The first day on the job is a big pot of mixed emotions. Your new employee is excited to add value to your company, a little scared to be meeting a whole slew of new people, and maybe even nervous that she’s not wearing the right thing (Are open-toed shoes a no-no?). I know because I was that new person just weeks ago. And in fact, I was doubly scared because while I had done contract work and personal writing on my own for the last eight years, I hadn’t been an eight-to-fiver since—well, amidst the blur of diapers, ABCs, and mommy-and-me gymnastics—I can’t even remember. Fast forward too-many-years-to-count and there I was, sitting before a computer screen amongst a bunch of strangers with grand hopes to make a difference.
As an HR manager, you did everything right during the hiring stage. From the many received resumes, you chose the candidate with the most potential and got the employee of your choice. You felt the new employee would fit well into your company’s culture, and now you need to make sure it works out. Because we all know the staggering costs of making a poor hiring decision.
So what can you do—or not do—to ensure a smooth onboarding experience and keep a great new hire?
• Plan. HR documents can be sent electronically before the first day of work so the new employee can focus on the details of the job instead of the secondary stuff.
• Be open and honest. Nothing will disenchant a new employee more quickly than realizing the job agreed upon is vastly different from what’s expected. If you outlined certain job responsibilities on the job listing, make sure that’s what you’re asking your employee to do. (If it’s not, take more care when posting your job opening in the future.) And if a task you ask for wasn’t listed, make sure to specify that you need help in a pinch.
It will also help to provide your new hire with a list of responsibilities and expectations. Explain the big picture and specify your company’s long-term goals. Offer the new employee any written information you have on your company’s culture or the brand you nurture. If you have documentation on dress code or an employee handbook, the first day is a great time to let a new employee check it out.
• Be excited the new hire chose you. Because you don’t know if a new hire turned down five other job offers for you, make sure to show you’re excited to be chosen. And the employee will feel excited to have chosen you too. When I recently signed the offer letter for my new position, my HR contact told me that everyone in the office cheered. That was a great way to let me know I was valued even before I arrived on the first day.
Also, on my first day on the job, all the employees stood and introduced themselves and their departments to me, then introduced their favorite animal. It’s a company-standard here at BambooHR to introduce themselves with a favorite something, like favorite super hero, movie or board game. That gives the new employee a sense that while hard work is expected, your company promotes healthy relationships amongst co-workers. In addition, it helps the new employee better understand in which corner the sales or development department sits.
• Prepare a space. It’s nice to see a shiny, new workspace all clean and ready for great work to happen. Take measures to set everything up—including computer and phone line—before the new employee walks through the door on day one.
You can also create a welcome package that includes little extras—such as a company t-shirt, the employee’s favorite candy bar, even an unused pad of paper or box of pens. Who cares if the offerings are just office supplies they’d need anyway? A bundled welcome package feels like a present. The employee’s first day is a celebration!
• Establish a care-taker. The new employee should have a go-to person who encourages asking questions (the more the merrier, right?) and is directly related to the new responsibilities. Perhaps encourage the care-taker to plan a first-day lunch with others in the department. Also, a meeting or two with appropriate department team members will illustrate how the new hire’s work will fit in with the rest of the company.
• Carve out a little room for change. Remember the new employee chose your company because value was already there, but more importantly, because the employee wants to add value. While it’s important to establish certain guidelines about how things are done, set the new employee free to be creative. After all, you wanted that person because you saw potential. Why not see if a fresh perspective could spark something different and rewarding? At the very least, the new idea will flop, the employee will learn and grow from it and will be an even better—and more seasoned—employee in the future.
But at least there will be a future. Don’t lose good employees because you didn’t give them your trust or the chance to impact your company for good. Always set new hires up for success—from the moment they step onboard—and success will trickle into every corner of your company.