Employee onboarding checklist: a guide for HR managers

An image of a checklist on a clipboard.

Picture this: You join a new job, and on the first day, you have no idea what to do, who your manager is, and what to expect.

This scenario is a result of a lack of an employee onboarding process. Most organizations see this as a one-time thing where you hand off an onboarding packet to a new hire and let them figure things out. But that leads to misalignment regarding responsibilities and values.

Within the first three to six months, you’ll see a high attrition rate—bringing you back to square one. 

This is why you must create a new employee onboarding checklist to ensure every employee gets a consistent experience and up to speed quickly.

Let’s look at the different phases of the onboarding process and what the new hire checklist includes for each of them.

Pre-boarding checklist

Here’s a pre-boarding checklist for hiring managers who want to create a good first impression:

1. Create and send an onboarding email series

This email series gradually introduces new hires, familiarizing them with your company's culture and expectations. Ideally, you should send this within a week of sending the job offer letter so the new hire can prepare accordingly.

Do the following as part of your onboarding:

  • Send a welcome letter with the terms and conditions.
  • Introduce the new hire to their manager.
  • Send documents that require a signature.
  • Provide information about internal processes.

You could spread these out over a few days if you have too many documents and want to avoid overwhelming the new employee.

2. Offer an onboarding package

An onboarding package aims to get all the administrative hurdles out of the way before the new hire's first official day. You can include the following:

  • Employment contract
  • Health insurance
  • Retirement provisions
  • Compensation package
  • Employee code of conduct and dress code
  • Personalized note from the company

3. Provide information about orientation day

Share clear information about what the employee’s first day will look like. For example, the intake event's date, time, and venue. This removes any confusion or anxiety around the process. It also helps the new hire prepare for day one on the job.

4. Assign a point of contact

Your new employees may have questions or concerns about what the role entails.

Assigning a dedicated point of contact—whether from human resources (HR) or the team they'll be joining—provides the new hire a reassuring touchpoint. Also, provide a clear channel of communication to make the transition easier.

5. Draft a 90-day onboarding plan

Communicate with the new hire's reporting team and ask them to draft a 90-day onboarding plan.

Outline expectations, potential milestones, scheduled on-the-job training sessions, and periodic check-ins. It doesn't have to be a completely finalized plan, but once the new hire joins, they can work with their manager to refine and finalize it.

Pre-boarding checklist:

☑️ Create and send an onboarding email series

☑️ Offer an onboarding package

☑️ Provide information about orientation day

☑️ Assign a point of contact

☑️ Draft a 90-day onboarding plan

First-day employee onboarding checklist

A new hire’s first day needs to be as seamless as possible. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Set up a formal introductory meeting

A new employee’s first interaction with your organization and their new team members sets the tone for their tenure. Greet them with a warm and friendly welcome and facilitate introductions to the people involved.

It gives them a sense of belonging and helps them understand where they fit into their team and larger department. It also sets them up nicely for future collaborations.

2. Conduct a comprehensive orientation session

The essence of any organization lies in its mission, vision, and values. Your orientation should cover these in detail, helping you align the employee’s expectations with the company’s objectives early on.  

In addition, provide a short background history on the organization and its five-year goals so the new hire feels a sense of purpose on their first day.

3. Conduct a workplace tour for all new hires

While some employees are given the time and space to get up to speed, others need to ramp up quickly. Conducting workplace tours for essential areas like workspaces, restrooms, break areas, and shared facilities like conference rooms or printing areas makes it easier for them. This also saves others time on offering the new hire directions.

4. Provide detailed sessions on internal and external policies

Different organizations work differently. It means that even though certain things might seem obvious, it’s better to spell it out at the beginning of the employee-employer relationship. Hold sessions on the following topics:

  • Internal code of conduct
  • Compliance policies
  • Daily work protocols
  • Fire and health safety regulations
  • Legal requirements

It acts as a preventive measure, minimizing misunderstandings from a lack of awareness.

5. Set up the hardware and software requirements

At least a part of our work these days is digital. Not just that but for some, hybrid or remote work is the norm. 

For example, sending emails or using an internal communication channel like Slack. Ensure your team sets up the accounts and provides the right credentials so the employee can get started quickly.

Typically, technical requirements hold up the onboarding process, so consider streamlining it with automated software.

First-day employee onboarding checklist:

☑️ Set up a formal introductory meeting

☑️ Conduct a comprehensive orientation session

☑️ Conduct a workplace tour for all new hires

☑️ Provide detailed sessions on internal and external policies

☑️ Set up the hardware and software requirements

First-week employee onboarding checklist

The first week of any new role is spent on getting to know the company. Here’s how you can help your new hire:

1. Assign a mentor or buddy

The initial days can be nerve-wracking for the new employee, so assign a mentor or peer to be their onboarding buddy. They can act as the main point of contact for any issues or concerns the employee might have, as long as it's under the purview of the point of contact.

It also helps build workplace relationships, as they might get introduced to other employees through that person. This shows that you care about how they settle into your organization’s work environment.

2. Offer in-depth training

It's common for organizations to have their protocols to do things despite being governed by external policies. Give the new employee enough resources, time, and bandwidth to absorb that information. 

You can conduct one-on-one training sessions and meetings or hand over the employee handbook to let them try things out themselves first. The goal is to help them become productive faster.

3. Clarify details about the organization’s hierarchy

Introduce the new employee to their immediate supervisor and other team members. Explain how each role fits into the department and organization's hierarchy so they know who to address specific queries. It also helps with maintaining healthy team dynamics by removing potential hurdles.

4. Explain the expectations and key responsibilities

In the first week, spend time on goal setting. Clarify the company's goal, performance expectations, and key responsibilities. This lets the employee know what's needed, and they can take the necessary steps to familiarize themselves. And you can work with them to chart the next 90 days in the role.

5. Schedule meetings to encourage relationship-building

Encourage the new hire and other department stakeholders to hold informal meetings with each other. This helps them network right from the get-go and better understand how the company functions. Plus, it helps with cross-functional collaboration down the road.

First-week employee onboarding checklist:

☑️ Assign a mentor or buddy

☑️ Offer in-depth training

☑️ Clarify details about the organization’s hierarchy

☑️ Explain the expectations and key responsibilities

☑️ Schedule meetings to encourage relationship-building

90-day employee onboarding checklist

The new hire onboarding checklist extends after the first month. The first 90 days are crucial for employee retention. Here’s what you need to account for successful onboarding:

1. Keep a tab on training and development initiatives

As employees keep progressing in their roles and taking on more responsibilities, it's important to make sure they have the right skills. In the initial 90-day onboarding checklist, add a few learning and development (L&D) or training activities too.

Ask the new hire if they feel like they have specific skill gaps, or use a skills matrix to determine if there are any. Provide the resources to help them fill those gaps and regularly check in on their progress.

2. Set up regular check-ins with the new employee

Creating a two-way conversation is an excellent way to put the employee at ease and understand more about their experience. You can conduct one-on-one sessions, long feedback surveys, or pulse surveys at the 30, 60, and 90-day marks.

Employees can also voice their concerns, which helps you improve the experience for them and other new hires. This lets you streamline onboarding operations over time.

At Poll Everywhere, we use the following questions in our 90-day check-in survey:

  1. What aspect of your job excites you the most? Why?
  2. Is there anything unclear about your work duties or company policies that you have learned about so far?
  3. Looking back on your onboarding experience, was there something missing? Or something you would've liked to learn more about sooner?
  4. Were you provided accurate information about Poll Everywhere during the hiring process? If yes, please explain. If not, what was missing?
  5. My role so far matches the job description provided to me. (Multiple choice)
  6. My experience with the organization has matched my expectations. (Multiple choice)
  7. I feel welcomed and included at Poll Everywhere. (Multiple choice)
  8. I still feel like this is a great role for me. (Multiple choice)

Want to create a feedback survey with these questions? Try out Poll Everywhere’s survey tool.

3. Provide opportunities for cross-functional exposure

By month three, the new hire should be integrated into their team plus be able to form cross-functional relationships, too. The new hire's immediate supervisor should be encouraging these relationships.  

For instance, junior finance consultants might be excluded from high-value projects that involve multiple teams due to lack of experience. Instead, give them the opportunity to shadow their supervisor and learn the ropes quickly.

4. Monitor the new hire’s social integration

In addition to cross-functional exposure, social integration is essential. Encourage the new hire to participate in team-building activities and other quarterly/annual events. These engagements humanize the workplace, turning colleagues into allies and the workplace into a community. It helps employees feel a sense of belonging and improves engagement rates.

90-day employee onboarding checklist:

☑️ Keep a tab on training and development initiatives

☑️ Set up regular check-ins with the new employee

☑️ Provide opportunities for cross-functional exposure

☑️ Monitor the new hire’s social integration

First year anniversary check-in checklist

For an effective onboarding process, you need to monitor your employee’s progress throughout their first year at the organization. At the end of the first year, do the following things:

1. Conduct a performance review

After a year in the organization, it’s time to gauge how well your employee is performing. Understand their strengths and weaknesses to pinpoint which areas need improvement. 

It provides a platform for constructive feedback, setting clear benchmarks for achievements and charting a path for future growth within the organization. It's best to do these reviews one-on-one and make it as comprehensive as possible.

2. Celebrate your employee's milestones

Employees want to feel seen in the workplace. So, acknowledge their contributions and wins in the first year. If they've spearheaded a successful project, tell them.

Even if it’s something as simple as celebrating their work anniversary, it shows you care about their contributions. You can also send an anniversary package with letters or tokens of appreciation with a forward-looking tone.

3. Set the tone for the next year

In their second year, the employee might want more from their role or want to know more about career progression within the company. If you’ve completed the performance reviews, give them a clear overview of what to expect. This also includes discussing potential L&D and career development opportunities they might be interested in.

4. Get employee feedback at the one-year mark

Feedback is an ongoing process. So it's no surprise that even at the one-year mark, you need to check in with the employees about how they feel about working in your organization. This feedback loop allows HR and management teams to improve the onboarding experience for future hires.

Ask them closed and open-ended questions to give them space to answer honestly. Also, it’s best to keep it anonymous as it’s hard to solicit honest feedback when the names are present. This lets you gauge employee satisfaction down the line.

Want to deploy a pulse survey in minutes? Try out Poll Everywhere’s feedback tool.

First work anniversary check-in checklist:

☑️ Conduct a performance review

☑️ Celebrate your employee's milestones

☑️ Set the tone for the next year

☑️ Get employee feedback at the one-year mark

Create an efficient employee onboarding process to improve retention

Employee onboarding is not just a series of introductory steps that new hires have to take. It demonstrates your commitment to the employee—and the employee’s commitment to your organization. 

Every interaction over the next 30, 90, and 365 days should be seamless. To achieve this, you need to make employee feedback a core part of your onboarding program. You can use a tool like Poll Everywhere to deploy pulse or annual feedback surveys.

For example, you can create an anonymous Pinned Q&A Activity as an open backchannel to get pointed feedback on the process. In addition, you can also deploy quarterly feedback surveys that are longer to solicit detailed feedback on different aspects of the process—from orientation to L&D opportunities.

Over time, you can refine the process and improve employee engagement, retention, and productivity.

Ready to scale your remote company culture? This free ebook gives you even more tips and guidance on keeping your remote team engaged, productive, and committed to your company. Even if your current remote work situation is hybrid or temporary, you may want to bring on remote workers or build off-site teams in the future.