10 Tips for Creating an Onboarding Checklist for New Hires

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

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

After spending over 17 years in staffing, I’ve developed a few insights on the importance of planning out the onboarding process.

Why Is Onboarding Important?

Onboarding is important because it familiarizes new employees with the job and increases employee engagement. 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/paid-time-off (PTO) schedule, and other information. Employees will be able to affirm whether this is the job for them and then join the company.

Once a candidate is identified as a fit for a company and its open position, the next step—to get the candidate onboarded—is crucial. As time goes by, if this candidate doesn’t receive an offer letter, a link to complete paperwork, or a start date, the person could be contacted for other opportunities. In my experience, in every market we work in, candidates want to get started as quickly as they can. And if they’re currently working, they want the offer quickly so they can put in their notice and get started with the new opportunity. Onboarding should be as highly prioritized as filling open positions.

Additionally, onboarding prepares employees 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 report concerns, and so on. And if there are certain items necessary for an 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 employer. However, if a company uses a recruitment process outsourcing company or staffing agency, sometimes that third party will handle the recruiting process as part of its services. It may contract out an employee to your company for a specific amount of time as a result. 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 it offers.

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 amid 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 onboarding checklists. These checklists serve as comprehensive guides HR personnel can follow to keep the process organized and streamlined.

Furthermore, it’s 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’re aware of what’s expected of them and what they need to accomplish.

It’s important to note that onboarding checklists aren’t 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’s necessary to update 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

The biggest challenges in onboarding come down to logistics, organization, and communication.

After making an offer, the most common challenge with onboarding is when a company’s compliance and internal paperwork isn’t organized. It’s crucial for the employee to be able to 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 after the offer as possible. The longer a company doesn’t provide the compliance that has to be completed or an offer letter, the higher the chance of losing that candidate to another employer. 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 typically won’t be hiccups along the way.

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

Onboarding checklists are often very detailed and quite 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 isn’t trained or educated properly on 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 E-Mail

This is not only a great, personalized touch that can warm your employees’ hearts but also a great way to kick off the onboarding process. Send them an e-mail (you can CC 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, the 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 when needed and can be easily modified in a pinch. We also recommend investing in a good printer/scanner so you can easily scan and archive documents employees fill 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. These include the employee handbook, the company directory, the welcome letter, and other introductory materials. These usually aren’t job-specific and can be printed well in advance.

3. Always Include Contact Information

Chances are employees 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 make it front and center and easy to see. If you’re sending an e-mail, 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 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 assign gear and devices, so if they’re important to your incoming employee’s job, try to get a jump on them.

5. Set Up E-Mails/Logins/Accounts in Advance

This one might be incorporated into 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 it into the relevant software platforms and accounts.

6. Get Ahead on Scheduling

Once you have the details, try to set up your employees’ orientation. You may have to bring several different departments together to do this, so we recommended doing it as early as possible. During this time, new employees will 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 e-mails 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 hires to see if there’s a 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’ first day. Even a simple bag can go a long way toward making them feel welcomed. A bag, shirt, or hat with company logos; some candy; a small gift card; and a simple handwritten note can all make new employees feel welcomed.

8. Set Goals and a Check-In Time

Even though your employees are new, giving them small goals to complete in the first 30, 60, or 90 days can help them get oriented. These can be something like meeting everyone on the team or more ambitious like finishing all the training and onboarding. It gives the employees 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 toward 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. 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 2 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 whereby employees learn the details of the job and officially become members of the team. To perfect the process, focus on speed and efficiency.

Streamline your onboarding strategy so it’s easy on the new hires and the process moves quickly. From the verbal offer to an official offer letter, no more than 24 hours should pass, or your chance of losing the candidate to another offer increases. If you have a lot of compliance paperwork that needs to be completed upon hiring, have everything laid out for the employees step by step and a timeline of expectations for when each process needs to be completed.

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

As the number of jobs continues to outpace the number of candidates, employers may continuously onboard until hiring slows down. If you find yourself struggling to streamline your onboarding process, you can always reach out to a staffing partner to offload some of the work.

Ally Goodwin is a Delivery Executive at Aerotek, where she’s held multiple titles over the past 18 years. She’s been in a recruiter role in which she supported multiple skill sets, managed large accounts, and onboarded and trained new recruiters. Now, she’s managing a recruiting center, where she’s leading a team of recruiters who support the West Region in the company’s light industrial divisions. She has been on Aerotek’s women employee resource group (ERG) board for 3 years, holding the title of co-chair, and has the opportunity to work with a diverse group of women in the company. She loves to spend time with her family—she’s been married to her husband, Chris, for 15 years, and they have a daughter, Taylor, who is 11.   

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