The Employee Onboarding Process: What You Need to Know (Including an Onboarding Checklist)

Employee onboarding process

What’s the onboarding process like at your company? For some businesses, onboarding might just be some quick introductions or a quick run-through of office rules. But if you want new employees to feel welcomed, start working faster, and stick around longer, a more thorough onboarding process is essential. 

In this post, you’ll find:

  • A break down of the necessary elements of an effective onboarding process
  • Onboarding best practices
  • And an employee onboarding checklist

The three key focus areas of the onboarding process

Employee onboarding can sometimes feel overwhelming. With so much information to share regarding so many different areas of the business, it can be hard to know exactly where to start. 

By breaking the onboarding process down into three key focus areas, HR professionals and managers can structure their onboarding process into manageable components — reducing stress for everybody involved. 

As mentioned in our previous post introducing the concept of onboarding, these three components are: 

  • The organizational: How things work, company culture and values, company mission, and processes 
  • The technical: Job expectations, goals, definitions of success
  • The social: Creating a sense of community, interpersonal connections, building trust between team members, etc.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in each of these areas. We’ve organized these sections chronologically so you can move through each area as it occurs in the process. 

The organizational onboarding process

1. Ensure paperwork is complete 

All good onboarding plans start before the employee starts their first day. Instead of having an overwhelming stack of papers waiting at their desk for them, send new employees any documents that can be electronically signed and filed, beforehand. 

This gives them a headstart on getting integrated within the company and their first taste of how things work. Nobody wants to be stressed out — or bored — filling out piles of paperwork the first day at a new job. 

2. Create an employee profile on your HR software 

If the documents mentioned above need to be signed through an employee HR software such as BambooHR, Workday, or Collage, you might have completed this step already. If not, it’s great to get this done as soon as you can so that you can provide access to the new employee. 

3. Grant access to email and other work tools they’ll require

First, you’ll want to give your employees access to their email account, as it will typically be used to access other accounts. This can be done before they even start, and can be used to communicate with them in the lead up to their first day. 

On that first day, you’ll want to give your new employee access to any tools or software required. We recommend using a password manager like LastPass to grant access to shared accounts. Once they have access, take the time to train them or provide training materials for each platform. 

If your new team member uses a work management tool other than the one you use in-house, consider allowing them to sync accounts with Unito. Getting a new employee up to speed is much easier when they can use a tool they’re comfortable in.

4. Prepare the employee’s workstation

If the employee will be working from the office, you’ll first need to ensure they know how to access the office. Let them know where they can park, how to get into the building (key card, buzz into the front desk, etc.) and any other info that anyone arriving for the first time would need to know. 

You’ll also need to make sure their desk area is ready for them. While it might seem like a small thing, having a well-prepared area does wonders when it comes to making an employee feel welcomed and like a part of the team. 

Set up their computer and chair according to ergonomic and health guidelines, and provide all the usual supplies such as a notebook and pens. It’s also helpful to have the internet and WiFi connected to their computers, as well as the office printer. The less they have to worry about, the better. 

If your company is remote, you should still consider setting up your employees with computers, ergonomic chairs and hardware, and any other equipment to make their remote lives comfortable.

Once you have the basics, it’s always nice to have some extras to make their first day really special. 

Some ideas: 

  • A welcome card signed by other members of the team
  • Branded t-shirt, notebooks, mug, or pens 
  • A small plant for their desk 

It’s these little touches that can make all the difference when it comes to a new employee’s first day. 

5. Organize essential training

With the paperwork done, their computer and accounts set up, it’s time to plan out their training. While much of this will be job-specific (and fall under the technical), there will always be organizational training to do. At Unito, all new employees do:

  • Company 101 training with the CEO, including a deep dive into our company vision and mission
  • Security training, detailing all the steps every employee needs to take to ensure security and privacy.
  • Tool training, showing them how Unito is built, how it works, and how it is used. This isn’t just for salespeople, but every new hire.
  • Process training to outline all the simple stuff essential to working at your business that you might forget a new hire doesn’t know. This includes everything from who to ask about the printer to how to escalate an issue. If there’s too much to cover, try to focus on what they may need in their first week. 

6. Provide a schedule for their first day

One of the most stressful things about the first day on a new job is not knowing what to expect. Ease any worries by providing a first day schedule for your new employee. 

This can include information such as: 

  • What time they are expected to arrive and what time they should expect the day to end.
  • Who they should check-in with when first arriving at the office. This might be the HR team member or their direct manager. 
  • What their first few hours will look like. For example, perhaps they’ll receive an office tour, attend some orientation sessions, or just spend time getting to know their teammates. Let them know so they can be prepared. 
  • A team lunch. This is a valuable first day experience for not only the new employee, but the rest of the team.  

A first day at a new job comes with many questions, but a clear schedule goes a long way into helping them feel at ease.

7. Provide any relevant reading materials 

In between meeting new team members and getting used to a new office, it can be a relief for new employees to sit down with some reading material for a bit. 

Have printed copies of the company policies, a company culture guide, and any relevant style guides (copywriting or design) for them to read. Schedule a dedicated time later in the week to go over the documents with the employee to discuss any questions or concerns they may have. 

The technical onboarding process 

1. Outline job responsibilities

A study from BambooHr found that of the respondents who left a new job within the first six months, 23 percent said that “receiving clear guidelines to what my responsibilities were” would have helped them stay. 

While your new hire knows what was outlined in the job posting, it can be really helpful to walk them through their responsibilities on the first day. Set up some time to have a more in-depth discussion regarding what their day-to-day will look like, who they’ll be working closely with, and what their key deliverables are. 

2. Provide clear goals

If any employee doesn’t know what success looks like within their role and the organization, there’s a good chance they won’t achieve it. Work with the employee to develop clear and achievable goals that align with the company’s objectives. 

At Unito, we use objectives and key results for goal-setting. New hires are walked through the company and departmental OKRs, and then work with their manager’s to set personal OKRs right out of the gate. 

Make sure you start with achievable goals and don’t put new hires in a position to fail. You can gradually work your way up to more ambitious targets and long-term goals as your employee gets more comfortable in their role.  

3. Run job-specific training

In addition to all of the company-wide training they’ll receive, they’ll obviously need training specific to their role. Try to plan this for their first week or two, and they aren’t blocked from progressing by a simple lack of training. 

This training may be led by the manager or other members of the organization that they’ll be working closely with. 

4. Schedule weekly check-ins and coaching sessions

It’s important to schedule regular check-ins and coaching sessions with the individual. Weekly one-on-ones with the manager are a great way to ensure the onboarding process is running smoothly. As the employee becomes more comfortable, these can shift to bi-weekly or monthly as needed.

Some questions to discuss with the employee: 

  • Do you have everything you need to get your job done? 
  • How are you finding your day-to-day work experience? 
  • Is there anything else I can do to support you at this time? 
  • What are some things you’ve noticed about the organization? 
  • Do you have any questions or concerns about process, company culture, or policies? 

The social onboarding process 

1. Announce the new employee

The first step to integrating a new employee into the company’s social culture, is to let everyone know they’re arriving. This could be an email, Slack message, or personal introductions (or all three!). Be sure to include the new hire in your messaging so they can start interacting with their new colleagues. It’s an easy way to break the ice.

2. Assign them a work buddy

When somebody is hired at Unito, they get a “buddy” in the company they can go to with questions about culture, process, or anything else they might be wondering about. As a new employee, it can sometimes feel like you’re bothering your manager every few minutes with another question, so this additional connection and resource is helpful for all involved. 

The buddy system should be somewhat formalized to ensure both employees are finding value in it, but not so formalized that it feels forced. Make sure the individual chosen to be the buddy is interested in taking part, and that they have the capacity to commit. 

We encourage our buddies to take their new colleagues out for coffee in the first week, to help kick-start that connection.

3. Schedule a welcome lunch

As mentioned above, a welcome lunch on the employee’s first day can make a huge difference in helping them build social connections right away. Schedule a lunch for the new employee’s immediate team, or any other people they’ll be working with on a daily basis. 

While quick introductions are good, a welcome lunch lets everyone get to know each other on a much more personal level. It’s much easier to go up and ask a question of somebody you’ve spoken to before and gotten to know a bit, rather than a complete stranger, and the welcome lunch helps with this tremendously. One final tip? If this lunch happens at a restaurant, cover the cost of this lunch for the new team member. Don’t force them to pay to get to know people. 

4. Schedule meetings with key team members 

While some training may be led by members of other teams, you should also schedule meetings between the new hire and key cowowrkers. This might include managers of other departments, individuals they’ll be working with often, or important members of the company. 

These meetings can be either one-on-ones, or include full teams (as long as they don’t consist of more than 10 people). Have the lead team member outline what the team does, and how they can work together with the new employee most effectively. 

An employee onboarding process checklist

Now that you know the basics of a successful employee onboarding process, it’s time to put it into practice. We’ve created a simple employee onboarding checklist to help you plan, organize, and streamline your process. 

Download a printable version here

Ensure paperwork is complete 
Create an employee profile on your HR software 
Grant access to email and other work tools they’ll require
Prepare the employee’s workstation
Organize essential training
Provide a schedule for their first day
Provide any relevant reading materials

Outline job responsibilities
Provide clear goals 
Run job-specific training
Schedule weekly check-ins and coaching sessions

Announce the new employee
Assign them a work buddy
Schedule a welcome lunch
Schedule meetings with key team members 

At Unito, we’ve built our onboarding template into an Asana project. Everytime we hire a new employee, we duplicate the project and assign the above tasks to the relevant person within the company. This adds visibility to the onboarding process and ensures nothing falls through the cracks. 

Onboarding best practices

Now that you know what you should be doing in order to effectively onboard new employees, let’s talk about how you should be doing it. Here are some best practices to ensure you’re getting the most out of your onboarding plan. 

Make organization a priority

Your new hire will be looking to you for guidance, so it’s important that you’re organized and in control of the situation. 

For example, if you had scheduled an introductory meeting with another team and then forgot about it, or didn’t prepare anything, the new employee is left feeling confused and uncomfortable. If you’re running around trying to do a million things, you’re sending the wrong message to the new employee. Take a breath, make sure your calendar is up-to-date, and show the employee that they’re in good hands. 

Don’t overwhelm the new employee

While one of the main goals of onboarding is to have new employees productive and integrated into the company as soon as possible, this won’t happen if you overwhelm them with information or tasks right away. 

While it’s recommended you outline some easy-win, upcoming tasks the employee can start thinking about, don’t ask them for any hard deadline work within the first week. The first few days at a new job often include a firehose of information the employee is trying their best to learn, so refrain from adding the pressure of an assignment. 

Ask for feedback 

Remember: your employee onboarding plan isn’t set in stone. As you apply your onboarding plan to more and more new employees, you can continuously update and shape it to work best for your organization. 

To do this effectively, ask for feedback from all new employees verbally during weekly check-ins, as well as at the end of their probationary period. Create an open and honest communication process to build trust between the employee and yourself, and refrain from any defensiveness when constructive criticism is shared. 

Some questions to ask when requesting feedback: 

  • What’s something we could have done differently during your first week? 
  • Is the role what you expected it would be? What are some disparities? 
  • Do you feel as if you’ve received adequate training with relevant software and tools? 
  • Do you feel welcome and integrated into the company culture?
  • What are some blockers you’re currently facing? 
  • What do you wish was done differently during the onboarding process? 

The onboarding experience doesn’t have to feel like a chore for new employees — or HR managers. With the above checklist and best practices, you can develop and optimize a successful onboarding plan that will create — and keep — happy, productive employees. 

What’s next?

1. Want more of our posts on culture? Find them here.
2. See the power of Unito in action.
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