From 4 C's to 7 C's: These are the essential elements of great onboarding

Wilma Johansson
June 21, 2024
min read
Table of Contents
Ever wondered what should be at the foundation of a good onboarding process? According to the 4 C’s framework, Compliance, Clarification, Culture, and Connection are the key elements to a successful start for new hires. In this blog, we dive into the meaning of each C, and how you can effectively integrate them. We also explain why it’s actually 7 - and not 4 - C’s. Check out this blog for inspiration and hands-on tips on how to streamline your onboarding process with this framework.

What are the 4 C’s of onboarding?

It’s no news that onboarding is crucial in employee performance, engagement, and loyalty. For example, a good onboarding experience can improve employee retention by 82% and productivity by over 70% (Brandon Hall Group). But to make your onboarding effective, you have to understand its dimensions. This is where the 4 C’s are helpful.

The 4 C’s of onboarding is a well-established framework, developed by professor and researcher Talya Bauer. After more than 25 years of experience and research in the onboarding realm, Bauer pinpointed four key elements that must be present in a successful onboarding process: culture, connection, clarification, and compliance. When these four components are present in your onboarding journey, you’re already off to a promising start!

But before we dive into the meaning of each component, let’s clear up some confusion.

4, 6 or 7 C’s?

If you’ve come across this framework before, chances are you’ve seen it described as the 4 C’s of onboarding, 6 C’s , or even 7! So how many C’s are there?

The original framework, developed by Bauer, consisted of 4 Cs. Eventually, an additional two C’s - confidence and checkback - were added by Bauer herself. And the final C? We at Appical added that one ourselves since we consider creativity an essential part of the onboarding process.

But, for simplicity’s sake, we call this framework by the name “the 7 C’s”. Now, let’s dive into what each C stands for.

The 7 C’s are as follows:

Introducing the C’s

This section provides an overview of each component of the framework. Want more in-depth information about each C? Luckily, we’ve already written a separate blog for each one, with tips on how to implement it in your onboarding process. You can find a link to the blog about each C at the end of the corresponding section, or click on the links above.

[.callout-small]Read our whitepaper for best practices: How to create a successful onboarding journey with the 6 C's framework?[.callout-small]


Starting out with compliance, this C lays the foundation of the onboarding journey. Compliance, as the name suggests, concerns mandatory tasks that need to be completed. This can be tasks such as filling out all necessary documents and contact details, and arranging necessities such as work phones or laptops. It can also concern work benefits and retirement plans.

Compliance is an important aspect of onboarding as it concerns tasks that can have legal consequences if they’re not done properly. For example, the hiring and onboarding process can depend on the nationality or visa status of the employee - a hiring process for a Dutch national in the Netherlands will require different steps than that of an international worker. Being prepared for these different scenarios is essential before other steps can be taken, to ensure a smooth hiring process.

This information should be conveyed early on, and to keep it simple and organized for both employer and employee, it can be done in the shape of a checklist.

[.callout-small] Here you can find more information and best practices for compliance.[.callout-small]

💙 Culture

Workplace culture is the environment that is created by the values, behaviors, and attitudes within an organization. 

Although it’s difficult to capture such an intangible concept, the culture of a workplace is reflected in its policies as well as its employees. For example, do colleagues always greet each other in the hallway? With what tone of voice do they communicate, and is it okay to send emojis? All of this tells you something about the culture of a company or organization.

A positive work culture is characterized by prioritizing the health and well-being of the employees, for example through health-related benefits, a good work-life balance, open communication, empathy, and trust. This, in turn, makes a company attractive to seek out and remain at, and it also boosts employee well-being and productivity.

Culture can be integrated into the onboarding process early on. For example, as early as the interview stage, you can introduce the company culture to the interviewee and see whether there seems to be a match. Once hired, make sure to introduce your onboardee to the company culture early on, for example by informing them about the company mission and values during the preboarding.

[.callout-small]Curious to learn more about workplace culture? Luckily, we’ve already written a blog about culture and how to integrate it![.callout-small]


It’s no news that humans need friendships and meaningful connections to thrive, but perhaps less known is that this also applies to the workplace. In fact, people who have a good, or even best, friend at work are more satisfied with their workplace and are less likely to look for another job (Gallup). This is where Connection comes in -  it’s key for building a trusting relationship with a company and colleagues.

Two major benefits of meaningful connections and friendships in the workplace are employee happiness and engagement. 

Connections can be formed early on in the employee journey, by introducing new employees to their future colleagues in the preboarding phase. Once they’ve started, something as simple as an invitation for lunch, a walk, or even just a quick chat in the corridor is a good way of making someone feel welcome. 

[.callout-small]For more tips on how to promote connections in the workplace, see our blog about connection.[.callout-small]

🤔 Clarification

Does your new employee understand their new role and responsibilities, and that of their colleagues? That’s what clarification is all about. And while it might sound obvious that someone starting a new job is informed of the responsibilities, the numbers show otherwise - in fact, 50% of employees in various sectors struggle with clarity regarding their working role (Effectory).

These numbers are concerning, especially given the importance of clarification. Good clarification prevents misunderstandings, builds team trust, and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Clarification starts early on in the onboarding process. Before the first day at work, employers should thoroughly inform new hires about their roles and tasks, as well as their colleagues’ roles and tasks. However, clarification concerns more than just the tasks - it also concerns practical matters, such as dress codes, working hours, and other important information relating to the workplace.

[.callout-small]Check out this blog for tips and benefits of clarification.[.callout-small]


Now that we’ve covered the 4 original C’s, let’s move on to the later additions, the first one being confidence. Confidence refers to an employee’s trust in themselves to perform their job well and to take on new challenges. 

Of course, with a new job comes lots of change. Even experienced professionals might feel insecure in navigating a new role and environment, and feel pressured to learn things straight away. This can give them a rough start in your company. 

Boosting new employees’ confidence from the get-go might not be easy, but it’s worth the effort. Confidence has several benefits, such as increased happiness, reduced employee turnover, and employee productivity.

So what can you do to boost your new hire’s confidence? For one, make sure that they’ve got all the information they need about their tasks and the office, including an office tour, so that they don’t get lost (figuratively and literally) in their new work environment. 

We all like the feeling of achievement, so set attainable goals and challenges related to their new tasks. And don’t forget to tell them when they’re doing a good job and to celebrate their important milestones! For tips on appropriate goal-setting and milestones, download our new e-book.

[.callout-small]Here’s more information about boosting confidence in the workplace.[.callout-small]


Next up is checkback, which concerns the feedback given to you by your new hires. After all, what better way to know if your onboarding process is good than to check with your onboardee?

Checkback can be implemented throughout the pre-and onboarding journey. Ask new hires for feedback, even as you’re in the middle of the onboarding process. That way, you can tailor the process to their needs, identify general gaps in your process, and improve it for future hires. It also boosts employee engagement, as it makes your new hire feel like their opinion matters from the very beginning.

[.callout-small]For hands-on tips and example questions to ask, read the checkback blog.[.callout-small]


“Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought”, said Albert Einstein. This brings us to the final C of the framework - “creativity”. Why is it important for your onboarding process?

The truth is, no matter how organized and well-planned your onboarding plan is, it’s not going to be successful if it’s not creative and interesting enough. Putting together a fun and engaging onboarding program will help new hires learn and get into their role faster. 

Besides, creativity brings many positive aspects to a workplace - for example, it helps with a problem-solving mindset. You can incorporate it into your workspace in so many ways - after all, that’s the whole idea of creativity! 

For example, instead of introducing your new hire via an internal communication channel, have them do an Instagram takeover, gamify the introduction to the workplace culture and colleagues with a board game, and give your new hire the opportunity to customize their own onboarding program.

[.callout-small]Read more about creativity and hands-on tips on how to integrate it.[.callout-small]

Main takeaways

Let’s recap what we’ve learned. The 4 C’s is a framework for crafting a successful and effective onboarding journey by integrating compliance, connection, culture, and clarification. Since its conception, 2 more C’s - confidence and checkback - have been added by Talya Bauer, the founder of the framework. An additional C, creativity, was also added by Appical. 

First off, a good onboarding process needs compliance, meaning that when hiring a new talent, you need to ensure that all mandatory paperwork is in order. Integrating the company culture from the get-go creates an environment where connections can thrive, ultimately contributing to the well-being of the employees. A positive workplace culture can also help form connections in the workplace.

Giving employees clarification is important so that they know exactly what their role entails, and that of their colleagues, to avoid miscommunication. Along with this, confidence will make your employee feel competent in performing their tasks well, and can be promoted through positive feedback and appropriate challenges. 

Make sure to incorporate checkbacks, to see whether your new hire has any feedback about your onboarding progress. And last but not least - give your onboarding program a splash of creativity to find the balance between informative, welcoming, and fun!

By incorporating these 7 C’s into your onboarding process you can be sure to give your new hires a warm welcome into your company.

Share this post

Join 6.956 HR and onboarding specialists!

Have all our latest onboarding news delivered to your inbox. Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Related posts

Want to know more about onboarding? See our other blogs

5 min read

The manager’s guide to onboarding: Why it matters and how to excel

Discover the crucial role managers play in the onboarding process. Gain insights and strategies to ensure successful employee integration. Read more!

5 min read

4 Tips for integrating your online and offline onboarding processes

In this blog, we'll share four tips for using an online platform effectively during the onboarding process.

5 min read

6 ways to make your employees feel happy and appreciated

We hope these tips will give you the relevant insights you need to properly show your employees the appreciation they deserve.