Onboarding Documentation–Everything You Need to Know
First impressions matter; so much so that a solid employee onboarding experience can boost the new hire retention rate by 82%. In a time when career moves due to low job satisfaction have become the norm, these numbers are worth noting. However, this poses another, more important question: what goes into a great employee onboarding experience?
For starters, new hires should only worry about how to fulfil their new role duties best, not potential administrative pitfalls. That said, onboarding documentation is an inevitable staple of the employee onboarding process, meaning no onboarding process will be without it. So how can we ensure that new hires get all the information they need to succeed in their new role?
We’re here to explore this question in greater detail today.
📄 What is onboarding documentation?
What distinguishes new hire paperwork from onboarding documentation?
The key difference is that new hire paperwork refers to the actual paperwork new hires fill out upon being hired.
Meanwhile, onboarding documentation represents the company tools, processes, policies, procedures, and other intellectual property that shape the overall culture and departmental duties.
As a result, it’s pretty common to see the two overlap in some shape or form.
Below we have a list of four types of onboarding documents you’ll likely encounter while settling into your new role. Moreover, you’re likely to run into these regardless of whether they’re digitized or on paper.
📜 The 4 essential new hire documents
The purpose of onboarding documents is so that new hires can read and understand the terms and responsibilities of their new role within the company. Usually, they are both legally and contractually required.
Keep in mind that the four kinds of onboarding documents listed below are generalized for demonstration purposes. Don’t forget to double-check with your HR department that you’re not missing any other essential onboarding documents your new hires will need.
1. Country-specific legal documents for employment
Unsurprisingly, different countries have different legal documents for their employees to complete upon being hired.
For example, salaried employees in the United States will need to complete W-4 tax forms for federal and state tax purposes, while Canadians must submit a completed TD1 employment tax form. It’s also worth mentioning that you should include information for legal forms for contractors and other non-permanent or non-salaried employees somewhere in your onboarding documentation.
Although these documents do differ by country, they usually touch on employment essentials, like:
- Working hours
- Salary details
- Different types of leaves (e.g., PTO vs sick leave)
- Criminal background checks
- Drug tests
- Liability waivers.
2. Employee documents
When first starting a new job, there are three essential employment documents your new hires will need:
- Job offer letter
- Employment contract form
- Form outline goals and expectations for the role.
Think of job offer letters as a brief overview of the new position. They not only formally extend the job offer in writing, but they’ll usually include a welcome message, starting date, and next steps for new hires.
As for the pertinent administrative details surrounding the new position, you’ll find these in an employment contract form. Employment contracts outline working hours, salary, holidays, position duties, company policies, and contract renewal and termination guidelines. If employees have an issue in any of these areas, they can always refer back to their employment contracts.
Lastly, you can share any information not broken down in the job offer letter or employment contract in a written document detailing additional company policies, procedures, and expectations.
Tip: You can help integrate your new hires more effectively by providing as much clarity as possible on policies, procedures and expectations from the outset of the onboarding process.
3. Internal company documents
Internal company documents typically refer to company-specific materials that better help new hires understand the structure, culture, and expectations within the organization.
These documents can include materials like:
- Employee handbooks
- Hybrid work practices
- Environmental policies
- Ethics policies
- Dress code policies
- Non-compete and/or non-disclosure agreements
- Performance appraisal forms
- Company organizational chart
- Documents detailing company culture, mission, and values
- Company code of conduct
- Employee data
- Other company-specific intellectual property
Tip: Like employment contracts, it’s not unwise to require new hires to sign some of these documents to ensure they’ve read and understood the details of each.
4. Documents outlining employee pay and compensation
Most employment contracts will typically include information on compensation. Some companies, though, choose to outline this information elsewhere. Several of the most common documents you’ll see concerning employee pay and compensation are:
- Direct deposit forms
- Healthcare forms
- Paid-time-off policies
- Documents related to pensions and retirement
- Stock options information
- Other benefits-related documents.
You may find that some documents fall into more than one of the categories listed above. Either way, it’s good form to review the above and see if you’re missing anything listed here. But getting all your onboarding documentation in order is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating an onboarding process.
⚙ Beyond paperwork: Tips for building your onboarding documentation
For those without much prior experience, the question of how to optimize onboarding documentation can feel daunting. For starters, a business playbook (also known as a company playbook) can help you structure your onboarding documentation in a way that aligns with your organization’s mission and values.
Tip: As for who is best suited to compile these company playbooks, only you can answer that question. While we encourage you to put your playbooks together as a team, the subject owners or subject matter experts within your company will be the best people to consult on this.
Decide what information new hires need to assume their role
Deciding which information your new hires will need to know about your organization–and conversely, what information your organization will need from them–can help you create intuitive and well-structured company playbooks.
As we touched on above, this information varies according to company and country (especially employee healthcare information). However, you can use the following as a starting point when deciding which information to include in your playbook. Namely, new hires will need to:
- Stay compliant with country-specific labor laws
- Understand the full scope of their new role’s duties and responsibilities
- Understand company policies regarding compensation, sick days, PTO, etc.
- Have a clear vision of the organization’s mission, culture, and values
Once you’re able to organize and edit this information in a digestible format for new hires, share it with other people operations employees, and stakeholders to gauge if you’re on the right track. After you get the green light from them, share the playbook with your new hires and encourage them to refer back to it whenever they have questions. If you are receiving the same question from multiple new hires, you may want to revisit your playbook for areas that lack clarity.
Playbook examples & template
There’s more than one way to create and structure company playbooks depending on your organization’s culture, mission, and values. Different types of playbooks explain specific company policies and procedures more in-depth.
Since a company playbook’s primary purpose is to cover the bases in terms of company values, policies, procedures, and best practices, you’ll always need to include this information somewhere. However, there are other types of playbooks that touch on more specific information in greater detail:
- Operations playbooks - These playbooks explain the services offered to customers and how they are delivered. Think of it as an operations manual for your organization.
- Sales playbooks - Geared specifically towards sales teams, sales playbooks shed light on the unique pain points your target customers experience, the everyday challenges they face, and how your product(s) or service(s) can be positioned as a solution to their problems.
- Reseller or channel playbooks - These playbooks explain resale guidelines for third-party sellers or company partners so that they can resell successfully and avoid any potential legal pitfalls.
- Hybrid work policy - Typically, hybrid work policy playbooks outline who is eligible for hybrid work, the equipment needed for hybrid work, and when hybrid work employees should be available. Plus, they will include expectations of how much work can or should happen remotely. Another element can be best practices for hybrid work, including desired and undesired behavior.
Company playbook best practices
- Steer clear of information overload - Delivering onboarding documentation piecemeal is a great way to share important information without overwhelming new hires.
- Keep the content fresh - We mean this in more than one sense, too, as content should be engaging, scalable, and adaptable enough to undergo routine updates per organizational changes.
- Incorporate playbooks into your onboarding process - Most companies already follow this rule, but it’s still worth reiterating. If nothing else, your onboarding process is for sharing and revisiting all the pertinent information in your organization’s playbooks.
- Allow for 24/7 access - Giving your current employees and new hires round-the-clock access to company playbooks will boost intra-company communication, cohesion, and connection.
📈 Beyond documentation: Create a structured and effective onboarding experience
Companies know how important it is to get onboarding right, as evidenced by the $92 billion spent on new hire training within the past two years. But simply throwing all this documentation at new hires is not enough. More often than not, they need guidance, a world-class user experience, and authentic human connection to navigate the process successfully. Below are some of our favorite recommendations for making this happen.
Establish a human connection
It may come as no surprise that more than three-quarters of employees think socialization is the most important factor of a job–a number that’s likely to jump even higher as we continue emerging from the pandemic. But on the other hand, employee engagement in the post-COVID business world is a top concern for employers. After all, it can be challenging to engage employees sitting alone in their home offices for eight hours a day.
This makes establishing a genuine human connection meaningful and necessary, especially in a remote setting. Thankfully, there are a few ways to foster closeness and inclusion among new hires, including:
- Periodic onboarding meetings (e.g., check-ins, casual after-work gatherings, employee icebreakers, employee lunches, etc.)
- One-on-one meetings with supervisors or managers.
Depending on your organization’s structure and culture, you may be more inclined to hold certain orientation events over others (e.g., product deep-dives vs introductory meetings with company higher-ups). What matters most is that you implement meetings and orientation events that make the most sense for your organization. As you can see, there are plenty of ways to create an unforgettable onboarding experience, and no setup fits two organizations the same.
Implement the buddy system
A buddy system can significantly help new hires within an organization. Studies show that a buddy system boosts employee retention rates and overall job satisfaction in the long run. Plus, having a designated employee to ask questions and address concerns can offer a much-needed sense of psychological safety. This is a vital factor influencing an employee’s decision to stay with or leave a company, as discovered by Google.
Remember: one of the biggest overall goals of onboarding is to make your new hires feel connected and integrated into the company. Little steps like paring new hires with an onboarding buddy can go a long way to realizing this. Considering that it costs about a third of a new hire’s salary to replace them, high turnover rates due to a lack of this psychological safety quickly add up.
Onboarding can be overwhelming for new hires (and others alike).
This is why streamlining workflows so that information is delivered piece by piece is vital: it demonstrates to new hires that their psychological wellbeing and understanding of their new role’s duties are the two main priorities of the whole process.
It also signals that onboarding isn’t a one-and-done deal. Instead, it’s a guided journey that helps employees transition into the role, feeling confident and fully prepared to assume their new duties.
Take Storyblok, for example. Streamlining their workflows saves 68 hours on their onboarding process every month. This, in turn, gives them more time to focus on what matters: bringing new hires up to speed to succeed in their new positions.
Storyblok could accomplish this by clearly defining each phase of their onboarding process, the objectives of each phase, and the necessary inputs for achieving the desired outputs. Zavvy’s digital onboarding software helps them automate certain aspects of their onboarding process. Automation not only translates into time-saving but also translates to boosted productivity in the end. In short, streamlining workflows saves everyone time, including people operations employees and new hires alike.
➡️ Zavvy helps employees get up to speed faster
Compiling your onboarding documentation process doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming.
With the right onboarding documentation software, you can easily automate, organize, and provide 24/7 access to employees.
Zavvy’s onboarding documentation solutions allow you to bring new hire paperwork, onboarding documentation, and the much-needed social element that engages employees together on a single, coherent platform. Every employee, from entry-level to C-suite, can benefit from its intuitive approach to helping you manage employee affairs.
➡️ Curious? Get a free demo now!