Insight Human resources Talent management

New employee onboarding checklist (and why onboarding should be more than just a checklist)

Written by intelliHR on 14 Jan 2022

Following recruitment, onboarding is the next touchpoint a new hire will have with your company. Having an employee onboarding checklist can help ensure it all runs smoothly and that you make a great first impression.

A good onboarding experience can have a massive impact on an employee’s likelihood of staying with your company, and with the cost of replacing an employee upwards of a third of their salary, it’s something you really want to get right.

Why employee onboarding is more than just a checklist

Although an employee onboarding checklist is a valuable tool to map out your onboarding process and ensure that nothing slips through the cracks, your overall onboarding strategy should be about more than just procedural forms and ticking boxes. The human element of onboarding – helping your new starter to understand culture, form connections and feel like they belong to your community – is just as, if not more crucial than the admin.

In this onboarding checklist, we’ve also included suggestions for fun ways to inject personality and warmth into your onboarding process. A few things to consider include:

  • Give a history lesson. Help your new starter understand the background of your organization and how their role fits into the bigger picture. How did the organization start? Who were/are the key players? What is the company’s mission? How did their role come about?
  • Explain other people’s roles. What they are, who to go to for what, how they should work together.
  • Create emotional touchpoints. Checking in on how your new starter is feeling on a personal level and having empathy for the fact that they might feel overwhelmed, under pressure and out of their comfort zone will help to build rapport. By asking them how they’re coping, or if they have any concerns, questions or feedback for you, you will create an environment of psychological safety where they feel comfortable asking for help.
  • Make space for social and downtime interactions. Often a new starter will feel slow as they’re learning but are also trying to prove themself, which can make them think they don’t have time to chat socially (or that it’s not okay). But building connections early on is one of the greatest predictors of retention, and thus encouraging or scheduling in time to do this (particularly if your employee is a remote worker) might be necessary.
  • Explain company culture. Company culture is made up of a set of unwritten norms, rituals, and ways of interacting that can take a while to become aware of. By explaining some of these things upfront – like where and when people eat lunch, if it’s frowned upon to take personal calls at your desk, whether it’s okay to pop out for a coffee, if instant replies on your chat tool are expected, and how people socialize, your new start will experience more accelerated cultural embedding.

Benefits of effective employee onboarding

  • Greater productivity and increased speed to peak performance (faster profitability)
  • Better integration into team and culture
  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Increased retention

On the flipside there are lots of ways that onboarding new employee can go wrong.

New employee onboarding checklist

PHASE 1: Hired!

Congratulations! You’ve secured your candidate and their start date is set. Good onboarding starts before they set foot in the physical or virtual door. Here’s how to do it.

1. Preparation and planning

  • Prepare new employee paperwork for approval.
  • Order any new hardware/equipment (e.g. laptop, key pass, mobile phone, uniform).
  • Create a list of tools and programs they need access to (with links) that you can provide to them once they arrive.
  • Create/request access for accounts (i.e. social media, project management tool, email, Slack or other instant messaging tools).
  • Talk to the hiring manager about goals, training and projects.
  • Set up (decorate) the employee desk/workstation.

Make it fun: 

  • Leave a handwritten note on their desk welcoming them to the team (if they’re remote, create a digital version with a team photo).
  • Give them some SWAG – branded mugs, t-shirts, pens, water bottles will all do the trick.
  • Throw in a treat like chocolates, or if they’re working remotely in another part of the world, send something that’s characteristic of your locality (e.g., Australian Tim Tams!).

2.  Introduce your organization/the role

Some employees will want to prepare as much as they can before they start, so it can be useful to think about what things you can provide that are relevant to your organization and role to help them get a headstart (depending on the role, you may or may not make it mandatory). E.g.

  • Blog articles (on your own site and other thought leader articles).
  • Employee handbook.
  • Information on your company’s history, mission and values.
  • Explainer videos for your product/company.
  • Organizational chart (rather than creating one manually, check out intelliHR’s org chart tool that creates one automatically based on the employee information in your HR software).

3. Send welcome information and paperwork

Help your new start hit the ground running and avoid overloading them with admin on their first day, by taking care of paperwork before they arrive. You might like to send a “welcome to the organization” email before your employee starts and include any contract information and compliance requests.

Be mindful that receiving too much information or requests at once could be overwhelming, so consider splitting it into a few emails that you can space out over a couple of weeks.

Things to include:

  • Welcome to the company email (and any info you want to provide from Step 2).
  • Contracts and remuneration/benefits package.
  • Job description (incl. Qualification, responsibilities)
  • Request for personal information.
  • Banking/payroll forms.
  • Tax forms.
  • Insurance forms.

Make it a workflow: Add these items to a workflow in intellliHR that will automatically email your new starter the relevant info and requests at scheduled times. If you have roles that require different licenses or information, you can create custom workflow templates for each role and schedule automated follow-ups that can be triggered if the information hasn’t been received by a certain date. Learn more.

Make it fun:

Include some fun, non-work related questions in your forms that help you get to know the person you’re hiring, not just the employee. Convert the answers into a “new employee spotlight” card that can be shared with the rest of the business when they start to help spark conversation and connection.

Example questions:

  • Tea or coffee?
  • What food can’t you live without?
  • Three interesting facts about you?
  • What’s your favorite superpower?
  • Karaoke song
  • Two truths and one lie.

Welcome Graphic

4. Plan the schedule for their first week and book meetings into their calendar ahead of time.

Create a schedule for the new employee’s first week, trying to avoid too many training sessions on one day, and giving them ample buffer time for things like setting up their computer, reading information and speaking with team mates. We recommend creating a schedule that can be given to your new team member (printed or digital) so that they can feel a greater sense of control over their environment and mentally prepare for what’s in store.

Consider the following sessions:

  • Orientation
  • Training sessions
  • 1:1 with manager
  • 1:1 with team members
  • Departmental / team introductions

Make it fun:

Add one of these into the calendar

  • Team lunch
  • Get to know the team icebreaker (e.g., trivia, two truths one lie)
  • Play a fun virtual game

PHASE 2: They’re here!

Day 1.

Make a great first impression

Welcome your new start by meeting them on their first day, or even better take them for a coffee/tea outside of the office so that you can chat one-on-one before they meet everyone.

If they’re remote, welcome them on your instant messaging tool by sending a group message introducing them to the company (asking everyone to send a welcome gif is a fun way to do this).

Provide their schedule to them so that they know what will be happening. It’s a good idea to break up their first day with some work on a small project, so that it’s not just information overload or death-by-Zoom and they can feel like they’re achieving straight away!

Assign a buddy

“87% of organizations say buddy programs boost new hire proficiency.”  HCI

If you ever went to a new school, you might remember having a buddy on your first day/week who showed you around, gave you the lay of the land (where to eat lunch, which teachers not to talk back to, and where the best bathrooms were) and may have even been an instant friend. Here at intelli we essentially do the same, pairing each “new kid” up with someone else to help welcome them to the company.

Tips for an effective buddy system:

  • Choose someone from outside of the team (and not a manager). This will help the new employee make inroads with another team, understand how different parts of the business work and have a go-to person to ask questions.
  • Give the buddy a checklist of things to share, so they also know what to do.
  • Lock in times for catch-ups after the first day.

Provide access to tools

You will have already created a list and requested access to the various tools your new start needs to use in Phase 1, so now it’s time to share this list and make sure you give them enough time to set it all up how they like (because these things take time). This might include:

  • Email
  • HR software
  • Shared drive
  • Video conferencing tool
  • Webphone application
  • Instant messaging platform (ie Slack)
  • Project/task management tool
  • Wiki
  • Other job-related tools

Make it a workflow: It’s likely that different roles or teams will need access to different tools. Add this as an automated email or task to intelliHR’s role-based workflows.

Provide copies of organizational documents and assets

Share any important documents and assets with your new start. Even if you provided some of this via email prior to Day 1, it’s best to send it again for easy access and so that it’s all in one place. This might include:

  • Employee handbook or procedures (e.g. what to do when you’re sick, how to request time off)
  • Email signature template
  • Brand guidelines
  • Language/style guide
  • Media library

First 1-2 weeks: Orientation and training

The specific training and sessions will of course differ depending on your company and their role, but you might be able to take inspiration from the list below to ensure you’re covering all bases.

Manager team-member 1:1

  • Introduce yourself, your team, and the expectations of the role.
  • Create a task list or calendar so the new start knows what to do.
  • Set goals for 30/60/90 days so that they can start getting some wins under their belt.

Team orientation

  • Team calendar
  • Team processes
  • Current projects
  • Goals and KPIs

HR orientation

Provide an introduction to the company, values, policies and procedures. Review and complete any outstanding compliance items.

  • Product/service orientation
  • Workflows
  • Sales process
  • Unique selling points
  • Product marketing strategy

End of first week 1:1

Sit down and ask them how their week was face-to-face. Use this as an opportunity to build rapport and trust with your new start. Make it clear that it’s okay to ask questions, not know something and make mistakes, this helps to build an environment of psychological safety that will benefit their confidence and performance in the long run.

Two weeks+

Onboarding doesn’t stop after the first two weeks. In fact, sometimes the first couple of weeks are easier as existing employees will go out of their way to chat and look out for the new start – and then it dissipates. The next few months afterwards are absolutely essential to ensure ongoing integration.

Create opportunities for connection

As we just mentioned, after the first couple of weeks, efforts to welcome a new start tend to taper off. It’s important to create opportunities for the team member to build and strengthen connections with their coworkers.

Although some people say they don’t need friends at work, research suggests that those who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged, and have greater wellbeing: they produce higher quality of work, are better with customers and are more likely to stay. We recommend proactively building these opportunities for connection into the workweek, ongoing. Whether it’s team lunches, coffee runs, virtual trivia, or 5 minutes social chat at the start of each meeting, it all counts.

If your new team member is remote, then physically book time out in their calendar, and make them know that it’s okay to take time to chat socially (as they may feel pressure to demonstrate that they are working and producing).

Set and track goals

Ensure you’re checking in on progress towards the 30 day, 60 day and 90 day goals you initially set for the new employee and collaboratively set new goals for the future that align with your company’s strategic objectives. If goals aren’t being met, find out what support or training the person needs and how you can help.

Automate it: Schedule regular employee pulse surveys to collect feedback from your new employees on how they’re feeling in their role and if they need any support. This will help inform a more meaningful conversation for your 1:1s.

Seek feedback

Asking for feedback sends an important message to your new employee that your organization, and you as a leader, are interested in the employee’s thoughts. Acting on or discussing the feedback shows that you care.

Use continuous feedback tools to automate this process and ensure you’re asking the right questions at the right time. Below are some check-in pulses you could send during the onboarding phase to obtain feedback.

  • First week check-in.
  • Onboarding experience (end of first month).
  • Role check-in (end of first or second month) – how are you enjoying the role, is it meeting expectations, do you have all the support you need, is there any further training you need.
  • Satisfaction check-in (ongoing monthly check-ins on role, performance and satisfaction).
  • Wellbeing checks – fortnightly or monthly mental health and wellbeing check-ins.

So there you have it: a successful onboarding program starts with a holistic, person-centered strategy, is made possible with a comprehensive employee onboarding checklist and role-based templates, and finishes with the human touch.


intelliHR is a people management platform helping HR, leaders and managers enhance performance, culture, engagement and retention. With built-in HRIS and powerful real-time analytics, see how the platform works today.

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