The Best Onboarding Plan for New Employees

By Kurt Birkenhagen · February 7, 2018

The onboarding process can set the tone for a new hire’s whole tenure. These onboarding best practices will help you integrate your new colleague immediately. (Take a look at our checklist to help you get started)

What to do during orientation

Every new hire has to go through a formal, well-planned orientation session, where managers tell new hires about the company policies and team-wide expectations. Orientation is also the time to handle mundane matters like paperwork.

Any orientation session should include:

  • Paperwork: Tax forms, healthcare, direct deposit, and other new employee/new hire forms. Your organization should have a new hire packet that you can give to every new employee. Also, every new hire should bring valid ID.
  • Employee handbook: Give employees time to read through the handbook, and sign a document affirming that they have done so—include that document in the standard new hire paperwork.
  • Phone policy: Explain your expectations about personal calls, mobile use, and the emergency contact policy.
  • Email policy: Make sure it’s written down—here’s what you should put in.
  • Tour of the office: Break room, bathroom, conference rooms, copy center, etc.
  • Office hours: When should employees be on site? When is it ok for employees to leave early?
  • Remote work: When and how much is remote work allowed, frowned upon, or encouraged?
  • Time off: Explain how to request PTO, family leave, and sick leave
  • Dress code: Lay out the day-to-day expectations and events like casual Fridays.

Resolve conflicts before they start

“Managers should set clear expectations for behavior and performance,” says Chelsea Seid, the COO of Marlow, an online executive coaching service. “The most impactful deterrent to engagement, motivation, and productivity is miscommunication.”

Wagenbrenner says that if managers explain their expectations, they’ll avoid conflict and stress down the road. She also recommends establishing conflict resolution strategies before any problems arise.

Have the tools for the job ready on the first day

First days are rarely productive. On their first day, new hires mostly fill out new employee forms, meet their new colleagues, and orient themselves in the office. Even so, you should have everything that your new colleague will need to do their job ready and waiting for them as soon as they walk in the door.

According to Robert Half recruiter Kathleen Downs, those steps help new hires feel welcome and wanted:

“Having logins and emails ready to go is very encouraging. You can even put a welcome sign on the new hire’s monitor. It never feels good to a new hire to not have the tools to begin adding value.”

You’ll also be able to spend your time actually training and getting to know your new colleague, instead of lurking over an IT worker’s shoulder while they set up the new hire’s Dropbox credentials.

Pair new hires with a mentor

As an onboarding manager, there’s only so much you can teach an employee about your office and the company’s cultures. That’s why you should team new hires with a mentor who can show them the ropes informally.

If you pair your new hire with someone outside their department, they can ask honest questions and develop their first friendship in the company. This partnership can save you time: The mentor can handle small problems that would otherwise reach your desk.

Your new employee will also need to know the processes, best practices, and work styles of their new team. A brief pairing with an in-team mentor will get them up to speed.

“For at least 2 weeks,” says Sophie Choukah of Officevibe, an HR software company, “we assign a ‘mentor’ in the team who will work closely with the new hire to make sure everything from company information questions to aligning with current projects runs smoothly.”

Check in often

Every new hire benefits from informal check-ins that complement their formal 10- and 30-day reviews. Informal meetings—like a coffee break or quick chat at the new employee’s desk—can give your new employee a chance to ask questions, work through challenges, and raise concerns in a setting where there won’t be formal stakes or documentation.

“Be understanding,” says Matt Bentley, one of the founders of CanIRank, an SEO company. “Ensure that the employee is able to speak openly with you about any issues that might arise without fear of embarrassment, ridicule, or punishment. Encourage an environment of open communication and questions, as much as possible.”

Give your new hire positive feedback during these sessions. The first few weeks at a new job can be a strain. New hires can feel like they’re holding back the team, even if they’re not. Set them straight.

Have lunch

This is the most fun—and maybe most important—advice that we’ve heard from recruiters, HR pros, and hiring managers.

“My best conversations with a new hire or a client I’ve placed is often over lunch,” says Downs, the recruiter. “When you’re eating, it’s not as formal as orientation. You’ll be able to learn their academic background, hobbies, and story. You’ll be able to identify more with the person.”

Ultimately, that identification is the key to onboarding. New hires will thrive if they feel understood and included.

New Employee Checklist

To help you onboard your next employee, click “download our template” below! And if you want to make a new hire packet that better fits the needs of your organization, click “make your own” to get started.


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