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Sora’s Guide to Onboarding

The Employee Onboarding Dictionary

For a basic understanding of common terms and steps involved in a great onboarding process.

30/60/90 Day Plan

A document created by a hiring manager, in collaboration with HR, that acts as a roadmap for a new hire’s goals during their first three months with the company. It breaks goals down into 30-, 60- and 90-day increments and makes them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (or SMART), which gives new hires tangible, concrete targets to aim for.  


A celebration of an employee milestone, like working at a company for a specific amount of time. 

Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Recruiting and talent teams use an applicant tracking system to manage open job listings and the candidates who apply to them. In an ATS, candidate information moves through each stage of the interview process.  


Note: Popular ATS’ include Greenhouse and Lever.

Accepted Not Started (ANS)

New hires who have verbally accepted and signed their offer letter and have a start date lined up but have not started at the company yet.

Background check

After a candidate has accepted an offer, most companies perform a background check (with the candidate’s permission). This is to verify a candidate is who they claim to be, review any existing criminal records, and validate education, employment history, and other notable items from their past.

Information returned in a background check comes from a variety of federal, state, and county sources.


A sibling to onboarding, cross-boarding is a great way to invest in your existing employees’ careers. Cross-boarding involves training an employee in a different role at the company or taking on responsibilities in an additional area they’re not already familiar with. This helps existing employees feel empowered and supported during an internal transition.


A division of a company that specializes in a certain facet of business, like people, marketing, sales, etc. A department usually has sub-departments called teams that specialize in other branches of their facet of business. For instance, a sub-department of a people deparment could be compensation and benefits. 

Employee engagement

Employee engagement is the general sense of employee satisfaction at a company at any given time. HR teams and managers can gather both qualitative and quantitative metrics through surveys and feedback to gauge and understand specific emotions, pain points, and perceptions your employees have about your company.

Employee experience

The processes, procedures, and benefits that employees experience throughout each stage of their tenure at the company — from their recruitment to their eventual exit.

Employee profile

An employee profile tells a story of each individual who works at the organization. These often include details like name, address, email, photo, phone number, hire date, and even a brief bio. Employee profiles can be as basic or robust as your HR team finds necessary.

Feedback survey

An employee feedback survey gauges employee sentiment by collecting their comments on specific topics in the workplace. These can be tailored to any topic or issue that HR teams and managers would like to gather insight on. These are typically conducted anonymously, but employees can opt in to share their name, if they feel comfortable doing so.


Note: Popular feedback survey tools include Qualtrics and Lattice.

Growth guides or career tracks

A growth guide or career track is a plan for employees that lists a path of concrete steps they can take to meet their short-term, medium-term, and long-term career goals. These goals are usually focused on attaining certain roles and compensation levels. 

Hiring Manager

A hiring manager is the person a job candidate will report to once they are hired. They typically collaborate with HR when writing the job description, highlighting the duties of the role and the employee experience they’re aiming to provide. They also make the final decision on who to hire after interviews are conducted.

Human Resources

Human resources is a department of an organization that finds, hires, onboards, and supports employees. They also make sure the company adheres to and stays up to date on the latest laws, regulations, policies, and procedures pertaining to the workplace.


See also: People operations; People team

Human Resources Information System (HRIS)

An HRIS, also known as a human resources management system or a human capital management system, helps human resources teams manage and maintain employee information and data. Once a candidate is hired, the HR team (or their HR automation software) moves their information from the ATS to the HRIS. From then on,  they can manage this information throughout their employment in the HRIS.


Note: Popular HRISs include Rippling and BambooHR.

I-9 Verification

I-9 verification is a process that verifies a new hire’s right to work in the United States. It involves authenticating their personal identification documents like a passport, driver’s license, etc. in person or through video chat. The United States requires people teams to complete this process during a new hire’s first three days of employment. 

Job description

A job description illustrates the duties, responsibilities, compensation, and benefits of an open role at the company. It also details the qualifications that the hiring manager is looking for in a candidate. Additionally, it describes what the company does, their mission, their culture, and what it feels like to work there.  

Levels or job leveling

Levels or job leveling is a process that specifies the duties of each of the organization’s roles, carves realistic career tracks for employees, and establishes clear hierarchies within the organization. This creates solid expectations for each employee’s role, clarity into how they fit within the organization, and a firm grasp on what exactly they can do to climb up the ladder. Levels also inform compensation bands.  

New hire

A new hire is an employee who is brand new to the company or, legally speaking, an employee who hasn’t been employed by the company for at least 60 consecutive days. So, if someone leaves the company and chooses to return more than 60 days later, they are considered a “new hire” to HR and should go back through onboarding and other new hire processes, even though they may be a familiar face.

New hire checklist

A new hire checklist is a list of tasks that new hires should complete during their first week of employment. These tasks are usually pretty fundamental, like creating accounts for company-wide and team-specific tools,  learning more about the company, taking a look at the onboarding program that they’re about to start, and truly understanding the company benefits and perks at their disposal.  

New hire dictionary

A document that helps new hires get up-to-speed on terms and acronyms specific to their company, organization, or industry and aren’t considered general knowledge. For example, at Sora

Offer letter

An offer letter is an unofficial document sent to the candidate that your company wants to hire, letting them know they’re interested in bringing them on board and giving them the opportunity to accept or decline the job offer. Offer letters outline the details of what the company is offering as a condition of employment - i.e. job title, pay, benefits, start date, etc. 


Note: Offer letters are typically less detailed than an employment contract.


When you bring new hires into the company, onboarding is essential. In addition to taking care of any paperwork, training, and other tasks within the first few days, weeks, or months on the job, onboarding introduces new hires to the company, helps them ramp up into their new role and team, and makes them feel welcome.  

Onboarding buddy

An onboarding buddy is an employee chosen to develop a professional relationship with a new hire, guiding them through their transition into the company. They’re there to support the new hire, answer their questions, introduce them to the company culture, and act as a point of contact that supports the new hire as they progress through their onboarding.


Note: It can be beneficial to assign an onboarding buddy from a different department, or, assign two onboarding buddies - one from the new hire’s team and one from a different team.

Onboarding sessions

Onboarding sessions are rundowns of the core topics about your company. These sessions usually cover the company’s history, culture, mission, values, product, employee benefits, etc.      


Orientation is the first official introduction that a new hire has with the company (typically on their first day). Orientation can include a welcome breakfast or lunch, an overview of the company policies, mission, and departments, completion of any necessary new hire paperwork, a tour of the office (or virtual tools, if working remotely), and introductions to the team. 


Note: Different components of orientation can be run by different team members. For example, HR will do an overview of all of the crucial paperwork that needs to be completed, while the hiring manager will invite everyone to a team lunch.

Org Chart

An org chart is a visual representation of the structure or hierarchy of an organization. It clearly shows who rolls up to who and who the decision makers are within entire teams, departments, and the company. 

People Operations

People operations, otherwise known as People Ops, is the function of human resources that focuses on creating programs such as training and development, employee recognition, feedback and communication, and creating an inclusive culture.  

People team

The People team is responsible for running the people operations lifecycle (see: People operations). This includes everything from recruiting, hiring and training, and managing employee engagement. Their goal is to make sure employees feel valued and appreciated and continue to grow. This allows them to feel connected and motivated to keep working for the company.


Pre-boarding is the process of gradually introducing your new hire to the company and making them feel welcome prior to their first official day. This can involve sending congratulations and welcome emails with a few FYIs and just keeping in touch with them before they start their new job. Pre-boarding is an extension of the onboarding process that adds a few additional touchpoints to make a positive impact on your new hire.

Ramp (or ramp-up) period

The amount of time it takes a new hire to operate at full capacity and produce at an optimal level.


When a candidate who applies to an open role is referred to the recruiting team or a hiring manager by an existing employee. Usually, companies reward employees who refer new employees with a referral bonus. There is also usually a referral process that describes who is eligible to refer someone, how to refer someone, and suggestions for referring diverse candidates. 

Recruiter or recruiting

A recruiter searches for, finds, and reaches out to qualified job candidates to consider an open role at their company. They usually conduct the first-round interview with them and then hand off the best-fit candidates to a hiring manager and department heads to interview. 

Role responsibilities

Clearly defined duties and expectations for a role.

Salary bands and/or salary transparency 

Salary bands are ranges of pay that a company is willing to shell out to each of their roles, depending on the department, team, and job level. 


Company-branded apparel and office supplies gifted to new hires before or on their first day. A great way to welcome a new hire to the company. 

Systems or platforms

Company-wide and team-specific tools that employees use to communicate, track their benefits and pay, give feedback on the company’s employee experience, and, most importantly, to do their jobs well. 


A team is a sub-department within a department. They specialize in other branches of the department’s main facet of business. For instance, a sub-department of a people department could be compensation and benefits.


A program that educates new hires on the company’s product, industry, goals, mission, and values through various learning formats, like presentations, 1:1 instruction, video modules, and eBooks. 


Guiding principles and fundamental beliefs that highlight the things a company finds important, which informs their goal-setting and decision-making. 


Training an existing employee who has just been promoted to a new role within the company like they’re a brand new employee who has just been hired. Up-boarding is crucial for employees who are moving from individual contributor to manager, taking on a leadership position, or jumping into an entirely new career path within the company. 


A sequence of tasks that, when completed, will accomplish an objective, like a new hire’s onboarding or an existing employee’s offboarding. 


Sora’s Guide to Onboarding

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