HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

The 4 C's

Does your onboarding process give new employees everything they need to succeed? Does it make them feel valued, accepted, empowered, safe, and like they belong in your organization? Review the 4 C’s of onboarding to see how you can improve.

What Are the 4 C’s of Onboarding?

Onboarding can be complicated and challenging, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of the process. The 4 C's is a framework to help you review your onboarding process and see if it's doing what you want it to do. All four C’s of onboarding are critical to fully integrating employees into an organization. They include compliance, clarification, culture, and connection.


Compliance is the baseline and most common step of the onboarding process. It covers company procedures, policies, rules, and requirements, and involves paperwork. Simply put, compliance is about following federal and state laws and regulations.


In this step, supervisors provide additional detail regarding assignments, and employees ask questions to better understand their role and the company overall.


This critical step in onboarding is often overlooked. While many companies structure elements of their values and mission into the onboarding process, many fail to expand on more common aspects of the company’s culture. In this step, company norms, accepted behaviors, and traditions are shared with new employees. This step dives deeper into the core of the organization and focuses on ensuring that a new hire will succeed in their environment. Consider what aspects of your company’s culture are most influential and important to know.


Connection is the highest degree of onboarding. It helps new employees establish relationships within the organization. Often this step includes team-building exercises, networking opportunities, ice breakers, and other bonding endeavors. Connection is crucial to helping teams break down walls and get to know one another. Feeling connected and integrating new members helps teams run smoothly and effectively.

Why Are the 4 C’s Important?

When trying to determine how to integrate compliance, clarification, culture, and connection into your onboarding process, consider the why behind all four. Why would your new employees need to clarify their roles? Why would they want to know the culture? Why is connection important? Then place yourself in their shoes: you’re starting at a new job. Wouldn’t you want to know that you never want to get on Frank's bad side, or that you will feel out of place if you don’t wear pink on Fridays because this month is breast cancer awareness month? Wouldn’t you want a few people who can be go-to’s as questions arise? Including the 4 C’s in your onboarding process gives employees the complete experience, creates loyalty and improves retention, and sets your organization apart from others.

The Complete Experience

Onboarding processes that only utilize one or two of the 4 C’s are incomplete and miss out on giving employees a chance to understand important aspects of the organization. Compliance and clarification are not enough when it comes to integrating employees into their new environment. Culture and connection give new hires opportunities to feel that they are a part of something and that they belong.

Creates Loyalty and Improves Retention

The 4 C’s of onboarding create a sense of loyalty in employees to their organization. For example, the One-Hour Experiment was conducted to better understand how connection and culture in the onboarding process influence retention. In this experiment, researchers grouped several hundred new hires from multinational corporation WIPRO into three groups. There was a control group who received the usual onboarding, a group that received the usual training plus an additional hour devoted to discussing the company identity, and a group that received the usual training and an additional hour committed to getting to know employees individually. In the second group, the new hires were given a sweatshirt with the company logo on it, and in the third, a sweatshirt with both the company logo and their names. Research showed that over time, retention in the third group was 250% higher and the second group was 157% higher than the control group. From this we see the power that connection and culture have in the onboarding process to create loyalty and improve retention.

Sets Your Organization Apart

Some of the top-rated onboarding programs in the country do remarkably well because of their usage of the 4 C’s.
  • Netflix’s culture- and leadership-driven onboarding program focuses on connection and culture. To do so, the program helps new employees network with high-ranking company officials and teaches them about important company values, norms, and goals.
  • Quora focuses on mentorship in their onboarding process to help employees keep up in their fast-paced environment.
  • Digital Ocean adds a personal touch to their onboarding process as they provide a balloon, a bottle of champagne, and a personalized letter for new employees on their first day. This introduces new employees to the culture of the organization as they understand that they are valued and are taught that the details matter.

Tips for Promoting the 4 C’s in the Onboarding Process

Here are four tips to consider when developing your onboarding process to include all 4 C’s.

Stick to Your Company’s Values

When developing a company process or program, it is critical to stick to your company’s mission and values. Onboarding programs are meant to integrate new employees into the organization; therefore, it would not be beneficial to onboard new hires in a way that is not aligned to how the organization works.

Be Consistent

Consistency is key. New hires will likely not feel the value of their onboarding experience if they find out that they were some of the only ones to receive the experience that they did. Additionally, changing the onboarding process for different people may lead to unconscious discrimination and hurt feelings. Once an onboarding process is set, utilize it for all employees moving forward.

Be Creative

Creativity demonstrates thoughtfulness. A creative onboarding process does not need to include a lot of bells and whistles but should be creatively true to what the company needs to teach new employees. Consider what you wish you'd been taught when you joined the organization. Additionally, consider what sets your organization apart and how you can integrate it into the onboarding process.
Raelynn Randall, MHR, MBA

Raelynn Randall, MHR, MBA

Rae has acquired HR experience in team leadership, research, training, recruiting, project management, and mentoring upcoming HR professionals. She is fascinated by workplace culture and the many implications it has on the world of business, especially HR. When possible, she seeks out opportunities to expand her knowledge and give back to her community.
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