It was the first day of my first internship in college. When I walked in the doors, my boss gave me a brief, 20-minute rundown on how the organization was structured, what my role entailed, and what my first assignment would be.
Then, I found my cubicle and got to work ... feeling both largely unprepared and frustratingly secluded.
Who was on my team? Wasn't I supposed to meet them? Were there other interns, and where were they? And what was the culture like, really?
It was an internship, but nonetheless, it quickly taught me the importance of onboarding.
Ultimately, your company's onboarding experience is your employees' initial introduction to the company.
If you don't implement a memorable and helpful onboarding process that fully integrates new employees into your company, you risk higher turnover rates and less productive teams.
To ensure your new hires remain thrilled by your company and engaged in their roles long after the initial onboarding process, take a look at our onboarding checklist.
An onboarding checklist is one of the easiest ways to ensure your onboarding process includes all the necessary elements to fully integrate new employees into your company. However, it's important to note, onboarding isn't one-size-fits-all — a junior copywriter is going to need different tools to succeed at your company than a new marketing director.
While onboarding will vary for each employee, there are a few components you should include for any new hire.
The following onboarding checklists are for managers or HR departments to use when they are helping a new hire integrate into the company. Of course, certain tasks, such as necessary paperwork or required reading, will differ depending on the company or role.
Before The First Day
Gather the necessary paperwork (e.g. W-4, I-9, and insurance forms, direct deposit forms).
Ask your new hire to review your company's employee handbook and sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Prepare a workstation for your new hire.
Gather the necessary tools, such as a computer, and/or access to any required software.
Provide your new hire with a company email.
Give your new hire any relevant reading material, including company-wide policies and procedures, an organization chart, and a description of her role, as well as the company's values, mission, and culture (unless this is included in employee handbook)
Before the first day, you might also consider leaving a note on your new hire's desk, welcoming them to the team. Perhaps you can share any branded material, like a sweatshirt or mug, as a welcome gift.
Additionally, consider sending your new hire an email, cc'ing all team members, welcoming them to the team.
On The First Day
Provide your new hire with all necessary information, such as your dress code, where they can park, what time they should arrive, and what they should bring.
Prepare your team ahead of time — let them know your new hire is arriving so they can greet her when she gets to her workstation.
Reserve time on your team's calendar for a "Welcome" lunch for the new hire, and tell the new hire ahead of time.
Give your new hire a tour of the office, including bathrooms, kitchen, and support desk.
Set up a meeting between the manager (if not you) and new hire, so the manager can introduce herself, explain how the department is structured and how one-on-one's typically go, and answer any questions.
Assign the new hire a mentor and ask mentor to set up a time to have lunch with the new hire.
The first day will vary depending on how many new hires your company onboards at one time — one new hire, of course, will require a different process than a group of 30.
However, it's important to keep your new hire busy and engaged. You don't want her to feel awkward sitting at her desk waiting for instruction. You want to demonstrate you've taken the time to plan a full, productive day for her.
To keep the employee engaged and excited, you could give her a "30-day plan", which might include:
Names of people you suggest she reach out to for lunch or coffee. These are likely people she'll be working with closely, or people you believe can offer her guidance.
Reading material that will help her succeed in her new role — if she's the new social media manager, perhaps you can include blog posts about social media you'd like her to read.
The manager's expectations for her first month (i.e. "I'd like you to brainstorm and present one marketing video campaign idea by the end of this month").
During Week One
Consider asking both new hire and manager to take the DiSC, if they haven't already — understanding work personalities can help meetings and projects go more smoothly.
Within first few days, assign the first project to your new hire. This will help her feel like a valuable asset to the team and allow her to become more comfortable in her role.
Ensure all required paperwork is filled out.
Review employee performance evaluations and set goals for the first month.
If necessary, set aside time to teach new hire how to use any new software.
As a manager, it's critical to keep your schedule open if you're solely in charge of your new hire's integration into the new team. Take the time to thoughtfully consider one-on-one lessons you can set up to acclimate your new hire to your software or work processes.
Additionally, keep her educated on what's happening with the larger team. Ask her if she wants to sit in on meetings that, while not directly relevant to her at the moment, might be useful to her as she grows in her role. This may also help her get a better sense of what your team does and what kind of culture your department fosters.
Ultimately, it's critical she has a firm understanding not just of her own role, but how her role fits into the company as a whole.
For the First Month
Set up weekly meetings to give your new hire constructive criticism regarding her first couple assignments.
Provide her with additional reading material as you see fit — perhaps you suggest books related to her role or articles you feel will help with her professional growth.
Check that she is meeting the appropriate people and getting lunch or coffee with core members of the team
Ask for feedback from the new hire(s) — if its a large group, offer the option to fill-out an anonymous survey. If you have only one new hire, simply ask her what else she needs to succeed or what she wishes the company provided.
Organize a team outing to help the new hire bond with the team — if dinner is difficult to plan, consider getting lunch with the team away from the office.
Ask her mentor to check-in with her.
During the first month, it's important your new hire has a firm understanding of what's expected of her and who she can turn to for guidance.
Additionally, your new hire likely has particular preferences regarding how she'd like to be managed. After providing constructive feedback during each one-on-one, ask her if she has any feedback for you as her manager.
Towards the end of the initial onboarding process, ask new hires to fill out a survey regarding the onboarding process. Your HR team can use these suggestions to alter the process for future employees.
While we've only covered the first month, it's important to note studies have shown companies with less than one month dedicated to onboarding are 9% less likely to keep first-year employees than companies with longer processes.
Your new hires need time to fully acclimate to their roles and the company culture. A good time frame is roughly one to three months minimum, but some companies choose to implement an onboarding process that lasts a full year.
Ultimately, a good onboarding process will take into consideration both what your team needs from your new hire, and what your new hire needs to succeed in her role. It might require flexibility and patience, but it's worth it if you can show your new hire she's a valuable asset to your team. You can also adjust your strategies as you learn more about her strengths and weaknesses.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 26, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated May 26 2020