The Ultimate Employee Onboarding Checklist for High Growth Startups

by Saachi Pole in
three people sitting in front of table laughing together

It’s exciting to hire new employees on your team as your startup scales. As a founder, you’ve done extensive research, interviewed thoroughly, found the best candidates, and are excited for your new hires to leverage their expertise to grow your startup. 

But, wait...

There’s a crucial (often overlooked) step that comes between a new hire joining your company and delivering the results you’ve expected all along: Onboarding. 

Onboarding is the process of getting a new hire set up with everything that she needs to do her job successfully.

Most startups (and even established companies) fail to onboard new hires optimally. Poor onboarding can lead to employee churn. The cost of replacing an average employee costs anywhere from $3K-$18K annually! The cost of poor onboarding is not only high monetarily but can have long-term implications on your company’s roadmap, culture, and future hires. 

Having recently gone through the onboarding process myself at AbstractOps, I’m here to share my learnings and the onboarding best practices AbstractOps has put in place. 

The Costs of Poor Onboarding

  • Low productivity: New hires that aren't set up with the right tools and resources take more time to ramp up and hence, take more time to deliver results. This loss of productivity can cost you 1-2.5% of your revenues yearly.
  • Higher chance of failure: Mismatched expectations and lack of clarity on what to do can result in failure to perform. An indicator of this can be when new hires have excellent credentials and track records from their previous experiences but fail to perform at your company.
  • Churn: 20% of new hire churn occurs within the first 45 days of employment with 1 in 4 new hires leaving within their first year. Replacing a new hire costs you up to 20% of your new hire’s salary. The cost of churn is much higher if you look at time spent in training an employee and take into account the opportunity cost of a high performing employee.
  • Low morale: Failure to meet expectations in a new job can drive down morale and motivation across the organization. Be wary as negativity that goes unaddressed can spread like cancer. Just like cancer, the sooner you catch it and heal, the better for the body and those around you.
  • Poor branding: New hires that leave due to poor experiences can spread a negative image of your company outside. This can affect how potential candidates view your culture and hamper future hiring. Check out employee reviews of these companies to understand the real impact on branding: Loomis, Pomeroy, Frontier Communications.

On the flip side, a strong onboarding process can drive up new hire retention by 50% and show boosts in new hire productivity by over 60%. 

Imagine a new employee getting up to speed in a third of the average time taken to onboard - let’s say 1 month instead of 3 months. Not only does this employee get 2 months that would have been spent on onboarding back, but an additional boost of ~156 days because of increased productivity - that’s almost 200 additional days of productive work in year 1!

So what entails a strong onboarding process?

We have for you the ultimate onboarding checklist so you can set up your new hires for mutual success. 

The Ultimate Onboarding Checklist 

#1 Vision and goals

  • Goal: Provide clarity on the role and how it fits into the company’s vision and goals
  • Company and product(s) overview
  • Company targets (by quarter/year)
  • Role overview

#2 How you operate

  • Goal: Provide a guide to how the new hire should operate day-to-day
  • Company values and guiding principles
  • Company norms (e.g. collaboration, meeting guidelines, giving updates, etc.)
  • Perks and swag  (e.g. subsidized meals, free shuttle rides to office, etc.)

#3 Access to tools

  • Goal: Provide adequate and timely access to software and physical tools the new hire needs to execute her job
  • Software & Systems
  • Core product(s)
  • Collaboration and communication (e.g. Slack, G-suite, Tandem, etc.)
  • Company wiki (e.g. Confluence, Notion, etc.)
  • Security (e.g. 1Password, Google 2FA, Okta, etc.)
  • Payroll and HR (e.g. Gusto, GreytHR, BambooHR, etc.)
  • Productivity hacks (e.g. useful extensions, email optimizations, etc.)
  • Physical setup (e.g. laptops, mobile devices, monitor, WFH setup, etc.)
  • Department specific software (e.g. for an engineer, this would include Github, Jira, etc.)

#4 Access to Resources

  • Goal: Provide relevant context and history on the new hire's scope of work
  • Reading material that’s relevant
  • Learnings/context on work done before

#5 Access to People

  • Goal: Introduce new hire with key people he/she will likely interact with
  • Introduction to relevant team members, supervisor(s), and external contacts

#6 Expectations setting

  • Goal: Mutually agree on short-term goals for success
  • Mutually agreed upon 30, 60, and 90 day plans with targets
  • Recurring and frequent 1on1s with supervisor to connect on progress

#7 Social inclusion

  • Goal: Provide a sense of inclusion into the team and community
  • Onboarding buddy assigned
  • Introductory meeting / new hire announcement to the company
  • 1on1s with each / relevant team members (depending on the size of your startup)
  • Access to social channels and events in the company
  • Updates to the company website and social channels with new team addition

Software for onboarding

notion

While you can use specific software that offers employee onboarding processes (e.g. BambooHR, Workday, etc.), if you're an early stage startup like us, you could use a tool like Notion.

We use Notion as an internal wiki but we also use this to create personalized onboarding checklists for each new hire. Notion has a checklist format that allows you to create and recreate onboarding processes with ease and effectiveness. This also helps in keeping links to resources and relevant material very accessible within Notion itself.

Conclusion

The time taken to onboard a new hire varies by the role and the startup and can take anywhere from a couple of days to weeks. At AbstractOps, we follow a 2-3 week onboarding process following this checklist. We’ve found that giving access to company wide tools and reading material before Day 1 helps in making the rest of the onboarding process seamless. Team members are then able to start off with some background knowledge and information, thereby making sure they are not lost*.

*Bear in mind that any work prior to the start date should be optional for the new team member. You want them to come rested and ready for their role and, since prior to their start date, you are not paying, you also cannot expect them to do any work.

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