Employee Onboarding Checklists: What to Include

Learn about the 5 essential components of an employee onboarding checklist and how to design one for your company’s needs.

employee onboarding checklist

The onboarding process isn’t just about paperwork and forms. It should be designed to welcome new employees into the fold, immersing them in connections and culture. The result can mean getting over the initial “hump” that often leads to costly high employee turnover.

Employers have the power to change that narrative during the onboarding process. Having an employee onboarding checklist is highly beneficial to new hires (and you!) because it increases engagement and helps new employees immediately feel a part of the team.

Onboarding checklists help streamline the process while ensuring that each critical stage, phase, and task is completed. Think of employee onboarding as a rocket launch. You wouldn’t complete the launch without a good, vetted checklist.

New employee onboarding checklists essentially document a strategic plan and the steps required to execute that plan. They provide a starting point for processes and procedures specific to the job and business needs. In a competitive talent market, checklists help to keep onboarding relevant, protecting the investment made to find and recruit talent.

Creating a new employee onboarding checklist? This article details what goes into a new hire onboarding checklist from day one and beyond.

What to include in an onboarding checklist

To draw up a checklist for the entire onboarding process, start by identifying the stages and the onboarding tasks for each stage. You might even create a checklist template that you use to make checklists for each stage of new employee onboarding.

You can download new hire onboarding templates and update them with every task required to integrate in-person and remote employees. Some factors to consider are the type of workforce you employ, where the work is performed, and your industry.

Here are 5 examples of components to include in an onboarding checklist that will help human resources workers, managers, existing employees, and new employees.

The manager’s checklist

Successful onboarding begins before a new hire’s start date. A manager’s checklist includes reminding team leaders to complete required contracts and forms. This could include all new hire paperwork, such as non-disclosure agreements, job descriptions, and copies of certifications. Other reminders can prompt the newest team member to bring in required paperwork, like licenses, on day one. This will save managers and the new employee time and frustration later.

Managers and other team members should check in with the new employee to ask how they are adjusting or if they have any questions. The manager’s checklist might include assigning an onboarding buddy who can oversee and “be there” for the new team member.

The compliance checklist

Keep track of all your workforce management requirements with a compliance checklist. Your new hire onboarding compliance checklist should include:

This part of the checklist reminds you to get these important onboarding documents taken care of — and avoid a costly misstep.

The new hire welcome email

A new hire welcome email announcing the news to other employees helps bring talent quickly into the fold. Send a message to the team by email or text with specifics about the new hire, their start date, and the role they’ll be filling. The message can also let the team know that a lunch with the new worker has been scheduled and added to their calendars. Helping new employees assimilate into your company culture goes a long way toward helping them succeed in their new job and, hopefully, achieving retention and longevity.

The 30/60/90 day ramp

Onboarding is an ongoing process. Even after new employees complete their initial training, keeping a close eye on them can drive integration into the team and the company’s culture, and a faster route to productivity.

Follow-through is critical. So, your employee onboarding checklist might include a long-range plan, such as a 30/60/90 day plan. Start with the important connections the new hire must make in their first weeks and months. After their immediate trainers and team members, work in the “survival” resources, like HR, benefits administration, and payroll. With this checklist, you can plan for making vital connections and verify that they have occurred.

The checklist can be especially helpful in making sure the new hire makes important connections with other departments that they might encounter infrequently. A review of the organizational chart provides employees with a sense of place within the company. For today’s job applicants, growth opportunities are very important, and a career path is an essential selling point when hiring. An effective onboarding process includes making sure your new hire can see possible paths for growth.

What to include in your employee onboarding checklist

Any employee onboarding checklist should include training, both short term and long term.

Safety training

This is the place to start. In some positions, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements must be met. Your checklist will remind you to have the most up-to-date requirements and the proper gear required for your employee’s position. If your employee will work with large amounts of cash, the HR onboarding checklist might include robbery prevention training. If chemicals are involved, to give another example, you would provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and training on your standards for handling chemicals.

Sexual harassment training

Sexual harassment is a big issue in the workplace and needs to be addressed from the start. Employees who are not trained properly in the employee onboarding process may inadvertently get themselves into hot water with a joke or snide comment. Be sure to present sexual harassment as a zero-tolerance policy and set the highest standard of expectations. Let the employee know it is best to keep interactions highly professional with their colleagues both at work and during off hours.

Job training and employee handbook discussion

Be sure to give your new team member adequate time to review the employee handbook — while they’re on the job. This resource contains vital information, but will likely go unread if the employee is expected to read during off hours. Your checklist should include time to highlight key sections of the handbook and any other important HR documents. You can gather employee feedback at this time, too. Finally, you could have them sign a handbook acknowledgment form.

For more effective onboarding, provide job training in more than one learning style if possible. Some employees may learn well from watching videos, while others need to actually perform a task to absorb the information. Training in multiple fashions can make your process more inclusive and get better results.

Good HR software for onboarding can help you track initial assignments and milestones — key elements of onboarding. A good checklist helps managers track what processes the new hire needs to master and when. Managers can quantify whether an employee’s development is on track with expectations for their specific job role.

When the new hire reaches autonomy, your job hasn’t ended. A new hire checklist reminds managers to continue creating meetings and touch points with the staff member to outline new goals and develop richer connections. Does your company encourage professional development? Set reminders to follow-up with new hires on their progress. If LMS modules are a priority, plan meetings to discuss possible career trajectories and the ways to get there. If you need help, there are many onboarding checklist templates available online.

The employee lifecycle checklist

Onboarding is a process, not a project. Follow the program from your pre-onboarding checklist to your new hire checklist to this final checklist. Essentially, you’ll know you’ve reached this point when you’re confident the new hire is fully assimilated into the organization, is as independently productive as possible, and is fully committed to the job. An employee lifecycle checklist guides you through every step.

From recruitment to hiring, through pre-onboarding and ramp-up, your onboarding checklist helps to make sure that no step is missed. Team leaders and/or HR can track when the new worker is ready for growth in their role or a transition to a new role. Create actions and tasks to assign and complete, including a manager’s role, HR’s contribution, and details about the knowledge and proficiency the worker must have to take the next step.

The last step is the conversion from onboarding to offboarding to alumni. Checklists help recap the entire process, showing that every step has been taken and every opportunity for incorporation and growth has been met.

Measuring the ROI of onboarding

How can businesses measure the success of their onboarding and know they’ve offered a smooth onboarding process? Checklists are invaluable here. They verify goals met, connections made, contributions, and commitment. Checklists remind managers to look for progress: not just in the initial work, but in contributions to the organization overall, individual professional development, and employee satisfaction.

Completed onboarding checklists give businesses the opportunity to analyze their processes. For one new hire or dozens, comparisons can be made so a business can learn, adjust, and improve its onboarding. This quantifiable data can be invaluable in developing a rich, successful onboarding process that turns new hires into long-term employees while averting low employee engagement.

Checklists help you manage your onboarding program efficiently and effectively. Whether team leaders are guiding their newest employee, HR is managing the process, or you use a combination of both, checklists keep everyone on track, on task, and in the loop.

Ready to use an employee onboarding checklist?

Using an onboarding template through all of the above 5 steps can go a long way toward achieving your goal for excellent job performance and happiness in your new hires. It also helps you follow all federal and state rules, and document that.

If you want to learn more about employee onboarding and other important HR topics, check out our Workest blog.


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