An Agency Guide to New Employee Onboarding (+ Checklist)

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New employee onboarding presents an opportunity for agencies to set the right tone with new team members from the beginning. No one likes to start a new job and feel confused, uncomfortable, or panicked–a new employee onboarding checklist ensures that your marketing agency has all your bases covered when welcoming new hires, setting them up for success from day one.

Ask any agency leader and they’ll tell you that hiring right is a foundational element of scaling the agency. Finding and landing team members that will help you build out the vision you’ve set for the business is a critical element of growth–but too often we focus on the first steps only. 

While sourcing, interviewing, and hiring top candidates is important, if we pat ourselves on the back for a job well done too early, we risk missing out on an opportunity to situate those new employees for a successful trajectory at the agency.

Employee onboarding is the process that integrates new hires into your agency, walking them through activities that help them learn your structure, culture, vision, mission, and values. 

Your employee onboarding process should have repeatable steps, so that every new employee experiences the same welcome upon joining your agency. That’s why using an onboarding process checklist is so helpful–it makes it easy to replicate and scale as you continue building the team.

Today, we’re our agency guide to new employee onboarding, along with a new employee onboarding checklist for your agency to tailor to your needs.

Why Is New Employee Onboarding Important For Agencies?

According to the AgencyAnalytics Marketing Benchmarks Survey, the majority of agencies cite time management as their primary challenge. Deciding who does what, when, for how long and how often, is key to establishing a healthy work cadence (and preventing burnout–the number two challenge). 

 bar chart showing the top struggles agencies face at a team-management level

Employee onboarding sets new hires up for success by clearly indicating how you want them to manage their time–from day one.

You might be tempted to rush through the onboarding process as quickly as possible. After all, the reason you hired a new employee is so they can get to work! But you won’t be doing anybody any favors by skipping over onboarding. A solid, in-depth onboarding process is the only way to ensure a new hire will understand how to do good work for your company.

The biggest challenge was people. Not finding the right people, but ensuring that we had the right mix of people and then supporting their individual needs while staying focused on the company as a whole. When you're building a company, you don't want to hire all the same types of people. Just like in a recipe you need different ingredients to make a dish shine.

Yanira M. Castro, CEO, Humanity Communications Collective

Here are some reasons why it’s so critical:

Accelerates Culture Adoption

The working environment in a marketing agency is often fast-paced and dynamic. That means new employees need to get on board fast… or they might get left behind.

A strong onboarding process helps new hires quickly get used to your agency’s culture, processes, and expectations. It also reduces the stress and uncertainty that's common among employees stepping into a new role—helping people feel welcomed and engaged from the get-go.

Your new employee onboarding will also allow new employees to meaningfully contribute to client projects as soon as possible, minimizing time spent on hand-holding. Onboarding promotes relationship building and a supportive work environment.

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Boosts Communication and Collaboration

Teamwork plays a big part in the success of a marketing agency. And that’s why it’s so important for an effective employee onboarding process to focus on communication.

For example, to create a successful marketing campaign, you need Account Management to gather client requirements and communicate feedback; Creative to brainstorm campaign concepts and take charge of execution; and Analytics to track campaign performance, measure key metrics, and provide relevant insights.

During your onboarding process, make sure that new hires in each department understand their specific role and how their work integrates with broader business goals.

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Helps Reduce Turnover

A positive onboarding experience creates a positive first impression. 62% of employees say their first impressions of a new company are still accurate. And 60% agree that, once made, a first impression is hard to change.

A strong employee onboarding program helps you retain talent and reduce employee turnover because it fosters a sense of belonging, encouraging employees to stay and grow with the agency.

What Is an Agency Onboarding Process Checklist and How Is It Helpful?

Getting new clients is great but as we grow, onboarding can be so time consuming.

Linda Rooney, Founder + CEO, DandeLions Digital

An onboarding process checklist is a checklist of tasks and activities that ensures that new hires are provided with a thorough understanding of how your agency works, who to ask for help, and how to navigate their employee experience.

You might hand this checklist to new employees during the onboarding process. They could refer to the list for the tasks they need to complete during their first day, week, or month with the agency.

Alternatively, your HR team or managerial staff might use an onboarding checklist to keep track of documentation that needs to be set up, or as a reminder of materials or processes that need to be shared with new employees.

What’s important to know is that an onboarding process checklist serves as a communication tool between HR, managers, and new hires to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

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How an Onboarding Checklist Helps

Creating and using an onboarding process checklist is helpful to all parties involved because:

  • Serves as a Roadmap. A checklist helps both new employees and your agency ensure that you’re not overlooking critical steps. And as an agency, you keep the onboarding experience consistent and thorough for each and every new hire.

  • Helps Streamline the Onboarding Process. Rely on your checklist to reduce errors such as missing or incorrect documents or adding new hires to software accounts.

  • Reduces Stress. Finally, using a checklist as part of your onboarding practices boosts transparency and reduces uncertainty as new team members clearly access expectations for their first day or week.

importance of an employee onboarding checklist graphic

How Long Should an Agency Employee Onboarding Checklist Be?

The length of a new employee onboarding checklist will vary depending on factors like:

  • The size of your agency.

  • The complexity of the role.

  • Any industry-specific requirements.

Ultimately, your goal is a balance between thoroughness and efficiency. Design a checklist that’s too short and you risk missing critical onboarding steps. But if the onboarding period drags on for too long, it may be overwhelming and interfere with client work.

Ideally, a new hire should be able to complete the checklist in a reasonable timeframe (read: weeks, not months). This helps with time to productivity, a performance metric that measures how quickly a new employee starts adding value to your company after being hired. Consider breaking down your onboarding process into phases. Employees will have fewer tasks as time goes on.

Once key team members have completed the entire onboarding process, ask for their feedback about what they’d change or improve for future hires. 

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How To Create an Agency Employee Onboarding Checklist (With Examples)

As you design your checklist for employee onboarding, you’ll want to keep two major components in mind:

  • The phases of the onboarding process.

  • What department(s) the new employee will work with.

Base your checklist on either of these starting points, or choose to set up a checklist that’s a combination of the two. Let’s take a closer look at these two building blocks and how to create a checklist based on each one.

Example Onboarding Checklist: Phases of Onboarding

There are three primary phases of onboarding: Pre-onboarding, orientation, and continuous training and development. Here’s an example checklist showing what your onboarding efforts should include for each stage.

Download the Agency Employee Onboarding Checklist Now!

Phase 1: Building A Smooth Start With Pre-Onboarding

Pre-onboarding happens before a new employee’s first day on the job. It starts from the moment the new hire signs their job offer letter. During this onboarding phase, you should check off the following tasks:

  • Collect the signed offer letter.

  • Send a welcome email detailing their official start date, what to expect on the first day, and any new hire paperwork to complete (such as employment eligibility forms, tax forms, direct deposit forms, or background check forms).

  • Share some branded swag to help them feel like part of the team.

  • Submit equipment requests (for example, laptop, work phone, and whatever else is needed).

  • Share a schedule for their first week.

Phase 2: Fostering Employee Engagement and Retention With Orientation

Next up in an effective onboarding process comes employee orientation. Orientation helps introduce employees to your company policies, culture, and values; the team they’ll work with; and everything else they need to know about their new job. This increases employee engagement.

Orientation sessions should also cover practical information—all of the boring stuff like HR policies and procedures, benefits enrollment, and IT setup. You’ll want to cover topics including:

  • Introducing the agency.

  • Introducing the new hire’s department.

  • Introducing other employees.

  • Providing a tour of the building (does not apply for remote employees).

  • Reviewing the employee handbook. 

  • Setting up any tools or software the employee will need to complete their work.

  • Making sure access credentials and logins work.

  • Providing a high-level overview of your core clients and their goals.

Phase 3: Invest in Professional Development

Help your team continue to grow throughout the onboarding period and beyond. Provide your new hires with the tools, resources, and support they need for long-term success in their roles. This might look like:

  • Job-specific training.

  • Mentorship opportunities.

  • Access to professional development programs, conferences, or other industry resources.

  • Regular check-ins and performance feedback sessions.

You may also want to:

  • Assign compliance policy training.

  • Send a survey for employee feedback about your onboarding processes.

  • Ask your managers if your onboarding programs effectively prepared new employees.

  • Schedule 30-60-90 day check-ins between employees and managers.

  • Send periodic employee satisfaction surveys.

  • Pair new hires with experienced team members for guidance and support.

We spend several months teaching our basic SEO techniques. But then, each of our employees focuses their professional growth and development on learning in depth a specific area of SEO that they're interested in (copywriting, Local SEO, G4 etc).

Jessica Tappana, Owner, Simplified SEO Consulting

Example Onboarding Checklist: By Department

Another option is to structure your agency onboarding checklist based on the department where your new employee will be working. Here are two example checklists showing how this might look.

Design/Creative Team

  • Provide orientation sessions to learn about company culture, values, and expectations.

  • Schedule informal meetings to introduce the new team member to the design team and discuss collaboration workflows.

  • Ensure familiarity with and access to essential design software used by the agency (for example, Adobe Creative Suite, Sketch, or Figma).

  • Provide past projects and client briefs to familiarize the new employee with the agency’s style and standards, as well as specific branded requirements for each client.

  • Set up access to relevant project management tools and any client project folders where the new hire will be contributing.

  • Schedule 1:1 meetings with each member of the team, and with account managers to understand how to collaborate on a new client project.

  • Connect the new hire with senior designers or mentors to shadow.

  • Schedule regular check-ins with managers for performance feedback and goal setting.

Account Team

  • Provide orientation sessions to learn about company culture, values, and expectations.

  • Review past client briefs and campaign materials to understand the agency’s approach to client communication and project management.

  • Provide client contracts, briefs, and project timelines to familiarize the employee with ongoing projects.

  • Educate the new hire about the industries and target demographics of the accounts they’ll be working on.

  • Complete training on the agency’s internal CRM system and project management tools.

  • Connect the new hire with a senior account manager on a client meeting to observe client interaction and communication styles.

  • Set up 1:1 meetings with team members, and with key members from the design/creative team to understand how to collaborate in the future.

  • Schedule regular check-ins with managers for performance feedback and goal setting.

Need an example of a checklist broken down by department? Download ours:

Download the Agency Employee Onboarding Checklist By Department!


Hiring smart, skilled, and creative employees will help your agency grow. And a strong onboarding process checklist is the best way to get those new hires on board. 

Make your employee onboarding and operations more efficient by using AgencyAnalytics. With our suite of agency tools, create unlimited client and staff accounts, giving each user custom permissions to view their clients’ performance. Learn more about how AgencyAnalytics will streamline agency management for your team by signing up for a free trial.

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Written by

Hailey Hudson

Hailey is a full-time writer and content marketer based in Atlanta who specializes in providing unique insights into the worlds of wellness and digital marketing. A storyteller at heart, she is a self-admitted nerd about all things digital.

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