Employee Onboarding Best Practices [+ Checklist for Employers]

Anna Roberts

Sep 2016 ⋅ 6 min read


After spending weeks on a costly yet essential recruitment process, you've found the (almost) perfect candidate - and they accepted the job offer.

For HR, the hard work doesn't stop there.

Onboarding acts as the stepping stone between recruitment and a high-performing, engaged employee.

However, some companies make that decisive leap tricky for their new hires; often relying on informal onboarding processes or throwing hires in at the deep end to see if they sink or swim.

It's risky to take shortcuts with onboarding.

Neglected new hires could give up and look for work elsewhere. Even if they don't quit, the employee will be unmotivated and less productive.

Getting onboarding right isn't as much of a hassle or expense as you might expect. In fact, you should be able to recoup any losses through improved employee performance in the future.

In today's blog post, we talk you through some onboarding best practices for employers. Click this link to jump to the end of the post and to a handy checklist!

Before Their First Day


It's easy to let day-to-day tasks prevent you from preparing for an employee's first day, but it hardly sets a good impression if nothing is ready for the new hire when they first turn up at the office.

Carry out the following onboarding tasks prior to the arrival of your new employee(s).

  • Send paperwork in advance. If there are any forms to fill in or personal details that you need from employees, email them across. You could use an online portal or self-service HR software to make the process even easier for your new employees.
  • Provide a 'first day' checklist. Send a concise list of documents and other items that employees are expected to bring on their first day.
  • Let new hires know how to access the office. Is there a door code? Where can employees park? Who should they ask for at reception? What time are they expected?
  • Distribute a welcome package. This package could include details on the company and its directors, a map, company policies and values, a branded welcome gift, and various contact details.
  • Set up IT accounts. Ensure that the new employee has a company login ready to go, in addition to accounts for any other software - such as Google Drive.
  • Order keys, prepare the workspace and purchase any hardware.
  • Plan the employee's first week.This includes arranging meetings to introduce the new hire to other staff and their various roles.
  • Choose a 'buddy'. If you use a buddy system during onboarding, now's the time to decide who'll be showing the new hire the ropes.

When the new hire's start date comes around, ideally you should be in a position where you feel fully prepared for their first week - and beyond. These preparations help the employer and the employee by making the transition as smooth as possible.

On Their First Day

bag first day at work

If you've been thorough in your preparations, an employee's first day shouldn't be a daunting prospect!

The first day is all about calming any nerves and making the right impression. Here's how to go about it.

  • Avoid information overload. Give employees the chance to digest information, else they'll forget half of what you tell them.
  • Introductions. First off, introduce staff to their workspace and their immediate team.
  • Further explain their role. Expand upon the details you gave during the recruitment process, including explaining how the work directly impacts the success of the company.
  • Explain key processes. Show the new hire how to complete key processes step by step. It's important to get these basic tasks right before explaining more complex aspects of the role.
  • Sort out payroll. If you haven't already, put the employee's bank details into your system and inform them of when they'll be paid.
  • Clarify expectations. Supplement your welcome pack with more info about office culture and routines, such as whether you use email, Slack, or phone calls to communicate internally, and where the staff typically grab lunch.

At the end of the first day, the employee should feel comfortable in their new role. They should be familiar with key figures in the office, including their team. The employee should know where to find the toilets, the canteen, and the car park.

Their manager should feel confident in assigning the new hire basic tasks without the need for supervision.

During Their First Week

flowchart first week

Now that the employee knows what is expected of them, who to speak to, and where to find the office facilities, it's time to start providing more information about the business and their role.

  • Office tour. After the employee is familiar with their own corner of the office, give them a tour of the rest of the building(s) and departments. This will provide insight into other business operations.
  • Discuss progression opportunities. It may seem early, but by discussing progression pathways at this stage the employee will already feel valued and engaged.
  • Double-check the basics. Keep an open dialogue with employees and ask them if they are comfortable with the hardware, software, and processes that their job requires. It's best to clarify the basics now to prevent bigger problems in the future.
  • First 'formal' feedback meeting. As the week draws to a close, set aside fifteen minutes to talk formally about the onboarding process so far. You can use this feedback not only to improve processes for this employee, but also for future employees.
  • Discuss and assign their first project. You should choose this not only based on company needs, but also the employee's strengths and interests.

Once the first week is over, you should feel comfortable allowing the employee to work independently for the majority of the time. You should also understand how the employee works best, and the types of projects they'd like to work on in the future.

The employee should have slotted into their team, with a good understanding of their tasks and how to execute them. Ideally, the new hire will already know how they'd like to progress at the company - and what they need to do to achieve this progression.

Within the First Few Months

conference and training

Once the new hire has been at the company for several months, they are able to carry out their responsibilities almost to the same standard as a seasoned employee.

Here's how to ensure they get to that point - and even surpass it.

  • Discuss training opportunities. These might include online courses, shadowing, mentoring, or simply studying books and other resources.
  • Event attendance. Ask the new hire if they'd like to attend certain industry events. Don't restrict these opportunities to senior staff, as your new hires are likely to gain far more from the experience.
  • Review performance. Now that the employee has had several months to become used to their workload, it's time to assess how they've been faring.


After a short version of this article to use as a checklist? See below. You can also view it in PDF form.

Before Their First Day

  • Send out paperwork
  • Provide a ‘first day’ checklist
  • Send office access details
  • Distribute welcome package
  • Set up IT accounts
  • Order keys and prepare workspace
  • Plan the new hire’s first week
  • Choose a ‘buddy’

On Their First Day

  • Avoid information overload
  • Team introductions
  • Explain the role
  • Explain key processes
  • Sort out payroll
  • Clarify expectations and office routines

During Their First Week

  • Office tour
  • Discuss progression opportunities
  • Double-check basics
  • Hold formal feedback meeting
  • Discuss first project

Within the First Few Months

  • Discuss training opportunities
  • Arrange event attendance
  • Review employee performance