Onboarding Series Part 1: A step-by-step checklist, why you should care

Onboarding is about telling the employee:

  • This is who were are as an organization
  • This is what we do and why we do it
  • This is your role
  • This is how we will work together to help you succeed in your role.

The onboarding period begins when the candidate signs the offer letter and ends when they have become fully ramped up and productive.

“Onboarding” refers to the transitional period during which an employee assimilates and familiarizes themself with your organization’s values, culture, systems, and processes.

What’s acceptable in terms of the ramp-up time varies from three weeks to one year, depending on the role being filled, the maturity stage of your organization and the individual’s comfort and skill level with their responsibilities and tasks.  

It is common, for instance, for young startups to have a shorter onboarding process since they are often short-staffed. Mature organizations may afford to dedicate more time to the onboarding process due to the size of their teams, specialized roles, or access to resources.

While onboarding processes vary in length and format, there is no doubt that all organizations across all sectors need to establish an intentional process. Onboarding processes go beyond the paperwork; these include social and cultural acclimation to accelerate the time to peak performance. Let’s dive in…


A strong onboarding will increase the likelihood of employees staying three years or longer by 58% and improves productivity by 70% *Source: Brandan Hall Group.

Why is that?

A well-structured onboarding process tackles three factors that prevent great employee retention and productivity:

  • Fear
  • Ambiguity
  • Isolation

A successful onboarding design and roll-out process must address these three emotions. You can ramp up your new hires quickly and retain them by addressing them successfully. 

When new employees join a new organization, no matter their experience, they will face uncertainty. Think back to your first days of trying to understand the complexities of the role, policies, culture, team and systems.

Any sources of uncertainty can create a sense of fear that can replace excitement with dreadfulness. A structured onboarding process could minimize, if not eliminate, sources of fear.

Same with ambiguity. While being comfortable with ambiguity is a desired skill, unnecessary ambiguity can be detrimental. Good examples of unnecessary ambiguity include the absence of straightforward first tasks or projects that a new hire should undertake. Those early tasks are often part of a well-structured onboarding. 

Finally,  the dreaded isolation! One of the most critical factors in retaining your new hires is to provide them with a sense of belonging within your organization from day one. If your onboarding process fails to do so, and do so rapidly, you can expect higher turnover rates. 

Fear triggered by uncertainty and ambiguity, which results from a lack of clarity and isolation stemming from the lack of sense of belonging, is the ultimate recipe for onboarding disaster. 

A successful onboarding process helps you:

  1. Project confidence by showing your organization is organized
  2. Comfort your new hire in joining your organization
  3. Decreased time for your new hire to reach full productivity 
  4. Reduce costs of hiring by improving retention 
  5. Clarify for your new hire their role and performance expectations

Most onboarding experiences fail due to six main mistakes. Avoid: 

  • Too much information
  • Too little or no information
  • Unclear or absent goals
  • No context
  • No team introductions
  • Making it all about paperwork

Most onboarding experiences fail due to six main mistakes.

When you share information such as your mission, vision, product, organization structure and company policies, make sure that content is spaced out. You want to provide folks with time to digest the information and allocate time for questions about the content.

On the other hand, having too little or non-essential information available is also a hazard. Find a balance. Failure to identify the first immediate tasks, actions or even projects that the new hire must undertake to set up in their role, make those early wins and begin assimilating to your team by getting things done.

A fourth common mistake: you lack context for your processes, decisions, projects or product features. This is the number one reason new hires feel lost, confused and doubtful about their role in your organization.

Don’t forget the introductions; a mass email or Slack does not suffice. In addition to those, in addition to the manager, ensure everyone on the immediate team is carving out one-on-one time with the new hire.

A trivial yet relevant mistake we see is that onboarding becomes all about paperwork…contracts, tax forms, and powerpoints. We’ve said it before; the onboarding process must create clarity about the role and organization and establish a sense of belonging. Read this article for tools and tactics to address these common mistakes!

No matter how young your organization is or how small your team is, you will project confidence and reassure your new hire in their decision to join your team. 

The consequences of poor onboarding

  • It will take longer for new hires to reach peak productivity.
  • Lose new hire’s trust due to lost opportunity for a first good impression
  • Hinder future recruitment
  • Increases turnover rate and cost of hiring

During the recruitment process, your team spent hours thinking about, discussing and drafting the job description of your new hire, reviewing applications and conducting interviews! Don’t let all that work live in vain. 

Poor onboarding = high cost of time, energy, resources and money.

Our goal is to help your managers support their new employees in reaching their peak productivity and start contributing to your team faster. Keep in mind that onboarding process is your opportunity to reinforce the decision they need to make to remain with you and comfort them in their choice that your team was the right one to pick.

First impressions matters on both ends; make a lasting one leveraging our worksheet.