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How a new hire checklist can take onboarding to the next level

December 28, 2021 - 21 min read


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Why is a new hire checklist important?

What an employee onboarding process should look like

Example of an effective onboarding process

The 5 phases of onboarding

The 5 C’s of onboarding

New hire paperwork checklist

New hire checklist template

Good onboarding is about far more than making sure the new hire has their IT set up and paperwork filed with HR.

This can be an overwhelming experience for the new hire and you if it’s not done right. Luckily, you can prepare ahead of time and put together the ultimate new hire checklist.

A new hire onboarding checklist is a guiding document with two key purposes. Firstly, it makes sure a new employee knows what is expected of them. Secondly, it also helps ensure employers don’t miss any crucial steps in an employee’s first days, weeks, or months. 

Considering the average US employer spends $4,000 and 24 days to hire a new employee, a well-executed onboarding experience is crucial. 

Let’s explore what a new hire checklist should look like and how it can help your employee onboarding process.

Why is a new hire checklist important?

A new hire checklist is actually two checklists. One is for the human resources team and hiring manager. The other is for the new hire to follow to make sure they are getting and doing everything they need.

These checklists are so important because they help integrate employees into an organization. However, keep in mind that simply having a checklist doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful onboarding process. Instead, it is a tool that helps you successfully integrate a new hire into your company, its culture, and their specific role.

Having a new hire checklist template contributes to consistency and saves time, especially when you hire new employees often. It helps create a smoother, more efficient onboarding process with every new hire that comes on board. This can have a massive impact on their overall engagement with the company.

A good onboarding experience starts with full-cycle recruiting. It engages employees by immersing them right away in the company culture. Research shows that employees who felt their onboarding was effective were 18x more likely to feel committed to the organization

In contrast, a bad onboarding experience is well-known to increase employee turnover. The main reason for up to 68% of people leaving their jobs after only three months is how their employers handled the onboarding process. 

It’s important that you follow the same new hire checklist for each hire. This will reduce the chances of something being forgotten or falling by the wayside.

However, you can update the employee onboarding checklist based on previous results. This will help improve it the next time you use it for the onboarding process. Regular updates can do wonders for the training process, as there’s nothing quite like “winging it” to slow any process down.


New hiring onboarding checklist

Here’s what you should consider including as part of your onboarding checklist:

What an employee onboarding process should look like

Onboarding is a strategic, comprehensive process that can last up to a year. It’s important to remember that using a new hire checklist template doesn’t mean onboarding should be treated as a simple check-the-box activity.

Below are some characteristics of an effective employee onboarding process: 

1. Welcoming and immersive 

Employees should feel welcome and engaged right from day one. 

A great way to do this is with a meet and greet and special information session. Also, be sure to set up each new employee with a mentor who can help them navigate the onboarding process.


Having a so-called “onboarding buddy” is a great way to get the newcomer off to a welcoming start. According to a study by software giant Microsoft, coupling a new employee with an onboarding buddy increased employee satisfaction and productivity.

Another important point of focus should be integrating the employee into the company culture. Help them understand the company’s values, mission, vision, and short and long-term goals. The aim is to create an immediate sense of community.

2. Informative

An employee shouldn’t walk out of an onboarding activity confused with a million unanswered questions. Focus on clear and concise information presented in a friendly and transparent way. 

Instead of presenting the onboarding process in a pack-it-all-in overwhelming sort of way, it’s best to keep things simple. Use methods like microlearning to help new employees absorb and remember information.

Because of the power of first impressions, pay close attention to your delivery. For example, when presenting core company values, having a senior manager leading the discussion is far better than a training video. This will help the employee understand the importance of the topic being delivered.

3. Well-structured and consistent

The onboarding program should be well-structured and prepared in advance to ensure smooth running. As mentioned above, all new hires should go through the same onboarding process to ensure consistency.

Continually changing the onboarding process may cause confusion. This will only create a sense of uncertainty in the company’s culture. It could also cause employees to doubt the abilities of leaders and senior managers.

4. Spread out over time

HR consultancy Sapling HR estimates the average new hire has more than 50 distinct activities to complete. And that's just considering the basics of systems and compliance.

It’s important to give enough time for learning, reflection, and discussions. This will avoid overwhelming people during the onboarding process.

Instead of trying to squeeze everything into one day, break it down into bite-sized chunks spread out over a few days, or even weeks.

Example of an effective onboarding process

BetterUp’s own onboarding process is a great example of what an effective process should look like:

  • The first step should always be the job offer letter. The job offer letter will help the employee understand how they can expect to be treated as an employee of the company. 
  • New hire paperwork is most effective when processed before the employee’s first day. Making a paperwork checklist is helpful to ensure that no paperwork is forgotten during onboarding.

Someone from HR should pass on the new hire onboarding checklist with everything they’ll need to get started. This includes things like a company laptop or employee handbook. And of course, as swag you plan on sending your new employee!

  • You should tell the new employee what to expect during their first month in their new role. Because of the way the world has changed, remote work and hybrid work environments have become the norm. Outlining expectations is more important than ever.
  • Completing the new hire onboarding process is similar to sealing a deal with a customer. In the end, the main goal is to come out the other side with an employee who feels satisfied with their choice to join the company.

The 5 phases of onboarding

The onboarding process can be broken up into five phases. Let’s look at what each phase consists of.

1. The pre-boarding process

This phase involves everything that happens before the actual onboarding process takes place. During the pre-boarding process, you are preparing for the new employee’s first day and week to go smoothly. You are making the new arrival feel welcome before they even arrive at the workplace. 

A great way to do this is through a welcome letter. The letter can include expectations around timing and time management, what they can expect to happen on their first day at the office, whether virtual or in-person. 

Other checklist items in this pre-onboarding process can include:

  • Informing the rest of the company’s staff about the new employee about to join the team. 
  • Introducing the new employee to their mentoring buddy via email or Zoom. This way, they can know who they are before their first day.
  • Setting up user accounts. Make sure they have access to all the tools and resources they need to hit the ground running.
  • Setting up their workstation. This will help them feel welcome and shows the company’s readiness to receive them.
  • If working remotely, make sure they have the necessary home office equipment. Consider giving a remote work stipend to make their remote work locations comfortable and productive.

2. The orientation process

The orientation process has a dual purpose. It helps new employees feel comfortable in their new working environment. It also teaches them about your workplace culture and how your work practices are aligned with this culture.


Orientation usually takes place on the first day or first week. During this phase, your new hire checklist should cover the following:

  • Give a physical tour of the workplace if the person will be working out of an office. Show them the break room, restrooms, meeting rooms, parking spots, and kitchen.
  • Complete new hire paperwork. Examples include tax forms, direct deposit forms, and employee handbook acknowledgment forms.
  • Discuss company policies around working hours, lunch breaks, and requests for time off and PTO.

3. The role-specific training and checklist

Role-specific or on-the-job training arms new employees with knowledge about the duties they’ll perform on a day-to-day basis. All types of organizational training should consider which style of training is best suited for each employee.

Here’s what should be included in role-specific training:

  • Identify all of the systems and tools a new hire is likely to need to begin their work. Provide links to get set up on company-wide systems.
  • Describe what a typical day at work should look like. Include a list of day-to-day duties and responsibilities.
  • Explain the roles of different members of the team and how the new hire will work with them.
  • Provide job-specific tools that the new hire will use. If necessary, offer training so that they use these tools efficiently. 
  • Describe business objectives and how they relate to the new employee’s role.

4. Relationship and expectations with the manager

This phase of the onboarding process is about building positive workplace relationships. In particular, it focuses on creating a connection between a new hire and their manager with a one-on-one meeting.

Though we may be biased, BetterUp is once again a great example of how to establish this relationship. Each new hire is asked to complete a “working styles” exercise. This acts as the foundation for the new hire and the manager to discuss their own individual working styles. 

During this phase, potential issues should be discussed, as well as possible solutions to avoid future frustration.

5. Transition to a new role and short-term goal setting

The last phase of onboarding helps employees transition from a new hire to a full-fledged employee.

This is the ideal time to set up short-term goals. A manager or supervisor must highlight what is expected of them and what success looks like. Based on these discussions, you should hold a performance review in the future to recognize their efforts and help them improve their performance.

The 5 C’s of onboarding 

Successful onboarding involves covering the five C’s:

  • Compliance. The initial discussions around compliance will set the tone for how the new hire will view and understand their job with the company. Also, it is at this point that the employer’s priorities will be made known. 


  • Check back. The end of the hire’s first day doesn’t mean the integration work is now over. A great way to stay in touch is by setting up feedback meetings at 30, 60, and 90-day intervals. 

New hire paperwork checklist

Even though people are working from home more than ever before, some parts of the hiring process haven’t changed.

Below is the paperwork you’ll have to obtain from every new hire:

  • I-9: for the verification of the new hire’s identity as well as their right (or eligibility) to work in the US. 
  • W-4: the directive that will indicate the amount the employer should withhold from the new hire’s paycheck for federal tax compliance. 
  • The state tax withholding form: some new hires will be required to sign an additional tax withholding form. This will depend on the state in which your company is located. 
  • The direct deposit form: for setting up the employee’s bank details for the purposes of the payroll run. 

In addition to the above, there will also be several standard forms that the company and new hire will need to complete:

  • A background check. 
  • The employment agreement. 
  • Receipt of the handbook. 
  • The new hire questionnaire, emergency contact form, and employee benefit enrollment forms.

New hire checklist template

Pre-onboarding checklist

  • Obtain signed job acceptance letter
  • Send a welcome email to new employee 
  • Send a welcome package if telecommuting or prepare welcome package to be given on the first day
  • Send an internal email announcing the new employee arrival and ensuring a warm welcome on the first day
  • Set up meetings with key members of the team in advance
  • Request office and network access (keycards, passcodes)
  • Order computer equipment and a phone (if telecommuting, send them equipment) 
  • Set up designated workspace 
  • Enroll employee in the HR system 
  • Send employee forms they can complete ahead of time 

First day orientation checklist

  • Organize an office tour
  • Introduce the employee to the team and to management 
  • Introduce their mentor 
  • Show them their workspace and provide a welcome kit
  • Help them set up and ensure everything is working properly
  • Schedule a one-on-one meeting at the end of the day with them to ensure the first day went well 
  • Complete new hire paperwork
  • Hand them the employee handbook
  • Review schedule and work hours
  • Explain compensation and benefits 
  • Explain travel booking systems and expense policies as appropriate

First week and month onboarding checklist

  • Schedule social events and team building activities (ex: team lunch)
  • Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins
  • Set short-term goals 
  • Provide employee work assignments, and set performance goals 
  • Ensure the employee is on schedule with role-specific training 
  • Complete policies and procedures training 
  • Complete benefits enrollment 
  • Ensure all HR paperwork is signed and submitted 
  • Policies and procedures training 
  • Introduce the employee to the company culture 

Use a new hire checklist to improve onboarding

As the workforce continues to become more remote, onboarding can prove to be challenging. Especially if you're a remote workforce, virtual onboarding can pose extra challenges. 

You are trying to secure in-demand talent, create a sense of belonging, and form relationships that help accelerate learning on the job. All often without being in the same location as your employees.

If you want to make a good first impression with your new employees, a new hire checklist can make a difference. Onboarding checklists help to ensure all details are covered during employee onboarding and nothing falls through the cracks.

With each box you tick off, your new team member is set up for success and integrated into the company culture.

Get in touch with BetterUp to learn more about how to engage new and existing employees and build a thriving workforce.

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Published December 28, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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