Across The Board

Updates, inspiration, and musings from the folks behind Trello.

New Employee Onboarding: Best Practices For New Hires

Employee onboarding best practices

When it comes to new hires, it isn’t all just handshakes and health insurance forms. These are the newest members of your team we’re talking about. Some day, these people will be responsible for a huge project that affects your company, they’ll be the people sharing laughs with you in the break room, and eventually, onboarding new hires themselves. Employee onboarding is more than logistics: it’s personal.

Like all first impressions, you only have one shot to get it right. The first week is the time to be as thorough as possible, for both logistics as well as intangibles. Important information that falls through the cracks or isn’t conveyed properly means that employees’ knowledge bases are inconsistent. Inconsistencies, when multiplied, can turn into a disparate company culture.

Here are some ways for you to make sure your new team member is really “on board” when onboarding:

Eliminate Human Error

Use Trello to organize employee onboardingTo quote the venerable Benjamin Franklin, in this world there is nothing certain except death, taxes, and new hire paperwork (...or something like that). There’s no magic fix for those pesky logistics; that 401K jargon just isn’t going to sign itself. It is possible, however, to streamline the process. Provide a centralized space for everything logistical. Create an employee onboarding template list with all of these documents, and copy it for each new person.

At Trello, we do this with a Trello board (silence your gasps). One list is “To Do,” and on a new hire’s first day he or she is tasked with going through each card, completing the paperwork or enrolling in the program, then moving that card to “Done.”

We copy a template board for every new hire, and tweak it slightly depending on what team they’ll be on. This centralized place is a living, breathing, uniform process that anyone on the team can update as things change or more efficient ways are discovered. Read more specifics here.

Wield The Welcome Wagon

How to help employee onboarding

Don’t forget about the rest of your welcome wagon: seasoned employees. They are valuable assets when it comes to getting new members on board, but sometimes they need reminding. They’re busy, and over time they forget how it felt to be the new kid on the block. Putting processes in place that incorporate members of the team aids in ease of new employee onboarding.

As Liz Hall, VP of People at Trello puts it, “If your new hire is joining the engineering team, don’t just dump them into your codebase to sink or swim. Rather, set them up with a first week pair programming session. If the new hire is joining the sales team, set up a 20 minute coffee meeting with the most tenured sales team member to talk about how things have changed over time.”

Assign specific peer mentors to new members of the team, and entrust them with helping their mentee meet other employees, especially those not on their team. Ask mentors to  send out introductory emails to the company, and be there to answer random questions like, “What’s the deal with that candy in the break room? Is it free, or…?” Inquiring minds need to know.

Don’t Forget To Have Fun

how to have fun with employee onboarding

People decide to switch jobs because they are convinced your company is a better opportunity than their previous employment. And you know what? They’re totally right. So reaffirm that belief by showing them the cool parts of your company, not just the paperwork. Whether it’s a physical tour, a Wiki of history and fun company lore, or a customized swag bag waiting for them at their new desk, there are a million low bandwidth ways to make new employees feel at home.

What is unique about your company? Do you organize fun outings, or provide your employees with special perks? This is an opportunity to reach out your hand and invite someone to join in on all the fun you’re having. You’re telling them, “Hey, we’re awesome! And we want you to come along!” Studies have shown that employees who feel like their company invests in them will be more productive and do better work for you.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Customize your employee onboarding

The best way to figure out what works and what doesn’t is to ask new hires themselves. After their first week, sit down with them one on one and ask them to give honest feedback on what went well and what they feel is lacking in the process. It’s important to get a fresh perspective as soon as possible, before their initial impressions solidify into permanent perceptions.

Implementing their feedback gives new team members ownership over the process and demonstrates that their input is valuable. As Liz says, “With each new suggestion we’re able to tweak the system, allowing for new hires to immediately feel like a valuable part of the team."

Liz explains that even prior to new hires setting foot in the office on their first day, it is made known that their input is needed in their own onboarding. Liz describes the system as something of a “choose your own adventure,” where the employee is asked to give input as to whether they would prefer a first week of team bonding, or more of a heads down process type of onboarding.

As Liz explains, “Everyone is different. Introverts, extroverts, HQ, remote. We want their first week to be amazing, and part of that is adapting the process to fit them.”

onboard with trello


Check out the New Hire Onboarding sample Trello board. Copy this board or use it as inspiration. 


How are you turning new hires into confident and empowered members of the team? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments below.

Speaking of employee onboarding, Trello is hiring! Check out our Jobs page.

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