Once you’ve hired your first full-time employee in Germany, the next step is to guide them through the onboarding process. By getting a head start now and ensuring your onboarding process provides a straight, easy-to-follow path that will help German employees do their jobs with pride, you’ll start off on the right foot with your new full-time hires.
While there can be a lot of moving parts to a top-tier onboarding experience, there are also many benefits including higher retention rates, ensuring new hires feel connected to their coworkers and the company, and increased productivity.
In this guide, we’ll give you an onboarding checklist that tells you how to prepare for your new starter’s arrival including paperwork and compliance, access to apps, training, and a 90-day plan to ensure you create a positive experience for your employee in the long-term.
Before their first day
- Complete an employment background check. While Germany has rather vague laws on what can be included in a background check, they are very strict about two things: First, you must obtain informed, explicit consent from the new hire to run a background check (and the scope must be limited to only what’s relevant for the position). Second, you must adhere to the strict personal data security and privacy regulations set forth by the German Federal Data Protection Act (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz). To learn more about running proper background checks in Germany, check out our guide.
- Send an offer letter. A legally compliant job offer letter ensures your new starter officially agrees to the details of the job position. A German employment contract should include, among other items: their job title, description of their role and duties, and start date; the length of their probationary period; compensation and benefits; their vacation days and working hours; their contact information and phone number; and your company policy on termination and notice periods. You may also want to include non-compete, non-solicit, and non-disclosure agreement (NDA) clauses in this document, if relevant. Read our full guide on creating job offer letters for employees in Germany.
- Do the necessary paperwork. You’ll need to start by checking your new hire’s eligibility to work in Germany. Make sure you collect the following from your new employee so you can fill out the necessary paperwork:
- Registration document (Anmeldung) that shows they have a residence in Germany and is necessary for them to work (can be obtained from the Bürgeramt, or the citizens’ office)
- Bank account with IBAN and BIC
- ID Number (identifikationsnummber), which is the employee’s tax ID number
- Steuerklasse, which is the tax category the German employee belongs to
- Enroll them in benefits. German employees are entitled to, at minimum, retirement pensions, unemployment insurance, vacation entitlements, statutory holidays, workers’ compensation, paid sick leave, healthcare benefits, maternity and paternity leave, and long-term care insurance. Learn more in our guide to employee benefits in Germany.
- Add them to payroll and deduct the proper amount of taxes. Since Germany is a member of the Eurozone, you’re required to pay your German employees in Euros, no matter where you’re actually headquartered.
While German law is vague when it comes to describing exactly what you’ll need to add your employee to payroll, they are explicit about what employers need to withhold from employee paychecks. This includes:
- Income tax
- Solidarity tax and levies on social insurance schemes (pensions, unemployment insurance, health insurance, long-term care insurance
To learn more, read our full guide on running payroll for full-time employees in Germany.
- Order and configure their devices. Your new hire needs the right tools and equipment to hit the ground running on their first day, regardless of whether they’re working from home or on site. Before they start, order and configure any devices they need so you can work out any kinks ahead of time.
- Set up their app accounts. You know your new employee will need access to email, Zoom, Slack, project management platforms, and any other programs your company uses. To ensure they feel like part of the team and don’t wind up wasting hours working out bugs on their first day, set up their app accounts before they start.
- Prepare any resources they'll need. These can include:
- An employee handbook and copies of any other company policies they need to know
- A team directory
- Your company's mission statement and information about your company culture and values
- An agenda for their first day or week
- A copy of their job description and top priorities
- Information on the dress code: Business attire (like suits, collared shirts, and so on) is the norm in professional settings in Germany.
- Schedule their orientation. An orientation should be scheduled before the new hire begins. It should include a 1:1 with their direct manager (and senior staff, if applicable), a dedicated meeting with their direct team members, and informal meetings with the administrative staff they’ll be working with. Also, be sure there’s ample time for them to spend with the aforementioned onboarding mentor.
- Assign them an onboarding mentor. Prior to your new hire’s start date, designate an individual to help them navigate their first day. Their onboarding mentor can introduce them to other team members, explain projects the team is currently working on, and answer questions. Make sure you assign the onboarding buddy well before the first day to give them the chance to prepare.
- Send a welcome email. A welcome email not only provides a personal touch, but it also ensures your company makes a good impression. Business relations in Germany are generally formal, so opt for the straightforward approach. Include need-to-know information, like what to expect on their first day, who to check in with when they arrive, where they should park, and any additional information they might need. Read our guide on creating a welcome email here.
On Day 1
- Make sure their workspace is set up. Your employee’s workspace should have everything they need to get started on day one. This doesn’t just apply to hardware and software: Check that they have a comfortable desk space, they’re situated near other members of their team, and they have the office supplies they need. Skip the welcome decorations, though. In Germany, a welcome banner or gift is likely to be unimpressive. In fact, according to German etiquette, the exchanging of gifts in the business setting takes place down the road, once coworkers know each other better.
- Send an email to the team. The day before the new hire starts, shoot an email to the rest of the company reminding them their new coworker is starting the next day. Encourage them to say hello and introduce themselves at their earliest convenience. Learn how to craft the perfect "welcome to the team" email with our guide.
- Give them an agenda or plan to help them get started. Even if you sent your new hire an agenda in their welcome packet, be prepared to give them a paper copy when they arrive and go over it again. It’s a good idea to set up a short meeting at the start of the day to review the agenda and answer any questions they may have.
- Skip the get-to-know-you events. For the first 90 days, skip the fun corporate events. While this may be customary in countries like the US and Canada, German employees are more likely to appreciate simply having the tools they need to do their jobs well. Social time with their coworkers can come later, once they feel more acquainted.
- Give an office tour. An office tour is always helpful, even if your new employee will only occasionally be a presence in the workplace. It’s a great opportunity for them to show their face, meet other coworkers they might otherwise not have the chance to get to work with, and learn where the amenities and facilities are.
- Provide them with a list of contacts. Send your new hire a list of names, roles, phone numbers, emails, and Slack handles so they know who’s on which team, and can find the right person to answer specific questions.
During their first 90 days
- Schedule organizational and role-specific training. During the first 30 days, your new hire has two goals: to learn about their new workplace and their position. It’s best to begin by introducing them to the company’s goals, purpose, and values. Then, turn their focus to their specific role. Find out what training they’ll need to bolster their prior experience and help them learn specific skills and information they'll need to succeed in their position.
- Assign work and help them set goals. Setting clear objectives will ensure your new hire knows exactly what you expect of them. One great way to set goals in the beginning is using a framework like SMART goals—setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. This will help give your new hire clear targets to work toward so they know exactly what they’re responsible for in their first weeks and months in their role.
- Schedule regular check-ins to help them stay on track. Regular meetings are crucial, particularly during your new hire’s first 90 days. They’re a great way to answer any questions the individual might have, note what they’re doing well, and work on what can be improved so certain behaviors don’t become bad habits. A check-in at 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days is a good place to start, but stay flexible in case they want to schedule more frequent meetings than that.
- Seek their feedback on how you can improve the onboarding experience. An employee’s feedback to you is just as helpful as yours is to them. Ask your new hire for their thoughts on the onboarding experience and how it can be improved for future hires.
Onboarding new employees in Germany is easy—and fast—with Rippling
If you're going to hire employees, contractors, or remote workers in Germany, you need more than just a new hire checklist: you need Rippling.
Rippling makes it easy to onboard and manage employees and contractors around the world—in one system that helps keep you compliant with local employment laws and regulations.
And with Rippling, onboarding new employees is a breeze. Complete and verify background checks, write and send offer letters, send, sign, and store digital documents, and localize onboarding materials to your new hire's home country—all from one centralized location.
Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.