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4-Step Employee Onboarding Program Checklist

June 1, 2021

There’s nothing worse than starting at a new job and not understanding what’s expected of you. 


It’s a familiar experience, but it isn’t one we would wish on anyone. This article outlines an onboarding checklist that, when implemented, improves the onboarding experience for employers and employees. 

What is an Onboarding Program?

Before you start developing your onboarding checklist for new hires, it helps to know what an onboarding program is. 


Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into your business. There are two ways to do this. In Informal Onboarding, a new employee is thrown in at the corporate deep end and must rapidly learn to swim. 


Informal Onboarding offers no onboarding checklist and the newcomer’s days are largely unstructured. They learn by observation  - they pick up the environmental norms, values, and practices on the go. 


Unsurprisingly, this kind of onboarding can leave new employees anxious, stressed, and unhappy in their first three months. 


Enter Formal Onboarding. 


Formal Onboarding adheres closely to an onboarding checklist. It seeks to put newcomers at ease and effectively integrate them into their new environment. 


What's the Difference Between Onboarding and Orientation?

The primary difference between onboarding and orientation is that the onboarding process is ongoing


Orientation is a one-off event that runs anywhere from a day to a week. However long it lasts, its function is to welcome new employees to their job.  


Orientation’s focus is also more all-encompassing, asking employees to quickly digest a lot of information about the company they’re now working for. 


Onboarding, on the other hand, stretches over a far longer period; It comprises many events, including orientation. Whereas orientation is about welcoming new employees, onboarding works to integrate newcomers and enables them to contribute to their work environment. 


A good onboarding checklist is integral to that onboarding process. As you assemble yours, remember that when your new hires finish onboarding, they should be both acclimated to their work and better equipped to perform it than they were on arrival. 


Of course, the process of onboarding has changed dramatically. The COVD-19 pandemic made onboarding remote employees a necessity. 

Importance of Having Both

It may sound redundant to hold both orientation and onboarding programs, but the two procedures are different and equally critical to successfully integrating new employees


While orientation instills company values and policies, onboarding works to engage employees and facilitate their successful contribution and assimilation into the work environment. 

Onboarding

As a one-off event, orientation has a much broader focus than onboarding. It introduces employees to concepts such as the company’s: 

  • Mission statement
  • Values 
  • Vision 

Orientation

If orientation is about getting new employees ready to work, onboarding is about preparing everyone to contribute meaningfully. A good onboarding checklist and resultant process reflects that. 


At its simplest, onboarding is: 

  • Ongoing process
  • Emphasizes specific departmental role
  • Individualizes employee needs and expectations
  • Encourages new employee contributions to existing work and projects

What Should an Onboarding Program Include?

It's now apparent that onboarding features various moving parts. 


Since part of the onboarding checklist you’re developing  includes assimilating your employees into the workplace, vital steps include: 

  • Scheduling check-in meetings with new employees
  • Including new hires in meetings and ongoing projects 


Your onboarding checklist should also feature the drier work necessities, such as: 

  • Setting up a work email
  • Explaining and reviewing benefits policies 
  • Outlining health and safety procedures
  • Detailing administrative processes
  • Guides on how office technology works


As your onboarding checklist will attest, there’s a lot of ground to cover. To that end, webinar platforms are invaluable tools for communicating the remote onboarding process to new employees.  

How Long Should Onboarding Last?

Even though the average onboarding experience lasts less than a month, this can be detrimental to employees. 


The expectation that new employees acclimate quickly to a new workplace is itself stressful, as is undertaking a new job. Consequently, the best onboarding experience requires employers to extend the onboarding procedure over the first three probationary months. 

What Happens During Onboarding?

If done formally, the onboarding process is the time period when employers work to acclimatize their new employees to the workplace. 


An onboarding checklist covering material you expect employees to adjust to could include: 

  • New employee paperwork
  • Administrative procedures
  • Acquiring workplace email 
  • Inter-departmental culture, habits, and expectations
  • Taking professional photos for website/employee profile

4 Steps to a Successful Onboarding Program

For a thorough formal onboarding program, your onboarding checklist should include the following steps: 

  1. Prepare the paperwork
  2. Have a workspace ready for new employees
  3. Collaborate with new hires’ boss(es) to perform routine check-ins
  4. Create newcomer information booklet detailing office norms, who's who, and work expectations


While remote onboarding has eliminated the need for employee workspaces to the degree they were previously required, many of these steps remain vital to a good onboarding checklist and experience. 

Prepare the Paperwork

You may find you’re emailing the brunt of paperwork these days, but your new employee still needs them. Documents your onboarding checklist may specify you provide, include: 

  • Tax forms
  • Insurance paperwork
  • Non-Disclosure agreements
  • Direct Deposit Forms
  • Hiring Contract 

Routine Check-Ins 

We’ve all been new to work, and we’ve all experienced the daunting feeling that comes with it. A new job can feel overwhelming, and keeping in touch with new employees - especially newcomers working remotely – helps gauge how they’re adjusting. 


Office management software, like our mentorship program,  is a significant asset when taking the temperature of your new hires.


This kind of software varies across platforms, but it transforms the mentorship experience by allowing you to set: 

  • Goals
  • Deadlines
  • Group or individual mentorship 


For employers adapting to onboarding remotely, this software facilitates overseeing newcomers and helps clarify employee expectations

Create Information Book

Issuing employees with an information book is a practice used by companies with successful onboarding programs. 


The inclusion of the booklet on your onboarding checklist ensures newcomers have all the information they need in one readily accessible place. This goes a long way to inculcating a warm, encouraging workplace atmosphere. 


Employee Onboarding Examples 

As you develop your onboarding checklist, it can be helpful to look at successful onboarding models. 


Ogilvy and Mather is a marketing company established in 1948. It’s one of the onboarding companies to utilize an informational book for onboarding its employees


Written by the eponymous Ogilvy, it comprises all the information an employee could need and has effectively become the company handbook. 


Netflix similarly prepares its employees by having all the information they need ready from the start. That means that from the moment they arrive, onboarding becomes less about learning the ropes and more about making an informed contribution to the organization. 

Adapting to Virtual Onboarding 

While the process of remote onboarding is different from the in-person experience, it shouldn’t alter your onboarding checklist significantly. 


The use of employee management systems significantly simplifies this process. And, as discussed, live webinars and office management software further enhance this process. 


Irrespective of whether your onboarding checklist ends up being for a remote or in-person experience, the critical thing is that you stay attuned to the attitudes and difficulties your new employees experience. 


Good communication and clear expectations will help not only integrate your new hires but ultimately make them happier, engaged employees with valuable contributions on offer. 


Author bio

Erkki is the founder of WebinarSoftware.org and has 5+ years of experience in different companies as a software product manager. He has worked in remote teams and also been responsible for onboarding new employees. 


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