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New employee onboarding – psychological contracts and ethical perspectives

Cam Caldwell (Department of Business, Modern College of Business and Science, Muscat, Oman)
Ray Peters (Department of HR and Marketing, RoyOMartin, Alexandria, Louisiana, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 12 February 2018




The purpose of this paper is to identify the ethical implications of treating new employees with high consideration and respect for their needs and to explain how this expectation honors the psychological contract between employers and their incoming employees. By providing a specific model for improving the onboarding process, this paper also provides helpful information for practitioners in addressing this important task.


The process for onboarding and assimilating new employees in the modern organization is often ineffective – despite the fact that this important task is acknowledged to be vital to the success of those employees and important to their organizations. This conceptual paper addresses the problems of new employee orientation from an ethical and psychological contract perspective and suggests a ten-step model to improve the onboarding process.


The paper confirms that onboarding is not done well by organizations, that employees expect that they will be treated with appropriate concern for their interests as part of their assumptions in coming into a new organization, that onboarding new employees is fraught with ethical implications, and that the process can be greatly improved by following the ten-step model provided.

Research limitations/implications

The paper provides opportunities for practitioners to apply their proposed model and enables scholars to test the impact of incorporating the steps of the ten-step onboarding model.

Practical implications

Ineffective onboarding has significant ramifications not only for the efficiency of organizations but also for the effectiveness of incoming employees. Understanding the implicit ethical issues in the onboarding process enables organizations to improve the employer-employee relationship and honor their responsibilities to incoming employees.

Social implications

In a world where trust in leaders and organizations has declined, understanding the implications of the psychological contract expectations of incoming employees and honoring an organization’s obligations to those employees is likely to increase employee trust and commitment while benefiting the organizations that apply the proposed model.


The topic of onboarding employees has not been fully understood by busy organizations and this paper addresses the ethical and psychological implications of effective onboarding and its contributing value for both the organization and the new employees affected by the onboarding process. The ten-step model provides a useful checklist for human resources staff and for the organizational leaders who oversee them.



Caldwell, C. and Peters, R. (2018), "New employee onboarding – psychological contracts and ethical perspectives", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 27-39.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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