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How to Design a New Hire Checklist that Supports Employee Performance Goals

The word goal written out in checkboxes

We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day. So why are so many employers still trying to cram months of onboarding into a single orientation day?

Many managers view onboarding as a one-time affair. Send the emails. Tick the boxes. Throw new hires straight into the deep end. But effective employee onboarding is a continuous process that prioritizes performance, not paperwork.

In this article, we’ll go beyond the red tape to help you build a checklist that sets new hires up for long-term success in your team.

Why use an employee onboarding checklist

An employee onboarding checklist is a structured list of tasks and activities that need to be completed every time a new employee joins the company. 

It typically includes tasks like completing necessary paperwork (e.g., tax forms and benefits enrollment), setting up company email and systems access, introducing team members and stakeholders, providing an overview of company policies, and outlining job responsibilities and performance expectations.

You only get one chance to make a strong first impression with new hires.

But according to research, only 52% of new hires felt satisfied by the onboarding experience, with the rest finding the process confusing, disorganized, or even downright “baffling”. And the situation is often worse for new hires at small companies and in remote roles.

Benefits of effective employee onboarding

If you’re like most hiring managers, you’ve heard many a sermon on the importance of effective onboarding. But with 39% of employers struggling to identify and address performance issues, starting off on the right foot with new hires is more important than ever.

Here are just a few benefits of a well-structured onboarding process.

1. Increased retention

One study found that when onboarding focuses on individual identity, employees were more than 32% less likely to quit their jobs during the first six months. Research has also found that re-onboarding employees as needed can increase retention by 43%.

2. Higher engagement

Data also shows that employees become more focused (47%), energized (42%), productive (34%), and efficient (33%) after being re-onboarded. 

3. Improved loyalty and satisfaction

According to a study of 126 participants — including recent hires, managers, HR specialists, and seasoned workers — employees who underwent a structured onboarding program demonstrated a “resolute devotion to the prosperity of the organization despite retaining some qualms concerning their job responsibilities and the organization as a whole.” 

4. More respect for HR

Yes, really. According to one 2023 survey, respondents who described their onboarding as “extremely formal” were 5.3 times more likely to view HR as a net positive.

5. Better performance across the board

With an onboarding process that includes a clear framework for setting, achieving and celebrating goals, you not only prevent new hire turnover, you also keep poorly planned performance reviews from damaging your culture. 

In short, employee onboarding succeeds when managers:

  • Openly discuss the team dynamics and culture
  • Clarify expectations and job responsibilities
  • Set clear milestones for personal and team performance
  • Share a system for regularly tracking goals
  • Introduce new hires to the right internal stakeholders
  • Pair new hires with a mentor or onboarding buddy
  • Spell out exactly what success looks like

Done right, your new hire checklist isn’t a mindless list of boxes to tick. It's a comprehensive guide to a smooth transition for your new rockstar — including how you plan to review, improve, and track their performance over time.

7 essential elements for effective employee onboarding

Help new hires hit the ground running with a checklist that covers everything from laptop logins to performance review processes.

Here are the essential tasks and resources at each core stage of the employee onboarding process.

1. Preboarding tasks

While many employers wait for the official start date to begin onboarding, preboarding can help set the stage for a successful start by getting all the paperwork out of the way early so you can focus on delivering a warm welcome for your new hire.

Key tasks:

Send welcome packet with necessary paperwork

Set up accounts and equipment

Prepare new hire’s workspace

Send New hire announcement to the team

Send swag bag

Required documents:

  • Offer letter or employment contract
  • Meal preference forms
  • W-4 or I-9 form
  • State tax withholding forms
  • Direct deposit form
  • Benefits forms
  • Non-disclosure agreement
  • Non-compete agreement
  • Confidentiality agreement

✅ Get the checklist: Before First Day Checklist

2. First day planning

The first day is all about first impressions. Focus on providing the warmest welcome possible, without overwhelming your new hires. Asking new employees to “read through the entire handbook” is an example of over-onboarding and can lead to undue stress and information overload.

Key tasks:

Schedule orientation meeting

Tour the office and workstation

Book team lunch

Schedule mentor meet-and-greet to the team

Share employee handbook and other guides

Review job responsibilities and update as needed

Confirm all documents

Required documents:

✅ Get the checklist: First Day Checklist

3. First week

The first week is all about easing new hires into their first assignments, while tying up any loose administrative ends. Make sure new hires are settling in nicely and schedule any upcoming training and goal-setting sessions to keep their momentum going.

Key tasks:

Train on key programs/equipment

Schedule training with key team members

Finalize key introductions

Review business-level objectives

Review team-level objectives

Set individual goals

Schedule first official one-on-one

Required documents:

  • Core values and mission statement
  • Training agenda
  • Key standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Tracking and reporting documents

✅ Get the checklist: Orientation Checklist

4. First 30 days

During the first month, new hires familiarize themselves with their job duties, company policies, and start building on the knowledge they’ve accumulated. Now’s a great time to make sure they're clear on the performance review process, including how often one-on-ones are conducted and how success is measured.

Key tasks:

Schedule recurring one-on-ones

Introduce new hires to performance management process

Start advanced training

Gradually increase assignment volume

Required documents:

✅ Get the checklist: Training Checklist

5. First 90 days

At the 3-month mark, employees should demonstrate increased confidence with tasks and responsibilities, as well as strong working knowledge of the company’s internal processes and solid rapport with the team. Focus your coaching around development and goal-setting, while identifying any areas for re-onboarding.

Key tasks:

Check in on progress so far

Note biggest wins

Note areas for improvement

Begin providing performance feedback

Schedule meeting with employee mentor or onboarding buddy

Set development goals

Explain annual review process

Required documents:

  • Performance review templates
  • Goal tracking spreadsheet or dashboard
  • Recognition templates
  • Positive feedback from other teams

✅ Get the checklist: Employee Check-In Questions

6. 6-month milestone

After 6 months on the job, employees should require a lot less hand holding – but that doesn’t mean onboarding is over. At this stage, you should still be monitoring your new hires and offering targeted support where needed. Focus on emphasizing the positive and addressing constructive feedback quickly using specific examples.

Key tasks:

Set or review long-term goals

Review metrics on progress to date

Celebrate key milestones/achievements

Identify gaps/opportunities and offer support where needed

Required documents:

  • Feedback forms
  • Feedback templates
  • Goal tracking spreadsheet or dashboard
  • Compensation documentation

✅ Get the checklist: Compensation Strategy Examples

7. First year milestone

The first year mark is all about celebrating successes and creating a forward plan. While you should be conducting regular check-ins throughout the year, the annual review is a major goal-evaluation meeting, bookending the onboarding process.

Key tasks:

Plan a one-year celebration

Send out self-evaluations

Collect feedback on the onboarding process

Review performance and growth

Pinpoint future opportunities

Required documents:

  • Self-evaluations
  • Peer reviews
  • Manager reviews
  • New contracts for promotions (if applicable)

✅ Get the checklist: Performance Review Questions

Onboarding checklist template

A new hire onboarding checklist is not a fixed document – it’s a jumping off point. Over time, you’ll need to review and adjust your template according to evolving policies and procedures to keep the checklist relevant. 

While your company’s specific onboarding needs might differ, here’s a basic template you can build off of:

Company introduction

Welcome email with first-day details

New hire packet

Company “swag bag” with branded goodies

New hire paperwork

Employment contract

Offer letter

Meal preference forms

Employee handbook agreement

Non-disclosure agreement

Non-compete agreement

Confidentiality agreement

Employee invention agreement

W-4 tax form

I-9 eligibility verification

Employee acknowledgment and consent form

Background check form

Direct deposit form

Data privacy agreements

Feedback and goal-setting forms

Benefits and salary

Insurance (health, life, disability)

Retirement benefits

Dependent care FSA

Educational assistance

Employee assistance program

Pay procedures

Salary review and increases

Incentive/bonus programs

Paid and unpaid leave

Admin tasks

Workstation prep

Hardware setup

Username/password and email setup

Program installation

Access cards

Printing ID badge

Printing business cards

Policy overviews

DEI initiatives

Anti-harassment policy



Dress code

Leaves of absence


Emergency protocols


Plan a welcome lunch with their manager and other key personnel

Assign an onboarding buddy or mentor

Go over core training docs

Gradually introduce specialized training

Schedule recurring one-on-ones

Introduce annual review process

Set short-term goals

Set long-term goals

Collect feedback from onboarding survey

Stronger performance with every new hire

Strong relationships aren’t built on weak foundations. 

But if you make performance management a part of the conversation from day one, you can create a feedback-friendly environment where everyone knows what’s expected of them.

If you’re ready to level up your employee onboarding process, swing by the Hire Learning blog for more free resources. 

Or to support your performance goals from the get-go, sign up for a free trial of Breezy Perform and access easy goal setting and tracking, plus done-for-you 1:1 prompts that make new hire check-ins a breeze.