Onboarding in 2019: What a Knock-Out First Day Should Look Like


The first days and weeks when new employees come to work are a make-or-break time for their success with you. 
A positive welcoming experience puts them at ease and reinforces that joining your company was a good choice. That breeds loyalty – a key component of a stronger workforce, and an essential characteristic of what keeps organizations going strong.
Thankfully, loyalty is contagious. On the other hand, just a few crucial early missteps can leave newcomers second-guessing everything.

What successful onboarding looks like in 2019

Today’s best onboarding efforts:

  • Establish a strong employer welcome.
  • Re-affirm the employee made the right job choice.
  • Let the employee see how she or he fits in with the organization.
  • Set the stage for long-term relationship building, which in turn improves retention. That’s why onboarding is often called the last stage of the recruitment process – and the first step to retention.

Onboarding’s ROI

Depending on the position and how long it takes to find a qualified candidate, companies can easily expect the cost of turnover to be 150% of the departing employee’s annual salary. That doesn’t include non-tangibles, like the impact on morale.
With that kind of value on the line, the incentives for keeping them makes onboarding even that much more of a worthwhile effort.

Before Day 1

After a candidate accepts your offer, send a written communication welcoming them aboard. Let them know what to expect on their first day and what their first few days will be like.
Be sure they know the simple stuff, like

  • Where to park
  • How to get in the door
  • How to get OUT in an emergency
  • Who will be mentoring them
  • A schedule of what the day will be
  • How their first-day lunch will be handled, and
  • Who to see if they have questions.

Make a checklist

It’s a good idea to make a checklist. Include all the things you’ll be discussing with them, need them to sign and want them to do. Include a list of names and titles of the people they might be meeting with.
It helps to have a recently hired employee look over the list to see if there’s anything missing, since it’ll be most fresh in the mind of someone who’s just been through it.

The first day

The first day for new hires should be a highly energized and positive experience. You’ve already picked them! What was it about this person that made you say yes? Think back to the things that stood out and try to highlight some of those things on the first day. Then send out a welcoming email to staff, announcing the new hire;s arrival, with a brief professional bio and maybe a personal note, such as a hobby or interest.

Take a tour

The typical next step for welcoming an employee on board is the building tour. “Here’s the printer, here’s the bathroom,” etc.
OK, that’s good information to have. But is it really going to stick out in an employee’s mind? A better bet is to give them the “insider’s tour.”

  • Which areas of the building have spotty Wi-Fi coverage?
  • Where can they grab a coffee mug if they forgot theirs at home?
  • What’s a quiet place to get some work done if office conversations get a little too loud?
  • Which fridge should they put their lunches in?
  • What do they do if they lose their security card or key?

You’re not just showing them the way, you’re showing them how things get done.

Introduction to the workplace

Introductions should be inclusive, but not overbearing.
Try this: Don’t introduce people based on their title. Introduce them based on their working relationship with the employee.
For instance, instead of, “Meet Bill. He’s our payroll clerk,” say, “Meet Bill. He’ll collect your time sheet every week and he’s the person to see if you have any questions about your paycheck.”

Document dumps

There are plenty of documents and papers employees will need to do their jobs.
Again, making sure everything is already organized for an employee is key. Place all the crucial documents in a digital or paper folder, so they have them all in the same place.
Be sure your mission statement is right up front.  “We’re a company that respects all our employees – from new hires to established veterans – and are really looking forward to having you contribute in a meaningful way! Welcome!”

  • A facility map. Try to include the names and phone extensions of other employees on the map where they work.
  • Phone extension/email list. If you can prioritize this list by listing the employee’s department first, so much the better. That way, they don’t have to hunt for the name they need (or worry about forgetting which “Jim” mans the help desk and which one is the CFO!).
  • Daily schedules. You should have the employee’s first day (or first few days) planned for him or her. Include the schedule so they know what’s coming next.
  • Long-term schedules. When can they start taking vacation or enrolling in the company’s 401(k)? When will their first formal/informal review be? When can new workers start accumulating sick days? Having these key milestones on a timeline helps employees see what’s next for them and gets them thinking about their long-term future with the company.
  • HR documents. Employees will need to receive policies and procedures, benefits enrollment forms, etc. Include these in the folder but be sure to have someone from HR go over them with the new hire in-person as well – in case there are questions.

Other “nice-to-haves”

In addition to these standard items, try including some of the following sections as well:

  • “What I learned … ” Collect anecdotes from employees on the most important thing they picked up in their jobs. What was the moment that made them say “A-ha!”? It doesn’t have to be anything ground-breaking, just a musing on what people have learned about the workplace along the way. Include a list of one-sentence-or-so anecdotes to make new employees feel welcome (and maybe chuckle a little.)
  • Success stories. Chances are someone in your company has recently come up with a new way of doing things that’s really saved time or reduced frustration. Or maybe they’ve achieved a milestone (1,000th sale, 35 years with the company, etc.). Maybe they’ve even had a personal accomplishment such as running a race or organizing a charity fundraiser.

When you hear stories like these, share them. Write a short paragraph about it, then include it in a “News & Notes” or “Success Stories” section of the onboarding material. This way, new employees will feel as if they’re getting to know their co-workers right off the bat.

  • The “Lingo Board.” Managers and supervisors will often find themselves casually dropping an acronym or industry-specific term with a new hire and being greeted with a slack jaw or confused stare.

Each workplace has its own set of terms and lingo that is specific to the company. It’s not a bad thing, these shortcuts are real time-savers when people know their meanings. But until workers are up to speed on the office language, provide a list of terms and definitions. Put it in plain English so they can see what they should be looking for when you ask for “a DBC report.”
Of course, all the documents in this packet should be available on the company intranet as well. But having a one-stop resource for employees on- hand will be a good way to keep them in the loop from the very start.

Being a good closer

At the end of the employee’s first day, be sure to close it out strong. Schedule a one-on-one to review what they did and whom they spoke with.
This shouldn’t be an in-depth meeting: Just take 10 to 15 minutes to see if they have questions and to touch on and reaffirm what they’ve learned. Keep it light and reassure them with any positive comments you may have gathered from people the new employee interacted with.
Then, send them home.
It’s like not much “work” was accomplished, and that’s OK. First days are for first impressions. The time for time real work lies ahead.
For now, leave them feeling good about their experiences and inspired for tomorrow.
 

Rich Henson
Rich Henson, a member of the HRMorning staff, has spent the past two decades developing potent HR and Management content that helps guide successful leaders forward with confidence. He is a former editor and reporter with The Philadelphia Inquirer. Email: rhenson@hrmorning.com