One employee onboarding a new hire
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New employee onboarding process: Step-by-step checklist and guide for 2022

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and a good one is crucial when it comes to employee onboarding. While some businesses boil onboarding down to orientation and a week of training, this approach misses a valuable opportunity. More importantly, it may lower your return on investment (ROI) for each new hire.

Effective onboarding boosts productivity and employee retention, with 76% of workers claiming on-the-job training is the most vital part of their first week.

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


Quick review: What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding includes making hiring decisions, welcoming new hires, and transitioning into the role

After making your hiring decisions, employee onboarding is the systematic flow of activities your new hires go through. Your onboarding process organizes these tasks into a structured, repeatable set of steps. Whether you prioritize training or introducing your company culture, you can get new hires up to speed in a matter of weeks. 

The best onboarding processes empower new hires with the tools they need to be productive, successful team members. Refined onboarding lets you do that in an organized and manageable way. Ideally, your approach is comprehensive, with management, HR, and veteran team members lending a hand.

Why employee onboarding matters

Employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they got a structured onboarding experience. However, ineffective onboarding makes your business look poorly managed. On top of that, new hires with that impression are less likely to stay.

The benefits don’t end with retention. Organizations say effective onboarding improves general productivity and work satisfaction. Overall, a structured onboarding experience makes employees feel confident in their employers and more engaged with their new roles.

The main goals of 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?
  • 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.
  • Boosting productivity: A solid onboarding process means you can efficiently turn your new hires into valuable, contributing employees. Research shows that businesses with solid onboarding improve employee productivity by 70%.
  • 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.

Employee onboarding program considerations

Onboarding considerations: the process takes time, leadership should assist, make new hires feel at home, and introduce the company culture

Before building an onboarding program, businesses need to remember a few considerations. With the right mindset and priorities, you can create the best process for introducing new hires. 

How long does the onboarding process take?

Your onboarding process—or the steps you take 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.

You can break the onboarding process into individual components:

  • Paperwork: 1-2 weeks, usually before the start day
  • Orientation: One day
  • Learn foundational skills: One week
  • Practice main job functions: One month
  • Integrate feedback and settle into the role: Three months
  • Undergo and pass regular evaluations: Six months-one year

Who should lead your onboarding process?

Your onboarding leaders depend on the size of your business. For example, large teams have direct supervisors and HR personnel to oversee the process. For large companies, here’s an example of the role breakdown:

  • Leadership: Makes hiring decisions, creates company policies, and decides the onboarding process.
  • Management: Oversees new hire training and introduces new hires to the company culture.
  • HR team: Helps the new hires understand company policies, payroll, and employee benefits.
  • Veteran employees: Teaches daily operations through training and shadow sessions.

Because many small businesses only retain a handful of employees, senior employees will juggle more tasks. In cases like these, software packages can help. QuickBooks HR solutions streamline operations and give access to tools and templates that simplify hiring, setting HR policies, and creating onboarding checklists. 

The 5 C’s of employee onboarding and why they matter

Teams need to prioritize making new employees feel motivated and respected. To do this, you can follow the five C's of employee onboarding. These five C's represent the main points to emphasize when introducing new hires to your business and include:

  • 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.

Remember not to treat the five C's like boxes you can check off and then ignore. Instead, work these qualities into every step of the onboarding process. Using the five C's as a general framework makes new hires feel like a part of the team as quickly as possible. 

Company culture

A company culture is the lifeblood of your business. Positive work cultures keep your employees engaged in their jobs and loyal to your company. It also improves employee productivity and makes recruiting strong applicants who admire your vision easier.

As your organization grows, you risk outgrowing your culture. Be sure to have regular discussions about company values to keep your culture at the forefront. By explaining these priorities, you help employees align with the business's vision and they better understand their expectations and contributions.

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The employee onboarding process

The onboarding process begins long before your new employee steps foot in the building. And it doesn’t end after 90 days. A solid onboarding process supports your new employee from the moment they accept your job offer through their first year of employment. We have a few tips to help you keep your employees on track for their first year and beyond.

Phase 1: Pre-onboarding steps

Have new hires fill out their paperwork before the start date. These forms cover benefits, payroll, employment policies, and emergency contact information. Once their signature is in, you can set up their workstation, job equipment, and logins for their first day. 

Phase 2: Welcome your new hires

During their first week, new employees learn the ropes and meet your team. Aside from orientation on the first day, this period focuses on building a foundation for future training. Making them feel welcome and a part of the company culture is essential. 

Phase 3: Role-specific training

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. Check in with new employees regularly in case they have any questions or problems.

Phase 4: Transitioning fully into the role

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.

Post-onboarding performance reviews

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. 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.

Download our free employee onboarding checklist

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.

Onboarding checklist for new hires

A positive onboarding experience can inspire confidence in new hires and increase their engagement and longevity with the company. Use this checklist to help guarantee you never miss a beat. 

1+ month prior to start: Ensure materials are up to date

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

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

  • Clearly outline company policies in a comprehensive employee handbook
  • Settle on a PTO policy and share it with new employees ASAP.
  • Pick a healthcare plan or set of options for your new hires. Make signing up fast and easy.
  • Make payment schedules and other financial information easy to access.
  • Share additional financial opportunities like retirement benefits, employee stock purchase plans, and reimbursement benefits.

2-4 weeks prior to start: Send and file new hire paperwork

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

1 week prior to start: Schedule first-day emails and alert teams

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

Prepare to welcome the new hire by making sure you:

  • Set up the employee’s accounts, computer logins, and other technical requirements.
  • Send a welcome email with details about their first day, including where to park and what to bring.
  • Provide their uniform or share your company dress code.
  • Copy any keys or issue any badges they’ll need to access the workplace.
  • Prepare their workstation with necessary office equipment, an employee handbook, a first-day agenda, and a welcome gift.
  • Announce the new hire to the rest of your staff. Include the new employee’s name, position, responsibilities, and start date.

First day: Welcome the new hire

Remember: First impressions matter. An employee’s first day is your first chance to build rapport. It’s a good idea to create opportunities for employees to engage with their team and their new role.

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

  • Greet them when they arrive and escort them to their desk.
  • 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 some time for them to meet with HR to complete any remaining paperwork.
  • Host a new employee orientation to discuss your company’s mission, vision, and goals.
  • Share essential information about your products, services, and customers.
  • Schedule dedicated time for them to review the employee handbook. Discuss company policies and procedures.
  • Conduct an end-of-day check-in. Answer any questions, make sure they have everything they need, and let them know what to expect next time. 

First week: Support and reinforce

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 that can keep them engaged.

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

  • Begin role-specific training and consider giving them small role-related tasks to help ease them in.
  • Set them up with a mentor or someone they can shadow or turn to with questions.
  • Schedule team lunches or activities with different groups each day. 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.

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

3 months post-start: Transitions and feedback

As your employee gets more comfortable in their role and nears the end of their first 90 days, don’t lose steam! You don’t want them to feel abandoned after a few months on the job.

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

  • Schedule one-on-one conversations to discuss their progress, goals, challenges, and feedback. These conversations can be with you, the HR team, or another manager.
  • Gather even more feedback. Find out what you could have done better and answer any remaining questions.
  • 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.

6 months post-start: Check-in and review

No matter how long an employee has been with your company, it’s a good idea to review your company policies and expectations consistently.

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

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

Creating your onboarding template

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

Simplify onboarding and managing a small business with QuickBooks software today.


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