The New Hire Checklist: How To Onboard Employees The Right Way

Congratulations on your new hire! Between reading resumes and interviewing, finding your ideal candidate is no small feat.

Set your impressive new hire up for success by giving them the right introduction to your company. Whether you’re a business owner or a recruiter, we’re here to give you exactly what you need to create a professional, turn-key onboarding process that you can use again and again with repeated success.

We interviewed small businesses, hiring managers and HR professionals to give you a full perspective on orientation and onboarding. We also included time-saving templates and an employee onboarding checklist to help you fit new employee orientation and onboarding into your busy schedule.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • The difference between orientation and onboarding 💁
  • The payoff of great orientation and onboarding processes 🏆
  • A pre-employment checklist for you to prepare for new hires’ first day 📑
  • An orientation checklist to welcome employees on their first day ✅
  • An onboarding checklist to set new hires up for success in their first three months 📚

Download The WizeHire New Hire Checklist

Onboarding 101: A Quick Explainer

You can’t build a skyscraper without understanding key engineering principles. Likewise, you need to know the basics of onboarding—its purpose, its value—before building your own process for employees.

Orientation vs Onboarding: What’s The Difference?

Orientation is a one-time event, typically a new hire’s first day, to introduce them to your organization. It usually covers the culture, mission, and vision of your company.

Onboarding is a series of events, including orientation, that teaches new hires how to succeed in their role and how their job relates to the whole business. It usually lasts throughout the new hire’s first three months.

Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between orientation and onboarding based on this explanation from Insperity.

Onboarding process

The two stages sound similar, but orientation serves its own unique purpose within the larger stage of new employee onboarding.

Why Onboarding Is So Valuable

Imagine your ideal employee. The one who knows what you need and does it before you ask. The one who turns a difficult client into a lifelong customer. The one who crushes your quotas. The one who shares their experience and empowers the whole team. If you have an employee like this, you probably wish your whole team was like them.

Strong orientation and onboarding are the first steps towards more A+ employees. They’re your first opportunity to provide employees with mentorship and clear expectations for their role.

The key is to build out orientation and employee onboarding processes that aren’t just nurturing, but also systematic. Then, your company is equipped to turn every new hire into an ideal employee and improve its employee retention.

The New Hire Checklist For Successful Employee Onboarding

You don’t have to invest thousands of dollars in HR consultants to have a professional onboarding program—you can develop your own process that successfully trains new hires. We’ve laid out three checklists to build an onboarding process that is both nurturing and repeatable. As a systematic process, your onboarding will reliably turn new hires into A+ employees.

The Pre-Employment Checklist

A good chunk of your onboarding work is done before the new hire even arrives. Planning ahead for their employment helps you avoid roadblocks once their orientation and training actually begin.

Avoiding issues and having great pre-employment planning helps you make a positive impression on new hires during their first day. “Make onboarding organized to show new hires that you were prepared for their first day,” says Tranette Rose, a Training Coordinator at RealPage.

Here’s everything you need to do before the new hire arrives:

  • Gather pre-employment forms. Collect documents that new hires will need to complete by their first day. Examples include a W-4 form and an I-9 form.
  • Register new hires/rehires. State and federal laws require all employers to report basic information on new and rehired employees within 20 days of hire, some states require it sooner.
  • Set up relevant emails. We recommend using these three templates to orient the new hire and introduce the rest of the team.
    • Preboarding letter: Thank the new hire for returning their offer letter and request that they fill out and send back the pre-employment forms that you attach, such as a W-4 and I-9. Send two weeks before their start date. Be sure to include your contact information.
    • New Team Member Announcement: Send an email to let your team member know about the new hire who will be joining. Mention their name, background, their role, and when they will be starting. Send three days before they start.
    • New Hire Email Account CreatedSend the new hire an email with instructions for setting up and accessing their work email. Send three days before they start.
    • First Day Reminder Email: Send the new hire an email the night before they start to give details about when they should arrive at the office, how to enter the building, and any other important information or company policies they need to understand before their start.
  • Confirm their department supervisor. Reach out to the head of the department that the new hire will be working in to confirm who their direct supervisor will be. You will be working with them to set up the new hire’s training.
  • Build the new hire’s training timeline. To get acclimated in their role, the new hire will need a training period, typically lasting from 30 to 90 days. Work with their supervisor to confirm their job description and map out a timeline of learning objectives and materials for the new hire. Training topics to consider are your product or service, your industry, job-specific training, and processes for the role. Here is an example of a New Hire Training Timeline.
  • Decide on initial assignments. Work with the supervisor to set the new hire’s first assignments. Clearly lay out the task expectations so you know what to communicate on the employee’s first day.
  • Set up relevant accounts. Be sure to set up any necessary accounts—email, Slack—for the new hire. Any accounts should be associated with the new hire’s work email account.

Pro-tip: Create a welcome gift. You’ll already need to give your employee office supplies, electronics, and keys—why not throw in some company swag? Build a welcome kit of company pens, stickers, T-shirts and more. Your new hire can rep your brand, and they’ll feel more at home in your office.

The First Day Orientation Checklist

You’ve communicated with new hires about their job through email so far. Orientation is your opportunity to give new hires a more personal, warm introduction to your company on their first day. By the end of the day, you want the employee to feel welcomed, familiar with their team, and excited about starting their new position.

  • Communicate your company mission and culture. Knowing the fundamental values of their workplace will help new hires adjust more quickly. You can create documentation, such as a packet or PowerPoint presentation, about your company mission and culture to present to new hires on their first day. As a fun alternative, you can create an orientation video about your company to show new hires.
  • Coordinate social time with the rest of the team. Schedule time for either your entire team or just a few employees who the new hire will be working with to socialize. You can even create an onboarding tradition, such as asking everyone to share a fun fact about themselves.
  • Introduce role-specific expectations. Schedule a 30-minute meeting to review the training schedule (see pre-employment checklist) with the new hire. You can share this training checklist via Airtable (recommended), Google Sheets, or Microsoft Word. Discuss how the technical skills and behavioral qualities for this role map to the training materials.
  • Ask for feedback from the new hire. As the employee’s hiring manager, you want to encourage them to give you honest feedback about orientation. They will become more adjusted to giving feedback throughout the rest of onboarding, and you’ll have insights on improving orientation for future new hires. Consider asking, “what was the most useful part of orientation?” and “What questions do you still have?”

Pro-tip: Keep it light. While you want to review role expectations on orientation day, you don’t want to overwhelm a new hire with too many details. Focus also on their larger role in the company and the overall goals of your organization. Allow them to meet and greet with your team. Keeping the first day simple and positive will leave the new hire feeling excited about their new role. 

The Training Checklist

After orientation, it’s time for new hires to dive into training for their role. By following the training schedule you set up, you and the new employee’s supervisor can ensure the new hire is staying on track in their growth. This training period can last anywhere from a month to three months. Once it’s complete, new hires will feel confident in their role and ready to contribute to your organization.

  • Review new hire progress every week. Set up a shared document between you, the new employee, and their supervisor that covers the checklist items in the training schedule. The new hire can check off items as they complete them so you and the supervisor can monitor their growth.
  • Set up check-ins with the new hire and their supervisor. These meetings are an opportunity for the supervisor to let the new hire know areas where they’re excelling and where they can improve in their training goals. They should occur on a weekly basis during the first month of employment and on a bi-weekly basis during the second and third months.
  • Ask the supervisor to complete evaluations of the new hire. These reports allow you to make sure that the new hire is completing their training successfully. If it seems like there is an issue with the training, set up a meeting with the supervisor to understand the problem better and brainstorm solutions.

Pro-tip: Set up a buddy system. A fellow employee can provide guidance and serve as a point of contact whenever your new talent has questions about the day-to-day aspects of working at your company. They can also offer encouragement and support as the new hire adjusts to your company culture. The buddy should meet on a weekly basis with the new hire during their first month of employment and on a bi-weekly basis during their second month. 

Build a Clear Process for Great Onboarding

It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner or a recruiter—you can execute a successful onboarding process for every new hire if you build a repeatable, thoughtful process.

We’ve laid out several checklists in this guide for every stage of onboarding. Here’s what we covered:

  • The difference between orientation and onboarding 💁
  • The payoff of great orientation and onboarding processes 🏆
  • A pre-employment checklist for you to prepare for new hires’ first day 📑
  • An orientation checklist to welcome employees on their first day ✅
  • An onboarding checklist to set new hires up for success in their first three months 📚

With these resources, you have a systematic and efficient way to introduce every new hire to your company and an onboarding template that will guide them to become your next A+ employee.

Download The WizeHire New Hire Checklist!