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New Hire Onboarding Checklist: Here’s How to Ensure the Relationship Takes Off

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With the ongoing war for talent, it’s not enough to make a good impression with your job listing, interview process, and offer letter. You need a streamlined and welcoming onboarding process.

Onboarding is a new hire’s first interaction with a company and sets the stage for the experience moving forward. A positive onboarding experience is about more than paperwork and meetings, however.

Ideally, your onboarding process should position the employee for success from the first interaction, outline expectations, illustrate company culture, and create open communication for feedback and improvement.

This new hire checklist covers all the information you need to know to help the employee’s first days, weeks, and months go smoothly.

The 5 C’s of Onboarding

Successful onboarding involves the five C’s:

  • Compliance: The first few discussions around compliance should set the tone for how the employee views and understands their role within the company.
  • Clarification: Clearly convey and communicate expectations around performance.
  • Culture: Company culture can often mean the difference between an employee showing loyalty to a company or looking for opportunities elsewhere. Make sure to outline policies on safety, workplace harassment, and bullying.
  • Connection: Help your new hires build a connection to your workplace to encourage retention.
  • Check-in: Check in with your employee at the end of the first day and for scheduled periods throughout the new-hire period at 30, 60, and 90 days.

Preparation Before the First Day

Also known as pre-boarding, preparation for the employee’s first day is an important part of welcoming them to your company and ensuring everything goes smoothly.

You should begin with a welcome letter, which includes expectations around timing and time management, what they can expect on their first day, and any other pertinent information they may need to get ready to start.

Another important aspect is preparing the employee’s workspace—whether physical or virtual —before their first day. For example, set up your employee’s office or cubicle and computer, set up employee accounts and logins, and ensure that everything is functioning properly well in advance.

If your employee is working remotely, make sure they have the necessary equipment with enough lead time for arrival and setup. You may want to provide a remote work stipend to assist them in setting up their home office.

Complete Paperwork

Paperwork can be a tedious part of the onboarding process, but it’s a necessary one. Gather all the documents new hires will need, including tax documents, payroll information or logins, various contracts or agreements, nondisclosure agreements, and any other employee forms they may need to help onboarding go smoothly.

Your new hire paperwork will include:

  • I-9 for verification of their identity and their right or eligibility to work in the US
  • W-4, the directive that will indicate how much should be withheld from the new hire’s paycheck for federal tax compliance
  • State tax withholding form, which is required for some states
  • Direct deposit form to set up banking details for payroll

This is a good time to provide a physical or electronic copy of the employee handbook and provide information about their benefits package. You should have a point of contact for the employee to ask questions about their benefits.

Company Culture Introduction

The orientation process helps introduce new employees to the new working environment and lays out the company culture. You should provide information about the company’s culture, values, and mission. This can be part of the welcome package or within a digital document that educates on the company’s history, team dynamics, and overall environment.

Offer a physical tour of the space and show the new hire where the break room, restrooms, conference rooms, and parking spots are located. It’s important to introduce new hires to their team members and coworkers from other departments.

Schedule Training Sessions

If you have mandatory onboarding courses, ensure that the new hire has access to them and knows what courses need to be completed—and within what timeframe. This could include a one-on-one meeting with human resources or diversity and inclusion training.

If there’s specific training for their role, make sure that it’s scheduled out and includes all the systems and tools a new hire is likely to need to perform their job. Discuss job-specific tools that the employee will use, and if necessary, offer training to give them a strong foundation.

Set Performance Expectations

Setting expectations from the start is a key part of your new hire’s success. Schedule one-on-one meetings to set up expectations, build a connection, and help them transition into their role. You should also provide any relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) for the role, such as sales or revenue generated.

If your company uses peer mentoring, introduce your new employee to their “work buddy” within the department who can act as a mentor during their first few weeks on the job. This employee should be available for questions, concerns, and to introduce the employee to the other people in their department and closely related departments. They may even help with training.

Regular Check-Ins

New employees will take time to adjust to their new work environment. Make sure to schedule regular check-ins to touch base and see if they’re getting everything they need. They should feel free to share concerns or feedback about the workplace, their training, their management team or mentors, and any challenges they’re experiencing in the role.

Ideally, your check-ins should be after the first month (30 days), second month (60 days), and first quarter (90 days). You can also offer small work anniversary gifts once these milestones are complete or once the probationary period has ended to show your appreciation.

You can also gather feedback from colleagues and managers to offer feedback to the employee in return and highlight strengths and areas for improvement.

Incorporate a Feedback Mechanism

After the initial check-in process, your employee will need options for ongoing feedback during their time at your company. An employee feedback mechanism provides a system that allows employees to provide feedback to their managers or higher management.

Depending on your company, a feedback mechanism can be a simple survey, an outlet for suggestions, ongoing one-on-ones, or a complex system that allows for real-time feedback. However you choose to take employee feedback, it’s important to have a way for employees to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Reward Performance

Most people want to excel in their positions, especially in a new role. Recognizing and rewarding your employees early in the onboarding process can help them stay motivated and engaged throughout training and as they encounter new challenges.

Once the employee is settled, the feedback and rewards should continue. Regular performance reviews are a good way to recognize employee efforts and help them improve their performance in the future.

As far as incentives are concerned, offering bulk gifts for employees can go a long way to show appreciation for your employee’s dedication and hard work. These don’t need to be expensive. Simple gestures like gift cards to a local restaurant, movie theater, or fitness center can make a world of difference—especially if they’re personalized.

Offer Continuous Support

Like feedback, continuous support for your employees shouldn’t stop once the onboarding process is complete. You want your employees to grow and succeed in their new role, and offering regular feedback and support ensures that they feel comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns, seeking opportunities, and offering feedback in return.

Ideally, the onboarding process can set the stage for long-term, sustainable growth. Support should continue after the employee is settled and they should feel comfortable going to managers or human resources with any issues.

Position Your Employee for Success with an Onboarding Checklist

Onboarding can be challenging for any company and employee, especially as the workforce moves to remote opportunities. A streamlined and consistent onboarding process can accelerate on-the-job learning, secure top talent, and forge professional relationships that encourage loyalty and retention.

About the author


Cindy Mielke

Cindy is passionate about the incentive industry. In addition to her role as Vice President of Strategic Partners at Tango, she is a Certified Professional of Incentive Management who proudly serves on two industry boards. When she’s not working, Cindy enjoys spending time with her family—including three cats, two dogs, and a horse—and sharing her love of nature as a Nebraska Master Naturalist.