Table of contents
  1. Why Is an Onboarding Checklist So Important?
  2. What Should I Include in My Onboarding Checklist?
  3. How Should I Share and Monitor the Progress of My Onboarding checklist?
  4. Conclusion

Onboarding is the process of bringing the new hire “onboard” or integrating with the organization, both from a contractual and cultural perspective. An onboarding checklist is a list of actions that will enable the smooth execution of this process. The onboarding checklist should facilitate an organized and consistent approach to the employee’s integration so that they have a positive experience. It will also help to ensure that no steps are missed from a legal compliance perspective. 

Why Is an Onboarding Checklist So Important?

An onboarding checklist is important both for the employee and for your organization. Below are some of the potential benefits.

Productivity: A well-thought-out onboarding process enables employees to become integrated within the organization more quickly. You can use the checklist to make sure that they have all of the equipment they need and have been given all the necessary introductions to the relevant team members. This will ensure the employee is equipped to hit the ground running in their new role. It will also help them grasp how the organization operates. As a result of this, they’ll be contributing to the organization’s productivity much sooner into their career journey. 

Retention: It’s reported that around 28% of employees resign in the first 90 days of employment. However, having a good onboarding experience is a proven way of reducing employee turnover in the first three months of employment. Part of this entails offering a structured and supportive introduction to the customs and practices of an organization. A thorough onboarding checklist will give the new employee the impression they are joining a well-organized and thoughtful team.

Employer brand and culture: Onboarding checklists can also have a direct impact on culture and engagement. Onboarding can be an overwhelming experience, but having a well-structured checklist to guide them can help new starters feel more supported. This encourages loyalty toward the organization and can help to embed cultural visions, values, and goals. 

Legal compliance: A thorough onboarding checklist is also important in ensuring all the necessary pre-employment checks have been conducted before the employee starts work. For example, it’s necessary to verify proof of nationality and eligibility to work for all new employees and to have them complete an I-9 form as part of this process. Without a checklist, you risk missing essential steps and could be leaving your organization open to legal action.  

What Should I Include in My Onboarding Checklist?

An onboarding checklist should cover all the onboarding “phases”:

  1. Pre-employment 
  2. The first day/week
  3. The rest of the probationary period 

You should also allocate responsibility for each task to specific individuals or functions. With smaller organizations, this could be the line manager and an IT person. For larger organizations, this could be the HR function, the line manager, other departmental line managers, the IT function, and peers.

Pre-employment checklist

HR responsibility 

  • Draft and issue offer letter and contract of employment.
  • Check that the employee has returned a signed copy of the contract.
  • Issue new starter forms, such as a form to capture emergency contact and payroll information.
  • Request the completion of a W-4 form (to support the federal tax process). 
  • Process and finalize pre-employment checks, for example, reference or criminal background checks.
  • Send information relating to benefits and pension scheme, and request information to enroll them as required.
  • Issue medical questionnaires or assessments, depending on the sector/position 
  • Although this may have been covered during the recruitment process, check if the new starter needs any reasonable adjustments or additional support to enable them to carry out the full remit of their role.
  • Forward arrival instructions, including directions to the office, where to park, which building they will be based in, what time to arrive, and who they will be meeting.
  • Send the new starter a small welcome gift, along with some useful information—for example, the names of people in their immediate team and their job roles.

Line manager responsibility

  • Develop an induction plan outlining what the new starter will be doing and what they will be trained in during their first few days/weeks.
  • Announce to the existing team that the new starter will be joining them.
  • Allocate a buddy within the team and confirm what elements of the onboarding process they will be responsible for.

IT responsibility 

  • Purchase or procure any necessary equipment for the new starter, including a laptop and phone. 
  • Set up the new starter’s email address.
  • Add the new starter to any distribution lists. 
  • Ensure the new starter is visible on any company calendars.
  • Set up the new starter’s access to any company systems.

First day/week checklist

HR responsibility

  • Meet the new starter as they arrive and give them a warm welcome.
  • Ensure the new starter completes an I-9 form.
  • Deliver an HR induction presentation, providing a background to the company and an overview of who is who within the organization.
  • Provide any necessary training on HR systems to demonstrate functionality and navigation—for example, how to request time off work.
  • Give an overview of key company policies and procedures.
  • Show the new starter where they can locate the employee handbook, so they can read it in the days to come.
  • Deliver any health and safety training, if this falls under HR remit. This might include fire safety, display screen equipment training, and workstation ergonomics. However, this may fall more naturally within the line manager’s remit.

Line manager responsibility

  • Issue the induction plan and discuss its contents with the new starter.
  • Introduce the new starter to the team.
  • Take the new starter on a tour of the workplace.
  • Outline fundamental health and safety procedures if not already covered by the HR function.
  • Allocate any necessary safety/role-specific training, and confirm dates and times for the sessions.

IT responsibility 

  • Set up the new starter’s workstation, and check their equipment is ready and available.
  • Ensure access and logins have been issued to the new starter.
  • Demonstrate or provide instructions for how to set up voicemail and email signature.
  • Be available to support on the day with inevitable questions or issues. 

Probationary period checklist 

HR responsibility

  • Touch base with the new employee to see how they are settling in. 
  • Answer any further queries they may have.
  • Organize any outstanding training required.

Line manager responsibility

  • Diarize regular check-ins with the new employee.
  • Continually review the induction plan. Consider whether it has been followed thoroughly—have any steps been missed? 
  • Identify any additional training/support needed and provide it in a timely fashion.
  • Provide constructive feedback regarding performance so far, highlighting both the positives and any areas which could be improved.

IT responsibility 

  • Be available for any teething problems and queries, as and when they arise.

How Should I Share and Monitor the Progress of My Onboarding checklist?

Once you’ve developed the content of your onboarding checklist, it’s important to consider how you will share it. You’ll also need to monitor its use to ensure each and every step has been actioned in line with the agreed timescales. This can be done using a variety of tools, depending on the needs and size of your organization. 

Simple spreadsheets

You could use simple tools such as Excel or Google Sheets to record the action items on your checklist. These can be easily shared and updated and are free (or inexpensive). However, if you have high levels of recruitment, and consequently lots of new starters on a regular basis, this option may not be for you. A simple spreadsheet won’t send notifications or reminders, so you’ll need to carry out time-consuming manual checks to review the status of the onboarding process. It could also result in items being missed. 

Project management tools 

A more sophisticated option is using project management software. This contains tools to manage high volumes of onboarding checklists and can be set up to send out reminders about upcoming action items. They can also send notifications when something has been finalized. These tools do come with an additional cost and can be more complicated to navigate. However, this can easily be overcome with basic training for those using the platform. 

While project management tools can support the internal systems involved in the onboarding process, bear in mind that not all processes would be automated. In particular, many of the pre-employment tasks on the checklist, such as sending out offer letters, contracts, and new starter forms, would still all need to be done manually. 

HR information systems and HR management software 

If you already use an HRIS or HRMS, you may be able to add on or use an existing onboarding module as part of that system. These modules will enable you to share and monitor the progress of the checklist, just as a spreadsheet or project management tool would. However, they may also automate parts of the onboarding checklist, such as sending out welcome emails or essential company information. The information being sent out will be consistent and professional in the way it is presented, which will support the onboarding process—and save you considerable time.


An onboarding process should be considered and thorough. Having an onboarding checklist in place will undoubtedly enable you to deliver a consistently effective onboarding experience for your new employees. 

The onboarding checklist should be broken down both by phase and by responsibility. It should also be detailed enough to ensure that no small steps are overlooked. Most importantly, it’s essential to share your onboarding checklist and check that the relevant people are following it. A great onboarding checklist will support the organization in engaging its new starters, making them feel valued from day one. It will also guarantee each new starter has the same great experience as everyone else in the organization.