New Hire Onboarding Checklist and Best Practices

New Hire Onboarding Checklist and Best Practices

An effective onboarding process provides guidance to help new hires smoothly integrate into a new role and organization. A structured approach can contribute to a positive experience for both the new team member and the employer.

In this article, we’ll provide an onboarding checklist, including resources to provide during the process. We’ll cover everything from the pre-boarding stage to the first day, week, and months of the new team member's journey with your company.

Table of contents:

Importance of effective onboarding

A good onboarding program can create a positive first impression and establish an open line of communication between the new hire and the company. Research shows that employees who participate in well-organized onboarding programs are 69% more inclined to stay with the company for at least three years. Plus, companies with effective onboarding procedures can boost their retention rate of new hires by up to 82%.

A structured onboarding process gives new employees a clear understanding of the organization’s expectations for them, which in turn increases their confidence and job satisfaction. This makes them more likely to remain committed to the company and its goals. It also helps new hires feel valued and supported, which can lead to a greater sense of loyalty and attachment to the company.

When new employees are provided with in-depth job training, support, and access to resources and tools needed to perform their jobs effectively, they are more likely to be productive and engaged in their work. These benefits can lead to a positive impact on the organizational success and financial growth of the company.

Pre-onboarding: Setting the stage for success

The following pre-onboarding steps can help new team members feel welcome and prepared for their first day on the job.

  • Welcome email. A welcome email should include clarification of the job offer, including their work schedule, location, salary information, and start date confirmation. The email should be friendly and informative. The email can also include a brief introduction of the company, its mission statement, and a list of the employee's future colleagues.
  • Onboarding documentation. The next step is to provide the new employee with onboarding documentation, including tax forms and benefits paperwork. Providing these documents in advance gives the new employee time to read them, ask questions, and complete the necessary paperwork before their first day. You can also remind the new hire to provide their direct deposit information for payroll purposes.
  • Company policy information. Provide the new employee with a list of policies to know for their first day, including information on attendance, break times, and dress code. Providing this information in advance helps the new employee feel prepared and confident on their first day.

First day: Making a memorable introduction

The employee’s first day at a new job sets the tone for their experience at the company. Here is a detailed day-one schedule to follow:

  • Introduction to the team. The new hire should be introduced to all team members, including those they will be working closely with. Mention each person's role and direct the employee to the person they can ask questions to.
  • Workspace setup. Create a comfortable environment for the new hire by providing them with a fully functional workplace setup with all of the necessary tools and technology they need to perform their job. Be sure to direct the employee on where to get extra equipment or office supplies if needed.
  • Overview of the company culture. Discuss the company culture, including the values, mission, and vision. Explain what is expected of employees and how they can contribute to the company's success.
  • Role review. Review the responsibilities of the job position to ensure the employee understands their duties and expectations.
  • Completion of training videos. Provide the new employee with any training videos that are necessary for their role. This may include safety training, software or technology tutorials, and role-specific information.
  • Documentation to sign. New hires will need to review and sign several documents, such as employment contracts, confidentiality agreements, and company policies. Take the time to review these documents thoroughly and answer any questions the new hire may have.

Ensure that you cover any additional information that could be helpful in the new hire's day-to-day work routine. This information will include the location of the restrooms and other facilities within the office, as well as the location of physical and digital copies of the employee handbook and standard operating procedures.

First week: Integration and orientation

Within the first week, team members should be familiar with the goals of their position and begin the necessary training needed to succeed.

For example, in a sales position, a new hire should be familiar with the sales targets they are expected to achieve and the product or service they are selling. They should begin training on how to use the company's CRM system and how to communicate the benefits of the product or service to potential clients.

Setting up regular check-ins with human resources professionals and managers can be a helpful practice to ensure workers are on the right track and have their questions answered. According to a recent study, employees who received more frequent communication from their managers reported better job performance.

In addition, 70% of the study’s participants expressed a desire for more frequent check-ins than they were currently receiving. By offering regular opportunities for feedback and support, organizations can help their employees feel more connected, valued, and motivated.

First month: Building a foundation

During the first month in the role, work with the new hire to set achievable performance goals that align with the company's needs and values. For example, a goal for the month could be to complete an assignment on time and within budget. This will demonstrate the employee's competence and ability to contribute to the company's success.

Professional development plans should also be established during this time. This process includes assessing the employee's current skills and strengths, as well as discussing potential career paths and future job opportunities within the organization. Regular meetings throughout the month can help keep the employee on track and ensure they are making progress toward their professional goals.

Regular feedback through performance reviews provides an opportunity to discuss areas of improvement, acknowledge accomplishments, and set new goals for the future. This feedback should be specific, timely, and constructive in order to be effective.

Ongoing support: Ensuring long-term success

As new team members become more integrated into their roles, provide them with the necessary support to help them overcome any challenges they may face. This support can include assigning an onboarding buddy; providing access to FAQ documentation, work instructions, and written procedures; and offering opportunities to shadow other workers to better understand new job responsibilities.

You should also plan to provide ongoing support throughout the first year of employment, which includes setting long-term performance goals. For example, a new team member in a customer service role might have a long-term performance goal of increasing customer satisfaction ratings by a certain percentage. By setting these goals, new hires have a clear understanding of job expectations and can work toward achieving them.

Employee engagement activities can also support the new hire to feel connected to their team and the company, which can lead to better job satisfaction and retention. These activities could include team-building exercises, social events, employee lunches, or volunteer opportunities.

Special considerations for remote employees

With 35% of the U.S. workforce working remotely, the onboarding experience should be tailored for virtual workspace setups. Some tips for an effective remote-work setup include:

  • Ensuring digital access to all documentation. Implement a user-friendly platform to store company information, including policies, procedures, work instructions, and legal forms. For instance, you can use Google Drive or Dropbox to securely store and share company documents.
  • Covering essential costs. Companies should consider covering the cost of equipment such as laptops, monitors, and headsets. They should also consider expenses related to internet connection and home office setup to make sure that remote workers have a productive work environment.
  • Communicating regularly. Remote hires might not have the opportunity to meet their team members and managers in person. Therefore, you can make them feel connected to the team by using video conferencing tools like Zoom to have virtual face-to-face conversations, discuss company values, and build a sense of community.
  • Providing adequate training. Remote hires may require additional training to familiarize themselves with company processes and tools. Providing them with the necessary resources and training, such as online courses, webinars, and virtual coaching sessions, can ensure they have the skills they need to succeed in their roles.

Tools and resources for effective onboarding

To ensure the new hire feels well-informed and supported throughout the onboarding process, provide them with additional resources and tools to make their transition easier. To start, offer workers indefinite access to onboarding documents so employees can refer back to important information whenever they need. This can help to reinforce learning, increase productivity, and reduce the time it takes for employees to get up to speed.

A list of key contacts for HR, IT, and departmental support can give new employees a quick and easy reference to reach out to the right people when they need help or have questions. In addition, provide a schedule of upcoming training sessions, events, and company-wide meetings. Also include where to find agendas and action items to ensure that employees are aware of what's going on within the company and can plan their schedules accordingly.

Lastly, provide new hires with information on accessing company benefits and support services, such as health insurance, assistance programs, and retirement plans. Giving this information upfront helps ensure employees are aware of the resources available to them.

Onboarding checklist template

An onboarding checklist outlines the key tasks needed to make sure new hires feel welcome and are set up for success. Below is a comprehensive checklist to guide you through the necessary steps to onboard new members and ensure seamless integration into the team.

Onboarding Checklist Template

  • Pre-Onboarding (before the first day)
    • Send welcome email with start date, schedule, and what to expect
    • Confirm job offer details (salary, start date)
    • Prepare and send onboarding documents:
    • Tax forms
    • Direct deposit information
    • Employee handbook
    • Company policies
    • Benefits and eligibility paperwork
    • Computer hardware, software, and cybersecurity requirements
    • Set up IT access (email, intranet, necessary software)
    • Arrange for workspace, equipment, and supplies

First Day: Welcome and Orientation

  • Conduct office tour (include restrooms, kitchen, emergency exits
  • Introduce the team and assign an onboarding buddy
  • Review job description and expectations
  • Go over company culture, mission, and values
  • Discuss dress code and work environment
  • Complete necessary HR paperwork
  • Set up workspace and necessary technology

First Week: Integration

  • Schedule introductory meetings with key team members and departments
  • Complete employee-required training
  • Begin job-specific training and overview of work processes
  • Review short-term performance goals and objectives
  • Plan first check-in with hiring manager or HR
  • Provide information on professional development opportunities
  • Clarify any FAQ about the job or company

First Month: Foundation Building

  • Establish regular check-ins with manager and HR
  • Set milestones for job performance and project involvement
  • Offer feedback and support through initial tasks and projects
  • Encourage engagement with team and company activities
  • Review and adjust work assignments as needed

Ongoing Support: Ensuring Success

  • Schedule monthly performance reviews and goal-setting sessions
  • Provide ongoing access to training and professional development
  • Encourage participation in company events and initiatives
  • Regularly update on company news, policy changes, and opportunities

Special Considerations for Remote Employees

  • Ensure technology setup is complete and functional
  • Organize virtual meet-and-greets with team members
  • Regularly check in to address any challenges or needs
  • Provide virtual tours or introductions to company culture

Tools and Resources

  • Access to onboarding documents and resources
  • List of key contacts for HR, IT, and departmental support
  • Schedule of upcoming training sessions and events
  • Information on accessing company benefits and support services

Remember: This checklist should be customized based on the specific needs of your organization and the role of the new hire. Regularly update and refine the checklist to reflect changes in company policies, culture, or onboarding strategies.

Find onboarding specialists on Upwork

The key steps to effective onboarding include providing new hires with a welcome packet introducing the company's culture and values along with documentation outlining their responsibilities. Providing company policy details, setting up the new employee's workspace, and establishing goals early on also contribute to a successful start.

Every company's onboarding needs are unique, and customizing the onboarding checklist and template to fit the specific needs of the organization can help create a smooth transition. Encouraging feedback from new hires can also help refine the onboarding process and improve it for future employees.

If you need support with developing an employee onboarding process, consider engaging onboarding specialists on Upwork. Independent professionals who use our platform have specialized experience in creating effective onboarding strategies that can help your new employees start their roles with confidence and ease.

Upwork does not control, operate, or sponsor the other tools or services discussed in this article, which are only provided as potential options. Each reader and company should take the time to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.


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New Hire Onboarding Checklist and Best Practices
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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