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Onboarding Tips & Checklist

By 
Irena Macri
 - 
On 
May 22
 
2024
 - In 

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Considering the adage "You never get a second chance to make a first impression," onboarding is a topic worth covering in detail.

If you’re new to onboarding or want to be better at it, read this excellent post with tips and insights from Hannah Field. Then, for something more comprehensive, check out this more recent piece from Bill at Athyna. His onboarding guide is amazing and well worth your time.

We’ve pulled out a few essentials from Bill’s article and drawn from other experiences to create this onboarding checklist.

Pre-boarding

Once the contract is signed, pre-boarding begins. Here are some items to tick off the list for a smoother transition and to alleviate any second thoughts or anxieties the new team member might have.

  • Send a welcome email. Make it personal and let the new team member know how excited you are about them starting. For example, at Athyna, the new starters will often receive welcome emails from multiple team members, which Bill refers to as ‘vibe avalanche’. This creates a sense of belonging and feeling welcomed before the official start date.
  • Create a starter kit. This can include onboarding details and a sneak peek into what their first week might look like. Want to make your new hire feel extra special? Consider posting a small care pack with yummy goodies or fun company merch and a handwritten note.
  • For example, Spotify’s new hires receive a welcome package with company-branded merchandise and a personalised itinerary with sessions on company culture, training, and upcoming social events. This way they know what to expect when they start. Speaking of merch, check out SwagNSend for some custom-designed swag options.
  • Provide access to an online onboarding hub or an employee handbook (we have one set up in Notion) with essential guides, policies, links to tools, org chart and team info, company vision, and regular meetings. You can make it fun too, by taking a gamifying approach like Dropbox, which utilises Dropbox Paper for documentation and incorporates a scavenger hunt into their onboarding process to make learning about the company’s tools and resources a bit more engaging.
  • Organise IT and equipment setup, including access to tools and email. These are often the biggest frustrations in the first few days. Another nod to Dropbox here for having an internal website called Dropgrear that allows new employees to order the necessary equipment and set up their workspaces. New hires can customise their workstations to their preferences, which enhances their comfort and productivity from the start.
  • People’s calendars fill up quickly so pre-schedule key meetings and introductions.
  • Last, but not least, sort out the paperwork and get everything signed before the starting date.

Day 1

The nerves are high on Day 1, make sure the new starter feels welcome and supported. A few things to tick off:

  • Introduce team members and schedule a team lunch as soon as possible to break the ice.
  • Facilitate an office tour and use it as an excuse to make brief and informal introductions with other teams.
  • Assign a buddy for guidance and support and to help the new team member feel less intimidated in the new environment. If no onboarding buddy or mentor is assigned, give them a clear point of contact for questions or consider setting up a separate Slack channel for new team members or IT support.
  • Set up a Day 1 catch-up with the new hire to go over their role and responsibilities and answer any questions. Use this session to help them plan out the schedule for the first week so they don’t have to second-guess what to focus on or who to talk to.

The first few weeks (and months)

The full onboarding process can last from a few weeks to 90 days and many companies have custom initiatives dedicated to new starters. These will often have onboarding schedules for the first few weeks, including training sessions, team meetings and social events.

  • Canva has developed a comprehensive and engaging onboarding process known as "The Canva Experience," which aims to ensure that new hires feel welcomed and well-prepared for their roles. This includes a series of sessions designed to introduce the company’s history, mission, values, and culture. These sessions often feature talks from founders and key executives. However, you can keep these informal and interactive to connect newbies with more experienced colleagues from different departments.
  • For remote onboarding, take a leaf from GitLab. They facilitate virtual coffee chats and regular online check-ins with their managers and have a comprehensive online hub for new starters.
  • Use this period to introduce other departments and extended team members. As per Hannah’s advice, giving newbies meaningful insight into how your organisation works and what different teams are responsible for is super important.
  • Provide more in-depth training on specific tools and services. Facebook dedicates six weeks to this process, called ‘Bootcamp’ during which new engineers work on real projects and learn about Facebook's codebase, tools, and culture. The program is designed to help new hires understand the company’s technical infrastructure and integrate into teams seamlessly.
  • Assign initial projects and tasks to help new hires hit the ground running. For new engineering hires, aim to collaborate on shipping a project within the first few weeks, even if it's something small. This early success helps build confidence and momentum.
  • Set up regular check-ins with the new members to go over tasks and schedules, and provide further guidance. Do they have everything they need to do their job? Is it clear what their role is? How do they feel about the team and support provided? Are they comfortable with the workload?

Wrapping up onboarding

This is an opportunity to review, get feedback, celebrate little achievements, and prepare for the next steps. Make your new starters feel heard, appreciated and reassured. This will increase a feeling of belonging and boost their confidence in the role.

Remember, those first few weeks or months leave a long-lasting impression.


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