My first date with my company
– or – how onboarding looks from a freshman’s eye
According to LinkedIn, one in three employees decide to quit their job within the first 6 months(!)
I’ve been managing people for over 20 years and I’ve spent a long time trying to crack the code of successful onboarding. It was only recently, when I started working for a new company, that my eyes were opened – I actually felt what it’s like to be a new employee.
The lessons I’ve learned surprised me so much. So, I took it upon myself to build an onboarding plan addressing exactly what a new employee needs. We started to run this program in Taboola and I’m happy to say it gets great feedback.
In this blog post, I’ll shed some light on the psychology of a new employee, give practical ways to deal with it and share stories from my experience. If you have new members in your team this blog post is for you. See through a new employee’s eyes and understand what the ingredients are that can turn onboarding to your company into a success.
My first day tale
Though I tried it many times, I found it very hard to tailor an outstanding process for receiving a new employee. You know why? Because you cannot really know it until you feel it. You cannot really feel it until you experience it, and you cannot experience it twice… Yep. Like on a first date, there is only one shot… as they say “there is no second chance for a first impression”.
Two years ago I was searching for a new job. I joined a successful company. I was very excited to join and I arrived with a lot of expectations and hopes. And… it happened to me! I experienced that notorious first day in its full strength.
I learned that things I once considered as important are in fact marginal, and things I wasn’t even aware of turned to shape my entire experience.
Here’s the first tip:
Nothing will be remembered from the first day excepting the emotional experience.
That’s it! That’s the objective of day one: feeling comfortable.
There is one huge problem though: the first day at work is anything but comfortable. It is a scary unpleasant experience. Think of yourself as a new kid joining a class. Everyone else knows each other, there are social codes in the class you do not know, all faces are strangers, and even the building is unfamiliar.
It is counter intuitive. Most places people aim to impress new arrivals with fancy administration, but none of it matters to the new employee on their first day. To create the best first impression, aim to make the new arrival feel comfortable.
I suggest three factors that can help creating that emotional comfort:
This is undoubtedly number one: friendly people is the key. As a new employee, I know no one. That’s a very unpleasant feeling. Like newborn babies that smile at their parents I yearn for familiar faces.
Surprisingly, creating familiar faces among strangers is not a complex mission at all…
Here are the my best activities from my first day: someone from IT helped me 3 or 4 times (I found myself waiting for her in the afternoon, just because I “knew” her from the morning), a coffee break with a colleague I already knew, a discussion with the friend who referred me to the company, and talking to the people who interviewed me. Simple, isn’t it?
A big question runs through a new arrival’s mind: “Where have I arrived?”
Don’t count on the new people to search for information about the company in the internet. Spend time talking about the company. But while the talk is important remember that most chances nothing will stick. Prepare follow up reading material which can be viewed again later.
Even during the first day, it is possible to generate a sense of success. There is no need for big achievements. So a list of many small wins will help building self-confidence, satisfaction and comfort.
Creating a checklist of small simple activities to strikethrough (e.g. login to laptop, configure your email, connect the phone to the company’s contact list, submit a certain form, intro talk to manager, etc.) can help turn the anxiety of the first day into a joy of success.
Turn the administrative process into an emotional experience
Emotional administration?! Is it a real thing? Normal people do not react emotionally when they encounter processes, do they? But the first day is all about positive emotional experience…
The good news is that there is an effective way to turn the tedious inevitable tasks into a satisfying experience. Here’s the key: Look at all these activities as opportunities to interact with people, learn about the company and achieve small wins.
Filling out forms as a social activity
There are many formalities to complete on the first day. If someone fills out the forms together with the new arrival, it becomes a personal touch point. If there are several employees that are starting on the same day, it is an excellent opportunity to gather them in the same room, create a small “community” around them, and let them help each other.
Having everything ready in advance is impressive. But it is much more impressive to know that there is someone that will not leave the room until I am all set.
Handout a checklist of daily activities. Thus, every form that the new employee fills out is another line to strikethrough, a little success, and another haven of positive experience in this stressful day.
The welcoming laptop
Like the forms, configuring the laptop is a task that can be done with friends. When I got into my inbox I was happy to find few welcoming letters waiting for me: from my manager and some explanations about the company.
Party at my desk
It is very nice to have everything ready in advance. It means that people got ready for my arrival.
Now imagine that my gear is waiting on my desk in the original boxes, plus some chocolates and a personal congratulation note. This turns arriving at my desk into a little party.
Unboxing all that gear feels like I got a present.
Meet the team: quality over quantity
Meeting the team is the heart of the day. Don’t drag new arrivals through the office for an introductory tour with many strangers. It is much better to have a personal talk with the manager, and to remember the names of your direct team members.
Eating is much more than consuming food – it is a social activity. Do not underestimate the importance of eating together with the new employee. Two highlights of my first day were the lunch and the coffee break, because they made me feel related. Use these opportunities to interact with familiar faces: the team members, the recruiter, or people known from the past.
Never leave a new employee to eat alone!
Getting ready for day two
There’s a huge difference between day one and day two.
As a new employee, on the second day I can come early and start reading. On my first day I do not even know where my seat is.
On day one, what I needed is someone to escort me. On day two, I wanted to explore by myself.
Celebrate the day’s closure
Finishing such a stressful day deserves a celebration. Meeting the people from the morning (familiar faces…) for a short summary session feels great. This can be celebrated with a drink or a swag.
Once this summary session finishes, send the new people home early.
No matter what you do, the first day is not fun – so staying late can wait for other days.
The first day is an excellent opportunity to create a good first impression – but remember that nothing ends there. In my next blog post I will explain the concepts of a successful onboarding which goes beyond the first day. A period which I call “the real recruitment”.
Recipe for the perfect first day
I hope you find this post useful. It can be great if you share your own experiences and we can help the next new employees in their first day.
For your convenience I brought here a checklist of my recommendations:
- Remember it is an anxious day for the new employee and be empathic to it.
- Create as many personal interactions with familiar faces as possible.
- Prepare a checklist of quick wins.
- Help as much as you can – don’t leave the new employee alone.
- Prepare their desk and leave things for the new employee to unbox.
- Personal talks with direct manager and closest circle of colleagues.
- Go to lunch with your team.
- Have a coffee break with someone (preferably someone you know).
- Prepare a list of activities for the second day and beyond.
- Gather again at the end of the day to summarize it (and possibly give a swag).
- Send home early.