Employee Onboarding: Everything You Need to Know

Kate Rhodes
February 11, 2024
8 min read

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the ins and outs of onboarding new employees, from understanding why it’s important to outlining key steps and roles involved. We’ll also discuss how to measure success, maintain compliance, and answer frequently asked questions about employee onboarding. 

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of introducing and welcoming a new hire to an organization. Onboarding encompasses more than just paperwork and orientation; it also includes workplace community introductions, training, and ongoing support. The goal of the employee onboarding process is to ensure that a new hire has the tools and resources they need to perform their job duties while feeling supported in their new role.

Onboarding can start even before the first day of employment and sometimes lasts anywhere from 1-6 months. During this period, it's important to make sure that every step of the process is done correctly in order to set up new hires for success. This includes everything from providing clear expectations about job performance to creating an environment where employees feel comfortable asking questions or seeking guidance if needed.

Beyond ensuring that new hires are able to do their jobs effectively, employee onboarding can also help reduce employee turnover rates by creating a positive onboarding experience for new employees. By making sure that everyone feels welcomed into the company culture from day one, employers can foster loyalty among their teams and create an environment where employees feel appreciated and secure in their positions.

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Why is employee onboarding important?

Employee onboarding enables employers to set clear expectations and provide new hires with all the information they need to perform their job duties effectively, while also creating a welcoming environment for communication. Some onboarding steps—like I-9 verification—are also necessary to maintain compliance and reduce liability.

For employers, a good onboarding experience translates to increased productivity and efficiency through proper training and resources. It can help reduce employee turnover rates by ensuring that new hires feel welcomed, supported, and understand company culture. Additionally, investing in a comprehensive onboarding program helps foster positive relationships with new employees from the start.

For employees, this process ensures they receive guidance throughout their transition period as well as an overview of what's expected from them in terms of performance. Through carefully planned activities such as team-building exercises or informational meetings with key stakeholders in the organization, they are able to quickly make connections within their team—something vital for success in any workplace environment.

Key steps of the employee onboarding checklist

A comprehensive onboarding checklist can help ensure all team members, from HR managers to new hires, are on the same page about expectations and roles. 

The following outlines key steps of an effective plan for onboarding new employees.

Hiring process

The first step of the onboarding process is recruiting the right candidate for the job. This may include posting job descriptions across online platforms, conducting interviews, and completing background checks, screenings, and assessments. Recruitment and hiring managers often work with a hiring and background check partner, like Checkr, to streamline and automate hiring tasks. Once your team has identified the right candidate, it’s time to move on to offer negotiations.

Offer process

A hiring manager or HR team representative (depending on your organization structure) will often start the offer process with a formal offer letter sent to the candidate that includes information such as salary or pay rate, benefits, and a description of the scope of work for the position. The candidate may ask to negotiate elements of the offer before signing a final hiring agreement.

Before the first day 

Preparing for your new hire before their first day is essential. Collect all necessary paperwork, provide them with resources such as company policies or training materials, and make sure technology is in order so they can hit the ground running. To make this process as smooth as possible, you may work with an onboarding partner, like Checkr, to manage the electronic transfer of all documents and receipt of secure signatures.

First day

On their first day of employment, help your new employee feel welcomed and supported as they transition into their new role. You’ll want to set aside time for basic tasks like setting up their workspace and completing paperwork, plus leave time for them to meet other team members and make personal introductions. To keep in line with onboarding best practices, avoid overwhelming them with too much information or complex tasks on the first day; instead, focus on making personal connections and getting oriented to the workspace (whether virtual or onsite).

First week 

During this period, spend time training your new hire and shadowing them as they complete tasks, helping answer any questions they may have about processes or company culture. Arrange for frequent check-ins between you and your new hire to go over their progress and provide new tasks or direction as soon as the employee is ready. During these check-ins, review any expectations for their progress over the next few weeks and months and help them set goals that you’ll revisit over time.

If you work in a remote environment, your new employee’s first week will probably also involve some technology set-up and assistance. Encourage your new hire to explore the tools they’ll be using at your organization, identify any issues with access or logins, and complete any training modules (if applicable).

First 3 months 

Generally, organizations expect employees to be fully onboarded and functioning independently within their role after 3-6 months on the job. During the first few months, ensure goals are set for your new hire so progress can be tracked over time. It’s also important to keep communication open by setting up regular 1:1 check-ins with managers or key team members who can provide guidance throughout this transition period. 

End of the first year

At this point in an employee's tenure at an organization, it's important to communicate how annual performance evaluations will be conducted so they know what to expect during their first evaluation at your organization. Best practice is to provide resources such as goal-tracking tools or templates that employees can use to plan and assess professional development objectives. To ensure fair assessments, all employees in a certain role should be evaluated against the same rubric and/or their own personal goals as approved by their manager. 

At this time, you may also plan to re-run certain background checks required for your industry or company policy. For example, you may need to re-check employees’ professional licenses or run recurring criminal record checks to confirm continued employment eligibility. If you work with a CRA, like Checkr, you can automate recurring checks and reminders that make it easier to maintain compliance and keep onboarding on-track.

Roles and responsibilities involved in employee onboarding

Onboarding new hires requires the involvement of multiple departments and individuals, all of whom play an important role in making sure new employees feel welcome and supported throughout the onboarding process. Some of the following common roles may be performed by the same individual or team, depending on the size of your organization.

Human Resources or People Operations team members

The Human Resources (HR) or People Operations department is typically responsible for leading employee onboarding initiatives—from posting job openings to annual evaluations. They are also typically responsible for setting up employee accounts, collecting paperwork, and providing general onboarding training. Human resource management also acts as a resource for new employees who have general questions about business operations, payment, and interpersonal work relationships.

IT specialists

The IT department is responsible for setting up computer access and email accounts, as well as any other technology needs related to the employee’s role. This includes configuring computers or devices that will be used by the new hire, ensuring that all systems are secure, and providing technical support when needed.

Legal teams

Legal teams are often involved in drafting onboarding documents and company policies for employers. They may also assist in any negotiation related to the new hire, such as reviewing any necessary contracts or agreements.

Finance teams

Finance teams also play an important role in good onboarding by setting up payroll accounts for new employees so they can begin receiving payment for their work. Finance or accounting team members may also be responsible for issuing benefits packages such as health insurance coverage or retirement plans if appropriate.

Direct supervisors

Finally, each new hire’s direct supervisor acts as a resource throughout the onboarding process by providing training on specific duties related to their role, modeling company culture, helping them understand expectations of their job performance, answering questions they may have about their job duties, and offering ongoing support once they have settled into their position more fully.

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How to measure the success of your onboarding program

Measuring the success of your onboarding program helps you understand how well new hires are integrating into their teams and roles, and gives you a clear understanding of where improvements can be made.

For some industries, candidate onboarding completion rate is an important place to start assessing onboarding metrics. It’s costly for recruiting teams to identify qualified candidates only for them to get stuck or abandon the opportunity during onboarding. 

After they’ve started work for your organization, employee satisfaction surveys are a good way to get feedback on onboarding experiences from new hires. You can also monitor how long it takes for new hires to become fully operational and productive within their role, as this is a key indicator of good onboarding. 

Additionally, tracking employee engagement and retention rates over time can provide insight into how successful your onboarding initiatives have been. It's also important to gather data on any particular initiatives that were implemented during the onboarding process, such as training sessions or mentorship programs. This will help give you an overall picture of the effectiveness of those initiatives for helping new hires integrate into their roles.

By taking these steps, employers can gain insight into the success of their onboarding plan and make adjustments as needed. 

How employers can maintain compliance during the onboarding process

Maintaining compliance during the onboarding process is critical to ensure new hires are aware of their rights and obligations, as well as any company policies or procedures that must be followed. Here are some tips on how employers can prioritize compliance during employee onboarding:

1. Review relevant laws and regulations 

Make sure you’re up-to-date on all relevant employment laws and regulations that apply to your business. This includes labor and employment laws at federal, state, and local levels, as well as any industry-specific regulations that may impact your hiring practices.

2. Ensure necessary paperwork is completed 

Certain forms should be completed by both employer and employee during the hiring and onboarding process. These may include application forms, background check authorizations, tax forms, insurance documents, non-discrimination notices, I-9 verification, and more. It’s important that employers not only have these forms filled out correctly, but also keep copies of them on file in case of audit or dispute resolution down the line. If you use an onboarding solution, you may be able to store and access all documents electronically — making filing cabinets and shuffling paperwork a thing of the past. 

3. Educate new hires on their rights and obligations 

Communicate all relevant information about a new employee’s job duties, pay structure (including overtime rules), health benefits, available time-off and holidays, and other information so new employees know exactly what they can expect from your company, and what your expectations are of them. This will help ensure transparency between employer and employee while avoiding potential conflicts in the future due to misunderstandings or lack of knowledge about certain policies or procedures.

4. Offer clear instruction on company policies and procedures 

It's important for companies to provide clear guidance regarding their policies related to safety protocols at work sites; anti-harassment policies; dress code; working hours; use of drugs/alcohol; social media usage; time off requests, leave policies, and so on, so employees understand what is expected from them while employed by your organization.

5. Work with a consumer report agency (CRA).

Working with CRA, like Checkr, can help streamline tasks during the hiring process while helping to minimize compliance risks associated with manual processes such as verifying identity documents or running criminal record searches manually. Working with a hiring and onboarding partner can help you automate certain tasks, reduce time spent on manual processes or paperwork, and create a positive experience for modern workers.

By keeping these tips in mind when designing an employee onboarding program, businesses can maintain compliance while setting clear expectations so new hires feel welcomed into their team right away. Ultimately, following best practices for compliance will help ensure a smooth transition into a role and foster positive relationships among teams.

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Frequently asked questions about employee onboarding

Here, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about employee onboarding.

What is the duration of the onboarding process?

Onboarding typically starts on the first day of employment and can last anywhere from 1-6 months. It is important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to how long your onboarding process should take, as each organization has different needs and expectations.

What is the purpose of an employee onboarding program?

The goal of an employee onboarding program is to ensure that a new hire has the tools and resources they need to perform their job duties and feel supported in their new role. Onboarding helps employers set clear expectations and provides new hires with the information they need to be successful. It also helps reduce employee turnover by creating an open dialogue and fostering positive relationships with new employees.

What is the difference between onboarding and orientation?

Onboarding focuses on integrating a new hire into a team, while orientation involves providing general information about the company or organization. Orientation usually takes place during a shorter period of time—usually the first week of work—compared to onboarding, which can take months. Additionally, orientation typically includes training sessions where relevant information about policies and procedures are shared with all employees, while onboarding usually involves more personalized experiences tailored towards each individual’s specific skill set or role within an organization.

What are some key elements of successful employee onboarding?

To ensure a successful onboarding experience for both employer and employees, it’s important to consider all aspects of the process from start to finish, including: 

    • Recruit the right candidate 

    • Plan a positive first day with team introductions and basic orientations 

    • Create space for questions and support over the first few weeks

    • Help employees set goals during their first three months 

    • Keep compliance top-of-mind and completing all necessary disclosures, contracts, and consent forms

In addition, businesses may also consider working with onboarding partners, like Checkr, in order to automate hiring and onboarding processes while helping to minimize compliance risks.

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The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

As Content Marketing Manager at Checkr, Kate is passionate about developing resources that educate employers and job candidates about background checks, hiring insights, and the opportunity to build a better future through fair chance hiring.

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