Onboarding in a New Perspective

Salli Kjærgaard Jensen, Julia Elise Florin Skafte & Morten Longhi

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this thesis is to examine employee integration through the onboarding process. Due to companies struggling with high levels of turnover during the first period of the employment, we wanted to examine it further and investigate the reasons for this. We looked into voluntary turnover and found that four things were affecting employee’s decisions to quit their current job or to consider taking a new one. These were relationships at work, competence at work, the possibility of personal development and growth and lastly the feeling of autonomy. These four elements are positively correlated with the feeling of well-being and satisfaction in the job, which made us question whether the turnover is due to the lack of some of these elements in the onboarding process. The importance of the four factors was reaffirmed by secondary data, suggesting that the onboarding process should support the needs that employees have for fulfilling the four elements. This led us to question how an onboarding process is supporting these needs of the employee in practice, and furthermore if there is a discrepancy between a planned onboarding process and how it develops in reality. The thesis is composed of two parts that each deals with one of our areas of interest. The first part is concerned with the differences between a planned onboarding process and the one being performed in a specific environment. Furthermore, wanting to disclose how the actual connections between the elements and people in the onboarding process were successful or not and how that affected the integration of the employee into the organization. The second part is concerned with the specific human needs that are relevant for motivating the employee in the onboarding process. The analysis suggests a connection between employee motivation and needs satisfaction in the onboarding process, and is concerned with defining what needs are activated and the effects of these on employee motivation. The methodology used throughout this thesis is inspired by a mixed methods approach, which made it possible to combine the thoughts of different paradigms. The mixed methods approach has been used to integrate the two parts of the analysis, while also making it possible to change the paradigmatic point of view in the two parts. The methods used have primarily been semi-structured interviews, a focus group and observations. This has been supported by secondary data from specialists within the field of onboarding. The theoretical approach to examining the connections in the onboarding process in the first part of the thesis, has been Actor-Network Theory as proposed by Bruno Latour. The theory represents both a paradigmatic position, which places equal importance on human and non-human actors, as well as a theoretical approach to analyzing how connections form a network and how this network is being stabilized. The analysis is based on Michel Callon’s research on power structures pertaining to the domestication of the scallops in St. Brieuc Bay. The research deals with how connections form through four moments of translation that form an aligned network between prior heterogeneous elements. Through a theoretical use of these moments we have analyzed how connections develop in the onboarding process and which effects these have on the integration of the new employee. Our findings prove that in reality, the onboarding process is formed by the successful connections between actors that are more closely interested in the success of the project and not from the planned onboarding program. Furthermore, it showed that even though the employee might eventually be integrated properly, the process is slowed down by unsuccessful necessary attempts of making connections. The second part of the analysis uses needs based theories of motivation. The relevant theories are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Alderfer’s ERG theory and Self-Determination Theory. These theories stem from humanistic psychology that is based on a holistic view of the body and soul, and the notion that all humans have basic psychological needs that they are motivated to fulfill. This creates the foundation for using the theories to investigate the potential of fulfilling these needs in the onboarding process. Firstly, Maslow and Alderfer are used to define the needs that are activated in the onboarding process as well as when they are activated. The theories are discussed according to the findings, and critiqued for being to rigid. It was found that several needs occur at different times during the onboarding process, which confirms that there is a level of hierarchical order, but the findings also show that the sole focus on the satisfaction of one need creates frustration within the employee. The Self-Determination Theory is used to elaborate on the satisfaction of needs in the onboarding process and is supported by Herzberg to increase the relevance in a work context. The overall findings show that the relevant needs in the onboarding process concerns the need for existence, relatedness, competency and growth. Even though Self-Determination Theory suggests the need of Autonomy as one of the basic needs, we did not find evidence of this being present to a large extent in the onboarding process. We argue that the need for autonomy becomes relevant only when the employee reaches a certain point of integration into the organization. The satisfaction of needs in the onboarding process is relevant to endorse intrinsic motivation and well-being within the employee. From secondary data we found, that employee satisfaction, has a high probability to be positively correlated with lower turnover rates. Giving the new employee the possibility of fulfilling their needs in the onboarding process, will then lead to motivation and well-being. Finally we discussed our findings and how successful integration of the new employee can be reached. We discussed the length of the onboarding process, due to the many different opinions on this matter. Furthermore, we discussed how to conclude on whether successful integration has happened and whether it should be decided by the employees themselves, by the HR department or by the supervisor. Lastly, we discussed the different factors that influence the success and length of the onboarding process. The elements that need to be taken into account are the size of the organization, the culture of the company, the personality of the employee and prior knowledge and skills as well as the attitudes of surrounding colleagues

EducationsMSc in Psychology, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages151