How to build a future-proof onboarding strategy: Tips and checklists

How to build a future-proof onboarding strategy: Tips and checklists

How to create a seamless onboarding strategy that benefits both hourly workers and recruiters

Hourly workers have no qualms about job-hopping to find the right fit. If they don’t like their current role, they’re perfectly content to leave and find something better. So how can companies engage new hires well enough to keep them on staff for the long haul?

One solution? A solid onboarding strategy. 

When you’re armed with a well-vetted onboarding plan, you’ll increase your chances of keeping the best employees and, therefore, get the highest return on investment from your hiring process.

In this post, we’ll share some tips for improving your onboarding strategy, plus provide some checklists you can use to make sure you cover the essentials as you prepare new hires for the job. 

What is an onboarding strategy?

An onboarding strategy is slightly different from the traditional onboarding process because it focuses on the employee’s full lifecycle with a company. Such a strategy encompasses employee development, including training and upskilling to allow hires to grow their careers within the organization. This also enables workers to be prepared for future leadership roles in the business.

Onboarding groups of new hires can be daunting. Our onboarding checklist is here to help.

The benefits of an onboarding strategy

Creating an engaging and inviting onboarding strategy will help keep your employees engaged and interested in your company, increasing the likelihood they’ll continue to work with you and avoid the temptation of getting lured away by higher salaries and other perks. 

An onboarding strategy also helps your company achieve the following: 


Strategic onboarding programs ensure the entire workforce is prepared for the needs and challenges of the future. It isn’t just about new hires—its purpose is to instill your company’s values and mission into current employees, as well, so they stay excited and enthusiastic about being part of the team. ‍

Continual upskilling to encourage employee growth

When creating an onboarding strategy, you need to determine what future skills will be most needed and provide employee training to teach these skills. The gap between onboarding and upskilling should be narrowed when developing a strategic onboarding program. 

Preparing employees for the use of artificial intelligence (AI)

AI is becoming more of a feature within the workplace and already is used in several aspects of the recruitment process. For example, with Fountain, AI helps reduce time-to-fill and time-to-hire by nearly half by automating communication with applicants in the early stages of the hiring process. 

Amid the apprehension around AI, some may be concerned about job replacement. To address these fears, businesses must find onboarding strategies to deal with the new challenges as well as possible threats. This means taking a strategic approach to predict the kind of tasks employees will need that can’t be carried out by AI.

Tips to improve your onboarding strategy

So how can you ensure your onboarding strategy is robust enough to empower new hires with the information they need while also helping them get to their actual work as quickly as possible? Here are a few tips to make sure your onboarding strategy is perfectly adapted both for new hires and HR.

Develop an onboarding strategy that works for your recruitment team and new hires.

Rethink objectives 

Generally, the main goal of a successful employee onboarding plan has been to prepare new hires for their new job. While this is still a major focus, companies have found that employee engagement is also a high-ranking goal of onboarding. 

Develop a strategic onboarding plan

Because an onboarding program is such a crucial piece of the hiring puzzle, it’s vital that everyone involved is on the same page about its deployment. In the same way a strategic plan is necessary for performance reviews, new hire onboarding also deserves attention because of its far-reaching effects on the business. 

Your strategic onboarding plan should include who will be onboarded, the length of the onboarding process, and what steps need to occur.

Ask for feedback

Once new hires are onboarded, you can issue a quick survey to get their feedback on the process. If you’re looking for a modern recruitment tool that has onboarding features already baked into it, consider a high volume ATS like Fountain. It gives you the functionality to send and request documentation and new hire paperwork, all through one secure and safe portal.

To learn more about onboarding pain points specific to the retail industry, click here.

Checklists: Strategic onboarding for new hires

Hiring new employees is expensive. It’s reported that it costs around $3,500 to source and hire just one hourly employee. Additionally, it takes about five months for a new hire to be fully productive. 

If your new hires aren’t onboarded properly, your business will have wasted time and money, which can have a devastating impact on productivity.

But have no fear—we’ve put together a few checklists you can use during various stages of the onboarding process, including:

  • Pre-hire
  • First day
  • First week
  • First quarter
  • Second quarter

Pre-hire onboarding checklist

The pre-hire stage of onboarding starts once your new hires are actually hired but before they start. This crucial period of time is for you to engage your new hires and make sure they have everything they need before their first day, including the following. 

Paperwork and documentation

If not done during the application stage, prepare all of the essential paperwork the new hires will need to review and sign, including: 

  • I-9
  • W-4
  • Direct deposit forms
  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • Insurance forms

You’ll also need to arrange the following, if applicable:

  • Add the new hires to the company email list.
  • Include the new hires in relevant forums and chat groups.
  • Provide an ID card and/or access keys.
  • Arrange parking, if necessary.

Welcome emails

Before the new hires start, send an email to them to reiterate your enthusiasm and provide them with all the crucial info they’ll need for their first day. Your welcome email could look something like this:

  • A few sentences mentioning how glad you are that they’re starting with your company
  • Start date, time, and location
  • A tentative schedule for their first day
  • Important documents they’ll need to bring
  • Any notes about the dress code
  • Who they’ll be meeting with on their first day
  • A PDF or link to your employee handbook
  • Any necessary reading material to help them prepare for their duties

In addition to sending an email to your new hires, also send one to your current employees to let them know new hires are starting. The email to current employees should include:

  • The new hires’ names, job titles, and designated teams
  • The new hires’ start dates, times, and locations
  • The new hires’ experiences, backgrounds, and skills
  • Existing employees’ roles in helping the new hires get settled

First-day onboarding checklist

On their first day of work, your new hires may be anxious, so it’s your job to prepare them as much as possible with a clear first-day onboarding checklist.  

Workplace orientation

  • Arrange for an employee to meet the new hires at a designated onsite location.
  • Schedule a morning coffee to welcome your new hires.
  • Take the new hires on a tour of the location.
  • Assist your new hires in setting up their equipment, if applicable. 
  • Give your new hires instructions on how to use equipment they’ll need to use daily. 

The first day of work can be spent training new hires on technology they will be using daily.

HR documentation and paperwork

Once your new hires get acquainted with their new workspace, it’s time to knock out the paperwork that wasn’t a part of the application or pre-hire stages. 

  • Explain your new hires’ benefits package, such as stipends, insurance, time-off policy, etc.
  • Show them where HR policies and procedures are kept.
  • Review safety and security procedures.
  • Explain the code of conduct.
  • Complete any necessary forms and contracts.

Meet with management 

The new hires’ manager(s) can review in more detail their role and daily activities. The following are examples of some topics the manager should cover with their new hires:

  • The company’s vision, mission, and values
  • The company’s organizational chart and where the new hires fit into it
  • The new hires’ responsibilities; a review of their job descriptions
  • Clear expectations for the new hires’ first month, three months, and six months in relation to work output and conduct
  • The new hires’ hopes and objectives for their time at the company
  • A possible career development plan, which includes the path to promotion and how bonuses are earned

First-week onboarding checklist

The first week is just as important as the first day when onboarding new hires.

During the first week, your onboarding checklist should look something like this:

  • Set up a series of one-to-one meetings to explain expectations.
  • Organize different types of relevant training.
  • Discuss the new hires’ career aspirations.
  • Allocate work that will help the new hires better understand their roles.
  • Invite the new hires to any social events like team lunches.
  • Encourage the new hires to ask as many questions as possible.

A good onboarding strategy shouldn't stop after the first week.

First-quarter onboarding checklist

Onboarding new hires doesn’t end after the first day, week, or month. It can last up to a year! 

According to SHRM, 23% of employees left their jobs during the first six months, adding they would have stayed longer if they had received more effective training.

During the first three months, make a point to revisit the new-hire onboarding checklist above and add the following:

  • Outline six-month goals, track progress, and give feedback at different checkpoints; set performance goals and objectives.
  • Make ongoing training sessions available.
  • Encourage team members and other managers to provide constructive feedback to new hires.
  • Add informal performance reviews to your new hires’ calendars.
  • Ask for feedback from the new hires.

Second-quarter onboarding checklist

If your new hires are still with you when you reach their second quarter, congratulations! But don’t relax just yet. You still need to act on the items on your new-hire checklist to ensure your new hires are acclimating.

At this stage, the following should be added to the new-hire onboarding checklist:

  • Yearly performance review
  • Recognition of your new hires’ achievements
  • Provision of an unofficial career development plan, considering the new hires’ professional and personal goals
  • A six-month performance review
  • Objectives and goals for the next six months

How a mobile-first ATS helps with your onboarding strategy

When it comes to strategic onboarding, especially when hiring a high volume of workers, a modern, mobile-first ATS like Fountain can be your best ally. In one platform, you can keep candidates engaged through automated messaging, allow them to upload their credentials and legal documentation, and even conduct a video interview on demand. 

Fountain also integrates with mobile learning platforms like Lessonly and NorthPass, so your new hires can start learning the ins and outs of the job, all from their mobile device. 

To find out how Fountain can help you revolutionize your hiring and onboarding processes, click here to request a demo.