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How to add the 5th C for Careers to the onboarding model

08 May 2019, by Lesley Vanleke
  • #Career Discovery Trajectory
  • #Career Fitness Profiler
  • #onboarding

As an organization, you have about 90 days to make sure new recruits fit in, regardless of whether they are young potentials or more experienced workers (Kammeyer-Mueller, 2012). Successful onboarding is broadly considered as ‘the pro-active covering of compliance, clarification, culture, and connection’; also known as the 4C model (Bauer, 2010).
What is striking, however, is that the 4 C’s in this model emanate from the organizational point of view only. What about the perspective of the individual on work and their career? It seems to me that if you want to improve the quality of your onboarding process it is crucial to integrate the individual and organizational perspective. 

In this blog, I want to make a case for adding one more C to the 4C model: one that stands for Careers. 

Since Bauer created the model in 2010, references to the 4C model for onboarding have become prevalent across the internet. According to her model, there are 4 distinct levels in the onboarding process:  

  • Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.
  • Clarification ensures that employees understand their new job and all the expectations related to it.
  • Culture is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms, both formal and informal.
  • Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

When studying this model I cannot help but think that it is constructed almost exclusively from an organizational point of view. From an individual’s point of view, I can imagine that there is more to a successful onboarding than understanding what legal and cultural rules are to be followed, being aware of what is expected in terms of performance, and knowing where to get the information they need to get the job done. In this conceptualization of onboarding, we seem to forget that nowadays individuals seek meaning, mastery, and affiliation (Ryan &Deci), positive psychological capital or energy (Youssef & Luthans, 2007) and even happiness (Fisher, 2010) in their jobs and careers.

 This calls for an organization to consciously and deliberately investigate the intrinsic motivation and career outlook of employees and facilitate qualitative career dialogues with employees as of day one, and even in the pre-boarding phase.

I would describe the C for Careers as follows: “clarifying how a win-win between the individual perspective on the career will be integrated with that of the organization.” As employees are increasingly aware that part of a good, long-term fit with an organization comes down to the degree to which a win-win between employees and the organization in terms of career satisfaction and productivity can be realized. New recruits will have questions about how their personal career objectives will be addressed by the organization from day one. 

How to get started with the fifth C in onboarding?

1.    During pre-boarding, collect evidence-based data about the career outlook of new recruits. With the possibilities that SaaS technology currently provides, it is not hard to get evidence-based data about individuals in a fast and efficient way. 

2.    The Pre-boarding phase is an excellent time to have a first qualitative dialogue, based on the evidence-based data, about the career outlook. As professional recruiters molt towards career coaches more and more, they are in an excellent position to help the individual get a good understanding of their personal career outlook and prepare them for the negotiation a career has become. Recruiters, for instance, can help new recruits to identify the topics they need to address with their managers.

3.   Ensure that during the orientation phase of onboarding, some time is dedicated to providing the new recruits with answers to the following questions (De Vos, 2017):

  • How do we look at a career in this organization? 
  • What is the career deal I can expect here? 
  • What is the role we expect our employees and managers to take on? 

These questions can be tackled in a themed workshop with new recruits. It helps to make the career model that your organization holds explicit and opens up a group discussion that also enables new employees to feel like they contribute to the success of their own integration into the organization. In terms of career alignment between individuals and organizations, this is a crucial factor.

4.    Create an open development offering that allows employees to consciously work on their career outlook and the development of career management skills. Share this offering with your new recruits during the orientation phase of onboarding. This is basically the answer to the answer to the question “What is the career deal I can expect here?” As careers are not manageable anymore, the best course of action for an organization is to facilitate them. Facilitating careers means that you actively put people in the driver’s seat of their career. Help them find answers to fundamental questions like “What are my (career)values?”, “What do I want to see more of in the world?”,  “How do I translate this into a clear career mission and vision?” and develop career management attitudes a.k.a. career skills –  that give them handles to achieve these goals and work towards their core values within your organization.

 5.    Make sure the dialogue about careers between the manager with the new recruit is an extension of what has been addressed in the orientation phase. After the orientation phase, the more general onboarding period begins. Managers have their role to play in the 5th C for careers during this phase. Make sure to actively involve managers when it comes to understanding the answers to the questions laid out in point 3 so that their interaction with the new recruit is aligned with your organization’s vision.

The follow-up on careers does not stop after the onboarding process. The use of Career Intelligence allows your organization to collect and follow up all information on aspirations, motivation, potential, and risks for any given individual in clear dashboarding tools. This information forms an interesting input for Talent Review meetings and other HR processes.

In conclusion, we believe the topic of careers – both the organizational perspective and the individual one – deserve their rightful place in the onboarding process. This is where the facilitation of careers within your organization begins.

Discover the Career Fitness Profiler and the Career Discovery Trajectory for a seamless onboarding.


Kammeyer-Mueller, J. et al. (2012). Support, Undermining, and Newcomer Socialization: Fitting in During the First 90 Days. Academy of Management Journal, 56;n°4.

Bauer, T. (2010). Onboarding new Employees: Maximizing success. Virginia, USA, SHRM Foundation.

Ryan, R. Deci, E. (2002).  Overview of Self-Determination Theory: An Organismic Dialectical Perspective, in Handbook of Self-Determination Research, pp. 3-34, Rochester,  Boydell &Amp; Brewer Ltd.

Youssef, C.M., & Luthans, F. (2007). Positive organizational behavior in the workplace: The impact of hope, optimism,and resilience. Journal of Management, 33, 774–800.

Fisher, C. (2010). Happiness at work. International journal of management reviews, 12, 384-412.

De Vos, A. (2017). Loopbanen in beweging. Antwerpen, Acco.


About the author

Lesley Vanleke

Lesley Vanleke holds over 20 years of experience in HR. In 2014 she co-founded TalentLogiQS, where she searches to understand all different aspects of customers’ challenges and needs. She strives to be a sounding board and bring about connections that deliver added value for all parties concerned.