Employee onboarding is one of the most important experiences in someone’s time at your organization. Onboarding is when they not only receive the tools they need to do the job they’ve been hired for, but also form their first impressions of what it’s like to work with you and begin acclimating to your organizational culture. In fact, a strong employee onboarding process can increase retention by 25% and performance by 11%.
So while it’s easy to oversimplify employee onboarding as a technical process that involves things like email setup and benefits enrollment, it has much bigger implications from a culture and productivity standpoint. Therefore, it not only makes sense, but is imperative to your and your employees’ success to take a people-first approach as you bring new hires into the fold.
There are a few reasons for this:
Your people matter: Your employees, both new and veteran, aren’t just the lifeblood of your company. They are your company. So how you get them started and how you integrate them into your existing culture is crucial. Getting them up and running quickly and seamlessly is a way of showing them you value their time and that you’re excited to have them on board.
Productivity is the goal: Taking a people-first approach has the added benefit of improving your organization’s productivity. The faster you get someone up and running, the sooner they can add value to your company. For those in your organization who are more profit-minded, pitch optimizing the onboarding process as a way to increase the ROI of a new hire. People need access to the right apps, tools, and stakeholders to do their jobs well, and a good onboarding process will enable this efficiently.
Preparation demonstrates value: Getting organized around onboarding is more than a way to ensure a seamless experience. Preparedness demonstrates commitment to the success of new employees. Another added benefit of creating a well-thought out process is being able to guarantee that nothing important falls through the cracks, which can waste time or money for your organization.
Now that you know why onboarding matters, let’s talk about what it takes to build a people-centric onboarding process.
What makes for a strong employee onboarding process
When it comes to actually building out your onboarding process, there are a few key qualities you want to achieve. Your onboarding process should be:
- Well-documented – Having all of the steps written out in a thorough and chronological order, using using simple language, is the key to getting started.
- Curated – It can be easy to go too far, but to ensure efficiency and effectiveness, make sure that your documented process contains only pertinent information.
- Accurate and updated – Your onboarding processes will naturally change over time, so make sure that your documentation does too. For example, if your organization adopts a new communication tool, make sure getting new hires started with it is documented as part of onboarding procedures.
We suggest building a master list of onboarding steps needed for all employees, and then sub-lists for various departments, roles, and levels of seniority. There are likely tasks that every new employee needs to complete, such as signing up for benefits. Others may only apply to certain roles (such as onboarding developers to your coding environment) or levels of seniority (such as introducing the team member to your board).
How to build an employee onboarding checklist
Once you’re ready to start building an onboarding checklist, the first step is to take stock of any onboarding materials that you already may have. For example, perhaps your building manager already has general office information about the space you rent, or maybe you use a SaaS tool daily that has its own onboarding instructions. Rather than reinventing the wheel, curate and organize them so they can be added to your master list.
Next, it can be helpful to take a look at some onboarding systems that other organizations use to help you get an idea of your options and come up with a method that’s right for you and your team. Be sure to think through what makes your organization unique and what is essential to your employees when it comes to doing their jobs effectively.
Here is our own employee onboarding process to help you get started.
What to include in your checklist
Generally, speaking, there are a few major categories that should go into your onboarding checklist. These are:
- Physical keys or other means of access
- Hardware (printers, laptops, company cell phones)
- Software (accounts, passwords, authentication)
- Documents and wikis (organizational and role-specific)
- Walkthroughs, demos, and/or trainings where necessary
HR and Legal:
- Payroll setup
- Tax documentation
- Legal contracts
- Employee handbook
- Stock options (if applicable)
Culture and connections:
- Dress code
- Start and end time (day one and going forward)
- Company values and norms
- Company swag and/or small welcome gifts
- Mentorship and/or buddy program
Of course, you may have an area or two that goes beyond these (for example, compliance mandates to review), but this should be a good start. Beyond the information above, to get a sense of how other companies handle onboarding, here are some other checklists you can take a look at:
Smartsheet offers both high-level guidance and sample onboarding checklists. If you aren’t already familiar with it, Smartsheet is like Google Drive’s Spreadsheets on steroids, and can be a great place to organize and collaborate on your own onboarding checklist(s). The cells are easily customized and allow for status updates and quick assignment of ownership for tasks.
Asana is a popular productivity tool, and they also offer a new employee onboarding template that you can use for your own organization. Their onboarding guide shows you how to build your own onboarding processes within the Asana app, invite team members, and easily replicate the process with each new hire. You can rank action items by priority and assign ownership. If your company already uses Asana for task management, this may be a good choice.
Trello is another productivity app, oriented around boards and cards (vs. Asana’s more list-focused user interface.) It’s also quite popular with tech-focused companies. We like their human approach to onboarding, which goes beyond checklists to offer images of the office and team members to help new hires get acclimated plus FAQs like “Can I have plants?” and “Who do I talk to about changing the temperature in here?” Trello is clearly on board with the people-first onboarding approach we recommend.
BambooHR is a popular HR software offering for small and midsized businesses. They offer an employee self-onboarding service that can take a lot of the individual tasks off your team members’ plates and empower new hires to get themselves up and running in a seamless and automated fashion.
Blissfully (now owned by Vendr) as you may know, offers a way to automatically detect all of the SaaS products in use at an organization, helping save money, improve security, and simplify operations. We recently added a feature that makes it possible for you to build your own SaaS-focused onboarding checklists. For organizations who love to use technology to its fullest potential, this is a quick and easy way to get your new hires up and running with all of the apps and services they need to do their jobs well.
Continuous improvement + the onboarding process
Remember, onboarding, like any other important process, should be a matter of continuous improvement. There’s no such thing as a checklist you can steal from another organization that will perfectly fit your own, and there’s no such thing as a perfect process that needs no improvement. You should always be looking for ways to streamline the process and improve the experience for new hires.
One way to do this is to survey new team members after they have been with your organization for a few months to find out how they feel the onboarding process went and what changes they would recommend. You can also check in with any team members who are closely involved in the onboarding process on a regular basis to see if they have ideas about how to optimize.