Employee Onboarding Best Practices
A bookmarkable resource designed to help your company’s employee onboarding process become structured, reliable, and scalable to support growth.Download as PDF
The employee onboarding experience directly impacts how people feel towards their new employers. Research shows the trajectory of new hire success is set as early as the first two weeks, and positive onboarding programs result in longer term employees and greater output, lifting retention by as much as 25% and employee performance by 70%.
Conversely, negative onboarding puts a company at high risk of losing employees—quick. Upon a negative first impression with a company, many hourly workers never come back for a second day of work, and 50% end up quitting in the first 3 months.1
Turns out first impressions do matter.
To help organizations navigate onboarding meaningfully and effectively, we’ve pulled together this page, as a one-stop-shop for onboarding questions. From “what should the employee onboarding process look like?” to providing printable checklists for managers for the first 30 days.
Click a box below to jump ahead to print or download specific resources. Or follow us along.
1 Krauss, A. D. (2010). Onboarding the hourly workforce. Poster presented at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), Atlanta, GA, as presented in HCAMag
The Employee Onboarding Process
Employers have a lot to consider when thinking about training new employees and getting them up to speed quickly, even before they send an offer letter to a new candidate.
Whether you’re an HR manager developing systems, tools, and solutions to scale your onboarding requirements, or you’re a business owner navigating hiring while simultaneously wearing ten other hats to get the job done, there are decisions to be made on which tools to use, which employee onboarding ideas or methods work best for various industries/jobs/roles, and which software solutions best support your company’s growth strategy.
But while there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to welcoming and training new employees, it’s clear good onboarding programs make positive and lasting impact. Onboarding varies in formality, sequencing, size of new hires onboarded at once, and how involved management is throughout the process.
Still, there are some cornerstones to onboarding that apply to virtually all businesses. And we help you walk through some of that in this online guide.
The basics of employee onboarding
The most important thing is, regardless of your company size, industry or location, employee onboarding is about getting employees up to speed within their job roles, quickly. What information do they need? What is the best cadence of providing new information? And what’s the best internal process to ensure your new employees receive the attention they need without marring the productivity of the overall team?
In this section, we help you walk through key questions you’ll need to answer to determine what information to share with new hires, and in the next section you can find easy checklists to help you formulate a process around your cadence.
But first, let’s make sure you know what your onboarding process actually looks and feels like with a quick internal questionnaire you can use to help you develop your unique onboarding process.
- The flow of disseminating new information to employees
- Compliance with legally mandated forms and paperwork
- Before start date
- First day
- After first 30 days
Internal Questionnaire: What does your onboarding process look and feel like?
Questions businesses should ask when developing onboarding processes.
What information do your new hires need to know?
What do new hires need to know in their first few weeks of employment with your company? And what things can you prepare in advance to make their transition smoother? Consider:
- Which rules and policies pertain to their job role or function
- How are communicating your values and mission statement?
- What are the specific job trainings or certifications your employees need to complete?
- What kinds of access will new hires need? E.g. access to internal email servers, door codes, storage rooms, document archives?
When does information need to be communicated?
Don’t overload your new hires. They have a lot to learn, and handling their job transition with grace will reflect positively on your company. Consider when different things need to get done and organize them into a cadence that flows throughout their first 30-60 days. Consider:
- Which do employees need to read and receive prior to their start date?
- What information do they need on their start date?
- Does your company pass out an employee handbook?
- Are there safety requirements, online or in-person trainings? When do these occur?
How is each part of training and onboarding handled?
Depending on your industry and the specific job role your hiring for, different information is likely better suited for digital dissemination, others better taught in person, and still others best in a group setting. Consider:
- What are the documents or forms required? Are you doing that manually or digitally?
- Does your company do orientation? Is this organized as a group orientation? Or for an individual hire?
- Does your management staff have a regular cadence to check in with new hires as they onboard? Is this handled via email, one-on-one meetings?
- How do new employees ask for help?
Employee Onboarding Checklists
Once you know what kinds of information you need to communicate to your new hires — and the pace you want to share it — it’s helpful to build out internal tools to ensure steps aren’t missed.
It’s easy to overlook onboarding steps, especially when it’s not your primary job, but you don’t want onsight to mar your onboarding process, when the first few weeks is so crucial to employee success, happiness, retention, and brand affiliation.
Investing time to create a rich start to your employee’s new job sets the stage for long term employee-employer success.
To help you formulate a repeatable process for onboarding, check out the printable lists below. These checklists are a great start to giving your management actionable tasks and reminders that correlate to more structured onboarding, and as a result, better employee productivity.
Hover over the checklist you want to see. Download the checklist to make edits, changes, or customize the tasks to your specific business. Your management will thank you.
- Welcome your new hire via email and include:
- Start date and time
- Specific location where candidate will be met
- Parking info, if applicable
- Dress code
- List of items to bring for in-person onboard (if they don’t need to bring anything, specify that as well)
- Plan of first assignment and what to expect
- Put recurring one-on-one check-ins with management on calendar
- Connect the new employee with his/her immediate team members
- Select a mentor for the new hire
- Prepare work area and supplies
- Acquire appropriate keys, codes, and any other items necessary for access
- Set up computer hardware, software subscriptions, accessories, etc.
- Set up new employee’s email
- Add employee to relevant email lists, so they feel included and informed from day 1
- Meet/greet the new employee in person
- Personally take your new hire to their orientation or training session (if applicable)
- Share your new employee’s name, photo, role, and short bio with the company and team
- Give your new hire a tour of the physical space, introduce them to team members, and point out important spaces like bathrooms and fire exits
- Take your new employee out for a team lunch
- Arrange any applicable product demonstrations and learning sessions
- Show your new hire how to find/complete:
- Office supplies
- Catered lunches or dinners
- Reimbursements for commute and other expenses
- Access to internet
- Provide your new hire with a list of people and their titles within your organization
- Encourage your new hire to familiarize themselves with the product/service
- Introduce hire to key players and foster communication across teams
- Plan a first assignment or provide hire with a list of goals for the first week to accomplish independently
- Debrief your new hire on current and upcoming projects
- Inform your new hire of team goals and objectives
- Explain the performance review/goal-setting process
- Make sure your new hire has completed all required documents for compliance
Employee Onboarding Forms
Anytime you hire someone, there is legally mandated paperwork required, whether the worker is full time, contracted, or seasonal.
In this section we walk you through some of the most important steps—and highlight common pitfalls—you need to be aware of as an employer to stay on the right side of compliance.
Your first step is to accurately classify that person as either an independent contractor or employee. It’s very important that you understand the differences between an independent contractor and an employee. Not only has the IRS has increased their efforts to crackdown on employers hiring independent contractors, but it’s also the #1 reason businesses are fined. Contractors and employees are handled quite differently from a federal tax perspective.
If your hire is deemed an independent contractor, refer to the IRS’s Forms and Associated Taxes for Independent Contractors for your tax responsibilities.
If your hire is deemed employee, the situation is a bit more complex. Namely, you, as a business, must have an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and your business’s tax responsibilities include withholding, depositing, reporting, and paying employment taxes.
Additionally, there are various forms that are specific to each employee type, which we will get to a bit later.
Consequences for “unintentional” misclassification of workers:
- $50 for each W-2 the employer failed to file
- Penalties of 1.5% of wages, 40% of FICA taxes not withheld from employee, and 100% of the employer FICA taxes
- A Failure to Pay Taxes penalty equal to 0.5% of the unpaid tax liability for each month, up to 25% of the total tax liability
Information Needed and Forms for All Employees
Next, you must collect the following information and secure it your records for any employment type (part-time, season, full-time, contractor, etc).
- Eligibility to Work in the United States — (Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification)
- Employee’s Social Security Number (SSN) — (reported on Form W-2 or Form SS-5, Application for Social Security Card (PDF) if your new hire does not have a social security card)
- Employee’s Withholding — (Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate)
Once you’ve gathered general information about your employee, you’ll need to identify the specific type of employee you’re hiring. Here’s a list the IRS provides, that can help you get started.
Need extra help?
Hopefully this online resource gives you a good start organizing how to plan you employee onboarding process including: what information to include during employee onboarding, how to deliver it, and when to deliver it. We provided downloadable checklists as well as links to helpful IRS articles for rules, regulations, and requirements for certain job functions. If you’re still looking to polish up your onboarding skill set, here are a few more resources that could help:
- 6 Tips for the Best Employee Onboarding Experience
- Transform the Employee Experience with These 6 Onboarding Resources
- 10 Ways To Prepare For An Employee’s First Day
- What to Include in an Employee Onboarding Video
Help us help you.
Help us better understand which part of the onboarding process you’re struggling with most, and we can get HR experts to work with you to devise solutions.