Employee onboarding is an inescapably mission-critical part of the recruiting process, but yet, it still seems to become an afterthought for many companies. Research proves that recruiting doesn’t end on the employee’s first day though. In fact, some 20% of companies that developed “exceptional onboarding experiences” outstrip their competitors and enjoy significant year-on-year growth [1].

In spite of the provable gains, only 32% of organizations even have an onboarding program in place [2].

There’s money on the table.

It’s time we address this elephant in the room head on. Use this list of tools and tips to beef up your onboarding process and reclaim the money (and employee retention) that’s rightfully yours.

1. Pre-boarding

Good employee onboarding follows good employee pre-boarding. There’s a lot you can do before someone starts the job, and no reason to wait. Plan out what info can be delivered prior to new candidates setting foot in the office. It will stop them from losing enthusiasm due to business inertia. Not only is this a good opportunity to build motivation, but you can set expectations for a smooth working experience, too.

Feel free to update your welcome message with a more relevant term than “future.”

2. The welcome message

The welcome message is another important opportunity to build rapport, boost engagement and show that you care about your new employee. Include things such as:

  • Copy that’s actually designed to make them feel welcome
  • Expectations for the day, week, and month
  • Key information on where to find important things in the office (like coffee)
  • An enthusiastic and sincere close

3. Welcome gift

Small gifts are excellent rapport builders and great for making someone feel welcome. There’s no need to break the bank either; a round of lattes from Starbucks for the new employee and her or his team members will go a long way to starting the relationship on a positive note.

Don't be like this empty piece of paper tacked to a wall... be prepared.
Don’t be like this empty piece of paper tacked to a wall… be prepared.

4. A strong opener

No desk…

No network access…

Big problem.

Nothing screams amateur like not having the basic infrastructure and tools for the job ready for your employee when they begin. This error is often made in larger corporations and, while the scale makes it understandable, it’s certainly not excusable.

5. New hire portal

Your new hire portal should be designed to put your new employee on a path to success. It represents an opportunity to automate a large part of the first few day’s onboarding, so it can save you time, too.

If you’ve got one already, review it. Be critical, and keep it in mind as you read through the rest of this guide.

6. E-signatures

Make sure you take advantage of e-signatures, which have been legally binding in most countries for some years now[4], so they’re essentially as good as a penned version.

That means you can take care of such things as W4 and I-9 forms or other legal documentation relevant to your company.

7. New hire social groups

This one is especially effective if you’re going through a hiring spree, but works well either way. A Facebook Page or Twitter hashtag can do wonders for onboarding.

New hires can help each other through the boarding process, tasks are taken care of, and rapport is built simultaneously. Not to mention the fact it’s contributing to your company’s social media marketing profile.

If a social tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?
If a social tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?

8. Key stakeholders

Many companies with strong onboarding programs make a chart available that clearly illustrates who reports to whom. An accessible company hierarchy like this helps people feel informed and with a sense of place. Make sure you include:

  • The key go-to people for important topics
  • Any team rivals or adversaries they should be aware of
  • Relevant gatekeepers for different sections of the company
This is only one form your checklist could take. There are many other forms that could work as well.
This is only one form your checklist could take. There are many other forms that could work as well.

9. Task tracking

Seeing the progress we’re making through tasks increases the chance we’ll continue to complete them.

As you set up your onboarding process, create a definitive checklist of milestones for the new employee so they can clearly see where they are in the process.

This requires some kind of visual reference, perhaps through a software tool like the ones we’ll look at in a moment.

Get that dopamine released as onboarding tasks are crossed off the list [3].

10. The “find & fix” mission

Task new applicants with finding and fixing a problem, even if it’s just a small one. It’s an excellent way to elicit the kind of small win that fires people up and stops them from feeling like useless minions waiting for orders or instructions. Instead, it will encourage new hires to:

  • Engage with other members of staff
  • Look through your website and other information
  • Think about how they can make your company better

11. Onboarding buddies

Look at how well these vaguely humanoid-looking creatures are getting along. They're helping one another through the onboarding process.
Look at how well these vaguely humanoid-looking creatures are getting along. They’re helping one another through the onboarding process.

Assigning onboarding buddies is a tip you’ve no doubt read before, but it’s surprising how few companies actually try this one out. Maybe it feels a little bit too much like elementary school?

Whatever the reason, if you haven’t tried partnering new hires with established employees yet, make sure you at least give it a test run. It truly works wonders for helping new members fit in with the group.

12. End-of-day debrief

Never let a new employee go home at the end of the first day without some kind of debriefing or even a casual conversation. They’ll likely have questions. And even if they don’t, you need to know how they feel about their first day. You may get valuable onboarding feedback.

13. End-of-week review

Just like it’s bad form to skip the end-of-day debrief, so too should you perform an end-of-first-week review. Your new candidate will be mulling over their experience during the weekend, and it’s important that you provide a little context by debriefing the key events and alleviating possible concerns.

14. End-of-month follow-up

After the first four weeks or so, your new hire will be looking back and thinking about how much work was done, what will be expected in the future and how that equates to the monthly salary that just hit their bank account. It’s a key milestone.

You get the idea with the regular reviews, so you can consider scheduling one after the first 90 days, too.

STOP! Be sure to follow up at the end of the month.
STOP! Be sure to follow up at the end of the month.

15. Watch your whys

It may seem like a small thing, but it’s commonly overlooked and does damage to the onboarding process.

It’s as important as it is frighteningly easy to miss. When you’re explaining what new hires must do and why you do things the way you do, always explain why. It builds credibility, trust and avoids incorrect assumptions. Time is always tight and everyone has too much to do. Make the effort anyway. If this recruit fully understands the impact of their work, they’re much more likely give it their all.

16. Shadowing

“Too busy?” Make your new hire your shadow, especially in cases where you need to onboard someone in a senior position. It’s amazing how much someone can pick up by spending a day by your side. It also gives you an opportunity to impress them by conducting yourself in the professional manner you expect from them.

17. Resource dump

A well-organized resource dump on a shared network folder is an invaluable asset. Even if things get a little hectic on the first day, new employees have something productive to focus their attention on and find answers to key questions.

Your resource dump is going to feel like this real dump to new employees if you don’t keep things organized.

18. SuccessFactors

SuccessFactors is a great software choice with key features that include:

  • Integrated onboarding with learning, staff training, goal setting, and other core HR functions
  • Integrated forms and task management within the interface

Where to find it:

19. TalentWise

Software tools offer great ways to fortify your employee onboarding and TalentWise is an excellent example of how. Key things you can implement with this tool include:

  • Developing a company-wide consistent standard for onboarding
  • Embedding rich media to your onboarding experience

Where to find it:

20. KinHR

As a third and final tool to help you with your onboarding process, check out KinHR. It’s ideal if you’d rather have a dedicated software solely for the onboarding task, rather than incorporating it with other HR functions. This product lets you:

  • Trade individualized bodies of experiences from different employees
  • Use their excellent, modern interface, which is compatible with smart devices

Where to find it:

21. Structure all of the above

Much like this incredible card tower from Bryan Berg, structure is key to your successful onboarding process.
Much like this incredible card tower from Bryan Berg, structure is key to your successful onboarding process.

The truth is, taking notes on these tips and implementing them on a case-by-case, play-it-by-ear basis isn’t going to cut it. Now you’ve read this far, take a pencil, a notepad and a little time to create a proper, structured pre-boarding and onboarding process.


A good employee onboarding process needs dedicated attention from your HR department to ensure these steps are carried out.

Only with a plan and commitment can you ever hope to achieve the kind of excellent onboarding process that contributes to that all-important employee engagement we spoke about in the beginning.

Follow this guide, and you’re in good shape to ensure your new employees feel more welcome, enthusiastic and ready to evolve into profitable investments.

What do you think?

Do you have an idea for improving the onboarding process? Tell us below or reach out to us on Twitter at @JobjetHQ! We’d love to hear from you. Thousands of recruiters just like you come through our blog every week. Your advice will lead to some great learning and discussion.

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