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10 Tips for Creating an Onboarding Checklist for New Hires

In a factory, 2 men wear blue work shirts and safety glasses as they lean on a table covered with a clipboard, cup and other items. To the right of the men, a woman wearing a grey business suit and safety glasses shows the men something on a computer. We are unable to see the computer screen. She holds protective headphones in her right hand.

Your company just made a new hire? Congratulations to you and your new employee(s). Whether you’ve made one or two hires, or a mass-hiring campaign, there are a lot of moving pieces involved with onboarding them. As many human resources (HR) personnel will tell you, the hiring process isn’t over when that acceptance call or email goes to the candidate. 

Onboarding isn’t as simple as it sounds, and depending on the job, position, or industry, there can be many qualifications and credentials that can complicate the process. 

To better understand common onboarding challenges, we spoke with Delivery Executive Ally Goodwin who has over 17 years of staffing experience. She provides a few insights on the importance of planning out the onboarding process. 



What is onboarding?

Onboarding is a process carried out by the HR department. They meet with the new hires and help familiarize them with the job, the company, its mission and policies. This includes paperwork about the job description, salary agreement, benefits, orientation paperwork and company resources. Often, employees will go through general orientation to become more familiar with the company or organization. They may also get to meet people from other departments as well as management during this time. 

Sometimes employees will also receive onboarding materials and orientation specific to their department. This usually includes specific training protocols, training with tools/software, and meeting with the management of the department as well. 

Why is onboarding important?

Onboarding is important because it familiarizes the employee with the job and increases employee engagement according to Business News Daily. While employees likely have an idea of what the job entails, the onboarding process puts everything in black and white for them. They’ll be able to ask questions, negotiate salary and bonuses, and clearly see their job description, tax forms, vacation/PTO schedule, and other information. Employees will be able to affirm if this is the job for them, and then join the company. 

“Once a candidate is identified as a fit for a company and the open position they have, the next step to get the candidate onboarded is crucial. As time goes by where this candidate is not receiving an offer letter, a link to complete paperwork, or a start date —they are being contacted for other opportunities.  In my experience — in every market we work in — a candidate wants to get started as quickly as they can. And if they are currently working, they want the offer quickly so they can put in their notice and get started with the new opportunity. Onboarding should be prioritized just as high as an employer would prioritize “filling” their positions,” says Goodwin.

Additionally, onboarding prepares the employee to become part of the company culture. They’ll learn about resources within the company they can use — such as employee health, where to go to file complaints, and so on. And if there are certain items necessary for the employee’s job — a company laptop, equipment, or vehicle — they’ll often be given out at this time. 

Who owns the onboarding process? 

Typically, the onboarding process is done by the company. However, if a company uses a recruitment process outsourcing company or staffing agency, sometimes those third parties will handle the recruiting process as part of their services. They may employ the employee as a result, with the employee being contracted out to your company for a specific amount of time. If you decide to use a recruiting partner or staffing agency, be sure to ask about how the onboarding process would work if it’s a service they offer. 

What is an onboarding checklist?

The onboarding process is a multifaceted and complex undertaking that encompasses numerous essential components. From important documents and training modules to various logins and orientation tasks, there are numerous details that need to be addressed and managed. However, these elements can sometimes become lost or overlooked amidst the flurry of activities and information involved in onboarding. To mitigate the risk of oversight and ensure a smooth onboarding experience, many organizations rely on the use of onboarding checklists. These checklists serve as comprehensive guides that HR personnel can follow to keep the process organized and streamlined.

Furthermore, it is common practice for new employees to receive a copy of the onboarding checklist as well. This empowers them to stay informed and actively participate in their own onboarding process. By having access to the checklist, new hires can familiarize themselves with the various steps involved, ensuring they are aware of what is expected of them and what they need to accomplish.

It is important to note that onboarding checklists are not static documents. They may evolve and undergo revisions over time, particularly when there are changes in company policies, orientation procedures, or paperwork requirements. As organizations adapt to new circumstances, regulations, or best practices, it becomes necessary to update the onboarding checklists accordingly. By doing so, the checklists remain relevant and effective tools for ensuring a successful onboarding experience for both the HR personnel and the new employees.

Tips for Creating an Onboarding Checklist

According to Goodwin, the biggest challenges onboarding come down to logistics, organization and communication. 

“When making an offer, the most common challenge with onboarding is a company not being organized with their compliance and internal paperwork. It is crucial when making an offer that the employee can go over everything. Provide a step-by-step list of what needs to be completed in a timely manner to get onboarded and have a start date as soon as possible from the offer. The longer a company does not provide the compliance that has to be completed or an offer letter, there is a higher percentage chance of losing that candidate to another position. Every company has different steps. It can take just 24 hours, or it can take up to 2 weeks for someone to clear. If this is communicated to the candidate there are usually no hiccups along the way to starting,” says Goodwin. 

Having a detailed onboarding checklist can help you ensure your new hire is ready to go when they arrive to the jobsite.

Onboarding checklists are often very detailed, and quite a bit dull. They can be monotonous to create, and equally tedious to complete. Still, onboarding is a very important process in an employee’s career, and it must be done properly. Otherwise, it can create longer-term problems down the road if an employee is not trained or educated properly about the company resources. We’ve compiled a list of the most useful tips for creating an onboarding checklist. 

1. Send the New Hire a Detailed Welcome Email

This is not only a great, personalized touch that can warm your employees’ heart, but also a great way to kick off the onboarding process. Send them an email (you can also CC it to the germane managers too) welcoming them and including detailed instructions about where they’ll report and what they can expect on their first day. For example: dress code, parking information and their supervisor’s name. 

2. Keep All Paperwork Organized

Paperwork is often one of the most annoying things in the onboarding process, but it can be simplified. We recommend keeping folders (both electronic and paper) for each position, with the relevant paperwork and documents. That way, they’re all saved and ready to be printed off when needed and can be easily modified in a pinch. We also recommend investing in a good printer/scanner, that way you can easily scan and archive documents an employee fills out. Or, check out software alternatives like Adobe and DocuSign, if you’d prefer to keep it all digital. 

In addition to paperwork like financial forms and job agreements, have the other paper materials ready. This includes the employee handbook, company directory, welcome letter, and other introductory materials. These usually aren’t job specific and can be printed well in advance of new hires. 

3. Always Include Contact Information

Chances are an employee may get overwhelmed or a little confused by the paperwork or they might just have a few questions. Include the relevant information for contacts, and ideally make it front and center and easy to see. If you’re sending an email, make sure the contact information is near the signature block. If you’ve printed a hard copy of the employee handbook or onboarding packet, make sure to staple a business card or highlight the point of contact information clearly. 

4. Get Items In Advance

Items like company cars, employee equipment, and devices may take time to be lined up. We recommend calling the necessary departments as early as you can to coordinate the delivery of these items. It takes time to set up vehicle registration and for IT to set up devices, so if they’re important to your incoming employees’ job, try to get the jump on them. 

5. Set Up Emails/Logins/Accounts in Advance

This one might be incorporated into the employees’ training, but if it’s something IT can handle in advance, it’s one more little thing that can smooth out onboarding. Once you have your new employees’ information, pass it along to IT so they can integrate them into the relevant software platforms and accounts. 

6. Get Ahead on Scheduling

Once you have the details, try to set up the orientation for your employees. You may have to bring several different departments together to do this, so we recommended doing it as early as possible. During this time, they’ll likely meet the team, tour the building/jobsite, and begin their training and onboarding. Do everyone a favor and have this agenda scheduled in advance. 

Make sure to notify the relevant personnel too, by sending emails to welcome the new employees aboard, and give ample time for their trainer, buddy or supervisor to prepare for them. If you can, reach out to the new hire to see if there’s time that works best for them too. 

7. Have “Goody Bags” Ready 

Like paperwork, you can have simple goody bags prepared well in advance of new hires. Even a simple bag can go a long way to making the employee feel welcomed. A bag, shirt, or hat with company logos, some candy, a small gift card, and a simple handwritten note can all make quite a difference in an employee feeling welcomed. 

8. Set Goals and a Check-In Time 

Even though your employee is new, it can help them get oriented by giving them a few small goals to complete within the first 30, 60, or 90 days at the company. This can be something like meeting everyone on the team, or more ambitious like finishing all the training and onboarding. It gives the employee some time to focus on their onboarding and get into the flow of the company, with a little HR oversight by having a check-in later. 

9. Lunch

This is a very simple thing to schedule that can also go a very long way to giving new hires a warm welcome. Providing lunch — or at least covering the cost — for the first day is a nice gesture. It’s an ideal time for the new employees to eat together and get to know each other.  You can also include current team members too. Like with devices and other events, we recommend scheduling this as far in advance as possible to increase participation. 

10. Make it Realistic

Remember every position is different. Some may have more technical paperwork to cover, and some may have more extensive training, while other departments may be larger and take more time to integrate into the workspace. Make sure you take this into consideration when scheduling employee onboarding and check-ins. It might not be feasible for a new engineer to complete all the safety and workspace trainings within the first two weeks, though it may not be unrealistic for a new HR employee to do so. 

Onboarding may not be the most exciting process with its piles of papers and orientation modules. But it’s a very important process where the employee learns the details of the job, and officially becomes a member of the team. To perfect the process, Goodwin suggests focusing on speed and efficiency.

“Have your onboarding strategy streamlined, so it is easy on the candidate and the process moves quickly. From the verbal offer to an official offer letter, there should not be more than 24 hours to pass or your chance of losing the candidate to another offer increases. If you have a lot of compliance that needs to be completed for a candidate when they are hired, have everything laid out for them step by step and a timeline of expectations of when each process needs to be completed.

When developing your onboarding strategy, make sure the paperwork they are completing is “user friendly” and can be accessed on any phone or tablet,” says Goodwin. 

When you need help finding new hires or improving your onboarding process, contact us