A thoughtful onboarding process can help set new employees on the path to success.
- Your employee onboarding process should start before the new hire's first day and continue throughout the first year.
- Take the time to plan a formal onboarding process that gives employees the best chance to learn about your company and what is expected from them.
- Even though you may have a formal checklist for the first day, first week, first three months and first year, don't be afraid to think outside the checklist.
- This article is for small business owners who want to develop a new-hire onboarding checklist that will pave the way for success over the first year.
Getting new employees started off right can help you set them up for a successful tenure at your company. Therefore, it's important to have a plan for employees' first day, first week, first three months and first year.
Having an onboarding checklist helps to put new hires on the path to becoming productive team members who stay with your company for years to come.
What is onboarding, and why is it important?
Onboarding is the process of welcoming new hires to a company and helping them get settled in. For example, onboarding may include helping employees fill out necessary paperwork, taking them to lunch, getting them business cards and much more.
But although onboarding is typically thought of as the steps that occur in the first few days of an employee's tenure, the reality is that the process can last a year or longer. That's why it's important to have a clear, well-established process in place before you get started.
The lengthiest and most elaborate onboarding is often reserved for executives, as they are seen as most crucial to a company's success or failure and greater resources are devoted to their recruitment. Nonetheless, onboarding experts see great potential in spending more time with all employees, including entry-level staff.
Better onboarding also may help to reduce employee turnover and thus save companies money. Though COVID-19 has disrupted labor patterns in 2020, here's a telling statistic: In 2019, a record 4.48 million workers quit their jobs, CNBC reported, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employee turnover is expensive, costing companies a total of $617 million in 2018.
As the workplace changes to survive a pandemic, the concept of an "essential" employee has evolved. We thus might see more inclusive approaches to onboarding.
Key takeaway: Effective onboarding helps your employees get comfortable, encourages productivity and may help to reduce employee turnover, thus saving companies money in the long term.
Employee hiring checklist: before the first day
Job requisition. Submit a job requisition form to human resources. This will get the payroll wheels turning.
Job offer. Send a formal job offer. It should be signed by the new employee's manager. (This is assuming you are an employer in the private sector. Public agencies are subject to certain conventions and regulations that may require the job offer to be signed by someone other than the hiring manager.) A sincere and well-written job offer expresses your belief in the employee. And make sure the salary figure is correct!
Paperwork. Send all necessary paperwork to the new hire, including the following:
- W-4 for tax withholding, and any other necessary tax forms
- I-9 form to check the new employee's Social Security number)
- Health insurance forms
- Direct deposit forms
- Noncompete agreement (if mandated by your company policy)
The Federal Labor Standards Act requires you to pay hourly employees to complete the paperwork required for them to start their job. Although you do have the option of sending them the paperwork beforehand, you must make it clear that their filling out the documents in advance of day one, on their own time, is voluntary. In the case of nonexempt employees, a nice courtesy is to send them the paperwork beforehand but allow them to complete it either during a workday or on their off-hours.
Basics. Send information on parking, building access and dress code. Provide this information sooner rather than later, so the new hire need not fret about it.
Job description. Provide a job description that reflects what you've learned during the interview process about the employee and the role. A good job description can serve as a guide for performance reviews. It can guide onboarding over the course of a new hire's first year and beyond.
Access to portal. Ensure that the new employee can access the company portal, where he or she can stay up-to-date on company news, read about the company's history, and exchange messages with co-workers.
Welcome notes. Email at least two welcome notes to the employee. One should be from a direct supervisor and the other from a senior executive. Mention that the new hire is welcome to contact either person with questions.
Benefits. Inform the employee of details regarding the benefits package, including vacation, sick and personal days, as well as the potential for promotions and salary increases.
Workstation. Make sure the new employee's workstation is ready. That person will not feel like a valued team member if they are unable to log in to your system. Don't forget items like business cards, a stapler and stationery; extras like a coffee mug or flowers can also make the new employee feel welcome.
Team welcome. Let other team members know that someone new is coming, and encourage them to stop by and say hello. Employee onboarding is everyone's responsibility, not just HR's.
Key takeaway: By focusing on the details and sending positive thoughts, you can help the new employee feel like a welcome member of the team from the moment they walk in the door.
Employee hiring checklist: the first day
Key personnel. Alert the receptionist to expect the new employee's arrival. The same goes for security staff or anyone else the new hire is likely to encounter upon entering the building or office.
Presence of the supervisor. Have the employee start on a day when the appropriate supervisors are present. Otherwise, the new person might feel a bit lost.
Tour. Lead the employee on a tour of your entire operation. Be sure to provide a glimpse of the important things happening in your office, and remember to point out key areas, such as the human resources offices, the restrooms and the kitchen.
Special touches. Make the first day special. Have a welcome card sitting on the employee's desk, along with some company swag, like a coffee mug or a T-shirt.
Lunch. Take the employee to lunch. Try to get to know the employee a little better, and avoid talking too much about work.
Work. Give the new employee something to do, preferably something more than busywork but not an overly daunting task.
Praise. Remind the employee of your appreciation of whatever special quality the person brings to the company. Explain how that quality will enhance office life and your team's productivity.
Self-onboarding. Encourage the new employee to reach out to other team members, thus taking responsibility for their own onboarding.
Handbook. Present the employee with a company handbook, and go over any areas of special concern or importance, including matters of safety and security. Discuss legal and policy regulations.
Key takeaway: New employees usually remember their first day at a job. You can do a great deal to make the memory a happy one and pave the way for a long tenure at the company.
Employee hiring checklist: the first week
Training material. Assign training material, which should cover both short- and long-term learning.
First project. Assign a first project, and check on the new employee's progress. Ask how you can help.
Mentor. Assign a peer mentor to the new employee. The mentor should be an experienced, trusted member of your team. Mentoring involves showing someone the ropes and answering questions. Some new hires are apprehensive about directing questions to managers, for fear of seeming incompetent. However, avoid overreliance on a mentor; be sure you are available to address any questions or concerns.
Supervisor. The new employee and their supervisor should discuss the new hire's role in the company's future.
Expectations. Explain expectations for the following month. Let the new employee know about likely workflow. Stress how the employee is involved in some of the company's long-term goals.
Orientation. Arrange for an orientation session. The session should involve HR people, peers, other new hires and perhaps a senior executive or two. Emphasize the new hire's contribution to the company's future. Video presentations and slideshows are helpful. So are structured interactions with other team members. These activities should be fun and interactive – think icebreaker-type games. Avoid prodding the new hire into giving a speech or performing in some difficult way.
Paperwork follow-up. Meet with the new employee to make sure all paperwork is in order.
Key takeaway: A full and structured first week of onboarding will help the new employee get comfortable with their job so they will be ready to contribute at a higher level.
Employee hiring checklist: the first three months
Progress. Assess the employee's progress in becoming a productive team member and in absorbing the company's culture.
Commemoration. Celebrate the employee's "first-quarter anniversary" with a gift, or maybe lunch. Note the occasion in the office newsletter or other information platforms.
Outside events. Encourage the new employee to participate in voluntary events outside the office, such as company retreats or seminars, lunches, parties or just drinks after work.
Development. Recommend reading material for professional and personal growth. Ask the new hire to identify their favorite aspects of the new job and company, with an eye toward taking on new responsibilities.
Open communication. Meet with the new employee to see how he or she is doing. Avoid yes-or-no questions like, "Is everything all right?" Instead, ask questions like, "How could we make your job easier?" or "What things about our office do you like, and what could use improvement?" Discuss the ways the new hire is contributing to the company's long-term goals and how that contribution can be enhanced.
Small talk. Touch base with the new employee in the break room or wherever small talk happens. Get a feel for his or her level of job happiness. Get to know the person.
Key takeaway: Communication and participation are the keys to onboarding in the first three months. You and the new hire must talk, listen, learn and do whatever it takes to be a team.
Employee hiring checklist: the first year
Check-in. Continue checking in, always encouraging the employee to think long term. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" need not be a question asked only in the interview process.
Professional development. Offer opportunities for professional development internally, at a local educational institution or online.
Consultant. Engage the services of an outside consultant to advise new employees and to act as a sounding board. Although these sorts of external coaches are typically associated with executive onboarding, they have the potential to strengthen employees at all levels of the organization.
Assessment. Evaluate what worked and did not work during onboarding. Seek the employee's opinion, either informally or through a survey.
Key takeaway: Make sure to continue the onboarding process through the new employee's first year and to evaluate what worked and what didn't.
By following this checklist, you can help to ensure the onboarding process is just the start of a positive, long-lasting relationship between each employee and your business.