4 Essential Onboarding Checklists for New Employees

The first interactions potential new employees have with an organization usually occur through a company’s website. A strong website is an essential tool for companies to advertise employment opportunities. It is also a great platform to effectively communicate their employer brand and culture in order to capture a candidate’s attention and prompt their interest in applying to work for them, helping tap into the first steps of the candidate journey—the last step being the onboarding phase. To better understand and leverage the candidate journey, we recommend this read by Beamery

And so, in many ways, providing an effective onboarding experience begins as early as the recruitment and interview process. That said, it also continues on long after the hiring itself is done—and for the many months that follow.

Good onboarding practices play a key role in creating employee engagement for new hires—and there is a significant correlation between employee engagement and employee performance within a company.

Based on research from Harvard Business Review, an effective onboarding process can greatly enhance the integration and training phase, with the potential of bringing new employees up to speed by 50% faster than the average and maximizing productivity. That said, there is strong evidence to support that high levels of satisfaction in the early employment stages also help promote long-term employee engagement. Thus, an effective onboarding process is important for both short and long-term employee dynamics—ultimately benefiting an organization’s continued financial and structural stability. 

We’ve already covered the importance of the onboarding process last week, and now we are looking at the many phases in which it can be broken down in more detail. Effective onboarding checklists help HR and project managers structure the process, identifying all the essential steps and cycles, and ensuring that no element is forgotten. 
To help simplify your life (and maximize your time), you’ll find below easy-to-follow onboarding to-do lists, outlining the best onboarding practices for any phase of the onboarding process within the first year. For an additional visual of onboarding elements, we suggest this read from Slite.

The Pre-Boarding Checklist

A new employee’s first day can be overwhelming filled with many emotions whether it’s anxiety, excitement, pressure of fitting in, or a mix of many. To ensure new employees don’t enter a company with a heavy weight on their shoulders, dreading to survive the often very slow orientation process, it is recommended to connect with new hires beforehand, to make them feel welcome, integrate them within the team and ease them into the company culture. Setting an open line of communication and maintaining a dialogue as soon as the contract is signed allows HR managers to set the stage, create clear and realistic expectations leading up to the new job and share helpful documents. This is called “pre-boarding”—the period of time between when a new employee signs their employment contract, up until their first day. This is a key period for managers to lay down the foundation of a positive work environment.

The pre-boarding phase is also a time in which team leaders and project managers can start the preparations to welcome their new team members. This can include setting up their work space or desk and ensuring necessary supplies are readily accessible for the first day. This process also involves internal communications—informing current employees of the new addition to their team and the role they will play within the company. For an HR onboarding checklist sample, we recommend this read from GoCo.

Three important elements to consider:

Step 1 | Communications With The New Employee

☑ Writing a welcome email, starting with a congratulatory message for joining the company, department and/or team;

☑ Highlight the start date, time of arrival, full address of the office location, and include instructions on how to get there, including parking and building access tips;

☑ Share the first day’s agenda, which should include pre-booked meetings and feature assigned time blocks;

☑ Note the documents or equipment the new employee should bring with them;

☑ Attach a company employee handbook, which should include company background, code of conduct, dress code, and so forth;

☑ Attach a company onboarding packet;☑ Introduce the contact person for their first day and include their information (CC them in the email). This person is often referred to as a buddy.

Step 2 | Communications With Current Employees

☑ Send an email to current employees informing them of the new hire, including their start date, department and team they will be joining, along with their title and role;

☑ Share new employee’s background, including prior experience, education and interests;

☑ Invite team to join in on welcoming the new employee on their first day (such as a welcome coffee), sending out a calendar invitation of the event ahead of time;

☑ Encourage the team to stop by the new employee’s office area during the first week to make them feel welcomed and supported.

Step 3 | Prepare New Employees Office and Equipment:

☑ Order new employee’s equipment (ex: laptop, company phone, etc);

☑ Set up new employee’s email account;

☑ Add new employee to the calendar and mailing list;

☑ Prepare the office access key and/or ID card;

☑ Order company business cards;

☑ Prepare a company welcome package;

☑ Organize relevant HR documents and forms;

☑ Organize (a) meet-and-greet session(s) and book relevant parties ahead of time.

The First Day Onboarding Checklist

First impressions are lasting impressions, so it’s crucial to make the first day count and for new employees entering a company to start off on the right foot. The goal is to create a seamless and interactive onboarding process, making the employee feel at ease and welcomed. 

Five key steps and activities that will help ensure a successful onboarding for the first day:

Step 1 | Welcome Coffee and Office Tour

☑ Schedule a morning coffee date with the HR point-of-contact upon arrival;

☑ Give a tour of the office and facilities (shared kitchen, bathrooms, etc);

☑ Organize a special team welcome event and department meet-and-greet;

☑ Introduce new employee to department heads, teams and colleagues;

☑ Review information about the employee handbook and answer questions;

☑ Go over the first week’s schedule and expected work hours;

☑ Show them to their desk and give them their welcome package.

Step 2 | Set Up New Employee’s Desk and Equipment

☑ Grant office access;

☑ Help new employee set up their equipment and liaise with the IT point-of-contact;

☑ Provide new employee with necessary office supplies;

☑ Provide instructions for using company softwares and tools.

Step 3 | Important Documents

☑ Do an overview about employee compensation & benefits;

☑ Prepare a brief presentation regarding work policies and procedures;

☑ Explain company safety and security policies;

☑ Share necessary HR forms and contracts to sign;

☑ Review code of conduct and ethics;

☑ Allow time for questions.

Step 4 | Company Introduction

☑ Prepare a company business presentation including an industry overview;

☑ Briefly review the company’s history;

☑ Explain the business mission, vision and values;

☑ Highlight your company goals and objectives;

☑ Explain new employee’s impact within part of the organizations.

Step 5 | Meeting With New Employee’s Manager

☑ Review company’s organizational chart;

☑ Revise in detail the new employee’s role and job description;

☑ Set goals for new employee’s first few months;

☑ Discuss employer expectations for new employee;

☑ Inquire about new employee’s career expectations;

☑ Discuss new employee’s professional development and opportunities within the organization;

☑ Organize a meeting with the CEO.

The First Week Onboarding Checklist

The first week on the job is a crucial integration period for a new employee. To ensure this first week runs smoothly, it is recommended to support all new employees by providing a clear structure for them to follow. 

Below are some of the most recommended best practices companies should apply to support new hires during their first week. They include, but are not limited to:

☑ Daily check-ins with new employee to make sure they are settling in;

☑ Check in with employee regarding the functionality of equipment and usage of softwares;

☑ Schedule weekly meetings to review employee tasks and answer questions (rituals);

☑ Review the employee’s probationary period;

☑ Share and go over employee’s tasks and projects here on out;

☑ Schedule relevant trainings and recommend useful readings;

☑ Ensure new employee has been introduced to key colleagues;

☑ Introduce employee to other teams and departments;

☑ Organize and encourage them to join company social activities and gatherings;

☑ Recommend for new employee to connect with company social media accounts.

The First Year Onboarding Checklist

It is important to keep new employees motivated in general, and especially throughout the first year. As employees settle into their new roles and take on projects, project managers can help support their professional development by providing routine feedback and offering relevant training. There are many fun and creative employee engagement activities that managers can organize to foster a positive environment during the onboarding process. We all know Monday’s can be the most dreaded day of the week, so to eliminate the Sunday blues, managers can organize “Sweet Mondays”—serving an on-the-house breakfast with coffee and pastries to start the week on a caring note. Another way to keep employees engaged would be to empower them with knowledge—managers can keep the team informed with industry trends, competitor news and an overview of key projects the company is working on as a whole shared via a bi-weekly newsletter. This helps create a stronger sense of belonging in relation to the company and keep employees on top of their game. In fact, a recent study by Harvard Business Review highlights that a high sense of belonging leads to a 56% increase in job performance along with a 50% decrease in turnover. Employees who build a positive emotional tie with an organization have greater potential to become long-term, devoted members—a way to help promote positive sentiments within the workplace could be by organizing monthly team building activities, such as a bowling night or an off-site outdoors day with a picnic and kayaking.

As the first year is the most critical in ensuring employee retention, here are a few key elements we recommend to implement:

The First Month

☑ Request for new employee to complete a company onboarding survey;

☑ Conduct a progress review;

☑ Keep employee engaged by scheduling new and interesting trainings;

☑ Invite employee to join company social committees;

☑ Communicate with the payroll department to ensure salary compensations are on track;

☑ Organize a team building activity: Dinner & karaoke night.

The 3-Month Mark

☑ Continue sharing constructive feedback and request feedback in return;

☑ Review progress reports and assignments;

☑ Set a structure for upcoming assignments;

☑ Ensure new employees are completing the required training;

☑ Schedule bi-weekly check-in meetings to ensure new employee remains supported;

☑ Discuss performance goals;

☑ Conduct an informal performance review;

☑ Discuss the end of the probationary period and what this entails;

☑ Organize a team building activity: An adventurous day of zip lining.

The 6-Month Mark

☑ Schedule a mid-year performance review;

☑ Discuss new employee’s growth and 6-month progress;

☑ Set end-of-year goals and objectives;

☑ Ensure new employee remains motivated and equipped to complete tasks.

☑ Organize a team building activity: A group cooking course.

The 1 Year Anniversary

☑ Schedule a yearly performance review;

☑ Recognize employee’s accomplishments and positive impact during their first year at the company;

☑ Discuss career goals and future professional path for the new employee;

☑ Discuss new projects and plans for the upcoming year;

☑ Review company rewards and compensation policies;

☑ Open the floor for Q&A or comments;

☑ Organize a team building activity: A night of laser tag

Setting forth effective onboarding practices is a fundamental piece in the talent management puzzle. As we previously mentioned, the process is directly linked to employee retention and is a proven investment. Without a doubt, the recruitment and interview process is the starting point for a company to build strong relationships with candidates and showcase employer brand, but it is equally (if not more) important that these relationships should further be nurtured throughout the first 12 months of employment.

A company’s onboarding practices are, simply put, a structured action plan highlighting the steps and procedures to follow during the early stages of a new hire’s journey, playing an important role within employee retention strategies. The checklists provided in this article are relevant to any market or industry, serving the purpose of organizing essential steps for HR and project managers to follow.

However, it is important to note that effective onboarding goes beyond lists and forms. Remember that it is about creating an experience—making new employees feel welcomed, immersing them into the company culture and fostering real connections.
The principle of effective onboarding is about integrating employees into the company culture and paving the path to long-term professional growth and success within the organization. As stated by HRT, employee engagement can transform the quality of work in organizations of all sizes. Although a new employee’s onboarding program typically ends around the one-year mark, the underlying principles of fostering employee engagement should always remain present.

In this article, we understand the importance of the onboarding process and the long term benefits an effective onboarding process can have on employee performance and retention. Although the onboarding process is critical,  it can be lengthy to implement all the essential steps manually, while tailoring each stage to a specific organization and industry. We’re here to offer you an easy way to customize your onboarding process—Softstart is an app to help you ideate, implement and review the onboarding experiences under one roof. Make sure to sign up and find out more!