HR Administration

14 Essential Onboarding Documents for New Hires

December 13, 2023
December 14, 2023
Lyssa Test
Lattice Team

Your new hire’s start date is quickly approaching, but are you ready?

While you can collect some information before their first day, you’ll want to ensure you’re prepared to gather and process all critical onboarding documents quickly and accurately. Knowing what to collect and share and when to do it can streamline the onboarding process and set a professional tone from day one. Plus, getting paperwork out of the way early leaves more time for employees to meet their team, learn about your company, and get up to speed.

To set a good first impression and get all the information you need to remain compliant, you’ll want to know exactly what forms and new hire paperwork you need to collect — and by when. To help, we’ve compiled a list of the most common employee onboarding documents, so you can put your company’s best foot forward while protecting your business.


What are onboarding documents?

Onboarding documents are a critical part of a new hire's first few days. They include internal policy acknowledgment, payroll documentation, compliance forms, and more to help your company and the new employee clarify expectations, understand legal obligations, and share important administrative details. 

Most importantly, these documents are a physical representation of your working relationship with your employee. Of course, the specifics of these forms will vary based on whether an individual is a full-time employee or contract worker, but the information collected ensures an individual is set up to work, get paid accurately, and excel at your company.

Employee Onboarding Checklist

From company-specific forms to state and federal compliance documents, here are the 14 onboarding forms you’ll need to collect from or share with a new employee to get them up and running quickly and efficiently.

Internal New Hire Forms

First, you’ll typically share internal documents and role-specific onboarding forms with your new hires. Onboarding documents in this category relate to an employee’s relationship with your company, setting expectations for their role, explaining company policies, and defining employment terms. 

Here’s a closer look at these internal onboarding documents.

1. Job Offer Letter

An employee’s offer letter is a written contract outlining the terms of an individual’s employment with your company. It includes information like the new employee’s: 

  • Job title
  • Job description
  • Compensation (salary, bonus, commission, etc.)
  • Start date
  • Location (remote, hybrid, in-office) 

You’ll want to secure a co-signed letter to prove that both your business and the individual being hired agree to the specifics outlined in the document. 

2. Employment Contract / Contractor Agreement

Unlike a job offer letter, an employment contract (or contractor agreement for independent contractors) is a legally binding document. It typically contains all of the information listed above in the job offer letter, with a bit more detail around: 

  • Job information 
  • Length of employment (if applicable) 
  • Compensation 
  • Employee responsibilities
  • Benefits
  • Termination terms
  • Non-compete or confidentiality clauses

This document ensures you and your new employee are on the same page at the start of their employment and can help protect your company should any disciplinary issues or legal disputes arise. 

3. Non-Compete Agreement

A non-compete agreement stops an employee from working for a rival organization or starting a similar business for a set time after they leave your company, safeguarding your business’s innovative ideas and intellectual property. The duration of such agreements usually ranges from six months to two years. Just note that five states currently ban non-competes, so be sure to do your research and verify that the state your employee works in allows such agreements before asking them to sign one. 

4. Non-Disclosure Agreement

A non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, is a legal contract between two parties agreeing to keep specific information confidential. It’s particularly useful if a new employee will have access to proprietary information, trade secrets, client lists, and business strategies as it ensures said employee cannot share such information with a third party during or after their employment with your company. 

5. At-Will Agreement

An at-will employment agreement acknowledges that your business or the employee can sever your working relationship at any time for any reason without notice. This new hire document is intended to give both your employee and your business the flexibility to continue or end the employment agreement as needed.

Please note that there are a few legal exceptions to at-will employment agreements. Businesses cannot terminate employees in a way that violates public policy, breaches employment and implied contracts, acts in bad faith, or discriminates against the individual. 

6. Employee Handbook

An employee handbook acts as a manual, helping employees understand your business and how to make the most of their time working for your company. It usually includes information like your mission statement, core values, company culture, code of conduct, policies, and procedures. It can also feature more tactical day-to-day information like your dress code, organizational chart, and how to use and access your company’s HR systems. 

Having employees acknowledge they’ve read and understand everything outlined in your handbook can help protect your business in the event of future issues or legal disputes.

7. Benefits Brochure

You’ll also want to include a benefits brochure detailing all the healthcare offerings, perks, and programs your company offers employees, as well as how enrollment works.

Your benefits brochure should include information on your company’s: 

  • Vision, dental, and health insurance offerings
  • Paid time off (PTO) and leave policies
  • Retirement plan
  • Stock options
  • Perks (like employee wellness, employee assistance programs, professional growth stipend, student loan reimbursement, child care stipend, and more) 

Federal and State Forms

You’ll also want to ensure your business complies with state and federal regulations by collecting any identification and tax forms in a timely manner, including: 

8. Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification

A Form I-9 verifies an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States. The first portion of the I-9 form must be filled out by your employee no later than their first day, and your business must finish the rest within three days of the individual’s start date. 

Your company will also need to visually verify an employee’s identification documents, like a passport, driver’s license, or social security card. Here’s a full list of approved identity and employment authorization documents

9. Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate

A Form W-4 allows employees to tell their business how much money to withhold from their paycheck for federal income tax. The IRS offers an online tax withholding estimator you can share with employees who need help filling out their W-4 form.

10. Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification

A Form W-9 is used to confirm an independent contractor’s taxpayer identification number (TIN) or social security number so your business can report their annual taxable income to the IRS via a Form 1099-NEC.

11. Any State Tax Forms

Some states require new employees to fill out separate state tax withholding forms, so be sure to have any new hires residing in these states submit their state-specific forms and information. 

Employee Information

You’ll also need to collect some basic information from your employees and conduct an optional background check.

12. Direct Deposit Form

If your employee wants their paycheck deposited directly in their bank account come payday, they’ll need to share their preferred bank account information with your payroll team.

13. Emergency Contact Information Form

While we all hope emergencies never happen, it never hurts to be prepared. On an employee’s first day, have them share an emergency contact’s: 

  • Full name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Relationship to the individual

With this information on file, you can know who to reach out to should anything go awry. 

14. Background Check

Some companies and industries might also require employees or job candidates to submit to a background check. If your business is one such company, you’ll have to get an individual’s written permission before you have a third party run the screening.

Background checks can verify various information including an individual’s employment, credit, criminal, and motor vehicle history. Businesses can also choose to include drug tests in pre-hiring background checks. 


Why Onboarding Documents Matter

Onboarding as a whole is designed to set your newest team members up for a smooth and successful career at your company. A strong onboarding experience can increase the likelihood that employees will be satisfied with their workplace and even make them more likely to stay, according to Gallup.

While paperwork might not be the most exciting part of hiring a new employee, the information you collect on day one can help start your employee-employer relationship off on the right foot. Onboarding documents aren’t only designed to help your company maintain compliance but they’re also helpful with teaching your employees about your culture, company policies, how you do business, and more.

Here’s why onboarding documents are more important than you might think: 

  1. They streamline data collection: Since few people enjoy filling out paperwork, it makes sense to get this tedious task out of the way as soon as possible. That way, the rest of your new hire’s week can be spent getting up to speed and meeting their team, while your HR team has all the info they need to set up payroll, benefits, and system access for the individual.
  2. They help set expectations. By giving your new team members a clear description of their title, responsibilities, benefits, and compensation, your business can help employees understand exactly what’s expected of them so there’s no confusion down the line. 
  3. They mitigate risk. Again, having these signed legal documents on hand ensures your new hires understand your company’s procedures and policies and protects your business should any issues occur in the future. 
  4. They ensure compliance. With these documents, your business can ensure it is only employing individuals authorized to work in the US and withholding the correct amount from each paycheck for state and federal taxes.
  5. They help your employees navigate your workplace. Onboarding documents give employees a high-level overview of their new role and your business as a whole. From your company mission to their day-to-day responsibilities, effective onboarding paperwork covers everything an individual needs to know to excel within their new job and your business.

Storing Employee Onboarding Documents Using an HRIS

Many of these forms contain personally identifiable information (PII), meaning your company needs to take the utmost care to keep them secure and confidential. That means storing them somewhere safe where only authorized users can access them. In the past, a filing cabinet with a key may have sufficed, but that’s just not going to cut it today for many modern employers. 

Luckily, a human resources information system (HRIS) can help. Lattice HRIS gives businesses access to clean and trusted people data all in one platform. It can also help your organization: 

  • Streamline onboarding: Make new hires feel welcome with a rich, in-platform onboarding experience. Employees can easily share personal contact information, read and sign internal documents and agreements, and upload identification documents from one platform. This helps break down onboarding into an easy-to-follow step-by-step process that doesn’t overwhelm new hires. 
  • Automate change management: Quickly build workflows that connect programs and policies, like sharing a new artificial intelligence (AI) use case policy with employees for their review and signature.
  • Manage employees proactively: Employers can make updates based on any field, status, or relevant milestone, making it easy to update teams and celebrate work anniversaries, for example. 
  • Integrate with other systems in your HR tech stack: Lattice HRIS connects to many best-of-breed vendors, so you can loop your most up-to-date employee information into your existing payroll, benefits administration, time and attendance systems, and more.

Plus, with all your people data in one place, Lattice HRIS can empower your HR team to move beyond administrative work to create strategic initiatives that can drive organizational efficiency, engagement, and performance.

Streamlining Employee Onboarding With Lattice HRIS

An employee’s emotion-filled first day at their new job shouldn’t be spent completely buried in paperwork. Luckily, the right tools can help. With the right HR technology, like Lattice HRIS, your business can collect employee information and necessary forms from employees in a few clicks. With streamlined onboarding, your employees can spend less time filling out documents and more time acclimating to their roles, engaging with their teams, and contributing to company goals.

You only get one shot at a first impression, so make it count. Join the waitlist for Lattice HRIS and help your new hires find what they need quickly so they can get up to speed in no time.

Key Takeaways

  • Onboarding documents are a collection of government forms and internal paperwork that help your new hires get up and running within your company. 
  • They can help establish a strong employee-employer relationship and protect your business from future issues and legal disputes. 
  • An HRIS can help streamline onboarding and keep employee data safe.

Please note that while this checklist includes a substantial collection of onboarding documents, this may not be an exhaustive list. Be sure to check and follow your local, state, and federal labor regulations to ensure your business sets employees up for success in their first few days with your company and remains compliant.

You’ll also want to include any industry or role-specific documents or training you’ll need employees to review and acknowledge before they can start their first project (e.g., ethical guidelines, compliance training programs, or safety rules).