How to Overcome Onboarding Chaos with a Checklist

Congratulations on your new hire! Your next task is to support that promising new employee so they can be the superstar you’ve been waiting for. Research shows that employees who receive effective onboarding are more likely to stay with their organization for longer than three years, and are more engaged and productive. Studies also show that poor onboarding can increase the risk of employee turnover and reduce productivity.

In this series, we bring you ideas, tips, and tools for effective onboarding. Check out the second article of our Onboarding Series, How to Overcome Onboarding Chaos with a Checklist, below.


Imagine your new hire walks into the office on Day 1, and no one’s remembered to order them their laptop. Or, they couldn’t sign up for an important training on time because no one told them about it. Misses like these are not a good look, and definitely don’t set up your new team member to hit the ground running!

A solid onboarding program helps the organization consistently onboard new hires well. The four key elements of an effective onboarding program are:

1. Assign a clear owner.

Make it the job of someone on the team to build the onboarding program for your organization. Typically, it would be the head of HR or Talent (if you have one), or someone on the admin team. Their job is to build the list of activities, assign owners for individual tasks, monitor to make sure the program is being followed for every new hire, and periodically assess its effectiveness.

2. Focus on the “why.”

Put together one checklist of all the logistical, financial, IT, and HR elements that need to be completed to ensure a smooth start for all new hires at the organization. For every activity on the onboarding checklist, clearly articulate why it is needed and what the payoff is. This is also a great opportunity to seek input from current staff on what they found helpful as they came on board, and what they wish they and the organization had done differently.

3. Allow for customization.

The checklist should be tweaked by each manager depending on the role of an incoming new hire (e.g. trainings they should attend, people they should talk to, etc.), but 60-80% of the checklist can be used as-is, saving each manager a lot of time. You could use software to execute your program (especially if you are a large organization and are making dozens of new hires a year), but focus your efforts first on building the right set of activities. Use the checklist we’ve put together to get started on your own.

4. Make sure the checklist is being used.

Check in to make sure every manager is using the checklist to onboard their new hires. At the six-week mark, seek feedback from the new hires on their impressions of how the onboarding went, and what the organization could do differently in the future.


Check out the other articles in our Onboarding Series: