Does Your Company Have a Welcome Wagon?

Have you ever started a new job and felt like the company wasn't expecting you? After multiple rounds of interviews, site visits, and phone calls, you arrive on your first day eager to make a good first impression and your coworkers, and even your manager, are too busy working on their own projects to say much more than hello. Granted, in some cases they might be under a tight deadline or left scrambling to get your email account set up and make sure your office or cube has been cleaned, but that's a small consolation when, as a brand spanking new employee, you're hoping to feel welcomed.

I still remember the first day of my first full-time job out of college working in a management trainee program. I showed up excited and ready to conquer the world. My manager, on the other hand, had no idea I was even starting that day—talk about starting off on the wrong foot.

Here's the thing—new employee welcome wagons usually don't require a lot of time or money.

Yoshitomo Nara - Covered Wagon - Blum & PoeIn one of the best examples of an effective onboarding/welcome wagon process Humana Inc., provider of health and supplemental benefit plans, rolled out the red carpet for a new employee before she even arrived on site for her first day on the job. After accepting the position, she received a welcome package in the mail that contained, among other things, a thermal cup holder, chocolate with an embossed Humana logo, and a shot glass. And although I'm not exactly sure what message the shot glass sends about their corporate culture, the package made at least one employee feel good about her decision to join the company—well worth what I'm guessing was around a $20 total investment.

If mailing packages isn't your thing, other ideas for creating your very own new-employee welcome wagon on a shoe-string budget include pulling together a quick welcome sign or banner that includes hand written notes and greetings from coworkers, a small gift bag or coffee mug, or treating new employees to lunch on their first official day on the job. Again, all things that would take no more than 20 minutes to create and would cost less than $10-$15, but that could potentially make a very positive and lasting impression on new employees.

Think back to the first day of every job you've ever held. How many times did you truly feel welcomed (or unwelcomed)? And what are you going to do about it?

Shawn Graham helps job seekers and entrepreneurs work better. Find Shawn at CourtingYourCareer.com, on Twitter @ShawnGraham or via email at shawn(at)courtingyourcareer.com.

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10 Comments

  • Kirk Baumann

    Onboarding is so important! The way a new hire is treated in the first weeks, months and year of the job will reflect on how long that individual stays with the company (retention). Make them feel welcome, provide mentorship, and don't make the first week be all about paperwork! Here are some steps for easy onboarding:

    5 Easy Steps for Effective Onboarding http://bit.ly/aGiGRQ

    Keep up the great work!

    Kirk Baumann
    Director of Career Connections
    SIFE USA - www.sife.org
    Blog: www.campus-to-career.com

  • Shawn Graham

    Thanks, Kirk. I especially like point 5 of 5 of your post--Help new hires connect with special interest groups, affinity networks, and those that have just finished the training program.

  • Todd Hudson

    The 'Welcome Wagon' is a great idea for reinforcing your candidate's decision to accept your offer. I agree the shot glass seems like an unusual gift. Pick your swag carefully; what message does it send?

    Tony's experience, while extreme, points out that new hires today need to receive more than just a basket of goodies before they start. I can't tell you the number of stories I've heard from new hires about their new bosses not being there when they arrived (biz travel or vacation) and being left to their own devices for a week or two. Companies need to help their new hires prepare themselves to get onboard and up to speed quickly. The weeks before a new hire starts are a great time to give them access to select information and help them prepare a personal onboarding plan. Then, when they arrive, they have a list of goals and action items to accomplish.

    My company (shameless promotion), OnBoard Yourself, creates new hire web portals for organizations that serve just this purpose. So, in addition to the 'Welcome Wagon', they get access to content that teaches them more about their new employer and helps them create a plan to hit the ground running when they arrive. Check it out a http://www.onboardyourself.com

  • Shawn Graham

    I love the shameless self promotion http://bit.ly/cYC9qI and the idea of using 1-2 weeks before new hires start full time to ease the transition by giving them access to select information. That also limits the feeling like they're drinking out of a fire hose.

    It's surprising that new employees can and do get lost in the mix. It's almost like you need to tether yourself to your boss for the first 30 days.

  • Tony Intx

    I started a job with a great company following a very extensive interview process. The day I reported is the same day that my “boss” resigned. I was left reporting to a peer. The peer was so extremely busy due to the loss of the “boss”, that an administrative assistant thought a welcome basket may help welcome me. The first three months was disaster, and I struggled to understand the companies’ culture / system / procedures / policies / etc., which slowly unfolded to me in many more months. By the time a replacement “boss” was placed, I was an unknown, untested, and still groping for essential guidance… needless to say the “fit” was looking like a failure. Suprisingly, the new “boss” had an on-boarding schedule with a grand-plan for transitioning into the position. Suddenly my knowledge was out-paced by my new “boss”, making me look a bit slow to learn. Ultimately, I was identified as a bad “fit”, and elected to move on.
    This entire scenario could have been prevented, and everyone involved could have saved money and face by simply managing through operation “welcome wagon”.
    These types of situations happen in every company. However, this was a first for me.

  • Shawn Graham

    Tony - you provide a great example of how employees can get caught up in a transition and be left to fend for themselves almost from day one within an organization.

    Although the gift basket was a nice gesture, in the end it doesn't sound like it helped all that much.

  • Scott Asai

    Really like the concept behind this. The measly $20 that it's going to cost you more than pays off for the emotional benefit feeling welcomed into a team. Great job Humana!

  • Shawn Graham

    It really did make a difference with the person I spoke with--a pleasant surprise.

  • Steve Gorton

    Shawn

    This is spot on - and I think it goes much wider than a welcome wagon. How many organisations appoint someone, they turn up on their first day and there is no or just a minimal induction process?

    The induction may just be a cursory input around terms and conditions, policies and procedures rather than a full briefing with line manager about key issues and warm introduictions to colleagues.

    In the UK this is probably more prevalent in the public sector than private.

    I guess it depends on how believable the "we value our people as our most important assets" is real or imagined!

    Cheers

    Steve

  • Shawn Graham

    @Steve - thanks for the comment. The same holds true for employees. Many companies move folks into new roles without providing adequate training and support--pretty much setting them up to fail.