Written by Lisa Porro, PHR & SHRM-CP
Part 1 of this blog centered on the onboarding process after a new employee signs an offer letter. As you are preparing for your new hire’s first day, remember that this is yet another chance to make a great first impression – in person. You only have once chance to make a great first impression!
Part 2 – THE FIRST DAY OF WORK
An employee’s first day at a new company, good or not-so-good, will always be remembered – especially by that employee. New employees have friends, family and colleagues that they share their experiences with. Chances are you would prefer that when he or she talks about their first day that what they describe not be the most hilarious, sad, disaster-ridden story ever told.
Take “James”, for example. He starts out optimistic about his day. But if his laptop isn’t ready, if he’s left watching his co-workers take a guess at who he needs to talk to him next, or if he’s trapped in a small, windowless office for two hours filling out paperwork, he may not have fond memories. These experiences will set the tone for the entire time he is employed at your company. Since turnover is challenging and costly it would be ideal for “James” to stay for a long period of time.
If you’ve done some good prep work, there should be a schedule in place; at least for what the first day or even the first full week or work should be like. James will know where to park, who will be greeting him when he arrives and will hopefully have working equipment, such as a computer and phone at his desk or work area. His first day as your employee is beginning.
- A frantic call comes through the front desk and it’s James. There’s been an accident on the I-5 and he’s stuck in traffic. He was of course hoping to arrive by 8:30 but the accident is putting him back by at least forty minutes.
- The new employee’s manager calls HR. She was up all night in the ER with her son and won’t be able to be in the office until around noon.
Ideally, there should be a couple of people, (the hiring manager, the senior member of their team or another leadership team member) assigned to keep tabs on and facilitate the orientation/onboarding schedule.
The day may be completely derailed and there may be a lot of running around behind the scenes, but the important thing is to maintain a sane, professional atmosphere no matter what happens. James shouldn’t have to witness any meltdowns or be privy to any interoffice frustrations, at least not on his first day.
In case there is an unexpected opening in the schedule, and his new hire paperwork is done, allow him to regroup on his own for a bit with a copy of the org chart and the latest financial report or company newsletter.
Planning a spontaneous meet-and-greet after lunch for the whole office to meet James over coffee and snacks? Some new employees may welcome the large group hello, but others may not be comfortable being the center of attention until they get to know their co-workers a bit better. You may want to take the time to ask the new employee early in the day how they would like to meet everyone and offer a few suggestions. Perhaps brief one-on-one introductions on a walk around the office would be preferable to a big group setting.
Also, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on James toward the middle of the afternoon. If he appears to be sitting idly, confused or overwhelmed, a change of scenery may help. A quick walk to a local coffee shop, even a team walk around the building for some fresh air might help revive him and embrace the entire work experience and the good opportunities in front of him. He is absorbing a lot of information and meeting a lot of new people. It’s a lot to take on at once. If he looks confused, it isn’t insulting him to ask if everything is clear.
BE HELPFUL… BUT DON’T HOVER
James will have a lot of questions. Offer assistance, be available and visible, but try not to babysit.
If possible, provide James with a list of useful contacts as well an org chart that he can review at his leisure. If the office is large, a phone list of who he should call or email to resolve various challenges is helpful. Challenges such as: the copier does not work; he needs office supplies; he can’t find his office key, etc. If it is a small office, be sure to introduce him to the “behind-the-scenes” doers – generally the administrative staff who keep the office running smoothly.
Some companies have a helpful “Need to Know” or “Office FAQ’s” type of list. These are generally more “house rules” than a “procedure manual.” Is everyone responsible for clearing and washing their own dishes in the breakroom? Are mugs communal or does everyone have his or her own? Does the first one in the office make coffee, regardless of level? When you are last to leave, what needs to be done?
BE PROFESSIONAL, EVEN OVER BURGERS AND FRIES
It’s usually traditional to take the new employee out to lunch. This can be a great opportunity to get to know your new team member in a more relaxed setting. It can also backfire if other lunch attendees see it as a venue to let their hair down and dish on the “real office scoop” to “help” James navigate office politics. A Welcome Lunch, while more relaxed in tone, should still be seen as a part of the work day, and reflect the same professional environment that the office does. Consider keeping the group small and try to choose a restaurant that reflects a “business casual” tone. A sports bar or fast food establishment may not be the best choice if you want to keep the conversation on a professional level.
BE APOLOGETIC, BUT DON’T POINT FINGERS
James’ new ID doesn’t work. His computer wasn’t loaded with the critical software he needed despite your best efforts. One of the managers he was supposed to meet with got pulled into another meeting last minute. These challenges are common. It’s okay. James will understand that things happen. While it would be easy to blame and grumble, again, James shouldn’t have to know that you’ve been having big issues with the IT department or that Jane, the manager he was supposed to meet with, has an annoying habit of canceling meetings. He’s new – let him keep his initial impression that your office is a well-oiled, smooth operation intact… at least for the first day; even better, the first week. Simply smile, apologize and move on.
AND FINALLY… BE PATIENT
James is new. For the first day and beyond, maybe for the first month, he may be more confused than you expected or slower that you had hoped. Ensure he knows he should be comfortable asking questions, that everyone has an open door. The goal of a successful onboarding program is to get him up to speed and ready to contribute in a reasonable amount of time. Everyone absorbs information at a different rate. What may have worked for your last new hire may not work for James. Check in with your new employees often during the first ninety days or so. Daily one – to – one meetings, for about 10 -15 minutes, during the first week of employment, is ideal. Weekly one-to-one meetings through the rest of the introductory period will help continue to keep things on track.
If there are deadlines related to enrollment for benefits or other items outside of his day-to-day work, gently remind your new hire when they get close. Chances are James will be so wrapped up in his new job that he’ll forget he needs to enroll in the 401k, designate a beneficiary for his life insurance or RSVP for the holiday party. If your long-term employees can forget to turn in a form, imagine how easily a new one can.
Be impressive, be professional and be organized. Avoid turning off someone you are hoping will be a long-term contributor to your company. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
Click the link to view our recent blog: “I’m a New Employee Here… I Think” Part One or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance and benefits.