Employee Onboarding Checklist

How WATER is the blueprint for an Employee Onboarding Checklist

Employee Onboarding Checklist

A company’s onboarding solution is an employee’s first opportunity to really understand their new position and to learn their place within the organization. However, it can be daunting to try to develop a new system, especially when trying to ensure it provides all the information and support that the new employee might need. But don’t worry, we’ve put together this checklist to help you keep everything in sight. We’ll provide a little more detail on each section below, but if you just want the nitty-gritty, click here to download a printer-friendly PDF of the checklist. For now, here is the breakdown of our employee onboarding checklist, which we call the WATER method:



  • Have the employee meet the office and/or support staff. Let them know who they can see to discuss any administrative questions or concerns.
  • Review the company itself. This includes going over general organization and hierarchy, but more importantly a conversation about the company’s mission and objectives. This will also help the employee to see how he or she will fit in and how his or her tasks relate to the bigger picture. You can even use this time to let the employee know what to expect from the training process, giving a quick overview of the items on this employee onboarding checklist. Additionally, it offers the chance to go over job expectations and requirements. For more on this side of onboarding, see our introductory onboarding post.
  • Fill out all the new hire paperwork. This includes any tax documents, company policies, and anything else that you need to have on file.


  • Introduce the employee to their own department, including both coworkers and supervisors. Depending on scheduling requirements, it may not be possible to meet everyone, but at least inform the employee who will be working directly with him or her.
  • Show the employee where he or she will be working, including any additional locations that may need to be visited, such as storage or conference rooms. The goal is to make the employee as comfortable as possible in the new environment.
  • Walk through a normal daily routine, in the typical order. Again, the hope is that this will make the employee more comfortable with what he or she will be doing, so it helps to make this walkthrough as close to the normal routine as is possible.


  • Go over the specifics of job expectations and requirements. This should include all expectations, both short- and long-term.
  • Establish any relevant goals or targets, and make sure they are both concrete and demonstrable. Talk about how job performance will be evaluated, ensuring that the employee understands the goals are in place for a reason. For more on this topic, see our blog on feedback and goals.
  • Instruct the employee on the standard procedures of the job and best practices. This is the time to instill good habits within the employee and to explain the ins and outs of their regular tasks. If you’re curious what this process should look like, check out our blog on instructive onboarding.
  • Offer and special insights or tricks of the trade that will allow the employee to work more efficiently. This may include talking to other coworkers who have held the same position or who are responsible for the same tasks.
  • Describe key safety concerns and ways to avoid injury and property damage. In particular, focus on some of the most common types of incidents associated with the tasks the employee will be performing, as well as any necessary personal protective equipment or other safeguards that must be used. For more information about the importance of safety training, see our post on the economics of safety training or on the fatal four.


  • Provide the employee with any equipment or materials that are needed to successfully perform job duties. Before handing them over, make sure to discuss proper maintenance and storage. Also, take inventory of everything the employee receives to keep on record.
  • Explain what to do if the equipment malfunctions or if there are any other problems with company property. Make sure the employee knows whom to contact with these types of issues.
  • Discuss proper use of any company-provided items that the employee might encounter in a normal day. Focus especially on safety concerns and ensure the employee feels comfortable with operating any necessary equipment.


  • Allow time for the employee to ask any questions that he or she may have and answer them to the best of your ability. If any question remains unanswered, direct the employee to the proper channels to resolve it.
  • Re-emphasize job expectations and goals as well as any relevant safety information. Make sure the employee knows what is expected of him or her and what systems are in place to both offer support and to hold him or her accountable.
  • Set a follow-up meeting after an appropriate period of time to check in on the employee’s progress and job performance. This is done both for the company’s sake as well as for the employee’s, as it provides a concrete point when both sides can evaluate the relationship and look for ways to improve job performance.
  • Remind the employee of the support system in place and where to go with any questions. This may be as simple as directing him or her to the supervisor or it may include pointing to different departments for different types of inquiries. Either way, the end goal is to ensure the employee feels prepared and supported in his or her position.
  • Re-visit this employee onboarding checklist to ensure you can check off each item.


The onboarding process is much more complex than just explaining how to do the tasks associated with a given job. By taking the time to thoroughly cover all of the items in this employee onboarding checklist, you will ensure that your employees are prepared to be productive members of your team for the long haul. They will be more efficient in their positions and better understand the mission and direction of the company, and this will put you on the road to long-term success.


For more information on the items on this employee onboarding checklist, see our other blog posts at insideoutlms.com/blog.