First impressions have a way of sticking with people, and those first few interactions experienced when starting a new job are no exception. Even so, many HR professionals and managers rush through the on-boarding experience or rely on old methods that are no longer (or never were) effective.
Whether you’re bringing on a professional with decades of experience or a new graduate of an online MBA degree program, the on-boarding process should always be viewed as a priority and an opportunity. Take a look at the following strategies for improving your on-boarding program.
Roll Out the Welcome Wagon
Whether a new employee is getting lost in the hallway or calling someone by the wrong name, the first day on a job is known for being awkward. Fortunately, a warm welcome and a few thoughtful details can go a long way toward turning a potentially confusing day into an exciting one.
Your planning and efforts should start well before the first day. Set up a new employee’s desk, phone, computer, accounts, and other necessities, so they’re immediately ready for use. Make sure someone is at the front door to greet the new hire, show him to his desk and cover the basics – including where the bathroom and kitchen are located.
If it’s in the budget, leave a small welcome present on the employee’s desk. Traditional gifts like a desk plant, notebook or bag of candy are all great, but you get bonus points for something that’s more unique to your agency, like a gift certificate to employees’ go-to lunch spot.
It can take weeks or months for new hires to form functional relationships with colleagues, so it’s best not to rush this process. You can, however, get things started by creating plenty of opportunities for new hires to meet and interact with their fellow employees.
Start by asking a current employee to act as the new hire’s “buddy.” This person should greet the new employee, take him on a tour of the office, make introductions and simply be available to answer the inevitable questions that will pop up throughout the day.
The new hire’s buddy, manager or entire team should also take him to lunch on his first day so he can get acquainted with his new coworkers in a more relaxed environment.
If you’re worried about your new hire being isolated from members of other departments, encourage everyone to stop by and introduce themselves (a sign or balloon on the employee’s desk or door is a good reminder). Better yet, create a training rotation with sessions led by members of your agency’s various departments.
Define Culture, Roles and Goals
Do your agency’s leaders push innovation above everything else? Are employees serious about casual Wednesdays? On-boarding is a prime opportunity for organizations to define and reinforce office culture, while helping new employees understand what kind of environment to expect.
When it comes to job function, successful new hires usually walk in the door knowing what their position entails. However, there’s only so much information available before the start date. Set up your new hire for success by laying out all his job functions, including day-to-day duties, agency-wide expectations and any leadership responsibilities.
While it may be too early to discuss objectives for the upcoming year, the first few days are also perfect for setting on-boarding goals. Make sure the employee and his manager make this a two-way discussion. For example, a manager may want the new hire to be proficient with a certain software program by week two, while a new employee might aim to complete his first project within the month.
Feeling great about your current on-boarding program? That’s fine, but be sure to look at the experience from a new employee’s perspective. What you see as multiple learning opportunities may be overwhelming for a new hire. Or maybe your buddy system backfires often when an employee designated as a buddy takes a string of sick days.
Create an evaluation system for all incoming employees so you can find out what’s working and what still needs improvement. As you fine-tune the process with each hiring cycle, your incoming employees will get up to speed more quickly and enjoy themselves in the process.