A new employee orientation and onboarding checklist should include all the tasks required to make sure your employee has a memorable experience joining the company. Following a checklist prevents you from forgetting basic tasks, like payroll and compliance paperwork, office setup and security badges, or the most important task—making the new hire feel welcome.
To simplify your new hire onboarding process, by automating many of the tasks and storing documents online, consider using an all in one HR, payroll and benefits provider like Gusto. Gusto can help you manage new hire paperwork, and even maintain your checklist online.
New Hire Orientation Checklist Template
A new hire orientation checklist helps your business stay on top of new employee orientation tasks to ensure you get your new hires off to a great start.
But the most important tasks are the people and culture onboarding tasks—such as employee introductions, orientation, training, and mentoring.
We’ve provided a new hire orientation checklist template that you can download and modify. This will help ensure you don’t miss any important required new hire paperwork during the orientation process. It includes all the basic new employee orientation tasks, such as introductions that need to be made, paperwork that needs to be completed, and time frames.
You’ll need to modify the template to include items relevant to your business, such as office tours, parking passes, ordering uniforms, or obtaining photos for an employee badge or press release. Downloading our template saves you from having to create your own checklist from scratch.
New Hire Process
The new hire process starts well before the employee’s first day. It begins once an employee has accepted your offer and continues throughout the first year with onboarding and training. It typically takes a new hire about eight months on the job before they’re fully productive.
Providing solid onboarding as part of your new employee orientation process ensures that time isn’t wasted and that the employee is likely to stay. See the image below for the basic steps in the new hire process, and notice that orientation starts on the employee’s first day.
All of these steps are included in the new hire checklist above. We’ll go into more detail on some of the tasks below so that you have a good sense of what to do and when to do it. For example, the first three items above should all happen before the new employee starts.
Before They Start—Offer Made & Accepted
The time frame between when an employee accepts a job offer and when they begin is a risky one for employers. Employees may have accepted your position, but like buyer’s remorse, they may not be convinced they’ve made the right decision. Your job is to keep them engaged and get ready for their arrival.
Here are three items to consider once an offer has been made and before the new hire’s first day:
Run a Background Check
Do your background checks to make sure nothing is a surprise that causes you to cancel the job offer, such as a conviction they didn’t disclose or a failed drug test. The information you discover during the background check may be grounds for you to rescind the job offer.
Get Everything Ready to Be Set Up by Day 1
Once the background check comes back fine, you’ll want to get a head start on setting everything up so that the new employee can be productive on their first day, as well as feel welcome. Consider setting up their workspace, login ids, badges, office supplies, email account, and any other administrative items. In some companies, this means notifying various departments such as IT, security and payroll that you have a new employee starting and need their help to get that person set up in the system.
Send a Welcome Letter
It’s super important to stay in touch with the candidate and keep selling them on the value of joining your company; you can call, text or email to reassure them that you’re looking forward to their first day joining your company. If you haven’t already done so, formalize their start date, start time, supervisor’s name, pay rate and other important information into a welcome letter.
HR Tip: Once the background check is passed, consider doing something special, like sending the new hire a gift, such as a houseplant with your welcome letter to let them know how much you’re looking forward to them joining your company. Also consider providing information such as a map with information on where to park, nearby lunch places, and perhaps include an org chart with their name on it so they can begin to see themselves as part of the team.
When They Show Up—Day 1 Welcome and Orientation
Day one is when you need to do two important things with every new hire. The first task—new hire paperwork—is the most urgent, but not the most important. What’s most important is making the new hire feel welcome. By the end of the first day, you’ll want your new hire to be convinced they’ve made a great decision by joining your business.
Your job on day one is to inspire and motivate them to come back on day two.
- Make sure all the paperwork is done correctly (most urgent)
- Make sure they feel welcome in your business (most important)
New Hire Paperwork
New hire paperwork is the part of HR that’s most daunting to new business owners. Having a checklist helps so you don’t forget anything crucial. Here’s a list of all the documents and forms you might need the employee to complete, review and/or sign. Using the links below, you’ll find articles, templates or instructions for each of these documents to help make onboarding easier to manage.
- I-9 – Use to verify employment eligibility. Ask the employee to bring identification on their first day.
- W-4 – Use to gather employee tax withholdings. There may be a state tax version of the W-4 that also needs to be completed.
- Employee Handbook – Have the employee review and sign the employee handbook.
- Other company policies – If you have policies unique to your business that aren’t covered in your employee handbook, you’ll want to spend time explaining the policy and having the employee sign a document that they’ve read and understood it. Examples include sexual harassment policies, maternity leave policies, time off policies, non-compete agreements and non-disclosure agreements.
- At-will employment – Ensure the employee understands your employment at-will policy.
- Direct deposit form – Use this to gather banking information for employee payroll if you offer direct deposit.
- Employee data sheet with emergency contact information – In case of emergency.
- Signed offer letter – Request a signed copy if you haven’t already received it.
HR Tip: Consider pacing the paperwork review throughout the first few days instead of handing the new hire a stack of documents and walking away. Consider reviewing each item with the new hire to prevent them from being overwhelmed. For example, you could complete payroll and I-9 documentation on Day one, benefits documentation on day two, policies on day three, handbook on day four, etc.
If more than one new hire starts on the same day, you can schedule time with them together to review important policies, like avoiding sexual harassment, or going over the entire employee handbook, allowing them to ask questions. Items that aren’t used right away, like the employee expense form, can wait and be reviewed once the employee schedules their first business trip.
Helping Your New Hire Feel Welcome
As mentioned, this is the more valuable part of the new employee’s orientation experience because it helps the employee feel welcome. They can meet their team, learn their supervisor’s priorities, and feel like part of the company.
Ask yourself, what can we do to make our new hire feel special? Can we give them a welcome gift? Decorate their office with a plant? Host a potluck breakfast on their first day? Introduce them to new team members? Perhaps a low cost idea might be to have all members of the work team sign a “welcome to our team” card.
HR Tip: The best onboarding experiences are those that make a big deal about the new hire’s first day. They start with coffee, juice and bagels in a main area, allowing all employees to welcome the new hire. They decorate the office, put up signs “we’re glad you’re here,” and even leave little welcome gifts. Day one on the job is when the new, and often nervous, new hire needs to know you’re glad they’re there.
Onboarding—First Week on the Job
The first week on the job is nerve wracking for most new hires. It’s your job to make them feel welcome, encourage them that they’ll be able to learn your processes, system and culture, and make sure they have a go to person to assist them with questions during those first days.
Who should do the onboarding is a question many employers have. While HR has an important role, it turns out that new hires want a mix of people involved. Management is the most important. It is no surprise that employees want to know what leaders of the business expect of them in their new job. So business leaders, consider scheduling time with your new hires.
Activities to consider during the first week of onboarding a new hire are:
- Schedule one-on-one meetings with the key staff members the new hire will work with
- Offer cheat sheets, such as the company phone list, office map, or voicemail instructions
- Provide a list of who does what in their department in case they have questions
- Give them a copy of the organizational chart and explain how the company is structured
- Show them where labor law posters are located, and offer to answer questions
- Provide a building tour so they know where conference rooms, copy machines, and emergency exits are
- Describe the training they’ll receive, and when / where it will occur
- Make sure they know where to find user manuals, documents and reference materials
- Have them shadow a peer, so they see what a day in the life of a co-worker looks like
- Ensure they have all the tools they need for their job: a computer, VPN, badges, keys, website URLs, and IDs
- Orient them to the company mission, vision, values and strategic plan
- Schedule time with their supervisor to review their job description and answer questions
Assign different team members, managers and peers to help with the above tasks. Even if you don’t have a formal mentoring program, choose a peer to check in with the new hire each day for the first few weeks. That person can be a go-to resource for the new hire to ask questions—about both work and non-work related things, like how to send a fax and where to go to lunch.
HR Tip: To help the employee feel welcome and ensure they don’t get cold feet, consider asking a peer to invite them to lunch each day that first week. On day one, you might even cover the cost of lunch to have their supervisor or peer mentor take them out. Use that first week to help your new hire build relationships with their co-workers, so that they begin to feel loyalty to your company and their team. For more onboarding ideas, read our step-by-step guide.
Onboarding—First Month on the Job
The first 30 days on the job is when the employee is most concerned about whether they’ll be able to be successful. By the end of the first month, they’ll be aware of performance expectations. This is the time to check in with them to ensure they have the tools and resources to be successful. If you’ve assigned a peer mentor, great. If not, make sure to have the supervisor sit down one-on-one with the new hire for an informal conversation, and to answer the new hire’s questions.
This is the time do some of the following:
- Ask them how training is coming along. What do they need more training on?
- Find out how they’re getting along with co-workers. Any early issues to address?
- Ask about policies, procedures, or work practices. Do they find anything confusing?
- Determine if they’ve got the contacts they need. Do you need to make introductions?
- Find out what they’re struggling with. Who can help them resolve or learn more?
- Ask if there are any tools or resources they need to be more productive.
- Review the performance management process. If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good time to set initial performance goals so that they’re clear on your expectations.
Health insurance and other benefits offerings also typically have to be chosen within the first 30 days, so ensure they’ve completed all their benefits enrollment forms. For information on benefits options, check out our related articles on employee benefits:
HR Tip: Performance objectives are often established by job, such as finalizing three contracts a week or completing orders with no mistakes. It’s important to understand that your new hire isn’t going to be performing at the same level as an experienced employee for several months.
They’re learning and will make mistakes. Therefore, consider modifying your expectations during the first few months to focus on learning and mastery, rather than on meeting numbers-based performance goals. Read our article on managing performance to get them off to a good start.
Onboarding—First 90 Days on the Job
The first 90 days on the job is a time frame when the employee and your business are determining whether the employee will be a good fit. The employee may be receiving follow-ups from job applications they made prior to accepting the position with your firm, so don’t stop selling the employee on the benefits of working at your company.
Here’s what you could be doing to engage and inspire the employee, so help them want to stay.
- Training – On-the-job training provides the most value to a new employee so they can learn their job tasks. Investing in off-site or online training for the employee demonstrates your commitment to their growth. It’s a great way to develop employee skills. Consider providing training on software, writing skills, safety, presentation skills or leadership.
- Performance Reviews – Contrary to the dreaded annual review, a 90-day feedback session is a great way to share what you see that’s positive in the employee’s performance. Ask them what they need from the company or you. This is not a time to give the employee a B- rating, but rather to establish performance expectations and goals, and find out what the employee needs to meet those goals.
- Team Building – Great companies provide opportunities for team members to build strong co-worker relationships. If you’re not already doing so, consider ways to help the team build trust and appreciation. You might host a bowling event, ice cream social, or a team pizza party. The goal of team building is to remind your new hire that they work with great people and are part of a fun team. Who would want to leave that?
- Projects – Once your employee has begun to understand their specific job, consider ways that they can contribute to projects. Projects expose them to others in the company and help them build relationships. A project can be as simple as decorating for a holiday event or as complex as implementing a new software system. Just let them be part of it.
- Feedback – Your new hire has probably observed much in the first 90 days. Ask them to share. What could you or the company do better? Who might they like to thank or congratulate? What’s the process for giving kudos? How could processes be streamlined? By giving and asking for feedback, you will make the new hire feel important, valued, and encouraged to keep contributing.
Onboarding shouldn’t end once your new hire passes their first 90 days, even though many companies make that mistake. That’s probably why 31 percent of new hires don’t make it to the six-month mark. If you continue onboarding throughout the employee’s first year, you’ll have a much better chance of keeping them motivated, engaged and productive.
Tasks that should be ongoing during your new hire’s first year on the job include best practice HR activities such as providing two-way ongoing feedback, giving the employee new training and development opportunities, and scheduling monthly sit-down conversations with their manager or with HR to “check-in.” Those conversations can be used to see what’s working and what’s not—for both the company and the new employee.
It’s not uncommon to find out, after a few months, that the employee isn’t really enjoying the job, or that there’s a personality conflict between the new hire and the supervisor. Often, in spite of your best efforts, the new hire might not work out, or may be a better fit in another role within the company.
You won’t know unless you keep the lines of communication open. So schedule monthly conversations as part of onboarding that first year.
HR Tip: At the end of the first year, celebrate your new hire’s onboarding success with a company-wide announcement and perhaps a one-year anniversary gift. Here are some ideas that other businesses use to recognize and reward employees. The end of the first year marks a transition from a new hire to an experienced employee. That’s worth recognizing.
The Bottom Line
Employees are an asset to your company if they’re able to perform the job you’ve hired them for. To ensure that, make sure your new hires get off to a good start. The Orientation Checklist above does more than make sure you manage all the new hire paperwork. If used, it will help reduce turnover, engage your new hires, and reduce the time it takes for your new employees to be productive.
If you’re looking for software to support your onboarding process and electronically store policies, new hire paperwork and your employee handbook, consider working with Gusto as your HR, benefits and payroll provider.