Just as you expect a candidate to arrive for the interview dressed and groomed appropriately, to shake your hand with a firm grip and to introduce himself or herself with confidence, you need to present your organization at its best to create a great first impression. While larger organizations often have extensive programs for their new employees, following these few steps will allow smaller organizations to enjoy the benefits that come from a well thought-out orientation program.
1. Have a plan. The difference between a worker who becomes productive quickly and one who languishes is often how well they are oriented to their new company. The first hours and days of an employee's new career are the time when they become acquainted to the requirements and expectations of their job, the culture of the organization and where and how they fit into the company. You can greatly increase the speed at which your employees become fully productive by having a personalized orientation plan in place for their onboarding. The plan should balance time spent learning about the organization and their coworkers' responsibilities with his or her specific job duties. It is not necessary that their first hours be spent filling out the myriad of employment-related forms. This may be convenient for HR, payroll or accounting, but does not create the best first impression. While the employee will eventually need to fill out certain forms, most federal and state requirements allow the new employee and your company several days to complete the task. Spending your first hours creating a friendly, comfortable and productive experience for the employee is a better use of time.
2. Have a place for your new employee to call their own. Whether the employee will have a desk, a locker, a workstation, or a peg on the wall, you should have it labeled, clean and stocked with all of the equipment the employee will need to do his or her job. Nothing says, "We really want you to be happy and productive" like a well-appointed workstation. When desks and workstations are left empty for any length of time, two things happen. First, any useful equipment, office supplies or gadgets seem to walk away. Second, the empty desk becomes a dumping ground for stacks of papers, files and other debris. The day before the new employee is to arrive, take a few minutes to restock the workstation and clean off unnecessary clutter. My daughter went to work for a very small company. On her first day, she arrived to find a desk stocked with all the supplies she needed to do her job. In the middle of the desk was a placard engraved with her name. She sent me a picture. It made her feel very important and at home.
3. Introduce them to their co-workers. Most businesses provide new employees with the standard tour and introduction. While this is a step in the right direction, there are ways to increase the benefit to the organization. Spend at least part of the first day celebrating the arrival of the new employee. Have coffee with everyone on the team, allowing time for socializing and rapport building. If possible, add a donut or other snack into the mix. There is nothing like food to help with bonding and creating great memories.
4. Choose carefully when involving others in the onboarding process. Unless you have worked with me or attended one of my workshops on recruitment and hiring, I am sure you have not heard the term "curmudgeon buzzard." It is the term I coined to describe the longer-term employee who feels obligated to swoop in on your new employee and explain to them in great detail why coming to work in your organization may be the biggest mistake of their career. They peck away of the employee's confidence regaling their new colleague with stories of times when management was unfair or unkind to the rank-and-file. The curmudgeon buzzard carries a great deal of baggage with them that must be unloaded on the unsuspecting newbie. However, they are only effective if they can poison the new employee before he or she has fully formed his or her opinion of the company. Keeping the buzzards away from your new hires during the first few hours or days of their employment will allow the new employee to form a favorable impression of your company - one that will be hard to change. Therefore, choose wisely grasshopper! Coach the new employees yourself or assign them to employees who will represent your company in its best light. The rewards will be long lasting.
5. Outline what the new employee needs to accomplish to succeed - then set them up for success. Finally, explain to your employee what you want them to accomplish in his or her first days on the job. Understanding exactly what you want them to do and how you will measure their success will increase the new employee's confidence and the likelihood that you will get great performance. Make sure that the tasks you select are ones that 1) will be part of the employee's routine assignments, and 2) very doable. Remember, you want the employee to succeed in the early days so that they will be eager to take on the more difficult work that lies ahead. To paraphrase an old saying, Employees are not your greatest asset - great employees are your greatest asset. Whether your organization is large or small, make sure you set the stage for their success by creating a positive first impression.