Does Onboarding Mean You Are Hired?

February 10, 2023・5 mins read
Does Onboarding Mean You Are Hired?

Receiving an offer for a job you really want is a great feeling. The job may have better pay, benefits, and flexibility than your previous job. And you’re over the moon in your excitement to start a new role with a new organization. But as you begin the onboarding process, you may wonder, does onboarding mean you are hired?

In most companies, beginning the onboarding program for a new employee means that the job has been filled. The employee can rest easy, knowing they've likely attained a long-term position where they can grow professionally. However, it’s important to read the new hire paperwork. In some instances, the new job comes with a probationary period ranging from a few weeks to a few months. Here we'll help you understand what it means and what to expect when your new position includes a probationary period.

If you start the onboarding process, are you hired?

Typically, when you get the job offer letter, accept and sign, and kick off the onboarding process, you’re hired for the position. However, it’s important to understand that many jobs have a probationary period of 1-3 months. For some companies, it can last 6-12. Your new company should inform you of the length of time for your probationary period and the mutual expectations therein.

Why companies have probationary periods

Being a probationary hire isn’t outside the "norm" in the business world. It may make even more sense once you consider that 47 million U.S. employees quit their positions in 2021, according to the 2022 Retention Report by the Work Institute. Many companies are dedicating probationary periods for better training and vetting that might help prevent issues resulting from premature commitment.

What does it mean to be a probationary hire?

Many new employees confuse the terms probationary hire with being “on probation,” which can evoke feelings of wrong-doing. Employees may also confuse it with corporate disciplinary programs, like 90-day performance improvement plans. But being a probationary new hire doesn’t mean the new employee is in trouble or perceived as "less-than." Employers understand that new employees need time to acclimate to workplace culture, complete training programs, and achieve high performance. It’s also a time of evaluation for both the employee and the employer. Employees have the time they need to determine whether or not the job aligns with their career aspirations. Likewise, employers have time to determine if an employee is a good fit within the organization.

Pros and cons of probationary hires

Most employee onboarding programs include some form of a probationary period. Here's a look at some of the pros and cons for new hires and human resources.

Pros of probationary periods

  • The new hire has a chance to make a good first impression while still learning the ropes.
  • New hires have time to read the employee handbook and ask clarifying questions.
  • An assigned mentor can guide the newly hired employee, answering questions and sharing insight from someone who’s been there awhile.
  • A new employee can learn the key elements of the job without the pressure of having to perform perfectly.
  • New employees have the chance to complete onboarding activities and training and work with other employees within the organization. They also have time to receive feedback on their performance for a better understanding of their position.

Cons of probationary periods

  • A new employee may feel like they’re under a microscope, where everything they do is being scrutinized.
  • The probationary period may not come with benefits, such as health insurance or PTO, available to non-probationary employees.
  • During the probationary period and onboarding process, employees may not feel their job with the new organization is secure. That can be stressful, especially if they’ve relocated for the position.
  • Either employee or employer may decide that the situation is not a good fit.

So when does onboarding mean you are hired?

Essentially, from day 1. But as in any employment situation, duration is not guaranteed. Furthermore, the onboarding and probationary periods may feel particularly precarious due to their more-tentative nature. Recognize that employee onboarding consists of many steps over time. These may range from conducting a background check and drug test to hosting a successful orientation and providing ongoing support. The process often involves meeting the other employees, pairing with a mentor, and completing required training modules. Probationary periods don't have to leave anyone feeling cautious. They can ultimately set the skills, expectations, and first impressions that drive a new employee to excel and thrive long-term. Want to learn more about effective onboarding? Download our definitive guide to employee onboarding now. For more business and career-related tips, tools, and resources, count on TriNet along the journey.

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