Welcome to the Team!  15 Tips for Effective Onboarding (Checklist)

By Chris Cosper

Do you spend more money on going away parties when someone leaves the company than you do onboardingwelcome parties when someone joins?  This was a question posed by Jack Daly a few years ago at one of the Fortune Growth Summits.  Our team really connected with the idea of treating a new employee’s first day like a celebration, and over the past few years we have created an internal process called “Great First Day" as a critical part of their employee onboarding process.  How do you make employees feel welcome from their very first day that they join our team?

We started taking a very intentional approach to how we onboard new people into the company (just as we take a careful approach to hiring the right people).  A week or two before the new hire’s first day, we create an hour-by-hour plan for their first day or two.  Every employee who has joined us over the past two years has shared in this wonderful experience and now looks forward to paying it forward when someone new joins us.  The “Great First Day” really is a celebration for everyone in the company, and as a result, people feel welcomed, appreciated and planned for.  This practice has become a way that we live one of our own Core Values, Be Appreciative.   The new hire process doesn't end at the job offer, or the candidate accepting the job.

A team lunch is a great first start, but it pays to go above and beyond.  Employees that develop quick bonds with their coworkers are able to feel welcome, learn the company culture and are more likely to be fully up and running in the first 90 days. An integral part of the onboarding process is making them feel comfortable in the day to day "flow" of the team, not just start their time working with no context. The earlier that the new team member is working closely with their teammates, the faster the return on payroll to your bottom line as well.  It is a win-win for all involved.

Welcome to the team!

Here are 15 tips to effectively onboard a new team member.


A few days before the start date, we send out a "welcome email for new team member" to everyone in the company letting them know when the new person will start, what their role and responsibilities will be, job title, and sharing their resume so everyone already knows about their background.

  • We think through everything they will need to do their job and make sure we have everything ready to give to them on day one. Laptop, iPad, business cards, email set up, etc.
  • We try to make the first hour or two very informal.  We introduce them to everyone in the office, give them a tour and a directory with names, faces and responsibilities.  This is not just a tour of the office, it is a meet and greet with their coworkers.
  • We share the StrengthFinders results with one another so that we know how to better work with each other and what makes the person tick.
  • We put very little focus on filling out HR forms.  We usually send them the tax forms ahead of time so they can fill them out before they get here.  We’ll schedule a 10-15 minute meeting with HR so they can get the forms and answer any questions about pay periods, vacation, expenses, etc…. but this is never one of the first things we do.
  • We schedule a special lunch or dinner with Patrick Thean, our CEO, on the first day.
  • We spend an hour or two sharing the history, vision of the company and reviewing our 3-5 year strategy (Core Values, Core Purpose, BHAG and Brand Promise).  Find someone in the company who really connects with the history and vision and who can tell the story with passion. For us, that’s Cindy, our Managing Partner.
  • We send a special welcome gift to their family (usually cookies) scheduled to arrive at their home on their first day at work….. shhh, it’s a surprise!
  • We prepare and review a customized on-boarding document that outlines their responsibilities, what success looks like and a training checklist to complete over time.  It also includes our internal meeting rhythm, a glossary of terms and acronyms, and a list of internal tools and resources.
  • We work on our onboarding experience and make improvements to our process for every new hire that we have.
  • Employee engagement begins the first day on the job.  We want to make it so special that team members (and their families) remember it for the rest of their career.
  • Employees that feel comfortable are more productive and are more likely to ask the questions that they need to get acquainted with the company as they already are connected with their teammates.
  • The employee experience on the first day is geared towards enjoyment and making sure the team bonds.  There is time for the employee orientation in the future that is geared more towards training and employee onboarding.
  • We schedule calls with all of the remote employees to make sure that the new employee knows the entire team, even if they aren't always in the office.  This is more than sending an email to say hello, and we like to do it via web conference with video whenever possible.
  • Spend time with the new team member to explain more than the dress code.  Where are the best places to grab a cup of coffee?  What are the best places for lunch?  How do you like to work with other people?
  • Set up skip level meetings, so that the new person has a chance to learn more about their manager's manager to get additional input into the strategic vision of the organization.  

Bonus tip in welcoming a new employee to the team: go over their job scorecard with them, but not on the first day if you can help it - as they already know their job description. Save that first day for improving team culture and making them feel like a member of the team with an accountability culture.  You can download our free Job Scorecard Template if you want to get started.

Again, the goal is to create a feeling of celebration, but it also gives the new hire a good feel for the culture and a sense of how we appreciate each other.  We find that people who have experienced this “Great First Day” are very excited to share the experience with the next new hire.  The entire "welcome to the team" approach for onboarding a new team member goes above and beyond the human resource department, you want the new hire to be part of the team, excited to work and start working with employees as quickly as possible.

Best of luck in your employee onboarding program!

-Chris Cosper


Interested in learning more about Employee Engagement and how to welcome new team members, please enjoy these articles written by the middle market growth experts:

The Power of Systems and People: Accountable Leaders and Teams

Intelligent Work – How Mid-Market CEOs Execute for Success

Departmental Silos: The Silent Killer of Employee Engagement

Are Employee Motivation and Engagement the Same? (Infographic)

The 10 Best Employee Engagement KPIs for HR and Beyond!

5 Employee Engagement Blunders to Avoid

How to Fuel Employee Engagement with a Recognition Culture

10 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement in Your Manufacturing Company (Video)

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images




Chris Cosper


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images