Your new hire’s first day usually involves a lot of paperwork, setting up passwords and logins, meeting new people whose names they’ll inevitably forget, and similar odds and ends. They’re all necessary but may not create the most exciting first impression–and as the saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a good one.
Why does it matter how well you onboard your new employees? Well for one thing, because many are jumping ship at alarming rates. By one recent estimate, nearly half the world’s workers will be at a different employer by the time 2018 rolls around. So the same old onboarding practices you’re used to may no longer cut it. But the good news is that there are small changes you can make–no matter the size of your organization–to make new hires’ first few days as smooth and positive as possible.
Here are a few common mistakes you should avoid after hiring a new employee.
If the next time your new hire hears from you after accepting the position is their first day on the job, that’s a mistake. Don’t just tell them a time and a place to show up and leave it at that.
Email them one week before their start date, saying that you’re looking forward to working together and giving them an overview of what to expect. Then email them again the day before they start, with a brief itinerary of what their first day will be like. This early communication provides the security they need to feel good when they show up on the job for the first time.
First days should be well structured. Don’t just have them read the manual, sign some forms, and then sit around the rest of the day. New hires need to feel accountable right from the beginning. Not knowing what to do when you start a new job isn’t a good feeling. Draw up a full schedule and share it beforehand. Not only does this help your new hire feel like they’re being paid attention to, it’ll also help them to be productive as soon as possible.
Having a brief celebration can be a nice touch to make your new employee feel welcome. In the shuttling back and forth between the HR and IT departments, you may not feel like you have the time. But all it takes is 30 minutes at the end of the day.
At my company, we welcome new employees with a half-hour cake party. But we don’t just set food out and let people take some as they please. We try to make it more personal by sitting around a table together and chatting. I ask everyone to go around and introduce themselves, briefly explaining what they do for the company. This exercise is great for people who work in small organizations, but you can do this just as easily with your team if you work for a big company.
Organizing a full-on lunch outing with everyone on your team can be a headache; sometimes it’s weeks before you’ll have a chance to do that with your new hire. But you don’t actually need a major event to show people you’re excited about them joining your team–a brief celebration will do just fine, and you don’t have to wait to have one.
Many employers don’t realize that they’re dumping way too much information into new hires’ laps. In the haste to bring people up to speed, they wind up trying to get new employees to learn everything about the company at once. They won’t have any context for the information they’re receiving, and they won’t be able to relate to what you’re telling them until later on, once they’ve settled in. While there will obviously be some administrative issues you need to take care of, try not to overwhelm them with too much, too fast.
Instead, try to create an engaging exercise to deliver whatever your new hire really does need to know right away. I once worked with the head economist for a large multinational on his presentation to new employees. Rather than giving a grand lecture about who he was and how he delivered value to the business, I helped him develop an exercise that was more interactive. He handed out newspapers to everyone in the audience and asked them to pick out stories they found interesting. Then he explained how each story was connected to the company in some way. That helped give new hires a memorable introduction to his role, plus the context for understanding it.
When you’re bringing in new people, it’s critical to set a positive tone. By using these strategies, you’ll make your new hires feel confident they made the right decision when they joined your team.