First Impressions Count: Onboarding 101

First impressions are important. We all strive to put our best foot forward during interviews and try to impress our new employer on the first day. If first impressions are so important, then why don’t we apply this concept to a new hire’s first impression of what it’s like to work for your organization?

We have all experienced some form of onboarding, some good, most not so great. The first day is often associated with being a little stressed, unsure of what to expect, and the dread of boring videos or endless paperwork.

With the impact of onboarding being so significant to the return on investment of a new hire, here are some simple best practices to get you headed in the right direction from the start.

The Week Before

Remember your first day at your current job? Was your computer ready, were basic office supplies set up, and were you greeted upon arrival with a warm welcome? If so, you probably had a positive experience, and are likely still with that organization. If not, think about how it might have changed your opinion of your employer and how it may have impacted your sense of belonging and loyalty.

To get this started right, have the basics ready. Business cards should be ordered and ready on the first day. Office nameplate should be in place if applicable.  A cheat sheet of logins and common contacts should be available.

Day One

Arrive early to ensure everything is set up and ready to go. Greet the new hire warmly and show him or her around, introducing everyone. Make certain to discuss what is acceptable and is not, such as headphones in the workplace, eating at your desk, cell phone policy, late policy, etc. Try not to make it completely process-oriented and keep it conversational and informative.

It might be a good idea depending on the position to assign a primary point person to help out the new hire during the learning process. This shows the new hire that it is alright to ask for help and lessens the fear of being a bother.

Two Weeks

By the end of the second week, most people have a feel for whether or not the job is for them. Most employers stop the onboarding process by this time, which is a mistake. This is actually the perfect time to have an informal meeting regarding the level of hospitality among coworkers, any training he or she feels may help, and to give feedback on where you see them headed within the position. This is the time to answer any questions that may have come up over the past two weeks.

Preparedness is the key to a good onboarding experience. Preparing a plan for new hires ahead of when new hires come on board is a great way to ensure that the onboarding process goes smoothly and increases the chances that your new hire will be a long-term, valuable member of your team.


How to Onboard a New Hire

You have made your decision, you extended the offer, and the candidate has accepted.  Now you are faced with the onboarding process. While you obviously must follow state and federal guidelines when it comes to processing the paperwork, onboarding is so much more than just regulations and paperwork.  Onboarding is an ongoing part of your business. It’s up to you how long the process lasts, 30-60-90 days? One year? You also have to have the right people on your team to stick to the onboarding process and give it the attention it deserves.

First thing’s first

The onboarding process should begin when you post the position itself. This is when you start thinking of your process, who will oversee it, and what it looks like. Will you have employee orientation? Will the person in charge of the onboarding and training process be available to give it their full attention? What tools will the new employee need to do their job efficiently and correctly? Address these questions early and have everything ready for your new hire upon their arrival.

Use the buddy system

Be sure that there is one specific point person for the new hire to connect with. When this happens, there will be fewer direct questions for the manager which will allow him or her to focus on their own work. This also helps the new employee feel immediately accepted and at ease in a new office.

Small Businesses

If you happen to be a small business, don’t overthink your onboarding process. You will be able to identify flaws and issues with a new hire far more quickly than a large business would. Adopting the onboarding processes of much larger companies would be cumbersome. Keep it simple.

Ask how you are doing

Ask your new employees what they like and don’t like about your process and take it to heart. See what can be changed, what issues there are, and address what you can. Ask them what they would like to see changed, what they think should be added to your process, and ask what you can do to improve. There is no one-size-fits-all process when it comes to this and you may need to adjust your plan over time to find what works.

All in all, keep evolving, keep up with the times and changes within your industry and your business. There is no right or wrong way here as long as you are willing to solicit feedback and understand the need for adjustments to the process.