First dates and employee orientation and onboarding

First dates and employee orientation and onboarding

Would your new employees go out with you again?

“We don’t know where our first impressions come from… so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.” — Malcolm Gladwell

Recent studies show that strong onboarding experiences can increase retention rates for new hires by up to 25%.

So if you want to actually keep the talent you hire, and avoid wasting the resources you spent on recruiting and hiring, you need to get employee orientation and onboarding right.

Now some may think employers have the upper hand when hiring, especially in a tough economy. But a new employee’s first day at work really should give both parties butterflies.

Think of it a bit like a first date.

Not only is this the new hire’s first chance to make a lasting impression on your organization, it’s also your organization’s chance to showcase its merits and woo the new employee into an engaging and lasting relationship.

Here are a couple of tips for doing just that…

Take them to a nice place

Nothing says welcome quite like a properly setup workspace. It’s amazing how many employers fail to pay attention to this seemingly small, but critically important task.

When your new employee arrives at work on their first day, they should have a place they can call home – be that a cubicle, an office, a workspace, or even just a locker.

Make sure it’s clean and has all the supplies and equipment they’ll need to start working. This means things like: a chair, a working computer, system and network accounts and passwords, a place to hang their coat, a secure space for personal items (e.g., wallet, keys, etc.), and so on.

It’s a simple way to make them feel wanted and to help them quickly become a productive, contributing member of your staff.

Then give your new employee a tour of the work area, showing them where to find office supplies, printers/copiers, coffee/tea, washrooms, lunch room, etc. – everything they need to function as a member of your staff. And don’t forget to show them how equipment works. That fancy pod coffee machine might seem simple to you, but may be a real puzzler to a newbie.

Finally, set them up with a work buddy – someone they can turn to for quick answers to some of the million questions they’ll have in their first few months. Nobody wants to have to tug on their boss’ sleeve every time they have a question.

Covering these bases is crucial to helping new hires become autonomous in your work environment, but more importantly, it helps reassure them they’ve made a good match.

Spend some time getting to know each other

You’ll certainly want to spend some time helping your new employee get to know their manager and co-workers. But it’s also important for them to get to know the organization, its culture and history, its mission, vision and values, and how work gets done.

The first day is the perfect occasion to start sharing this foundational information. But you need to continue the discussion throughout their career with your organization, and share information about your customers, market and competition as well.

By detailing your corporate culture and business climate, you explicitly unveil the scaffolding of your company, and let them know how they can contribute to its success.

You can easily cover off some of this information in an orientation session, but it’s most important to “walk the talk”. You want to use this onboarding period, and indeed their entire employment tenure, to exemplify core corporate values.

For example, if the new hire is kept waiting on their first day, do you think they’ll later take your pep talk on promptness and adhering to schedules seriously? If their workspace isn’t ready when they arrive, will they believe the organization is committed to productivity or efficiency?

You also need to take some time to get to know them, and let them make their skills, talents and expertise be known to the team.

Just like on a date, you don’t want to do all the talking. Engage your new hire in conversation. Ask them about their previous work, preferences, aspirations, etc.

Learn about their life outside of work. You may just uncover some hidden talent – like a new star for the company softball team.

Set some expectations for your relationship going forward

As in all relationships, it’s important to set some expectations upfront. But take it easy – you don’t want to overwhelm your new employee.

The onboarding period is the perfect time to tap into a new hire’s eagerness. Why stunt engagement? Give them a handful of tasks they can start work on right away, so they can feel productive and useful.

Make sure you tie these early tasks and goals, as you should all employee goals, to the organization’s higher level goals. This helps further communicate and reinforce the organization’s mission and priorities and gives them a context for their work.

A job description is also a real help. While you should have discussed the requirements of their role in the job interview, it’s not uncommon for things to change or even be forgotten.

An up-to-date job description, much like a dating profile, can help your new employee know what you expect of them and find most “attractive”.

Get ready to go steady

The employee onboarding period is also the perfect time to start that ongoing dialogue about expectations and performance. Let them know right away what it takes to be successful, how they can improve, and what they’re doing just right. Set up frequent reviews with them and let them know you’re committed to their success.

The key is to make new workers feel as though they’ve joined a great company, and that the work they will be doing will be viewed as valuable and important. In doing so, their new career path will feel less like a transitory period and more like a warm embrace.

Onboarding isn’t just about filling out forms and running through a checklist – it should be the start of a beautiful and lasting relationship.

Do you have an oboarding tip to share? If so, leave a comment below.

For more tips and best practices on a range of HR topics, take a look at our talent management Centers of Excellence.

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