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The Doug and Polly Guide to Employee on Boarding

Q. I just hired my first employee. I want to make sure I get him off to a good start. Do you have any tips?

A. In any relationship, first impressions matter. The first few weeks of employment will set the tone for the months and years ahead. If you start well and gain a favorable first impression, it will pay huge dividends. The impact of a good first impression will be with you for years. Unfortunately, so will the impact of a poor first impression.

Food and fellowship before forms – On the first day, start with breakfast. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Donuts and coffee is sufficient. Sharing a meal is one of the best ways to break the ice and make a connection. Spend some time socializing and getting to know each other. You have probably only spoken with your new employee during the formal interview and negotiation process. It’s time to change the relationship. When you bring on additional employees, invite the team to share in the process of welcoming the newest member. Yes, he will need to fill out the I-9 and W-4. There may be insurance documents to fill out and manuals to read. These can wait until the afternoon or even the next day.

Make time to set goals – You are a busy and successful entrepreneur otherwise, you wouldn’t be hiring staff. However, if you want to get this person productive quickly, you will need to invest in training. Most likely, this means that you’ll need to block out large chunks of time during the first few weeks to spend with your new employee. Your new hire probably brings some skills and experience to the table, but he doesn’t know how you want things done in your organization. You cannot expect your new charge to know what to do and how to do it unless you tell him. Set expectations and measurable goals. Develop a plan for the first week. Paint a picture for your new employee as to what you want him to learn and accomplish by the end of the first 30 days. Explain how you are going to help your new hire succeed.

Assign meaningful work – On day one your new employee may not be much help. In the beginning, he most likely will be a time sink rather than freeing you up to do work that is more productive. However, the quicker you can give your new hire meaningful work, the faster he will be able to take on some of the workload. Even if your new charge is entry level, he can make a meaningful difference right from the start. We believe that employees want to be recognized, contributing members of a winning team. Allow your new employee to contribute from day one. Set him up to succeed. Make a list of tasks that you want your new teammate to take on. Assign one or more very specific tasks that you believe he can perform well. When your new employee is successful, give positive feedback and thank him. You will be off to a great start.

Set the stage – Finally, make sure that your new hire has all the tools he will need to be successful and a place to store personal things. Load your new employee’s computer with the right software and stock the desk with supplies. Have business cards or a nametag preprinted. Put the employee’s name on his locker. Anything you can do to show the new teammate how much he is welcome will help you to cement a relationship that will be positive and productive. You’ll be on your way to developing a loyal employee.

It is easy to create a great first impression. However, once missed, you cannot get this opportunity back. These are simple tips that take little time and money, but can enrich your employment relationship for years to come. We wish you every success with your new teammate.

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