The Ultimate Onboarding Checklist for SMEs in Australia

Published on 23/10/2019 by Anna Hammond

Calendar to show onboarding checklist for new starters

Have you ever had a nightmarish first day at work? Perhaps you accidentally broke the coffee machine or mistakenly ate someone else’s lunch. Maybe you missed your train and consequently arrived late (and completely drenched because it rained that day.) The first few days on the job are tough! Put your new hires at ease from the moment they walk through the door. In this article, we provide the ultimate onboarding checklist, made especially with SMEs in mind.

The cost of a poor onboarding is expensive for SMEs. In addition to the time spent pouring over CVs and interviewing candidates, the cost to replace an employee is around 50-60% of their salary, according to the Society of Human Resource Management. As well as a staff turnover reduction, successful onboarding increases productivity and makes for a happier workplace.

This checklist sets your new-starters up for a winning, long-term collaboration with your business. We suggest you download it, share it, and use it alongside your onboarding software


Download: The Ultimate Onboarding Checklist for SME’s

The pre-boarding checklist

The Workplace Loneliness research into Australian workers revealed that a timely onboarding process further connects new hires with their team. It’s essential to prioritise social connectedness from the start—the process should begin from the moment you present the successful candidate with a job offer. 

Here are some ideas for pre-boarding communication:

  • Explain what to expect from the onboarding process
  • Introduce the new-starter to their team and the wider organisation
  • Say congratulations from the manager and/or most relevant member of senior management.

It’s also a good idea to gather paperwork for the employee. This might seem premature, but there is a lot of sensitive information to collect, which can confuse new hires and employers.

Below is a list of what you, the employer, should provide before the recruit starts:

  • An offer letter
  • A job description
  • An employment contract
  • An employee induction pack (or preview).

By law, Australian employers must also provide:

Using surveys as onboarding software

The 90-Day onboarding checklist

Make sure the schedule has been entered into the employee’s calendar, and use the checklist to tick off each task upon completion.  

Day One

Arguably, the staff member’s first day is the most important of the 90-day onboarding process. The goal is to make it memorable. You want them to feel excited and motivated. 

Here’s some suggested ground you could cover on day one of the onboarding-checklist:

The welcome

  • Send an all-staff message to introduce the employee to their colleagues 
  • Assign them with a workplace buddy (so they have someone to talk to during a nerve-wracking period!)
  • Have a welcome message displayed in a communal area, such as written on a blackboard or posted on a staff pinboard.

The tour

  • Show the staff seating plan (introduce people by names and teams)
  • Give an office and building tour
  • Point out fire exits.

The equipment

  • Provide a nameplate or staff ID
  • Necessary office equipment (including a computer and phone if appropriate)
  • Staff handbook
  • An employee induction pack.


  • Welcome presentation
  • Employee perks & benefits
  • Culture overview.

You may be tempted to skip the culture overview if you’re short on time, but we’d strongly recommend that you don’t. A meta-analysis of 172 studies found that employees who are a good cultural fit are likely to be happier, more productive, and stay longer with the employer. What can we learn from this? Describe and define your unique culture to new employees—never just assume they’ll fit in without explanation.

Other first-day activities for new-starters:

  • Tie a balloon to the employee’s computer. People can introduce themselves when they walk past and make a new hire feel welcome.
  • Allow them to get to know your business better with some time to read through relevant websites, blogs and industry news.
  • Organise a lunch with their reporting line and team.

It’s also critical that the employee is on-boarded onto your team communication platforms, on their first day. It also gives managers an easy way to do quick, regular check-ins.

Month One

Weeks 1 – 2

Day two is essentially the first day of the rest of their career with you. The aim is to ease them into the job role they were hired to do.

The schedule for week one and two should include:

  • Meet and greets with leaders or members of other departments to understand their role within the business.
  • Training sessions.
  • Introductions to important tools.

The employee should review and agree to company policies during this period too. 

For these fiddly administrative steps, you could try implementing HR software where the process can be managed within one system. HR software is useful when coordinating several departments within a company. 

Weeks 3 – 4

By now, the employee should have built up some momentum within the job role and so you’ll want to harness that. Step back and encourage them to take more ownership of their responsibilities. 

If they’re required to represent and conduct themselves on behalf of the company, consider a communication workshop. Do you have guidelines for your company’s tone of voice? Now is the time to introduce it if so. You could display the information in a document, PDF or use data visualisation tools to create a visual representation.

It’s crucial in this stage that you build upon the trust you’ve already established. A great way to do this is to demonstrate your investment in their personal career goals. Discuss objectives (long and short-term) and set up sessions to focus on their learning and development. Ideally, training should be face to face but when this isn’t possible, there are plenty of virtual educational platforms and learning management software to help staff develop skills.

If you are training remote, check our blog that highlights best practices and tools for training remote employees.

Month two

“Employees want to be stimulated by their job and have a clear career path,” says employer brand research company, Randstad. With that in mind, month two is a good point to give employees their first ‘big’ project. Not only does it create a focus, but it also moves them further towards self-reliance. 

Consider how you’ll check in with the employee to get this balance. One way is to break the project down into chunk-size pieces or implement project management software. Not only does this allow you to check in regularly without micromanaging, but each step completed is a chance for you to give encouragement and praise. 

And it doesn’t have to be limited to employer-employee. Make space for peer-to-peer appreciation too: Be it acknowledgement in meetings, whiteboard messages, kudos in employee engagement platforms or shout-outs in a dedicated Slack channel. 

Using Slack to show culture in the onboarding process
Screenshot of a Slack shout-out during the onboarding process.

Month three

In month three of the onboarding checklist, you should extend perks and benefits to the staff member if you haven’t done so already. If you offer flexible working, its best to allow the employee to test the process while they’re still on probation. Not only does it instil trust, but you’ll also be viewed as a modern employer. 

All going well, at the end of the onboarding process, the new hire should have passed their probation. Survey software can help gather relevant information ahead of the end-of-probation review meeting. The employee should also offer his or her feedback on their onboarding experience. Not only does it help improve the onboarding-process for their future colleagues, but it also lets the new hire know that their feedback matters. 

Ensure you send an email announcement to acknowledge the event and show recognition for their contributions so far. Why? The O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2018 Global Culture Report highlights the power of recognition in the workplace. The report found that employees within companies that demonstrated regular recognition had a 16% higher sense of personal well-being and a 20% increase in their connection to purpose. 

How to use the onboarding-checklist

Refer to our onboarding checklist for each person you employ. We’ve included all the crucial aspects within this article, but you can create a customised version for each hire case. If you decide to automate the process, have a look at Capterra’s selection of onboarding software.


This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.


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