5-Point Checklist for Effective Employee Onboarding

14 min read
Jun 19, 2017


You've spent the last several weeks or even months tracking down the perfect candidate for a position you needed to fill desperately. After some back and forth negotiations, you've finally convinced this person to accept your offer. Hooray!

Once the ink is dry, you think you're off the hook. But, believe it or not, you're just beginning. 

You can't just throw your new hires into the fire and expect they'll be able to knock it out of the park on Day 1. Such a thoughtless approach will almost certainly send your rookies on the path to failure — forcing you to find yet another replacement sooner than later.

Since you’ve already invested so much time, money, and effort into recruiting this talent, don’t you think you should be doing all you can to set them up for success?

Not sure how to improve your onboarding program? We've got you covered.

In this post, you'll learn everything there is to know about onboarding, including:

  1. Why companies are struggling with onboarding
  2. What employee onboarding is
  3. How onboarding and ROI are linked
  4. What the benefits of effective employee onboarding are
  5. How you can use a checklist to achieve better onboarding
  6. What you shouldn't do during onboarding
  7. How some companies uniquely approach onboarding
  8. How socialization plays a big role in effective onboarding
  9. How mentors can help enact successful onboarding
  10. How you can determine whether you've met your onboarding goals

The Case for Better Employee Onboarding

If the above scenario sounds familiar, there's a good chance that your organization needs to improve its employee onboarding process.

This isn't the end of the world.

As the infographic below illustrates, a number of organizations currently find themselves with inadequate approaches to onboarding. Additionally, the infographic also outlines three key reasons why you should keep onboarding top of mind:

employee onboarding by TINYpulse

Employee Onboarding Definition

When people think of onboarding, the word “orientation” immediately comes to mind. Yes, orientation is where new hires fill out important documentation, sign up for benefits, and receive the company badge.

But contrary to belief, that’s not what onboarding actually is.

Employee onboarding introduces new hires to the important aspects of the company: values, culture, and people.

From training to socialization to learning the lay of the land, these activities are all part of the experience. It’s an opportunity for employees to feel comfortable in their new role, understand how this role impacts the business while learning what type of behaviors are expected from them.


ROI from Onboarding

Onboarding should always be a top priority for every organization. The same amount of effort put forth for wooing a potential candidate needs to be invested in onboarding a new hire as well.

Consider what the Society for Human Resources Management and TalentWise found:

  • Companies with an engaging onboarding program retained 91% of their first-year workers Tweet: Companies with an engaging onboarding program retained 91% of their first-year workers http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse
  • New hires who went through a well-structured onboarding program were 69% more likely to remain at a company up to three years Tweet: Ppl who went through an onboarding process were 69% more likely to remain at a company up to 3 years  http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse

These programs have positive long-term effects on employee retention. But those aren’t the only benefits.

Check out the advantages a study by the Aberdeen Group and iCMS uncovered about an efficient onboarding process:

  • 60% year-over-year improvement in revenue Tweet: Companies with an effective onboarding process led to 60% year-over-year improvement in revenue http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse
  • 63% year-over-year improvement in customer satisfaction Tweet: Companies with an onboarding process led to 63% yr-over-yr improvement in customer satisfaction http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse
  • Onboarding improves company ROI by more than $79,000 per year Tweet: Onboarding improves company ROI by more than $79,000 per year  http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse

The stronger your onboarding program is, the healthier your bottom line will be.


Benefits of an Effective Onboarding Process

We covered why your organization needs onboarding. Now we’ll go into why employees need it.

Starting a new job can be difficult. The responsibilities of a new role don’t always match the job description people signed up for. And often when someone walks through the doors for the first time, they don’t know a single soul there.

It’s tough, to be sure. But onboarding can help alleviate these stresses.

the-simpsonsSOURCE: GIPHY

01. It shortens the learning curve

Companies that provide on-the-job training are giving new hires a life jacket to stay afloat. Training teaches these workers the ins and outs of the organization’s culture and workflow.

It's wishful thinking to simply give employees a manual on their first day while expecting them to jump into work the following day. In fact, some studies suggest that rookies won't become fully productive in their new roles for eight months.

The more training you provide, the easier it will be for your employees to get up to speed. Train them well and they'll feel comfortable in their jobs sooner.

02. It provides valuable feedback

A survey by Archbright reveals that review and playback play a critical role when it comes to getting an employee up to speed.

Again, onboarding is a learning process and feedback is a motivator.

If an employee is left to fend for themselves — not knowing if they’re performing well — they’re going to become disengaged. Even worse, they might opt to leave.

03. It includes new hires in a social circle

Peers play a huge part in motivation. In fact, according to our research, the number one thing employees like about their jobs are the people they work with.

It's essential to keep new hires engaged if you want them to stick around for the long haul. But being the new person at work can be isolating. It can be particularly difficult for some of your more introverted rookies to approach a stranger and ask them a question about work.

However, if companies make an effort to introduce new hires to their colleagues, it gets them settled in faster. And the quicker they feel comfortable, the quicker they’ll be able to approach a colleague about a work-related question — or even offer support of their own in the event they know how to solve someone else's problem.

In the long run, onboarding improves employee engagement and productivity. A one- or two-day orientation session full of paperwork doesn’t provide practical work knowledge that can be applied in a real-world setting.

So turn to on-the-job training and mentors to guide new employees and keep them afloat through the ramping-up process.

good-will-huntingSOURCE: GIPHY

Your Employee Onboarding Checklist

How exactly can you tell that your employee onboarding program is working? Grade yourself using this five-question checklist:

01. Does your employee onboarding program start before a new hire's first day?

Many companies wait until a rookie's first day to begin their onboarding program. That's the wrong approach.

There are a number of things you can do to begin the onboarding process before your new hire steps foot in the office as an official employee.

For starters, you need to prepare a number of documents: tax forms, health care information, non-disclosure agreements, and the like. You also need to have a thorough discussion with the new hire's manager to make sure that person knows what's expected of the employee in their new position.

You also need to set up your new hire's workstation and give them access to any tools, technologies, and devices they'll be expected to use. In some instances, you may want to pass along any documents or resources that an employee can read to prepare for their first day.

02. Does your new hire know how to use the tools and technologies your company relies on?

You can't expect that every new hire will transition into your company already knowing how to use the platforms your organization relies on.

While you and your team might be Slack wizards, rookies might not be familiar with the messaging tool and may need some assistance in figuring it out.

To this end, it is critical that you devote enough resources to make sure your new hires learn how to use the tools that power your company as quickly as they possibly can. It's impossible for them to become fully productive otherwise.

03. Has your new hire been introduced to the rest of their team? What about their colleagues that they might not work with directly?

Even the most outgoing people can be a bit nervous when they start new jobs.

Building a strong team starts with encouraging your employees to get to know each other on a personal level. Yet according to our 2017 Employee Engagement Report, only 24% of workers feel connected to their peers.

This is perhaps due to the fact that a number of companies aren't doing enough to make sure their new hires are introduced to each member of the team.

When rookies start, take them on a tour of the office and make sure everyone else learns their name. While you're at it, take the team out for lunch on a new hire's first day. Play icebreaker games to get the conversation started. That way, they will feel like their part of the team right away.

04. Does your new hire know where they can get the support and resources they need to do their jobs when they might be unsure of how to tackle a specific task?

Nobody is able to figure out everything on their own.

At the end of your onboarding process, your new hires should know exactly where they can find the information they need to tackle whatever is on their plates.

This is why mentorship programs are critical components of employee onboarding. Not only do new hires get to know at least one person very well, they also know who to turn to with any questions.

05. Does your new hire know what's expected of them? Do you know what your new hire expects of you?

You can't expect employees to reach the goals you've established for them if they aren't sure what those goals are to begin with. Similarly, you can't help your new hires progress toward their own career goals if you haven't asked them where they want to wind up.

Articulate the expectations you have for your new hire so they can help you get to where you want to be. And set aside time to ask your rookies what their career goals are. Create a plan that helps them achieve them. 

help-me-help-youSOURCE: GIPHY


The Don'ts of Onboarding

There are a number of reasons as to why organizations are failing their new hires during their first days.

In such instances, companies are leaving their new employees in the dust and not preparing them for success.

These are the five things you should never do during the first few days, weeks, or ever:

01. Failing to prepare

The new employee doesn’t have their workstation set up. They don’t even have an email address yet.

Failing to set the proper arrangements for the employee is setting them up for, well, failure. It gives the impression that the company just don’t care — or at least lacks the foresight to prepare ahead of time.

02. Being impersonal

"Read this form. Sign here." Repeat.

How about showing some warmth?

It’s difficult starting a new job, so make rookies feel welcomed by giving them a taste of their work responsibilities. It’ll make new employees feel like they’re making a difference on the first day.

03. No introduction

It doesn’t matter how large a company is — introduce the employees to their teammates.

First days are nerve-racking enough, so why would you want your new hire to feel like an outsider? Get them acquainted with their peers so they can start feeling comfortable in the culture.

04. Information overload

Just because we’re all adults doesn’t mean we have the longest attention span. In fact, studies suggest we have shorter attention spans than goldish!

Don’t just throw mounds of information at your employee and expect them to retain it. Instead, ease them in — little by little.

Even throw in a few hands-on opportunities so they can get a better grasp on the information.

05. No greeter

The worst thing a company can do is not have anyone greet the new hire upon arrival.

Don’t let them just go wandering and expect them to figure it out on their own. Have someone greet them and take them around the place so they know where to find everything.

It’s never easy starting a new job. The wrong approach will just nudge your new hire out the door. So do your due diligence to make sure that your onboarding program delivers results.


Unique Employee Onboarding Processes

How do you create an appealing process?

Skip the paperwork. Have new hires finish that before their first day — it’ll open up extra time for more hands-on learning.

Consider these nontraditional methods for introducing your culture to new hires:

01. Pop some champagne

At TINYpulse, we celebrate new hires by popping open a bottle of bubbly on their first day to show them how excited we are to have them.

great-gatsbySOURCE: GIPHY

02. Scavenger hunt

Send new hires on a scavenger hunt. Through a series of tasks and company-related questions, they can learn about the organization’s history and culture.

03. Boot camp

Have new hires spend four to six weeks cross-training with other teams to eliminate cross-departmental animosity.

04. Jump into the front line

Task out an assignment from the get-go so new hires feel like they’ve made a direct impact on their first day.

05. All hands on deck

Get new hires handling customer service and even assembling products to reinforce the idea that customers come first.

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Onboarding Tip: Socialization

We know that peers play a huge role in motivating employees to go the extra mile. So don’t forget to make socialization a big part of your experience. Try out these tips to give employees a real chance to meet their colleagues:

01. Group lunches

Pair new hires with senior employees, peers, or their whole team. Take the meet-and-greets out of the office to keep it fun, social, and low-key.

02. Get-togethers

Go out for happy hour or take a break to play some games. Round up employees together for some mingling, and don’t forget to introduce the new hire to everyone.

03. Event planning

Do you have monthly social events or perhaps quarterly volunteering? Pair your new hires with more senior employees to get the event-planning committee going.


The Role of Mentorship in Employee Onboarding

One of the top employee onboarding best practices is mentorship. New hires need a specific go-to person that can help them ease into their new role and culture. Consider these points from a study by the Society of Human Resource Management:

  • New employees with mentors became more knowledgeable about their new organization than someone who didn’t have a mentor Tweet: Ppl w/ mentors became more knowledgeable about their new org than someone who didn’t http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse
  • New employees were more likely to have embraced the key values of their organization’s culture if they spent time with a mentor Tweet: Ppl were likely to embrace the key values of their org’s culture if they spent time w/ a mentor http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse

Mentorship offers new hires in-depth knowledge that they would not have gotten had they been on their own. So what exactly does mentorship help with?

01. Understanding responsibilities

A veteran employee knows all the tips and tricks for getting tasks done quickly. They have effective routines for planning, scheduling, and prioritizing projects. They know who to go for information and where to find that person.

Basically, a mentor can help a new employee lessen the learning curve and get them rolling on the job.

02. Understanding culture

Having a mentor gives the new hire the opportunity for informal interactions. The mentor can introduce the new employee to people they already know. And having this guidance offers the chance for new hires to learn about how people act in the company and what behaviors they should expect.

Mentorship plays an important role in employee onboarding. Don’t throw your new hire into the ocean and expect them to swim before they've learned how to. Give them a mentor to guide them into their job role and the organization’s culture.


How to Achieve Employee Onboarding Goals

You might think that a one-week training program is sufficient for new hires.

But that’s a myth. Consider these points from The Aberdeen Group and TalentWise:

  • 76% of companies have extended their employee onboarding to beyond one month Tweet: 76% of companies have extended their employee onboarding to beyond one month http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse
  • It takes an average of eight months for a new employee to become fully productive Tweet: It takes an average of eight months for a new employee to become fully productive http://bit.ly/1MFK803 via @TINYpulse

Learning takes time.

Unlike a one-week training program that immediately pushes big projects onto new employees, a 30, 60, 90-day plan lays the fundamental groundwork for success. Using 30-day increments allows people to focus on learning certain skills at certain times rather than all skills all at once.

Plus, a step-by-step learning process helps people gain confidence and in-depth knowledge of their responsibilities. By Day 90, your employee will be fully trained to tackle anything that comes along — which is a lot better than having them learn and struggle as they go, right?

That’s why one week just isn’t enough!

There's plenty of employee onboarding software out there. But you don't need that for an effective process.

Here are some goals you should keep in mind when figuring out how to structure a new employee's first three months:

Employee onboarding checklist by TINYpulse

Having a clear 30, 60, 90-day plan will let your newest hires know where to focus their time and attention and what they need to accomplish in order to be successful.

An efficient onboarding program contributes to the success of the business and employee. Instead of having employees sit through hours of orientation, revise the process. Include on-the-job training, socialization, and mentorship — and of course, have fun doing it.


Share Your Tips

We know every company does has their own way of doing things. If you have any awesome tips or fun anecdotes (maybe nightmare stories?) about employee onboarding, let us know in the comments below!


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. 



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