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18 Onboarding Process Steps for New Hires

June 14, 2022
7 min read
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Step-by-Step Employee Onboarding Process Checklist


These 18 steps to guide your employee onboarding process were originally published in December 2020 and were updated in June 2022 with new information.

It can be tempting to speed through the employee onboarding process in hopes that your new hire will become productive quickly. However, research shows it can take employees up to 12 months to reach their full potential — and only 12% of employees feel their company does onboarding well. But onboarding is worth the extra effort: 69% of employees will stay at a company for at least three years if they had a good onboarding experience.

Keep reading for 18 onboarding process steps that are sure to help improve your onboarding process. 

Why Effective Onboarding is a Must

  • Employees are 3.3x as likely to strongly agree their job is as good or better than expected if their onboarding was exceptional.
  • Employees with a clear professional development plan are 3.5x as likely to say their onboarding was exceptional.
  • Employees are 3.4x as likely to say onboarding was exceptional if their manager took an active role in the process.

Invest a little extra time in your new hires with structured onboarding and reap the benefits. Follow this 18-step guide to building a strong new hire onboarding plan.

What Is an Employee Onboarding Process?

Employee onboarding is the process of adding new employees to company systems, getting them the correct supplies, and policy and procedure training. During the employee onboarding process, new hires complete HR documents, meet their coworkers, take training courses, and learn expectations. Onboarding helps new hires feel welcome, settle into their position, and learn how to be successful at your company.

To encourage employee productivity, retention, and engagement, every company should be able to check off each of these steps to a successful employee onboarding program.

Onboarding Steps: Before the First Day

As a preliminary onboarding process step, human resources teams can start preparing before the new employee’s start date to set them up for a smooth transition into their role with these three onboarding steps.

  1. Invest in a pre-boarding process. You can often get the paperwork out of the way before the first day with pre-boarding. If possible, share new hire paperwork so it can be completed in advance (and if you use onboarding software, stored digitally, along with offer letters and other employee documents). That includes legal documents, the employee handbook, and any other documents the employee can complete or review before day one.
  2. Set up their workspace or mail equipment. Set aside a workspace for the new hire stocked with supplies or get equipment in the mail fast for remote employees. The icing on the cake: send a welcome gift from the team!
  3. Plan important introductions. Schedule meet-and-greets with any managers, team members, and colleagues from other departments the new hire will interact with regularly. Get these set up before the new hire’s start date so they meet their closest coworkers ASAP.

Onboarding Steps: The First Day

Now that the employee’s first day has arrived, they can start getting acquainted with the company culture and their new coworkers.

  1. Make an announcement. Introduce the new team member or announce their arrival on Slack. Share what they’ll be doing and a little bit about their background, and take time to make introductions.
Extra tip: Have current employees respond with a fact about themselves so the new hire can get acquainted with their new colleagues.
  1. Make sure new hires have the tools and equipment they need. That includes business cards, laptops and accessories, ID cards, uniforms, and more. Ensure new hires have access to their company email and any software tools they will use.  
  2. Discuss the first week’s schedule. Have a one-on-one to talk about what the new hire should expect during week one and beyond. That conversation can ease day-one nerves and establish trust and transparency right away.
  3. Assign a mentor. Engage new hires off the bat by pairing them with a senior member of the team to act as their mentor and set up regular check-ins. Don’t skip this step: 91% of employees who participate in a mentorship program at work are satisfied with their jobs.

Onboarding Process Steps Continued: The First Week

The first week on a new job should be like orientation on a school campus. It’s important not to overwhelm a new hire during this stage in the onboarding process; it could cost you productivity and affect employee performance.

  1. Walk them through important procedures and standards. Spend time during the first few days to cover processes and procedures to help your new employee feel comfortable getting started on the real work. Be sure to cover the rules and processes for internet usage, email communication, breaks, etc., and start familiarizing them with the technology they will be using daily.
  2. Dig into the company's mission, vision, and values. Help employees understand the company’s mission, vision, and values and how their work plays a part in the organization’s success.
  3. Schedule onboarding check-ins. This keeps onboarding on track and it’s crucial if you’re hiring a lot of people. Encourage new hires to write down any questions or concerns to bring up at their check-ins.
  4. Set the new hire up with any training materials. Get started on training modules or classes during week one and communicate any deadlines for completing training.
  5. Give them a project. Allocate time during onboarding for new hires to begin working on a project. Make it a joint effort with their new teammates to introduce your collaborative work environment and start building relationships.

Onboarding Process Continued: Months One - Three

Successful onboarding experiences dive into employee development and get new hires excited about their roles.

  1. Establish lines of open communication. At the first month mark, the new hire should be settled in and well into their training. This is the perfect time to open up some dialogue to gauge how the experience is going for them. Find out what is going well and not so well, and encourage them to ask questions.
  2. Start giving constructive feedback and recognition. Get updates from those who work closely with the new hire to learn more about their onboarding progress and give constructive feedback when necessary. Be sure to give positive feedback, too, using employee recognition to kickstart engagement. 
  3. Encourage independence. With training, introductions, and communication all covered, it’s time to start letting your new employees practice what you hired them for. Since they are still fairly new, you’ll want to continue checking their work and providing feedback, but use this time to get them to increase their projects and tasks.
  4. Set performance goals. Keeping your new employee engaged with goals will point them in the right direction and give them something to work towards from the start. Set a few S.M.A.R.T. goals for new hires to accomplish within their first 90 days so they hit the ground running in their role.
  5. Build a career path. Once your employee knows more about their role and your company, work with them to develop a career plan that fits their personal goals. Designate career goals to help new hires visualize their path at your company.
  6. Give new hires their first performance review. After 90 days, the new hire should be feeling comfortable in their role. The first review is the best time to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and decide if the current training program is fulfilling all of their needs.

Create a Better Onboarding Process With These Steps

Companies with structured onboarding processes experience 50% higher new hire retention. Follow these onboarding steps to keep your company’s process on the right path and retain employees long-term. If you’re not one of the 83% of employers that are already using onboarding software, consider ClearCompany’s Onboarding Platform to manage your processes.

With ClearCompany, you can put these steps into action and build a more effective onboarding plan. Plus, you can track and automate tasks while providing powerful reporting to analyze the success of your onboarding program. Sign up for a demo today.

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