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Employee onboarding, HR document management

20 Must-have Documents for Onboarding New Employees

Onboarding new talent is a multi-stage operation involving several crucial elements, with paperwork being the most important. Through these, companies gather vital information for both legal and organizational purposes. 

While the requirements may vary depending on the industry and the state, a company must still collect certain information for employee documentation and contractual and compliance purposes. 

However, onboarding documentation can be repetitive and tedious, and with so many moving pieces, HRs may often miss out on essential details. The chances are even higher if you are conducting bulk recruitment. 

To help you avoid such mishaps, we have prepared an exhaustive list of must-have employee documents for effective and proper onboarding.

What are employee onboarding documents?

employee onboarding documents

Onboarding documents involve paperwork that a company initiates for its new hires to review and sign. The purpose is to allow the new employee to go through the contract and help them understand the terms, obligations, and duties. Onboarding documents range from legal paperwork to documents describing the company’s policies, procedures, and the new hire’s responsibilities and benefits. 

Common types of onboarding documents 

Legal and tax forms 

These include legal paperwork that the state and federal government mandates. Companies must file documents like I-9 and W-4 forms within days of onboarding a new employee. Exceptions to this might lead your company to pay fines and penalties.

Role-specific documents 

This category includes forms and paperwork describing policy and procedures, employers’ expectations, SOPs, and job-specific responsibilities. The aim is to ensure that all the concerned parties are on the same page. 

Company-specific documents 

These onboarding documents equip new employees with the information they need to thrive in their jobs. Some company-specific documents include an employee handbook, company calendar, charts, mission statement, etc. 

Pay and benefits forms

Organizations provide employees with pay and benefits forms to share their salary and other perks. Such onboarding documents also contain all the information they need to take advantage of benefits like paid leave, health insurance, 401k details, stock option documents, etc. 

Legal and tax forms 

W-4 form 

The W-4 form is a mandatory IRS document that every newly hired employee must complete as soon as their onboarding starts. It lets your employer know how much money to withhold from your paycheck for federal taxes. Accurately completing your W-4 can help prevent a big balance due at tax time.

A W-4 form is a government-required onboarding document. Hence, companies must store these carefully. The IRS may request these for review, so you should keep copies on file for at least four years. Different states have different W-4 requirements. Some states use specific versions of this form others use publicly available federal documents. Before sending the form to your new hire, check the tax laws in your state.

Employment I-9 form

Companies mandate I-9 forms for employees to verify their identity and employment authorization in the United States. Employees must provide proof of employment eligibility with documentation, like a special security card or a passport. The form also has a section that requires input from both the employer and the new team member. Employees must fill out the I-9 form within the first three days of onboarding. Failure to do so may cause a penalty.

State withholding certificate

Some states require withholding forms like the W-4 solely for state taxes. If your state requires an income tax, apart from IRS taxes, this form will also determine how much you can withhold from your new employees’ paychecks for state taxes.

Drug-testing records

In the onboarding phase, companies usually prefer to check whether any of their employees are involved in substance abuse. Only some companies require drug testing. 

However, your onboarding document package may include a copy of the drug testing policy, depending on the state, its laws, and the company policies. In that case, new employees must submit records of test results per any governmental or industry compliance regulations.


Employment offer letter

The offer letter is the first vital document to kickstart the new hire’s journey. It gives recruits an overview of their starting day, responsibilities, salary, assigned team, and other requirements they need to pass. 

To officially accept a job role terms and responsibilities, the individual must sign a copy of the offer letter. Once that is done, the company stores it in the employee file for reference in case of any issues in the future.

Employment contract form

An employment contract is a formal onboarding document that outlines the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of an employer and an employee within a job role. Typically signed after the initial employment agreement, this document ensures a mutual understanding of important points related to the position. 

The employment contract form contains the details of the job position and responsibilities, salary and benefits, and employment duration. Some companies also include non-compete and non-disclosure agreements to protect the internal system, processes, and intellectual property. 

Job expectations, responsibilities, and goals

While the employment contract gives new hires a comprehensive overview, some details might be missing. To give the new hire this additional information, companies should also provide a written document detailing their job expectations and responsibilities as part of their onboarding package. 

Such onboarding documents intend to convey day-to-day work in simple terms. It also includes goal-setting worksheets, the 30-60-90 day onboarding plan, and their professional development goals.

Process & procedure manuals

Another onboarding document that makes new hires’ initial days comprehensive and easy is the process and procedure manual. Here, companies convey their way of conducting operations and what procedures to follow for dealing with any potential issue. 

These onboarding documents detail specific instructions for tasks that an employee has to complete. Once employees complete their initial training at the onboarding phase, they can use the process and procedure manual as a reference later on. 


Employee handbook

An employee handbook is a company-wide text resource containing all the valuable information an employee needs to excel at the organization. From the company’s mission statement to the mandated dress code and behavioral policies, this onboarding document acts as a detailed guide for new hires to navigate their job role.

Organizational chart

You must clarify the company’s structure to your employees during the onboarding phase. An organizational chart is a diagram visually representing a company’s internal structure, roles, responsibilities, and relationships. It answers questions like who reports to whom, who the team leaders are, and contacts to reach out to with different issues. If you have a big company, create an organizational chart depicting only the leadership and managerial positions to keep it brief. 

Risk management policy

Companies should structure a risk management policy as onboarding documentation to minimize damages. It details the company policies in specific risk situations like lawsuits, accidents at the workplace, environmental disasters, etc. It should also describe the company’s methods to identify potential risks so that the process remains transparent. 

Brand guidelines

Companies should provide a brand guideline document as a part of the new hire paperwork checklist. It gives them a fair idea of representing your brand correctly and ensuring the company’s image stays consistent across different platforms. Keep your brand image in mind and include voice, colors, logos, and fonts guidelines. Make sure it correctly matches your brand voice. 

Emergency contact form

A crucial part of the new hire paperwork checklist to ensure safety, employers must get their new employees to fill out emergency contact forms. It should contain the family member’s name, phone number, email, and relationship with your employee. Each form goes to the specific employee files for liability.

Non-compete agreement contract

Companies with non-compete or non-disclosure policies must inform their new employees about them as part of the onboarding documentation. Employers should always provide a signed acknowledgment of the contract after hiring each employee. Non-compete contracts are usually specific to each business and can prove vital in guarding against issues like intellectual property disputes or employee poaching from competitors.

Employee consent document

If company practices require explicit employee consent, include a form regarding this in the employee onboarding package. Many companies are now using employee data to gain valuable insight into the business. By filling out and signing this form, an employee voluntarily acknowledges and consents to the collection, use, processing, and transfer of personal data. 

Company calendar

The onboarding phase is about helping employees settle into their new workplace. A company calendar as an onboarding document will assist your new hires in understanding the day-to-day happenings of your company. 

Give the new team members access to company schedules and holiday calendars. If you work in a hybrid model, ensure the calendar clearly describes when they need to work from the office and when they can work remotely. The calendar should also detail schedules of one-on-one or company-wide meetings, periodic employee reviews, meet and greets, etc. It also makes it easier for the new employee to keep track of office celebrations. 

Pay and benefits

Direct deposit form

Another essential part of onboarding documentation, the direct deposit form, is what employees fill out so that their employer can deposit money straight into their bank account. This way, companies can eliminate writing and distributing paper checks. If your company uses direct deposit to pay the workforce, make sure the employee fills the form out with the correct bank account information before you process payroll.

FMLA records

Family and Medical Act Leave (FMLA) mandates employers to grant leaves when the employee faces a severe health condition or an important family matter. The act requires employers to maintain records related to their obligations for at least three years. They must also make these onboarding documents available to the Department of Labor whenever requested. If the FMLA covers your company, the employee onboarding document package should include signable notices informing them of the terms of FMLA leave.

Health insurance plan documents

Thanks to the growing awareness, more companies are offering their employees health insurance plans. In such cases, you must share proper documentation detailing the insurance plan and the election options for them to review as part of their onboarding package. This way, your new hires can ask about any queries or sort out any confusion early on.

401k, pension, and retirement documents

Your employees also need to be informed about their retirement benefits. For an easy process, employers should include information and accompanying paperwork related to the 401k, pension, or other retirement benefits packages.

Time-off policy

Your onboarding document must include information describing the time-off policy. This way, new hires also know about designated leaves from the start. The policy document should indicate how many off days are allowed, how to request days off, the rules for unlimited PTO policy, etc. To ensure understanding and cooperation throughout your new employee’s lifecycle, consider adding a detailed review of the time-off policy by describing the enforcement procedure.

Benefits overview document

Every company offers different benefits depending on the industry and the job role. While offer letters and contracts give employees an idea, a breakdown of these perks makes the process more comprehensive for a new hire. Hence, you must detail the offered benefits in a separate overview document for employees when they start with the company. 

Such documents must include every detail of the advantage and information on how to leverage one when necessary. Ask them to go through them thoroughly and sign them.

Automating document management is the best way to store onboarding documents

Sharing, collecting, and processing all the above onboarding documents are not just repetitive but also an overwhelming task for any HR professional. It creates frustration and, when done manually, is prone to human errors. Not only that, effectively storing and managing all these documents can also be challenging. It can prove detrimental to the company’s progress since even the slightest error can cause grave compliance issues. 

The best way to avoid that is to eliminate manual documentation and leverage onboarding tools. Leena AI offers an AI-driven employee onboarding solution that you can seamlessly integrate with our or any third-party document management solution to manage all the onboarding documents of your employees.

Leena AI’s AI-driven document management software helps HRs edit, store, and update all employee documents on a centralized platform while constantly auditing them to abide by compliance laws.

HRs can give employees role-based access to let employees update their documents without seeking assistance from them. This approach promotes self-service and helps HRs focus on more strategic onboarding tasks.

If you also want to transform your employee onboarding and document management process, book a demo with our experts for FREE to experience how the Leena AI platform can work for your enterprise.

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