The first 90 days for a new employee are often said to be the most important. This is when an employee settles into their new role and company, and considers whether they made the correct choice. Take the time to craft an inclusive employee onboarding experience during this critical transition, so each new hire feels welcome, included, valued, and respected.

1. Ask preferred names and pronouns

While you may need an employee’s legal name for tax purposes, some may prefer to use another name for any variety of reasons. Ask new hires their preferred name, and use it when you introduce them to others and provision accounts. In addition, you can acknowledge and recognize non-binary identities by asking employees their preferred pronouns.

2. Introduce new hires to your team

Consider sending a new hire questionnaire to get to know employees a bit better. Ask about things like where they grew up, where they like to vacation, if they speak any other languages, and what they do for fun. Send some fun tidbits in a welcome email that goes out to the team, so current employees can connect with new hires over similarities. 

Provide new hires with an org chart and people directory so they learn more about their new colleagues and where they fit into the organization.

3. Learn dietary preferences

Employees may have dietary restrictions due to religious or ethical beliefs, or for health or personal reasons. This may include food and beverage choices. Ask new hires to share their dietary preferences before their first day of work so you can plan accordingly. This may include:

  • Office beverages: Coffee is a staple in many offices, but not everyone drinks caffeine. You may also want to offer decaffeinated coffee, tea, or a wider variety of beverages. Be thoughtful about mix-ins as well, as some employees may only drink non-dairy, or no-sugar-added, coffee creamer.
  • First-day lunch: It’s common to take new employees out for lunch on their first day. Understanding dietary preferences can ensure that everyone invited can have a nice meal. For instance, a BBQ place isn’t an ideal choice for a vegetarian. 
  • Team breakfasts: Bagels and donuts are an easy, inexpensive choice for team breakfasts, but some employees may have gluten sensitivities. In that case, you may also want to order some gluten-free options, or additional items (like fruit).

Small touches, like ensuring that coffee, meals, and snacks are respectful of employees’ dietary preferences, can promote inclusion and make all employees feel more welcome.

4. Accommodate workspace set-up preferences

Encourage employees to set up their workspaces in a way that allows them to be the most productive. This may include preferences for computers, desks, chairs, and software. For instance, lumbar and coccyx support for pregnant women, and height adjustable desks and accessible plug sockets for people who use wheelchairs.

5. Offer inclusive employee benefits

Employee benefits are often reviewed and selected during the employee onboarding process. This is a great time to make your inclusive benefits known, which may include:

  • Floating holidays or unlimited time off: An employee’s preferred holidays vary by religion, nationality, and race. When you share your company’s holiday calendar and paid time off policy, highlight that employees are encouraged to take time off to celebrate the holidays that matter most to them.
  • Remote work or flex hours: Disabled professionals, working parents, and many other employees can benefit from remote work and flex hours. If you offer these benefits, take the time to review related policies during the employee onboarding process.
  • Inclusive health insurance: Does your health insurance cover things like transgender care, mental health services, and hearing devices? Help employees understand how to access all of the healthcare benefits available to them.

6. Include a DEI onboarding session

Discussing DEI throughout your recruitment and onboarding processes demonstrates that it’s a priority for your organization. Build a DEI session into your employee onboarding plan to share the highlights. For instance:

  • Your DEI policy, including your code of conduct and the consequences for disrespectful behavior.
  • Your DEI goals and the progress you’ve made toward them.
  • An introduction to your employee resource groups (ERGs), including how to get involved.

7. Build an employee development plan

Take the time during the employee onboarding process to set employee goals, discuss potential career paths, and set a development plan. Employees and managers should have a mutual understanding of what success looks like, and what it takes to move to the next level.  This ensures more objective feedback and promotions, which is particularly important for women and people of color, who are underrepresented in leadership roles.

8. Check in often

It’s a best practice to check in with new hires on days 1, 7, 30, 60, and 90. Have an open and honest conversation about how things are going, and make it a point to specifically ask if they feel included. Dig into why, or why not. It’s useful to understand what’s working, so you can double down, and where you can improve.

You may also consider an employee onboarding survey to gather anonymous feedback. Some prompts you may want to include are: 

  • I feel like I belong
  • I can be my authentic self at work
  • My company values diversity
  • Perspectives like mine are included in decision-making
  • My company believes that people can greatly improve their talents and abilities

9. Plan for the remote employee onboarding experience

If you have a hybrid workforce, it can be tempting to apply the same employee onboarding process you have for office workers. This would be a mistake. Remote employees can’t walk down the hall and ask you a question about benefits. They won’t meet colleagues by running into them in the kitchen. And they won’t be able to join your ERGs live. 

Think through the ways you can improve your remote employee onboarding experience to match that of your office employees. For instance, document all of the information you have about employee benefits, so remote employees can access it asynchronously. Utilize Slack apps, like Donut, to facilitate virtual meetups. And create an ERG just for remote employees.

Final thoughts on crafting an inclusive employee onboarding experience

A great employee onboarding experience should be constantly evolving, based on feedback from your team. For instance, you may learn that you’re cramming too much into the first day, or that your first day experience isn’t as exciting as you’d like. In that case, you can get the paperwork completed during the employee preboarding period, and spread other events out over the first week. Take care to build a streamlined and repeatable process that can be applied as you scale, so your employee onboarding experience is consistently amazing for everyone on your team.


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