Rule 5 of becoming a great place to work: Jazz up new employee onboarding

“Jazz up new employee onboarding: 
Welcoming and training staff as part of the employee experience”
is part 5 in a blog series: 
6 extraordinary ways to be a great place to work

Never underestimate the power of a first impression. Think about the arrival of a new employee at your company. What is her experience? Does she wonder where to park and who she’ll connect with when she arrives at the office on her first day?

When will she meet her new colleagues, tour the office, and start to learn about your unique corporate culture? Will she learn about her new email program, core software log-in, and other systems in a formal training program, or will she be expected to learn by watching others and figure it out on her own?

Will that first day and first week on the job convince your new employee she’s made the right decision to join your company? Will it set her up to feel confident about her role and proud of the company she works for?

Onboarding new employees consistently

We’ve hired hundreds of new staff members in our 33 years as a technology services organization. During that time, we’ve heard comments about how important those first few days are. It’s led us to rethink how we onboard new employees. In the past few years, we have formalized an onboarding process for new staff members that makes them happier and helps us retain the great employees we worked hard to recruit and train.

Consistency is the key. Every new employee should experience a similar first day or week. That is achievable by having one designated person to guide new employees through the business side and cultural side of your company.

The person leading onboarding efforts will communicate with new hires before, during, and after the onboarding period.

At the start: Making the experience memorable

Before new employees even arrive, send them a welcome gift. Whether it’s a fruit basket or a couple of shirts with your company logo, a small gift lets them know they are valued. It also benefits your organization. I know a little gift before the start date has eliminated “cold feet” on several occasions. It may also put a spouse’s worries to rest about embarking on a scary new move.

Your company’s onboarding leader may want to send a personal questionnaire to the new hires to allow you to pick great gifts. Ask for shirt size, favorite TV programs or sports teams, activities and hobbies, and charitable or religious organizations they’re involved with.

The arrival of a new employee is a celebration. Who said you can only have parties for people when they retire—not when they start?

We have a great tradition at our company. On our employees’ first day, we greet them with a group welcome as they first enter the building. Imagine how you would feel if your first day on the job is walking through the doors and dozens of people are applauding you. Afterwards, the owners of the company shake your hand and many introductions ensue. No matter which office our team member is joining, we fly them to HQ in Lexington and onboard them this way.

We’ve tried to pay attention to the little touches. On that first day, they may find balloons and a welcome card at their desk. Their office and desk are clean and neat. The computer is ready. Some swag—a polo shirt and other items with the company logo—are waiting.

The first few days

Our onboarding leader arranges a schedule for the first few days. This is when the new employee learns about our company’s culture (in my post Know who you are, I commented on the importance of a shared employee culture). They also complete any necessary HR paperwork, take an office tour, get a tutorial on our core software systems, and start to transition into their new team.

A lunch out with the new team on the first day allows the new employee to start to meet colleagues in a more social setting. (Remember, one way to be a great place to work is spending time together.) Later in the first week, another lunch with their direct supervisor makes sure the transition is going smoothly and gives some face time with the new boss.

Following up

Onboarding isn’t a one-day or one-week process. An employee’s first few weeks are a flurry of new information, new faces, and new routines. So our onboarding leader schedules follow up evaluations with new hires. In these short meetings, we track their progress and have the opportunity to reiterate the information we shared and to correct any miscommunications that may have occurred.

The follow-up meetings also allow us to seek the new employee’s feedback. We take any comments to heart and use them to improve our onboarding process continually. We want to find out if they are experiencing the culture we think we have.

My next post will conclude the series 6 extraordinary ways to be a great place to work with a reminder that if you’re having fun, you’re probably doing it right! Here’s a list of the full series:

  1. Know who you are
  2. Spending time together
  3. Make your clients love you
  4. Bag your BHAG
  5. Jazz up new employee onboarding
  6. Have fun
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