Boosting Onboarding Engagement and Retention

Using recognition, incentives, and rewards to reinforce a positive onboarding engagement experience

Onboarding engagement is the strategic process of welcoming new employees and giving them a path to success. It’s important to focus on motivating and rewarding new employees for their early contributions and to recognize them and remind them how appreciated they are to your organization.

Incentives are an important part of employee engagement and retention.

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Engage employees for long-term success

Onboarding engagement should be designed to provide a positive socialization experience for new employees, facilitate success and make sure that they feel valued.  

It’s expensive to recruit, hire and integrate new folks into the organization. Designing and implementing a comprehensive onboarding program that goes beyond simply providing basic information and paperwork can ensure your success.  

There are several elements to the onboarding process.  We’ve highlighted some of the most important elements.

The specific steps are not nearly as important as being timely, consistent, and fair to all.

One tactic that is often overlooked is establishing a cadence of rewards and incentives to create a positive experience for new employees while they advance to the desired level of productivity.

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Incentives are just one element

While onboarding engagement gifts are important elements to employee retention, and contribute to employee satisfaction, they should be viewed as one element of a broader employee engagement and retention strategy. It’s also essential to focus on creating a positive work environment, meaningful work, recognition, career development, work-life balance, and strong leadership to foster long-term employee engagement and retention.

Incentives are important.

Incentives are highly visible and memorable.

Tangible rewards and gifts send a strong, encouraging message and are positively related to job satisfaction among workers.

onboarding engagement infographic with timeline

Develop a plan

Onboarding Week

New hires should go through a comprehensive onboarding process that includes introductions to the team, company policies, and procedures.

Second Week

Focus on helping new team members become familiar with their colleagues and the necessary tools, and technologies they will be using in their role. Have a live or virtual team breakfast.

One Month Milestone

Recognize new employees with lunch and provide a small gift as an incentive to celebrate the occasion. Provide opportunities to help them to bond with colleagues and feel more integrated into the team while providing a deeper dive into the job responsibilities.


Schedule regular check-ins to solicit and offer feedback, address concerns, and ensure that necessary support is available.

90-Day recognition

Provide recognition of the successful completion of the first 90 days with a thoughtful gift or employee-choice gift to show them that their contributions are valued.

Six-Month Milestone

Reinforce the employe’s sense of community with another small gift or recognition to celebrate the six-month anniversary.

Nine-Month Milestone

Reinforce the employe’s sense of community with another small gift or recognition to celebrate the none-month anniversary.

One-Year Anniversary

Recognize the first-year milestone with a special employee-choice gift as well as a celebration for all employees at the one-year milestone. It’s a celebration of successful integration into the company and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to retaining talent. Other anniversary milestones may be shared in the celebration.

Keep in mind these elemnts

Recognition incentives

Implement a system that recognizes and rewards achievements and milestones throughout the onboarding process. This can include verbal recognition, certificates, small gifts, or symbolic tokens of appreciation. Celebrating accomplishments helps boost morale and reinforces a positive onboarding experience.

Welcoming and orientation

Create a warm and inclusive environment for new employees from their very first day. Provide a thorough orientation that introduces them to the company’s culture, values, mission, and vision. This sets the stage for a positive onboarding experience.

Mentorship and buddy programs

Pair new employees with experienced colleagues who can serve as mentors or buddies. This helps new hires quickly acclimate to their roles, understand the company dynamics, and establish connections within the organization

Clear goals and expectations

Clearly define the goals, expectations, and performance metrics for new employees. This clarity helps them understand their role and responsibilities, allowing them to focus on achieving success in their positions.

Training and development

Offer comprehensive training and development opportunities tailored to new employees’ needs. This can include job-specific skills training, professional development programs, and access to resources that promote continuous learning.

Feedback and communication

Establish open lines of communication and encourage regular feedback from new employees. This can be done through surveys, one-on-one meetings, or feedback sessions. Actively listening to their thoughts and concerns demonstrates that their opinions are valued and helps identify areas for improvement.

Social integration

Facilitate opportunities for new employees to connect with their colleagues and build relationships. This can be achieved through team-building activities, social events, or virtual platforms that encourage interaction and collaboration.

Ongoing support

Provide ongoing support and resources beyond the initial onboarding period. This ensures that new employees have the necessary tools and assistance to thrive in their roles.

Calendar with a 30 60 90-day plan for onboarding engagement employee planning

What's a 30-60-90 day plan?

A well-crafted onboarding engagement plan makes it easier for new employees to acclimate to the company and ensure they are moving in the right direction.

The goal is to maximize employee output in the first days of being hired, days which can be overwhelming and confusing in many cases. The plan helps simplify what the employee should be doing and focusing on.

A plan can be created by a hiring manager with assistance from the new employee and outline the goals to be accomplished during the first three months of employment. The plan should provide direction, and a sense of purpose, enabling employees to hit the ground running and make a meaningful contribution to the organization’s success.

A plan might include the following:

First Week

Welcome package:

Provide a personalized welcome package with a handwritten welcome note and include a few company-branded items, as well as a quick guide on where to access specific new hire information.

Coffee and Bagel Welcome:

Arrange for an in-person or virtual get together with specialty coffee and doughnuts or bagels. If your team is virtual or hybrid, send gift cards in advance so remote folks can join in online.


First 30 Days

Lunch with team members:

Set up an in-person or virtual team lunch where the new hire can interact and continue to build relationships with their colleagues.

Peer support:

Assign a peer to guide and support the new employee during their first month. This can help them acclimate to the company culture and gain valuable insights.

Training and development opportunities:

Offer access to relevant online courses, workshops, or conferences to enhance their professional skills.

Employee recognition:

Recognize early achievements publicly during team meetings and through internal communications. Include a small reward or gift as a token of gratitude.

Appropriate Incentives and gifts:

Company branded gifts, technology for the desktop and employee choice incentives are appropriate.

60 Days

Mentor Program:

Mentors are usually someone more experienced or at a higher level in the company that can guide and support the employee while at the organization. Ensure that time is scheduled for these.

Performance-based bonus:

Consider providing a performance-based bonus tied to their achievements and contributions during the first 60 days.

Professional growth resources:

Provide access to industry subscriptions, or memberships to professional organizations.

Participation in quarterly team outing or social event:

Every new hire should participate in scheduled  a team-building activity or a social event to strengthen team cohesion and foster a positive work environment.

Project ownership:

Assign a small project or task that allows the employee to take ownership and showcase their skills.

90 Days

Salary review:

Conduct a salary review and consider a potential salary increase based on the employee’s performance and value they have added to the team.

Additional time off:

Offer an extra day off or a long weekend to show appreciation for their hard work and commitment.

Professional development budget:

Provide a budget for the employee to attend a conference, enroll in an advanced course, or pursue certifications related to their role.

Employee referral program:

Introduce an employee referral program that rewards employees for referring potential candidates who get hired.

Performance review and feedback session:

Conduct a comprehensive performance review to provide constructive feedback, recognize achievements, and set goals for the future.


Elements of a successful onboarding engagement program include recognition incentives and rewards, welcoming orientation, mentorship programs, clear goals and expectations, training and development, feedback and communication, social integration, and ongoing support.

Implementing a cadence of rewards and incentives throughout the onboarding process helps reinforce positive experiences and motivates new employees to achieve desired levels of productivity.

Ongoing plans for new hires might include activities such as coffee meetings, productivity tool training, team lunches, milestone gifts, and anniversary celebrations.

By providing a comprehensive onboarding experience, organizations can maximize employee output and contribute to long-term success.

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