It’s natural for new hires to worry about adapting to an organization they are joining. The culture, policies, people and team dynamics may differ from their past experiences. A rewarding, comfortable introduction helps ease such concerns and allows new hires to get to know their managers, colleagues and workplace neighborhood.

Yet, employers sometimes rush the onboarding process, which can create negative first impressions, stoke frustrations and jeopardize retention and engagement. A new hire checklist may be necessary to help ensure that important milestones are not overlooked as employees assimilate to an organization.

Why is a new hire checklist important?

Organizations with a strong onboarding program may be able to improve new-hire retention and productivity. In contrast, companies with weak programs may have difficulty sustaining candidate confidence and may lose new hires within the first year.

A new hire checklist that outlines priorities for new hires, hiring managers and HR practitioners can play a pivotal role in strengthening an onboarding program. When it’s used as part of a digital onboarding experience, the following positive impacts may be achieved:

  • New hires receive access to guided instructions, making onboarding simpler than a traditional, paper-based process.
  • HR practitioners can monitor onboarding across the organization, intervene to correct lapses and customize onboarding to support the organization's goals.
  • Hiring managers can complete their new-hire onboarding tasks while monitoring new hires' progress.

What should the employee onboarding process look like?

Until recently, onboarding often has been an ad-hoc, paper-driven, unstructured and non-systematic program. However, research shows that onboarding must meet specific criteria to achieve desired outcomes. Successful onboarding programs use a structured, digital process that focuses on the human needs that drive loyalty, retention and productivity.

What are the essential new hire checklist steps?

A new hire checklist template, such as the following, puts the human touch of onboarding into action:

Before the first day

  • Build employee comfort and connection
  • Let the team know a new hire is coming
  • Complete employee paperwork
  • HR set-up of the employee record
  • Send a welcome note from the manager
  • Manger introduces team members and “buddy” (optional)
  • Provide an overview of the company neighborhood and driving directions

During the first two days

  • Company policy acknowledgments
  • Direct deposit and W4 completed
  • Order/set up custom items (uniforms, equipment, etc.)
  • Finish paperwork and policy acknowledgments
  • Introduce new hire to the team and company
  • Build an understanding of company culture, expectations and success factors
  • Complete Form I-9
  • E-verify (if required by the state)
  • Manager and employee discuss career expectations
  • Office/workplace tour
  • Benefits plan enrollment (if applicable)
  • Team lunch

After the first two days

  • Review the list of onboarding steps and ensure completion
  • Goal setting and measurement
  • Identify and assign required learning and training
  • Capture employee feedback/satisfaction with onboarding

Note: This list is not comprehensive of everything that may need to be accomplished for onboarding.

Legal requirements for a new hire checklist

Some of the “to-do’s” in a new hire onboarding checklist may seem mundane, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t necessary. For instance, the federal government requires new hires to complete Form I-9, which verifies their identity and work authorization for employment in the United States, and Form W-4, which determines their tax withholdings.

Employers, meanwhile, must notify new hires about certain employment-related benefits and protections, i.e., health coverage, disability insurance, paid family leave, workers' compensation, etc. Notification requirements vary by state and local jurisdiction.

New hire paperwork

Depending on the jurisdiction or individual business needs, there may be much paperwork for new hires to review and complete. Here are some of the documents most commonly found on a new hire paperwork checklist:

  • Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification
  • Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) Notice of Coverage Options
  • State and local new hire notices
  • Employee handbook or policy acceptance and acknowledgment
  • Receipt of company property if new hires receive equipment or tools

New hires don’t have to drown in paperwork, though. With a digital onboarding system, employers can make all necessary forms available in a self-service portal and simplify documentation.

Frequently asked questions about new hire checklists

What is a pre-hire checklist?

A pre-hire checklist outlines all the responsibilities that must be completed to onboard new employees. It can help ensure that essential milestones are hit as employees assimilate to an organization.

What are the four phases of onboarding?

Some companies have longer onboarding periods than others. One approach is to divide onboarding into three phases:

  1. Before the first day
  2. During the first two days
  3. After the first two days

How do I create a new hire checklist?

When creating a new hire checklist for managers and employees, it’s essential to focus on compliance-related tasks, like completing the required paperwork. It’s equally important for onboarding to have a human touch. To build comfort and connection, employers often make workplace tours, team introductions and goal-setting exercises part of their new hire checklist.

What are the three most important elements of successful onboarding?

  1. Connection – Connect new hires to their manager and colleagues as soon as possible.
  2. Comfort – Make new hires feel welcome and share information about job expectations.
  3. Culture – Help new hires understand workplace culture so they fit in quickly.

This guide is intended to be used as a starting point in analyzing new hire checklists and is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.

ADP Editorial Team

ADP Editorial Team The ADP editorial team is comprised of human resource professionals with extensive experience solving complex HR challenges for businesses of all sizes.