Onboarding documents involve all the paperwork new hires need to be legally employed with your company, while also ensuring their success in taking on their new role. These can be divided into four types:
- Legal: These are the onboarding forms required by law.
- Pay and benefits: These ensure your employee is paid on time and gets access to healthcare and other company benefits.
- Company-specific: In addition to things like employee contracts, this includes the company handbook, calendars of events, or any other important documents that orient the employee to the company as a whole.
- Role-specific: Role-specific onboarding documents for new hires are determined by job. This could mean security clearance paperwork, drug tests, as well as specific certifications or signing off on role-specific training.
Read on to find out all the onboarding paperwork that you need to provide, as well as those that are either recommended or optional, to ensure your onboarding process goes smoothly.
Required Onboarding Forms
At your most basic, you only need the employee onboarding documents that keep you on the right side of the law. These are usually done within the first days on the job and include:
- Tax forms, like the I-9 and W-4 (or country-specific equivalent). You can download these directly from the IRS website or the equivalent in other nations—learn more about these in our guides to the I-9 form and W4 form. In the US, you may also need to have your employee fill out state tax withholding forms as well.
- Proof of citizenship, like a copy of a driver’s license or Visa, or work permits for foreigners.
- Work permits for minors if required by your state. Find out more about the requirements and regulations in our hiring minors guide.
- Payroll forms, such as for Direct Deposit. This may also require a copy of a deposit slip or voided check. Learn about all the required forms in our guide to payroll forms employers need.
- Benefits document and registrations for health benefits, 401(k) or other company perks. These are most often done online rather than with a paper document.
- FMLA acknowledgment: If our company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), then you need to maintain proof that your new hire has been informed of their rights under the FMLA. Keep this form for three years.
- Proof that the new hire has completed state-required training like sexual harassment training.
- If the job requires it, security clearance paperwork, proof of a negative drug test, or other mandatory certifications. Some of these your new hire may already have (for example, a food safety certificate), and you just need to get a copy for your records.
- Employee consent form: If you need explicit consent from your employee for anything, be sure to get it in writing.
Recommended Onboarding Documents
Onboarding documents for new employees should do more than cover legal requirements and include pay. These also ensure vital training is done and that the employee is prepared for their job. These are usually handled in the first weeks of onboarding and include the following:
- Employee contract: While employee contracts are not required by law, it is an important legal document, as it outlines clearly the responsibilities of both the employee and the employer. Download our free employee contract template if you don’t have one yet.
- Noncompete agreements: This protects your intellectual property and ensures a new hire does not carry your proprietary information to another company should they quit. You can use our non-compete agreement template to get started—but make sure to consult with an attorney before implementing it.
- Equipment checklists: This could be when an employee signs responsibility for a company laptop, or it could mean acknowledgment of receipt of specific uniform items. It’s especially useful when the items are to be returned at the end of employment.
- Company handbook: Not only should you provide the handbook, but also have some way to track that the new hire read it. Check out our employee handbook sample for some inspiration on how to draft one for your company.
- Organizational charts: This shows the basic structure of your company and indicates reporting lines. This helps new hires understand how the company works and who each person/team reports to. This may be in your company handbook. Don’t know how to create an org chart? Use one of our recommended org chart software for an easy time.
- Role-specific procedure manuals and equipment manuals: If you do not provide specific copies, then the employee should know where to find the manual.
- Training certifications: If your new hire requires specific on-the-job training, it’s a good idea to have proof that training was completed to standard. This could be via online acknowledgment, a copy of test scores, or certification by a supervisor.
- Brand guidelines: These are especially important for people in marketing, customer service, or sales, but can help any employee better understand how to represent your company and products.
- Emergency contact form: This is handy information in case something happens to your new hire while on the job.
- Benefits brochures: While registration forms are mandatory, benefits brochures are simply a good idea to help new hires remember the details of what they signed up for and how to access benefits. Learn about the major benefit types that employees provide.
Optional/Situational Employee Onboarding Paperwork
There is some paperwork that may not be necessary but are good-to-haves, simply to grease the entire process for inducting your new hire into the company. There are also certain required forms that should only be used for very particular cases. These include:
- Some legal paperwork: These are forms required that depend on the situation. For example, the U.S. Form SF-256 allows employees to voluntarily disclose their disabled status. It’s used for information and affirmative action purposes.
- Risk policy: This document may be part of the employee handbook. It outlines how the company handles situations such as workplace accidents, lawsuits, or even environmental disasters.
- Company calendar: This may not only include company days off or special events but also any day-to-day activities that happen regularly.
- Team bios: A great way to make a new hire feel at home is to give them a couple of facts about their immediate coworkers and manager. You might do this as an email before their first day.
- 30-60-90-day expectations: A large percentage of new employees that quit in the early months do so from frustration about meeting expectations. Having a document that outlines what they need to do or learn and what goals they are expected to reach can help them build a strong foundation for the rest of their career. It also provides a framework for early feedback.
Onboarding Documents Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Onboarding directly impacts an employee’s productivity and feeling of acceptance into their new company. This has a vital influence on employee job satisfaction and retention. According to Zippia1, 33% of new employees quit within the first six months—with 44% of those leaving because of a poor onboarding experience.
This is a list not only of the onboarding documents for new hires to fill out but also of the initial training they need to complete, the equipment they need to have assigned, and even the key personnel they should meet. A comprehensive onboarding checklist helps ensure your employee has everything they need to be effective at their job and comfortable in their workplace.
There are generally four phases. The process can take days or months depending on the job.
- Preboarding, which is the first day of work and primarily involves paperwork
- Introductions, during which the employee meets their team and key management and learns about company culture
- Discovery, where the employee gets primary job training
- Review, during which the employee gives and receives feedback on their performance and onboarding experience.
This varies by company, job, and position. In general, however, new employee onboarding forms include tax forms required by law, such as a W-4, mandatory training, or state requirements, like work permits for minors. You also need the onboarding paperwork new hires fill out for receiving benefits. You may also require documents that help you track employee training, acknowledge policy and goals, and protect your company’s rights (such as to your intellectual property).
Absolutely not! Onboarding is the entire process of getting your new employee settled into their new job at your company. It includes paperwork, certainly, but can also involve training, getting their equipment (from safety gear to a laptop with the proper software), and even being introduced to their team. Thus, a good onboarding program lasts more than a few days and should include touching base with your new employee to ensure they are getting what they need to do their job and are comfortable in their new workplace.
Nearly half of new employees who quit their jobs1 do so because of a poor onboarding experience. Onboarding paperwork is a vital first step in onboarding, as it ensures you have the vital legal and financial documents to start your employee’s pay and benefits, but it can also help ensure they understand their role, the job expectations and tasks, and even the company culture. Ensuring the paperwork is properly completed can give your employees a great start.