Think about the worst first day you’ve ever had.
For me—besides an emotionally scarring introductory day of middle school—it was the day I first stepped foot into a corporate office. I didn’t know anyone (and no one went out of their way to reach out to me), I had absolutely no sense of what I was supposed to do all day, and I only saw my boss for a total of about 10 minutes (and that’s a generous estimate).
Now, I’m in a management position myself—and I try to make sure my new hires don’t have the same kind of first day experience that I had. You see, I left the office that day wondering how soon I could quit; I want my employees to leave excited about the job, thinking that their first day went even better than they expected. Because that can set the tone for their entire career at the company.
Sure, first days can be a bit disorganized for everyone involved (you can’t always anticipate when an angry client will demand to talk to you or the new employee’s computer will suddenly stop working), but there are a few key things you can do to ensure your new hire’s success. Start with these three.
1. Make Introductions
You know the drill during your first few minutes on the job—your new boss will probably parade you around the floor so quickly you’ll barely be able to manage a few handshakes as he or she announces, “Everyone, this is Allie; Allie, this is the team.” Before you know it, your teammates will be turned back to their computer monitors, and you’ll be headed back to your lonely cubicle.
As a manager, you can speed up the acclimation process for your new employees by spending a little more time on the introductions and—here’s the important part—making some connections from the start.
Instead of simply introducing your new hire by name, give a little background: “This is Allie, our new business analyst. She’s amazing with Salesforce reports, so she’ll be a huge help with analyzing our current marketing strategy. In the meantime, she’ll be available to help put together reports for any of your current projects—so touch base with her to let her know what you need.”
With this, you’ve acknowledged your new employee’s strengths (and made him or her feel valuable from day one) and given current employees an opening to make first contact and get the new hire immediately involved.
2. Prepare Your Team
Involving your team in the onboarding process is always a great idea, since, after all, your new employee will be working closely with them. Plus, spreading out the training duties will allow everyone enough time to stay on top of their daily responsibilities, instead of pulling one resource for the entire day.
Just, you know, make sure you do it the right way.
Here’s an example: Every so often, new hires from another department in my company will ask to shadow my team, so they can get a better picture of the business as a whole. The first time this happened, I completely forgot that the onboarding employees were coming, so when they showed up in front of my desk, I haphazardly paired them up with one of my staffers and returned to my work.
Later, I realized—because my team bluntly told me—that they would have been much more effective if they’d known ahead of time that someone was going to shadow them. They would have been able to come up with a few talking points or made sure they had easily explainable examples of their work to show the new employee. Instead, they were caught in the middle of complex problems or involved phone calls, which wasn’t the best introduction to their daily work and, for the most part, just confused the new hire.
I quickly learned that if shadowing is going to be part of my employee’s first day, the people he or she is shadowing need to be fully prepared, knowing the exact concepts they need to explain and processes they need to demo. The process will go much smoother, and your new employee won’t feel like he or she is disrupting someone else’s normal routine.
3. Have a Plan
The minute I arrived on my worst first day, I felt like an afterthought. My boss ushered me into my cubicle, handed me a list of training videos to watch, and, after logging me into the company’s CRM software, told me to “play around and get comfortable” with the system. He had his own work to get done—so I was on my own.
At the end of the almost unbearable day, I left the office doubting my decision to accept the offer. This isn’t what I expected at all; is it too late to ditch this? I thought.
Now, as a manager, I realize that’s the last thing I want to be running through my new employees’ minds at the end of the day. I want them to be excited about their new positions, eager to tackle their own projects, and striving to make an impact in the company. And that doesn’t usually come from a thrown-together training plan that makes your new employee feel like you couldn’t care less that he or she actually showed up.
I know (from experience) that everyday responsibilities are always waiting to get in the way. But taking the time to plan out a variety of assignments or training tasks for the new hire—ideally, for at least the first week on the job—will not only help him get up to speed quicker, but assure him that you’re truly invested in his success. Meaning: He’ll be much likelier to show up on day two confident that he’s in the right place.
While it’ll still take plenty of time, training, and coaching to get your new employee up to speed, this will lay the groundwork to get him or her familiar with the team and make sure he or she feels like an important, valued member of your department. And that will make day two (and onward!) a whole lot more successful.
Photo of people working courtesy of Shutterstock.