One employee onboarding a new hire

Employee onboarding: A step-by-step guide with our best strategies

Employee onboarding definition

Employee onboarding are activities your new hires go through during the first few months of employment. Your onboarding process organizes these tasks into a structured, repeatable set of steps.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and a good one is crucial for employee onboarding. While some businesses boil onboarding down to orientation and a week of training, this approach misses a valuable opportunity.

Effective onboarding boosts productivity and employee retention. According to BambooHR, 89% of employees who had an effective onboarding experience are more engaged at work. The best onboarding processes empower new hires with the tools they need to be productive, successful team members. Ideally, you should have a standard process that you can personalize for each of your new hires.

We'll break down employee onboarding best practices to help you make the most of every new hire.

An explanation of what employee onboarding means including that you'll make hiring decisions, welcome new hires, and transition them into the role.

1. Start before hiring

The onboarding process begins before your new employee steps foot in the building. A solid onboarding process supports your new employee from the moment they accept your job offer through their first year of employment. 

Before bringing in a new employee, ensure your new hires receive up-to-date resources. Whether they want to know about your businesses policies or benefits, your team needs a reliable source of accurate information. 

Here are the main topics to focus on for new hires:

  • Outline company policies and consider creating an employee handbook.
  • Give information about whether you offer health insurance and how to sign up for it.
  • Settle a PTO policy and share it with new employees.
  • Share additional opportunities like employee benefits
  • Make payment schedules and other financial information easy to access.

Planning before their arrival will help you transform the onboarding process into a smooth process for you and your new hire. 

2. Create a seamless hiring process

Once you've picked your candidates, it's time to process their new hire paperwork. Signing this essential paperwork officially brings your new hire into the fold.

For this step, employers have to:

  • Collect their emergency contact information.
  • Get their banking information to set up direct deposit.
  • Ensure all parts of your payroll systems are set up.
  • Collect their benefits enrollment information.
  • Send them an I-9, W-4, or other relevant tax forms. 

Then have new hires fill out their paperwork before the start date. Once their signature is in, you can set up their workstation, job equipment, and logins for their first day.

According to BambooHR, effective onboarding help employees feel 18 times more committed to their workplace.

3. Plan for their arrival

Once the paperwork checks out, employers can prepare their teams and office for the new hire. During this week, you should confirm that the new employee is ready to hit the ground running on day one.

A clipboard with a checklist of tasks for getting everything ready for you employee onboarding.

Prepare to welcome the new hire by making sure you:

  • Set up the employee’s accounts, computer logins, and other technical requirements.
  • Prepare necessary work equipment, such as sending computers for remote employees, a first-day agenda, and even a welcome gift.
  • Provide their uniform or share your company dress code.
  • Issue keys and badges they’ll need to access the workplace.
  • Send a welcome email with details about their first day, including where to park and what to bring.
  • Announce the new hire to the rest of your staff. Include the new employee’s name, position, responsibilities, and start date.

Having everything ready for your new hire will make them feel comfortable and confident to start making meaningful contributions to the team. 

4. Make their first day memorable

It’s a good idea to create opportunities for employees to engage with their team and their new role on their first day.

Here are some things you can do on their first day:

  • Introduce them to their new team. Consider scheduling a team lunch or activity to facilitate meaningful connections.
  • Conduct a tour of your facility or workplace. Don’t forget to point out the restrooms and common areas.
  • Schedule dedicated time for them to review the employee handbook. Discuss company policies and procedures.
  • Host a new employee orientation to discuss your company’s mission, vision, and goals.
  • Schedule some time for them to meet with HR to complete any remaining paperwork.
  • Share essential information about your products, services, and customers.
  • Conduct an end-of-day check-in. Answer any questions, ensure they have everything they need, and tell them what to expect next time.

Remember: First impressions matter. An employee’s first day is your first chance to build rapport.

5. Schedule out their first week

New hires get a lot of information on the first day. For the remainder of the week, it’s a good idea to reiterate and build on some of the most important points.

Beyond that, the first week is all about keeping your new hire engaged. 

By the end of the week, they should feel invested in the culture, the organization, and their new job. People like to feel productive, so give your new employees tasks to keep them engaged.

What to do during the first week of employee onboarding, including training, introducing a mentor, scheduling a team lunch, discussing company policies, and checking in on them.

Here are some things you can do during their first week:

  • Set them up with a mentor or someone they can shadow and turn to with questions.
  • Begin role-specific training and consider giving them small role-related tasks to help ease them in.
  • Schedule team lunches and activities. This encourages more one-on-one conversations and tighter connections.
  • Continue discussing company policies and procedures, culture, and goals.
  • Connect with them at the end of each day. Answer any questions they might have, gather feedback, and share expectations.

This period focuses on building a foundation for future training. Making them feel welcome and a part of the company culture is essential.

6. Train and get acquainted 

Your new employee may catch on quickly. But don’t halt your onboarding efforts when your employee starts feeling comfortable. The first month is an opportunity to ensure your employee is happy, confident, and engaged for the long run.

Here are some things you can do during their first month:

  • Schedule one-on-one time with your employee: Discuss expectations, responsibilities, and more. Then set up a monthly, quarterly, and annual review process.
  • Continue with role-specific training and job shadowing: Schedule job shadowing with employees on different teams and roles to give your employee a full picture of company operations.
  • Schedule a meeting to answer questions: Your employee may have questions about PTO, health care, or other benefits now that they’ve had some time to acclimate.
  • Get feedback: Ask new hires what they liked about their onboarding experience and what could have been better. This is your opportunity to improve.

Over the course of three months, your new hire will settle into their role. Between training, shadow sessions, and the gradual buildup of new tasks, they should understand everything expected of them—from job duties to time tracking. Regularly check in with new employees in case they have any questions or problems.

7. Do a three-month check-in

After the first 90 days, your new employees should have found their footing. If they can perform all their regular duties without issues, you can consider them a fully-fledged part of the team.

Examples of questions to ask during an employee onboarding check-in meeting.

Here are some things you can do during their first 90 days:

  • Schedule one-on-one conversations: Discuss their progress, goals, challenges, and feedback. These conversations can be with you, the HR team, or another manager.
  • Schedule a team activity and do something fun: Team connections are critical for productivity and collaboration. The more you create opportunities to connect and engage as a team, the better.
  • Gather more feedback: Find out what you could have done better and answer any remaining questions.

Continue checking in on your new hires and taking time to answer questions and get to know them.

8. Evaluate after one year

Like all employees, new hires should go through performance reviews every three to six months. You can assess their strengths and weaknesses and decide where they need additional support. 

Here are some things you can do to keep your employees on track through their first year of employment: 

  • Complete monthly, quarterly, and yearly reviews with all employees: Employees should always understand their roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
  • Schedule monthly or quarterly team activities: Keep company culture and team camaraderie strong.
  • Review company policies and procedures on an ongoing basis: Keep your employee handbook current, or show them how to use the employee portal to find the information they want.

Take the opportunity to ask them for feedback during these reviews. This way, you can find out which parts of the onboarding process worked better than others.

According to Kronos, 55% of organizations don’t measure their onboarding program effectiveness. Evaluate your program often and adjust it to ensure success.

Tools to fuel your people and passion

Connect payroll, time tracking, employee benefits, and accounting in one place, so managing more feels refreshingly manageable.

The onboarding process has lots of moving parts. Without a comprehensive checklist, it's easy to miss a crucial step. Fortunately, an onboarding checklist helps provide a positive and structured onboarding experience for every new hire.

We've done the heavy lifting for you. Download our free checklist to get started. Then, you can follow the steps or customize them for your onboarding process.

Benefits of an employee onboarding program

Affective onboarding makes your business look well-managed, giving new hires a positive feeling which makes them more likely to stay. 

Some benefits to employee onboarding include: 

  • Giving a great first impression: Onboarding determines how employees engage in your culture. Will you make them feel part of a team or set them up to treat work like a chore?
  • Boosting productivity: A solid onboarding process means you can efficiently turn your new hires into valuable, contributing employees. Businesses with solid onboarding improve employee productivity by 70%, according to Brandon Hall Group.
  • Improving retention: The last thing you want is to train a great employee and then see them hit the road. Fortunately, your onboarding experience has a direct impact on your employee retention.
  • Increasing job satisfaction: Happy employees lead to a thriving business. When you onboard effectively, your employees better understand the expectations of their role and how they can be successful.

Overall, a structured onboarding experience makes employees feel confident in their employers and more engaged with their new roles.

According to SHRM, employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they got a structured onboarding experience.

Tips for onboarding a new employee

Before building an onboarding program, businesses need to remember a few considerations.

A list of employee onboarding considerations, including that it takes time, leadership should assist, you can make new hires feel at home, and introduce to the company culture.

Consider these onboarding tips to create the best process for new hires:

  • Break down the onboarding process: Set dates to go over paperwork, orientation, teaching foundation skills, and practicing job functions.
  • Show your company culture: A company culture is the lifeblood of your business. Have regular discussions about company values and help employees align with the business’s vision.
  • Have someone in charge of onboarding: Assign the onboarding process to the HR personnel or training manager.
  • Tap veteran employees: Ask more veteran employees to provide specific training and shadow sessions to new hires. 
  • Assign an onboarding buddy: Create an onboarding buddy program that matches an employee to a new hire to help with tasks and making connections. 
  • Streamline onboarding with software: Use an HR service software that gives access to tools and templates to simplify hiring, set HR policies, and create an onboarding checklist.

Only 12% of employees think their organization has a good onboarding program. Make your onboarding memorable!

Hiring the right people for your small business

While most businesses share the same onboarding outcomes, each organization has its ideal format. Create an employee onboarding that fast-tracks new hires into their roles and your company culture. While the process takes time, its impact on new hires more than justifies the cost.

Employee onboarding 101

Employee onboarding FAQ

Still have questions about employee onboarding? We’ve got the answers

How long does the onboarding process take?

Your onboarding process—or the steps to fill out paperwork and handle new hire tasks and training—may only take a few days. However, your new employee’s onboarding period may last much longer. It should last at least 90 days, with some HR experts arguing that it should extend through your employee’s entire first year.

Who should lead the onboarding process?

Your onboarding leaders depend on the size of your business, but most times the HR department and training manager will oversee the process. For example, large teams have direct supervisors and HR personnel to oversee the process. 

What are the 5 C's of onboarding?

The five C's of onboarding represent the main points to emphasize when introducing new hires to your business, and they are:

  • Compliance: Ensuring new hires follow all guidelines and legal standards.
  • Clarification: Explaining their roles and responsibilities.
  • Culture: Breaking down the values and vision of your business.
  • Connections: Making new employees feel connected with their new colleagues.
  • Check back: Checking in with new hires regularly

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