The new hire onboarding process is your chance to make a great first impression and to create a strong bond with a new employee. But in hyper-growth environments, it’s easy to lose track of the details, so a new hire checklist can save the day. This is particularly important as talent management evolves and you may have a mix of on-site and remote employees on the same team.
New hire onboarding isn’t just about learning the operational ropes — your onboarding process needs to be cultural, as well. Getting new hires to feel like he or she is part of the team as quickly as possible is critical to success.
That’s why new hire onboarding can’t be left to chance — or to the last minute. According to a 2016 survey by The Aberdeen Group, best-in-class companies were 53% more likely to begin the new hire onboarding process before day one. Many of these companies use online training portals to introduce new hires to the company culture and experience onboarding content before they’ve even set foot in the office.
A well-documented new hire onboarding process takes time, but it’s well worth it. In past studies, The Aberdeen Group found new hires were 54% more productive and their retention rates were 50% better at organizations that standardize their onboarding.
What is formal onboarding?
Before jumping into the first step of the checklist, let’s start by defining formal onboarding. According to Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success, written by Talya N. Bauer as part of the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) Foundation’s Effective Practice Guidelines Series, HR managers must decide whether they want informal or formal onboarding.
In informal onboarding, an employee learns about his or her new job without an explicit organizational plan; in formal onboarding, a written set of coordinated policies and procedures assists an employee in adjusting to a new role in terms of both tasks and socialization.
Bauer outlines the four distinct levels of onboarding, which she calls the four C’s:
- Compliance: The lowest level that includes teaching employees basic legal and policy related rules and procedures.
- Clarification: Ensures employees understand their new job and related expectations.
- Culture: Provides employees with a sense of organizational norms both formal and informal.
- Connection: Includes the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.
To help reap the benefits of formal onboarding, we've created a new hire checklist for streamlining the process and making sure you’re nailing every critical step. The checklist will help you reach the following fundamental goals with your new hires.
- Set the stage for a good working relationship with the employee.
- Assimilate him or her into the organization and the team.
- Get the new employee up to speed as quickly as possible.
The New Hire Checklist Starts Before Their First Day
A good new hire onboarding checklist isn’t about ticking off steps — it’s about designing your employee’s journey so all the roadblocks to success have been swept out of the way. The new hire onboarding process checklist that follows will help ensure the route is welcoming and empowering – and that process begins before their first day.
Welcome them to the team
Once the offer is accepted, send new hires a welcome email outlining the most important things they will need to know when they show up for that first day: address, floor number, who to ask for, key cards, parking directions and whatever else will help them to arrive with confidence.
The welcome email should also point new hires to resources like your online employee handbook, mission/vision statements, and company social media so they can familiarize themselves with expectations and culture.
Finally, provide an outline of next steps in the new hire onboarding process so they can be on the lookout.
For bonus points, send a welcome package to their home address with a physical copy of the employee handbook and some fun company swag. We love this example from Slack — who wouldn’t be excited to get those socks?
That might not be your company’s style, but the underlying point applies to everyone. Make sure your new hire onboarding checklist accounts for how you will make new hires feel welcome in advance.
Paperwork is a necessary part of new hire onboarding, but it doesn’t need to overwhelm your new hire on their first day. Many onboarding documents can be collected and accounts set up before they arrive at the office. With an online training portal, you can securely gather information and provide preliminary training to help your new team member hit the ground running.
Sitting in an empty conference room filling out paperwork can feel isolating. If you get it out of the way early — by having the employee complete forms online from home, for example — you can more swiftly move toward making them feel welcomed and comfortable and answer any questions they might have on the first day.
Set up internal communications and training
In a separate email, guide new hires through setting up internal communication channels like company email, Slack accounts, Zenefits, Salesforce, Jira, Trello, Asana or whatever other software they will be using.
Getting these logins set up before the first day — and giving your new hire time to familiarize themselves with the programs — is a huge timesaver.
Include instructions for accessing your company’s online training portal. That’s a great way to train them on policies, processes, software, and anything else that’s unique to your company.
Prep their workspace
Make sure you have everything ready at the office: computer, workstation, chair, office supplies, business cards, parking passes and anything else new hires will need to do the job.
You may want to add a personalized touch to their desk, like a mug with a company logo or some snacks.
Add their information to payroll and other important databases, and if the new hire will be working remotely, speak with the IT department to make sure that everything is prepared on your end.
Most of all, make sure you have the wifi password ready.
Prep the team
Make sure that everyone involved with this position and who will be working with the new hire is informed of their start date. This includes their team, of course, both internal and external, as well as other related departments.
For example, if you're hiring a new salesperson, it may be helpful for them to meet with your marketing department head to get the lowdown on buyer personas and positioning.
The new hire’s supervisor should also loop the rest of the team in and encourage them to welcome the new hire.
Plan for the First Week
Work with the supervisor to create a schedule for the new hire’s first week. This should include one-on-ones with key team members and meetings with other relevant departments to get oriented.
Make sure the supervisor is prepared for their new hire onboarding responsibilities on that first day — having the supervisor involved, rather than handling it all from within HR, helps to build that working relationship.
Create a customized checklist for new hires to track on their own. They may be feeling flooded with new information and wondering when they “actually get to work.” This will help them see how they are progressing on the details. It can detail the training modules they need to complete or the forms they have to complete with HR.
The first day on any job can be overwhelming. But if you’ve followed the steps above, you’ve done a lot to prepare for their arrival which will ease the stress for new hires and for you.
Settle the new hire in
Start with a brief tour, and show them to their workstation. Give new hires a moment to get settled in, familiarizing themselves with equipment and software. This is also a good time for them to check out their schedule for the week, read over policies, and come up with questions. Be sure to equip them with resources such as a company directory, organizational charts, policies, and login information.
In CareerBuilder.com’s 10 Commandments of Employee Onboarding, one commandment states: “Thou shalt give thy employee thy undivided attention.” In other words, on the first day while you are interacting with new hires, remember not to let emails, phone calls or other employees sidetrack you. Allowing yourself to be distracted sends the message, “I’m not that into you” and it kills morale. Review the job and answer their questions
It’s crucial to take time for a careful review of the job description and responsibilities during the first day. According to a study by BambooHR, “different work than expected” was one of the top reasons that new hires leave a job quickly. Additionally, A study from the UK found that companies lose $37 billion dollars each year as a result of employees not understanding their jobs. Take this time to become clear about job responsibilities and expectations.
Provide a chance to meet the team
A fascinating 20-year study done at Tel Aviv University found that the factor most closely linked to an employee’s overall health — good or bad — was the support of coworkers. After all, they’re the people we spend the most time with every day.
That’s why meeting the team is such an important section of the new hire onboarding process checklist. Take time throughout the first day to introduce the new hire around — both to direct teammates and to key people in other departments. Formal meetings are fine in many cases, but scheduling an informal event like a team lunch or a coffee social is a great way to break the ice and start to form good co-worker bonds. You can also assign a “buddy” in the department to check in on new hires, or set up job shadowing opportunities and site visits.
In Extreme Onboarding: How to Wow Your New Hires Rather than Numb Them, Dr. John Sullivan describes some creative new hire onboarding activities companies utilize. Rackspace uses games, skits, music and even limbo. Bazaarvoice sends new hires on a weeklong scavenger hunt designed to introduce the employee to company culture and jargon.
Get them started on a project
Don’t forget that the first week should be about more than just orientation. Identify and prepare the first project that your new hire can jump into. This is one of the best ways to get them up to speed and productive.
Start with something that will give them a quick win and will provide the strong foundation and confidence to keep going. Continue to provide support, documentation and embedded training throughout the first week, and establish a timeline to check in on their goals.
Here are some guidelines you can follow:
- Set a clear, well-explained goal.
- Provide all documentation and tools required.
- Make it clear where to turn if help is needed.
- Establish a timeline, and schedule a check-in.
Onboarding checklists don’t stop at day one — or even week one
Integrating your new hire into the team doesn’t stop after the first day — so neither should your new hire checklist. Some of the activities you should track in the first few months include:
- Setting goals collaboratively with new hire and revisit them often.
- Continue to mentor and coach new hires.
- Coordinate recurring one-on-one meetings to keep the lines of communication open.
The first few months of employment are especially critical since employees are still evaluating their fit within the company and deciding how they feel about the job. According to BambooHR survey referenced previously, 31% of people have quit a job within the first six months.
Work with your new hire’s supervisor to create a roadmap of milestones, goals, and check-ins — and don’t forget about ongoing training. BambooHR found that receiving organized, relevant and well-timed content was the number one way respondents thought their employers could improve the new hire onboarding process.
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