Do you remember the first job you ever had? (I mean aside from working around the house for your allowance.)
I do. My parents wanted to instill in me a good work ethic so they got me a job the summer after my freshman year doing maintenance work for my high school. It was basically manual labor. (And why to this day I hate painting.)
Do you remember the first day of your first job?
Again, I do. My mom dropped me off at the school. I had no idea where to go. I didn’t know if I was meeting my supervisor at the office or the maintenance shed or even where the maintenance shed was. So I wandered around for a while and eventually found it. Honestly, it wasn’t a great first impression for me or a great start to my professional career.
Most people remember the first day of their first job. And if you haven’t worked for too many companies in your professional career, you probably remember most of your first days (especially the negative experiences).
Unfortunately, too many organizations are not intentional with their onboarding process (the time from after an employee is hired through their first few weeks on the job.) Onboarding is extremely important because it will shape an employee’s experience and their initial view of the company. Sometimes this experience (especially when it’s poor) will create lasting impressions that an employee will never get over.
How do we as managers create an onboarding process that values our incoming employees? The best way to think about onboarding is to picture yourself planning a birthday party for the employee.
Here are the steps:
When you plan a person’s birthday party, you think through the logistics. When are we going to have it? Where is it going to be? Who is invited? Have I communicated the details to everyone?
After a new employee accepts your job offer, you need to begin planning for their first day. Create checklists of the people who need to know that this person has just been hired. Communicate with IT about getting them an email address, computer, login access to the different technology systems you have, and etc.
Too many times companies don’t have these things ready for when the employee arrives. That’s like having a party where nothing is set up when the guest of honor arrives.
Also, make sure they know where to park, how to navigate through security, and where to meet you.
At a birthday party, the host thinks through what type of dessert or cake that person likes. They think through the decorations and ambience of the party.
Design your onboarding process so that you get some information on what your new employee likes. Find out what their favorite drink is from Starbucks, favorite candy bar, go-to snack, etc.? Have those things on their desk before they arrive. Decorate their workspace. If they are new to your area, create a list of top restaurants to try. Be intentional. It shows that you care about them individually.
After being prepared and being intentional, a host makes sure that they are actually there for the party. Not just physically, but also mentally.
As their direct supervisor, you need to carve out time during your employee’s first day and first few weeks to spend extra time with them. You need to show them the ropes so to speak and get them accustomed to your company’s culture.
One approach that I have seen organizations adopt that I really like is to assign a new employee a “buddy.” A seasoned employee who can help get your new employee acclimated. When choosing a “buddy” make sure that the employee is a really good culture fit. You don’t want someone who is bitter or a gossiper. You don’t want them to start instilling bad habits into the new employee.
Show Your Culture
Every party has a theme or purpose. Your organization has a theme and purpose. It’s your culture. Your mission and values in action. Too many times during a new employee’s onboarding and orientation culture is talked about but not experienced. As a good friend of mine says, “Culture is more effectively caught than taught.” New employees need to be immersed in your organization’s culture.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- When possible, let your new employee experience your company like your customers. If your business is a restaurant, let them (and their family) dine at your place and enjoy the food and ambience. If you are a technology company, let them use that technology.
- Share stories. Stories are powerful. Share the positive comments that both customers and other employees have given about their experience with your company.
- Let them have fun with your team. Plan lunches, happy hours, and other “hang out” times that allow them to meet the team in a non-threatening and not overly formal environment.
You might be thinking, “Shawn, this all sounds great, but how am I supposed to onboard a new employee effectively in this season where my whole team is working remotely?” If that’s you, I encourage you to join me for our Part 3 of our free Summer Webinar Series entitled: The New-Norm Employee Experience: 5 Essentials for Creating a Healthy and Effective Team Culture.
What is one practical thing you can do to improve your onboarding process?