11 steps for successful onboarding

Companies work hard and spend a lot of money and time on finding new employees. Unfortunately, those efforts may go to waste if the new employee doesn’t fit in with the team or can’t handle their tasks. To avoid this scenario, a strong onboarding program is vital.



Onboarding begins from the moment the candidate is chosen and the contract has been signed. During onboarding, the new employee will be given everything they need for the job. This also includes a contact person or a mentor and an overview of their tasks, the company, and the work culture.

Today, many companies are forced to work remotely. This also changes the onboarding process. The number of remote workers has risen rapidly due to COVID-19, and for many, remote work is the only way they can do their job. A study by Statistics Estonia shows that there were 163 700 remote workers in 2020. Compared to 2019, the number rose by 40 400. Another study found that remote work was most popular in the second quarter when nearly 200 000 people were working from home. This means that many companies will have to completely change their onboarding process to make sure new employees feel good and have all the information they need, even if they’re working from home.

We have written down 11 steps you should follow during the onboarding process to guarantee a happy new employee and a great start to a new work relationship.

1. Divide the process into stages

Diving the onboarding process into different stages helps set an action-plan that gives a better overview of everyone’s tasks during onboarding and shows what should be done and when. A structured approach to onboarding will ensure nothing will go unnoticed and makes the whole process go a lot smoother.

The adjustment period is different in every company but is usually as long as the probationary period, which is 4 months. However, the onboarding program should actually last for 6 months or even a year. This would allow you to set short and long-term goals and to gradually give the employee new responsibilities. To get ideas on which tasks to give new employees, turn to your other, more experienced colleagues. They can tell you what they lacked when they were new to the team and which tasks were too complicated or confusing. So, regularly asking your other employees for their opinion should definitely be incorporated into your action-plan because it helps you improve the onboarding program. Glassdoor study found that a well-structured onboarding program can encourage up to 82% of new hires to keep the position for a longer period. Therefore, helping new employees get used to their role should be done properly to avoid having to search for a replacement very soon. A bad onboarding program will raise employee turnover and wastes a lot of time and money.

2. Make a checklist for everyone involved

To help the onboarding process, checklists can be used to gather all important tasks into one place. In addition to keeping track of whether the necessary activities have been done or not, checklists will also encourage a structured approach to finishing the tasks. Also, you should add due dates for every activity.

For example, the activities for the first day could be “Make sure to send everyone an e-mail about the new employee”, “Make sure the new employee has their computer set up”, or “Make sure the new employee has lunch with a colleague every day during the first week.” The activities on the checklist should be as precise as possible. It’s best to write everything out separately to avoid misunderstandings. When working remotely, the activities will certainly differ and should be thought out in more detail. For example, how will the employee get their tools, or who should have an online lunch with them? If remote work complicates meeting their colleagues, virtual lunches can help make the new employee feel like part of the team.

3. Pay attention to the documents

During onboarding, a new employee must familiarize themself with many different documents like the internal rules of procedure, job descriptions, safety instructions, code of ethics, NDAs, and many more. Before remote work, documents were mainly signed physically, but now is the time to rethink the whole process. Will the new employee have access to the documents they have to read? How can you make sure they’ll sign them in time? Of course, it’s possible to digitize the documents and then ask for a digital signature. But in an international team, getting a digital signature can be complicated. That’s when you should consider sending the documents physically via courier.

In the first stages of onboarding, documents and signatures should be kept in the background. The first days should leave the employee with a positive feeling – when you set them too many rules and requirements, it can negatively impact their experience. Save the first days for getting to know the person and only ask them to sign what is absolutely necessary.

4. Assign them a direct superior

A new employee should be quickly assigned a direct superior who will be giving them tasks. The superior should carefully consider which tasks would be appropriate for the first few days or weeks so that the employee could handle them. The tasks should make the employee feel empowered and not be too difficult because that can create a feeling of incompetence. The superior should also set the goals for the probationary period and think of how to measure the employee’s success. Lack of concrete goals can make the employee feel like they don’t fit the position due to not fulfilling the superior’s expectations. However, that can only happen if the superior doesn’t put in enough time and energy. If the superior doesn’t set any clear goals for the employee, the employee can’t meet their expectations. The superior should instead have a well-communicated and clear vision of what they expect from the employee. The superior’s responsibility is to make sure the employee feels welcome and comfortable at their new job.

5. Make a training schedule

Every new employee needs to go through training as part of the onboarding program. Training can be different in every department and role, but every company has a general program that’s obligatory for everyone – for example, introductory or workplace safety training. A training schedule should be included in the onboarding checklist because it helps ensure the employee has received all the necessary training and isn’t missing out on important information.

During remote work, it is important to divide the training over several days, since it makes it easier for the employees to pay attention. Too much new information at once can make full-length web training sessions quite difficult. You should also consider making training videos. They are particularly effective when you’re onboarding many employees at once. The employees can go through the training at their own pace and when it’s most suitable for them, for example, during a free moment on a workday.

When you’re putting together a training schedule, you should also think about which information you could give as a simple reading assignment or a short video. Think about what would be interesting for a new employee even before their first day. When a person is waiting for their new job to begin, they are usually very motivated and excited to learn about the company

6. Assign the employee a buddy

Joining a new team is exciting but also scary. To help the new employee not feel lonely, it’s important to find them a buddy. A buddy is someone who shows them around on the first day and introduces them to their workspace and equipment. The buddy can be a colleague who is also a relatively new employee and remembers the feeling of being the newest member on the team. The buddy should also help find answers to all questions the new employee might have and should introduce them to the people who deal with those questions.

Depending on your company, you might also want to assign the new employee a mentor. A mentor’s role is to support the new employee with their job-related tasks. During remote work, a buddy and a mentor have slightly different roles, but their main goal is the same – to support the employee at every step. Remote work may also require that the roles of the buddy and mentor be more planned because several calls and meetings should be scheduled.

Buddies and mentors will make the adjustment period much easier for the new employee. They will also make the employee’s work more effective and thus benefit the company. The more thorough the onboarding process is, the more the employee feels safe to ask for help and becomes more independent. Buddies and mentors will also decrease the risk of the employee making mistakes simply because they were left alone with their questions.

7. Setting up a workspace when working remotely

When working remotely, you should think about things that you don’t normally have to in a regular office. The new employee must have a good home-office with all the necessary supplies – desk, office chair, computer, noise-cancelling headphones, proper lighting, good internet connection, etc. You need to ask your employee if they have access to all these things. If they don’t, you should get them the missing supplies from the office or compensate by giving them a budget so they could buy it themself. Proper equipment helps keep employees productive and shows that you care about their well-being.

You should also go over all of the IT systems with the new employee. Remote work can make them feel lonely even faster than working in an office. So it’s also important to think about the logistics during the onboarding. We recommend scheduling a call between the employee and the IT department on the very first day. Then you can make sure that the employee has access to all the necessary systems and programs and that everything’s working properly. This will ensure that everything goes smoothly and avoids possible problems in the future. We also recommend testing the employee’s internet connection. Is it enough to support all the programs and video calls? If not, then you should also solve that problem.

8. Help the newcomer meet other employees

You have to introduce the employee to everyone they will be working with and other important partners and employees. The recruiter, the recruiting manager, the direct superior, the rest of their team, and the IT department should all be involved in the onboarding process. Depending on the role of the new employee, their list of partners might be different. You need to think that list through and introduce these people to the new employee as soon as possible.

During remote work, a great way to introduce people is through videocalls or group chats. You should use different ways for them to communicate with others to make the new employee quickly feel like part of the team. You could also create a separate chat for only new employees, so they could talk and support each other.

9. Get feedback on the onboarding program

It’s important to give new employees a chance to give feedback. The head of HR should regularly talk to the employees and keep an eye on how they’re adjusting. Regular conversations, or even mini-surveys, can help you find out how the onboarding is going and how you can improve it. Frequent feedback can also help managers see the employee’s growth and identify any issues they should work on. Feedback from new employees is a great way to assess and repair your onboarding process. This is exactly why you should encourage your employees to talk about things they find unclear and issues they need more help with.

10. Make new employees feel welcome

Many companies have the tradition of giving a welcoming present to their new hires. We recommend giving gifts from your own company, like logoed cups, pens, notebooks, chocolates, etc. Even a small and inexpensive gift can make the new employee feel appreciated and welcome. Survey shows that 81% of workers feel appreciated when they get a gift from their employer.

Such gestures can also help establish the company brand for the new employee. Positive emotions are very important during the first days. And if the employee feels that their colleagues and managers care about them, they will also share their good experience with others, which will, in turn, support your employer brand.

11. Celebrate achievements – even the smallest ones!

When your new employee manages their first successful project, celebrate it. It will make them feel that their work is valued. Appreciating your employees will grow their team spirit and motivates the new members to work even better. Recognition is even more important during remote work because it assures the employee that they’re on the right track and being valued.


If you follow these 11 steps, you will motivate your employees and make them feel valued and cared for. A well-planned and well-conducted onboarding program can help the company improve their relationships with their employees, supports the development of the employer brand, decreases employee turnover, and helps avoid additional costs.

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