Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking, but what if I told you that it doesn't have to be? Imagine walking into your first day on the job feeling confident, prepared, and excited to be there. That's where onboarding comes in.

Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into the company, and when done right, it can make all the difference in the world. It's not just about paperwork and orientation, it's about making sure new hires feel comfortable and at home in their new work environment.

Are you curious about how to make that happen? Keep reading, because in this article, we're going to take a closer look at what onboarding is, the difference between onboarding and orientation, and the key elements of a great onboarding program.

Trust me, you don't want to miss this!

What is an Onboarding Program?

Before you start developing your onboarding checklist for new hires, it helps to know what an onboarding program is. 

Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into your business. There are two ways to do this. In Informal Onboarding, a new employee is thrown in at the corporate deep end and must rapidly learn to swim. 

Informal Onboarding offers no onboarding checklist and the newcomer’s days are largely unstructured. They learn by observation  - they pick up the environmental norms, values, and practices on the go. 

Unsurprisingly, this kind of onboarding can leave new employees anxious, stressed, and unhappy in their first three months. 

Enter Formal Onboarding. 

Formal Onboarding adheres closely to an onboarding checklist. It seeks to put newcomers at ease and effectively integrate them into their new environment. 

What's the Difference Between Onboarding and Orientation?

The primary difference between onboarding and orientation is that the onboarding process is ongoing. 

Orientation is a one-off event that runs anywhere from a day to a week. However long it lasts, its function is to welcome new employees to their job.  

Orientation’s focus is also more all-encompassing, asking employees to quickly digest a lot of information about the company they’re now working for. 

Onboarding, on the other hand, stretches over a far longer period; It comprises many events, including orientation. Whereas orientation is about welcoming new employees, onboarding works to integrate newcomers and enables them to contribute to their work environment. 

A good onboarding checklist is integral to that onboarding process. As you assemble yours, remember that when your new hires finish onboarding, they should be both acclimated to their work and better equipped to perform it than they were on arrival. 

Of course, the process of onboarding has changed dramatically. The COVD-19 pandemic made onboarding remote employees a necessity. 

Importance of Having Both

It may sound redundant to hold both orientation and onboarding programs, but the two procedures are different and equally critical to successfully integrating new employees. 

While orientation instills company values and policies, onboarding works to engage employees and facilitate their successful contribution and assimilation into the work environment. 


As a one-off event, orientation has a much broader focus than onboarding. It introduces employees to concepts such as the company’s: 

  • Mission statement
  • Values 
  • Vision 


If orientation is about getting new employees ready to work, onboarding is about preparing everyone to contribute meaningfully. A good onboarding checklist and resultant process reflects that. 

At its simplest, onboarding is: 

  • Ongoing process
  • Emphasizes specific departmental role
  • Individualizes employee needs and expectations
  • Encourages new employee contributions to existing work and projects

What Should an Onboarding Program Include?

It's now apparent that onboarding features various moving parts. 

Since part of the onboarding checklist you’re developing  includes assimilating your employees into the workplace, vital steps include: 

  • Scheduling check-in meetings with new employees
  • Including new hires in meetings and ongoing projects 

Your onboarding checklist should also feature the drier work necessities, such as: 

  • Setting up a work email
  • Platforms used by the company, such as different sales tools, are introduced
  • Explaining and reviewing benefits policies 
  • Outlining health and safety procedures
  • Detailing administrative processes
  • Guides on how office technology works

As your onboarding checklist will attest, there’s a lot of ground to cover. To that end, webinar platforms like Livestorm are invaluable tools for communicating the remote onboarding process to new employees. You can either host live webinars or set up automated webinar sessions for your new recruits. 

How Long Should Onboarding Last?

Even though the average onboarding experience lasts less than a month, this can be detrimental to employees. 

The expectation that new employees acclimate quickly to a new workplace is itself stressful, as is undertaking a new job. Consequently, the best onboarding experience requires employers to extend the onboarding procedure over the first three probationary months. 

What Happens During Onboarding?

If done formally, the onboarding process is the time period when employers work to acclimatize their new employees to the workplace. 

An onboarding checklist covering material you expect employees to adjust to could include: 

  • New employee paperwork
  • Administrative procedures
  • Acquiring workplace email 
  • Inter-departmental culture, habits, and expectations
  • Taking professional photos for website/employee profile

The “About us” section on your website is a perfect place to include the photos of new recruits. When they see that they’re being added publicly to the team for the whole world wide web to see, it really makes them feel like a part of the family. Doing this can also help boost your customer loyalty efforts. If your website doesn’t have such a section, you should set a goal to create one with an easy-to-use website builder

4 Steps to a Successful Onboarding Program

For a thorough formal onboarding program, your onboarding checklist should include the following steps: 

  1. Prepare the paperwork
  2. Have a workspace ready for new employees
  3. Collaborate with new hires’ boss(es) to perform routine check-ins
  4. Create newcomer information booklet detailing office norms, who's who, and work expectations

While remote onboarding has eliminated the need for employee workspaces to the degree they were previously required, many of these steps remain vital to a good onboarding checklist and experience. 

1. Prepare the Paperwork

You may find you’re emailing the brunt of paperwork these days, but your new employee still needs them. Documents your onboarding checklist may specify you provide, include: 

  • Tax forms
  • Insurance paperwork
  • Non-Disclosure agreements
  • Direct Deposit Forms
  • Hiring Contract 

2. Create Routine Check-Ins 

We’ve all been new to work, and we’ve all experienced the daunting feeling that comes with it. A new job can feel overwhelming, and keeping in touch with new employees - especially newcomers working remotely – helps gauge how they’re adjusting. 

A mentorship program is a significant asset when taking the temperature of your new hires. It’s also important to ask for feedback from new employees. Using free survey tools is an excellent way to do that. 

This kind of software varies across platforms, but it transforms the mentorship experience by allowing you to set: 

  • Goals
  • Deadlines
  • Group or individual mentorship 

For employers adapting to onboarding remotely, this software facilitates overseeing newcomers and helps clarify employee expectations. 

3. Create an Information Book

Issuing employees with an information book is a practice used by companies with successful onboarding programs. 

An Information Book provides new employees with important information about their role, the company processes, expense reporting, resources for information, relevant people and their contacts, and company policies. It is often used as a reference guide throughout the onboarding process. 

The inclusion of the booklet on your onboarding checklist ensures newcomers have all the information they need in one readily accessible place. This goes a long way to inculcating a warm, encouraging workplace atmosphere. 

4. Adapt to Virtual Onboarding 

While the process of remote onboarding is different from the in-person experience, it shouldn’t alter your onboarding checklist significantly. 

The use of employee management systems significantly simplifies this process. And, as discussed, live webinars and office management software further enhance this process. 

Irrespective of whether your onboarding checklist ends up being for a remote or in-person experience, the critical thing is that you stay attuned to the attitudes and difficulties your new employees experience. 

Good communication and clear expectations will help not only integrate your new hires but ultimately make them happier, engaged employees with valuable contributions on offer. 

Employee Onboarding Examples 

As you develop your onboarding checklist, it can be helpful to look at successful onboarding models. You can find that there are a lot of commonalities between user onboarding and employee onboarding. In both cases, you want to showcase value as soon as possible. 

Ogilvy and Mather is a marketing company established in 1948. It’s one of the onboarding companies to utilize an informational book for onboarding its employees. 

Written by the eponymous Ogilvy, it comprises all the information an employee could need and has effectively become the company handbook. 

Netflix similarly prepares its employees by having all the information they need ready from the start. That means that from the moment they arrive, onboarding becomes less about learning the ropes and more about making an informed contribution to the organization. 

Summary of Employee Onboarding Program Checklist

Starting a new job can be tough, especially when you're not sure what's expected of you. That's why having a good onboarding program in place is so important. Onboarding is all about making sure new hires feel comfortable and at home in their new work environment.

There are two ways to do this: informal onboarding and formal onboarding. Informal onboarding is when a new hire is just thrown in and expected to figure things out on their own.

This can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety for the new hire. On the other hand, formal onboarding follows a checklist and helps new hires feel more at ease and get up to speed more quickly.

Another thing to keep in mind is the difference between onboarding and orientation. Orientation is a one-time event that happens when a new hire first starts. It's all about welcoming the new hire to the company and giving them a general overview of what the company is all about.

Onboarding, on the other hand, is an ongoing process that helps new hires get acclimated to their new work environment and become valuable contributors.

So what should a good onboarding program include? A good onboarding checklist should have a mix of both practical and social elements.

Some examples could be scheduling check-in meetings with new hires, including them in meetings and ongoing projects, setting up their work email, introducing them to the tools and platforms used by the company, explaining benefits policies, outlining health and safety procedures, and providing guides on office technology.

The goal is for the new hires to feel comfortable and confident in their new role and able to contribute meaningfully to the company.