Once you’ve hired a candidate, you might assume that first impressions have already been made. After all, you were impressed enough to make an offer and they were impressed enough to accept it.
But the onboarding process is like meeting all over again. You both put your best foot forward during the interviews and negotiations. Now you’re committed for the long haul, and onboarding is an opportunity to get to know one another better. The first few days and weeks of a new job are the perfect time to show the candidate you really live up to the values you touted throughout the hiring process.
Onboarding for the Long Term
When you offer someone a job, you typically expect them to stay with the company for at least a few years.That outcome becomes more likely when you provide a supportive onboarding experience. Here are some strategies for cultivating long-term employee happiness and loyalty:
Time Their Start Date Wisely
If you need someone to fill a role urgently, you may ask them to start right away. But if there’s some flexibility, you might suggest that they take some downtime before jumping into the new job.
Perhaps you know a big project is on the horizon or that they’ll be joining the team during a busy time of year. If that’s the case, offer to push their start date back so they can take a vacation with their family or decompress for a few weeks. Then they can join your team refreshed and clear-minded.
Look at how their onboarding fits with your schedule as well. Ideally, they’ll start at a time when you can be fully available to them and consistently engaged throughout the onboarding process.
Create an Onboarding Schedule
A comprehensive schedule and onboarding packet can provide new hires with a sense of control. Knowing when they need to sign HR forms, when they’re supposed to be in training, and what assignments they’ll be working on during their first few weeks helps them focus and mentally engage with the job.
It’s nice to see a friendly face during the first days at a new company, so be sure to connect with them periodically as they transition into the new position, particularly during key training sessions and when they begin their first tasks or assignments.
Show Them Around
Nothing is more frustrating or disorienting for a new hire than showing up on the first day, being shown their desk, and then feeling that they’ve been left to their own devices. There’s so much that they need to learn, not just about their responsibilities but also about day-to-day functions around the office.
Where is the break room? Where can they find office supplies? Where can they grab a cup of coffee? Don’t forget to show them the ropes to put them at ease and make them feel less like a fish out of water. You should also be prepared to answer basic questions as the new hire gets settled, along with filling them in on events such as roundtable lunch discussions and team-building activities.
Prep Your Team for the New Arrival
Make sure the new hire’s peers and the head of department know when they are arriving. Brief them on the person’s background and encourage them to introduce themselves when he or she arrives.
Recommend that the department head take them out to lunch or grab a coffee so they can get to know one another and establish a rapport. The new hire will inevitably have questions or challenges as they acclimate to the role, and they’ll overcome those much faster if they feel comfortable going to their boss. The supervisor also models behavior for the rest of the team, so when people see their manager going out of their way to be welcoming, they’ll follow suit.
Surprise Them With Welcoming Touches
Small gestures can make a big impact, so go the extra mile when preparing the new team member’s desk.
At a minimum, their workspace should be clean and equipped with a computer, office supplies, and any other basic tools they’ll need for their jobs. But leaving a gift basket with a company t-shirt, water bottle, or other swag shows that you’re excited about their arrival and want them to feel included.
Help them get settled by providing useful guides and training information on using different software programs installed on their computers. The next time you hold a staff training on a new system, make sure to record it so new hires can access it. There’s little to no extra cost involved, but it will make onboarding that much easier.
Schedule Weekly Check-Ins
The first week at a new job is filled with training, paperwork, and (hopefully) getting-to-know-you chats with new teammates, so it’s not an ideal time for one-on-one check-ins. But after the person is settled into the position, a weekly meeting is a great way to keep in touch and make sure they continue to feel supported.
A standing 20-minute session reassures them that you have their back, and it enables you to build a strong relationship. The check-in doesn’t need to be formal — just a quick chat to touch base on any challenges or triumphs, ask questions, and generally learn more about the company.
A Lasting Impact
Getting your onboarding process right is hugely important to employee success and morale. You’ll want to tailor your approach to your company’s culture, values, and workflows, but the bottom line is to be thoughtful. As a leader, you have the opportunity to help build an organization you’re proud of by supporting the talented people you’ve hired.