Best Staffing Agencies

Checklist for Onboarding Contract and Freelance Employees

Hiring contract or freelance employees? The ultimate goal of the onboarding is to ensure new employees feel supported, satisfied, and fulfilled in their jobs.
Updated on: April 2022 — 10 min read
Checklist for onboarding contract employees

Onboarding is a huge buzzword in employment today. It encompasses the initial experience for a new employee and goes way beyond on-the-job training. Onboarding includes an introduction into the corporate culture, a time to get to know coworkers, and integration into the job itself. When you need to design this experience for a contractor, such as a contingent workforce through a staffing agency, there are a lot of moving parts to consider.

It has also been demonstrated that onboarding helps improve employee retention. Gallup cites SHRM, the society for human resource management, on the statistic that employee turnover can be as much as 50% in the first 18 months.

An employee experience starts before their first day. The first impression is shaped by perceptions, social media, reviews, and more. From the moment they start, they are putting everything they know in context. It is important to manage that context whether you’re onboarding for temporary employees, contractors, or full-time team members.

How To Manage The Brand Reputation For Contract Workers

Just like you want to hold your new employees to the highest standards, staffing onboarding gives you a chance to showcase an organization’s best self. Corporate culture is not just words on a page, it’s how a business lives its mission statement, core values, and workplace environment.

Starting with the candidate experience, once an employee is selected and an offer is accepted, the staffing onboarding process has already begun.

Team Integration

Team integration begins with hiring the right person for each job. Knowing what environment they will be placed in and how various personalities interact will help you determine the best new hire to contribute to a positive team dynamic.

That does not mean you can throw a new contractor in the mix and expect everything to work out. Team integration is an essential part of the staffing onboarding process. And finding people who work together well and brings their strengths to the table is only a piece of the puzzle.

It will look a little different when onboarding contract employees. Your team dynamics are already established, so adding a new temporary employee to the mix can upset the balance. Be clear to your current team about what the contractor needs to know and what they don’t.

Make a concerted effort to be welcoming. It can be helpful to designate one or more of your employees to become a resource for your contractor. They can be the point of contact to assist with getting settled and answering essential questions.

Impact on Retention

A startling statistic is that 28 percent of new employees quit within the first 90 days. The cost of rehiring positions can be extremely high and you need to take into account the time spent on training both employees as well as the work that is not getting done in the meantime. Turnover can also cause other employees to become frustrated by having to take on more work. This impacts career satisfaction and can cause major culture issues in an organization.

This is why many organizations utilize contract workers or hire through staffing agencies. While the numbers are all over the map, it seems very common for many contractors to remain on assignments for 6 months. For shorter projects, companies will often work with temporary staffing agencies to avoid turnover with the

A solid program for onboarding contract and temporary employees can mitigate this problem. You control management expectations as well as the experience of the new employee. With regular two-way communication, you will also be able to gauge how everyone is doing and make positive adjustments as needed.

How do you create a staffing onboarding plan?

Pre-arrival and onboarding checklist for temp employees

Onboarding Checklist

There is nothing better than a checklist to help you stay on track and ensure that every new employee understands every step along the way. Your checklist should include:


  • Orientation paperwork
    • Form I-9
    • W4
    • W9 (for independent contractors)
  • Employee Handbook for Contract/Temp Workers
  • Benefits Package Information
  • Arrange for an established workspace
  • Communicate with current staff about the new contractor

Many companies are utilizing virtual orientation paperwork such as e-signature documents. Several available sources can help expedite the process. New employees can complete this online before starting on their first day so you can ensure everything is fully compliant.

Employee handbooks can also be electronic. Many staffing services offer employee portals with PDF versions of their employee handbooks for easy access.

However, one of the most essential parts of the pre-arrival onboarding process is to ensure they will have a workstation ready. Far too often, contractors arrive on their first day at work and have to wait for management to find them an office, desk, or computer. To make an employee feel welcome, this must be done ahead of their arrival. As the staffing provider, this needs to be coordinated with the company to ensure your employee has a good first impression on their assignment.

There will also be a different protocol for employees who start in-house or remote. But if the company is working with an independent contractor or freelancer, the process to ensure everyone is on the same page will be very different due to the employment laws around freelance work.

Onboarding Checklist for Contractors

First Day

  • Team Introductions
  • Discussion of job responsibilities and expectations
  • Share company vision, mission, and values
  • Specific training

Many companies start with an introduction meeting or they may host a lunch for their new employee. Making an employee feel welcome will help set the tone for their overall employee experience.

Of course, job training will be an important part of their first few days and weeks. While they may have the necessary skills for the job, they will have to learn the specific company methods and processes. Training is not only about the work; it is also about the expectations moving forward.

Different aspects will need to be considered if the new team member is a permanent hire, a temp or contract employee, or a freelancer.

For example, a freelance worker is not an employee of the organization, so they might be given a task and get to work without any in-depth onboarding.

2-Weeks and Beyond

  • Regular feedback to the contractor
  • Accepting feedback from the contractor
  • Designate a peer contact
  • Open channels of communication

Some employers make the mistake of believing that they won’t be responsible for a contract employee's 90 day review. While they may not be directly involved, their feedback to the staffing provider will be critical to ensure expectations are being met. If problems do occur, and the agency is not made aware, it may be far too late to solve them. Companies should provide regular feedback to the recruiter as well as the contractor themselves as they begin learning the ropes. Positive feedback is also important. You want to let their contractor know they’re doing well. Appreciation is one of the cornerstones of employee satisfaction.

When you hire a contract or temporary employee, their experience should be as valued as your full-time staff. Providing onboarding for temporary employees will make them feel like they are part of the team and not separate from it, which will improve performance and job satisfaction.

Onboarding Remote Contractors & Freelancers

Onboarding can be more challenging for the remote contract worker than any other category of employee. This is especially true if a company did not offer work from home arrangements before 2020. Because of the distant and independent nature of remote jobs, organizations have to work harder to ensure incoming employees feel welcomed and supported. A company needs to have a plan in place for what they will provide, what the agency will provide, and what the contractor will be expected to have.

Remote work onboarding should include:

  • Employment paperwork handled through e-signature documents
  • Setting your the contractor up with employer-provided equipment if necessary
    • Phone
    • Computer
    • Wi-fi Hotspot
  • Providing access to online tools
    • Collaborative tool account access
    • VPN
    • Virtual meeting accounts
  • Welcome them to the team on day one
    • Virtual team meeting
    • Welcome video
    • A physical welcome package with company swag and fun item
  • Regular check-ins regarding comfort levels, projects, and expectations
You will need to establish expectations about performance and interaction for the contractor between the company and staffing provider. Distractions are common at home, especially now as children are doing remote learning in households that may have both parents working from home. But contractors need to know the expectations regarding interruptions during important meetings or other duties.

To reduce stress from working at home, some companies are promoting two important aspects of remote work:

  • Results-oriented workplace
  • Work/life balance and boundaries

In a results-oriented workplace, employees are expected to complete their work by a specific deadline and adhering to quality standards. As long as that happens, when and how they accomplish the work is completely in their hands. Companies can trust they have hired top-quality candidates who can manage their own time.

But remote workers also need to maintain personal boundaries. They should not be expected to answer emails after work hours simply because they have access twenty-four hours a day. Part of the onboarding process should include providing them the tools they need to set boundaries while still meeting expectations of the job during standard work hours.

Conclusion: Good Onboarding Leads to Satisfied Contractors

The ultimate goal of staffing onboarding is to ensure new employees feel supported, satisfied, and fulfilled in their jobs. You want them to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you care about their career development.

When a new team member is thrown from the frying pan into the fire, the picture of where they see themselves in the next five or ten years is obscured. But with the right onboarding checklist for staffing agencies, which can be codified and used across the board in your organization, every new employee will have the same positive experience.

Do this well and the contractor experience in the first 90 days will lead directly to the success of your company.

What do you think? Let us know how you onboard contractors or what programs you’ll be implementing.

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