Ownership: the missing piece in employee onboarding checklists
You know that good employee onboarding programs turn timid new hires into thriving performers. You understand what steps need to be included in your new hire onboarding checklist. But… who the heck owns those steps? And how do you hold them accountable?
All too often, organizations forget to consider the multi-ownership of new hire onboarding checklists, lumping all tasks into a single set of responsibilities. This diffuses responsibility: when everyone is responsible for onboarding new employees… no one is.
So, who owns new hire onboarding?
In Learn to Win’s experience with new hire training, the following groups play crucial but specific roles in employee onboarding:
- Hiring managers
- Training managers
Each party should own a specific set of responsibilities and coordinate to warmly and efficiently welcome new hires. Consider this scenario:
Alex and Felicia start at new companies on the same day.
Alex finds his own desk and introduces himself to a few friendly but busy office mates. Someone from HR stops by to deliver a packet of papers, encouraging him to occupy himself reading policies for the day. His manager texts to set up a meeting in a few days time and says “Good luck settling in!” After idling for eight hours, Alex leaves feeling confused and anxious.
Meanwhile, Felicia’s manager meets her at the door, gives Felicia a tour, and introduces her to teammates, all of whom gush how excited they are to have her on the team. The manager sets up a daily meeting with Felicia and hands her over to HR. The HR professional reviews policies, helps Felicia access systems, and provides paperwork before introducing her to the Training Manager. The trainer explains their Learning Management System and the compliance and role-specific learning plans she will complete during the weeks ahead. Finally, Felicia’s new hire buddy meets with her to discuss day to day work, filling her calendar with shadowing opportunities. Felicia leaves feeling energized, excited, and full of ideas.
While both companies in this story are full of kind, hardworking people who want new hires to succeed, Alex’s company fails to establish clear ownership for new hire onboarding tasks; everyone assumes someone else will orient him. Meanwhile, Felicia’s organization clearly defines and assigns responsibilities, resulting in a smooth, meaningful onboarding program.
As employees, we would all prefer to be Felicia, right? What’s more, as employers, we should aspire to be Felicia’s company. Organizations that deliver structured employee onboarding programs benefit:
To create more organization’s like Felicia’s, Learn to Win built this new hire onboarding checklist to help hiring managers, HR teams, trainers, and peers establish:
- An employee onboarding timeline
- Distinct responsibilities across the employee onboarding timeline
- An understanding of the tenets of successful onboarding programs.
Employee onboarding checklist
Employee onboarding timeline
While the example above follows Alex and Felicia’s first day, employee onboarding starts before a new hire’s first day and continues for 6-12 months. The timeline and associated tasks fall into four categories:
Tasks completed before the new hire’s start date. These ensure internal alignment and a good welcome for the new hire. These include:
- Acquire necessary equipment
- Add to systems and confirm start date with HR
- Send the new employee a welcome letter
- Assign a new hire buddy
- Create a 30/60/90 day plan or KPIs
- Prepare training materials
- Set aside time to meet the new employee
Tasks that take place during the new hire’s first days and weeks. These help the new hire feel comfortable, supported, and guided toward success. These include:
- Welcome the new employee!
- Introduce them to the team
- Set up a recurring meeting
- Invite the new hire to shadow
- Provide them with the employee handbook and policies
- Share necessary paperwork (benefits, direct deposit info, I-9, w4)
- Introduce the new employee to the training plan / system
- Show them commonly used tech stack, equipment, etc
Tasks completed during the new hire’s first weeks to months (though training and learning will continue throughout the employee’s tenure). These help the employee take on responsibility and settle into the company’s culture. These include:
- Touch base with the employee weekly or biweekly
- Provide them with a first assignment(s)
- Ensure timely completion of role based and compliance training
Training and review may run in tandem from three months through the employee’s first year. Review tasks are those that help the employee become proficient in their role. These include:
- Celebrate employee’s first 6 months and year-end probation
- Roll the employee into regular enablement programs
- Ask them for feedback
- Be there for the employee if they ask for shadowing
- Share peer review with the employee and manager
Who’s who in employee onboarding?
Four functions play meaningful roles in our employee onboarding checklist: Hiring Managers, HR, training or enablement managers, and peers. You may determine that your organization needs to involve different or additional roles as you customize the new hire onboarding template – this is totally fine. The point is simply to assign clear ownership for each task.
Training & Enablement
Whether your organization has a dedicated training team, functional enablement leaders, or simply a team member who handles training on the side, build the right individual or team into your employee onboarding process. They will be the one(s) to help new employees access your LMS (if you use one), plan for compliance and role-based enablement, and serve as a resource for new hire questions.
Colleagues / Mentors / New Hire Buddies
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of peers when building your employee onboarding plan. Colleagues provide new hires with a sense of community and a safe space for asking questions that feel too intimidating to raise with managers. They also provide valuable on-the-job training and shadowing opportunities. We recommend assigning a dedicated New Hire Buddy or peer mentor who “owns” this part of the onboarding experience.
Successful onboarding programs and the 5 Cs
Each party involved in employee onboarding should make the new hire feel welcomed, empowered, and motivated. The 5Cs framework offers a great starting point. Research shows that onboarding checklists that encompass all five “C”s rather than focusing solely on compliance lead to better outcomes.
Make sure that the tasks assigned to different owners include a focus on:
- Clarification – Helping the new hire understand expectations, norms, and tech stack.
- Compliance – Ensuring that all legal, financial, HR, and operational requirements are met.
- Confidence – Encouraging the employee to ask questions, challenge processes, and start new initiatives.
- Connection – Offering opportunities for camaraderie and collaboration.
- Culture – Teaching the new hire about the values and rituals at the organization’s heart.
Rally around your new hires with an outstanding employee onboarding program
We’ve given you a multi-owner employee onboarding template, timeline, and best practice framework. Now it’s your turn to shape these building blocks into a program that engages teams and wows your new hires from pre-boarding through their first anniversary.