical formats, to encourage interaction with colleagues from across the organization. Build and grow communities as a forum for commitment, interaction, and communication around onboarding-related topics (e.g. special use cases, processes, methods, tools, etc.), and empower participants by providing peer support. 

4. Put digital learning at the center: When it comes to scalability, flexibility, online and offline availability, effectiveness, and efficiency the advantages of digital learning in onboarding situations outweigh the disadvantages of higher initial costs and longer preparation times before programs can be launched. Live online formats can be a significant part of blended learning and make highly personalized learning journeys possible. This transition is not confined to individual organizations, but is essential on a larger scale in a world that has become smaller thanks to digitization.

5. AI-based learning journeys: The use of AI in onboarding boosts efficiency when it comes to creating relevant nuggets and enables the deep-search and auto-tagging of content across your databases. Truly personalized training and virtual coaches that provide real-time feedback, answer common questions, and offer guidance on company policies and procedures are no longer a utopia. Finally, AI can leverage large amounts of data to identify trends and patterns in the onboarding process. This data can be used to continually refine and improve the onboarding experience, leading to higher employee satisfaction and improved retention rates.


By following these five key factors, your onboarding program can ensure that every employee, whether new to the organization or coming from an upskilling and/or reskilling program, has the best possible start. Give your employees the time they need to acclimatize to their roles, understanding that the investment will pay off over time.
Remember, you’re not starting from scratch. Many intelligent and engaging applications and experiences are already in place. They might only need to be adapted to form a holistic approach and enriched by some new but already proven pieces of technology. By doing so, your onboarding can become a transformative and rewarding journey for both employees and the organization as a whole.

We are happy to support you in the conception, design, and implementation of effective onboarding programs that strongly engage your workforce and thus dynamically develop your capability landscape for driving future innovation and increasing customer value. Please contact us to find out more. We look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Frank Heines

Associate Partner

Wiktoria Bulka


Dr. Frank Heines
Dr. Frank Heines (1967) joined Berylls Strategy Advisors as Principal in September 2016, and is based at Berylls’ Swiss office. He started his career at the postal automation division of Siemens AG before changing to a medium-sized electrical and electronics company where, in his position as responsible for the technical department, he soon became member of the board. In 2003, he began his consulting career at the Malik Management Zentrum St. Gallen, becoming Partner and member of the group management board in 2007. The focus of his consulting work lies in strategy development, organizational design, productivity increase as well as in integrated organizational development and transformational management.
Economics at the University of Constance, Germany; business administration at the University of Zurich; Ph.D. at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.