Do you remember your first day at your job?
Maybe you don’t remember the specifics, but you probably remember the feeling. Maybe everything was easy, your manager showed you around and you didn’t do much. Maybe you felt like you’d been thrown in the deep end. Maybe you did a mountain of paperwork and sat around doing nothing because you didn’t have passwords and systems or any equipment. Whatever your experience you probably remember how it made you feel; nervous, apprehensive, excited, confused, even bored.
As recruiters we know quite a bit about onboarding. We’ve probably talked to you through the whole process, listened to how your interview went and likely delivered you the news that the job is yours. We’ve probably spoken to your manager and organised who you ask for on your first day, where you go and what you should wear.
Then, we call you on your first day and there was no login for your computer, or you weren’t quite sure what you were meant to be doing. It’s interesting how important this emotional reaction to a candidates’ first day can impact their impression of the job and the organisation.
First Impressions count
We spend most of our life working. Onboarding is the first touch point in the employee experience. This is a crucial point – if you are a new employee you are typically very engaged and ready to learn but you are also assessing if the role and company aligns with what you had anticipated. So, if your organisation has taken on a new employee, now is the time to engage them. Failure to do so could mean that your entire recruitment process to find this amazing candidate could ultimately end in the employee leaving within the space of a few months.
So how should you engage an employee? Set structure and expectations. Onboarding will usually require collaboration across several areas, such as HR and IT and the reality is that sometimes things will not go smoothly, however having a plan for how to engage the employee and make them feel welcomed will be key. Setting someone up as a buddy for the new employee, while sounding a bit juvenile, gives them someone other than their manager who they can ask questions of. The first few weeks in a job are also about the new employee acclimatising socially and feeling emotionally safe and having a buddy as a conduit to meet other employees can assist them to find their place. If an employee doesn’t acclimatise to a level where they feel emotionally they will likely not participate wholeheartedly, be less likely to volunteer their opinion, less collaborative and potentially less productive.
Define their role
Take the time with a new starter to sit down and define the parameters of their role. Do this early so that the employee has an accurate expectation of what they will be doing over their first few weeks as they learn about their role and the company. This will also alleviate stress to the new employee as they will be able to see that while you will hold them accountable, you also care about their success. Following this meeting, ensure you take time to catch up ideally face to face with the employee at a set time, potentially weekly, more if appropriate during their first few weeks or months. Having the expectation of a check in provides security for the new employee.
Stress is normal
Remember that there is no magical way to remove stress. Starting a new job and adjusting to a new workplace will never not come with some pitfalls. Stress and anxiety a normal part of change; and changing jobs can be a huge change and have effects across all areas of a person’s life. How they view themselves may change due to their job, even small details down to their commute will all be affected. Reassure the employee that these types of emotions are normal, and transient.
A changing cycle
The employee lifecycle is not stagnant. It is alive and grows and changes over time. Onboarding is the first of these stages, followed by a period of initial development, ongoing development and retention, through to the final stage, separation (some models also include two other stages, attraction and recruitment, which occur before onboarding). As an employee moves through these stages their requirements will change so it is important to set a regular review cycle early in the employment cycle to identify these changes.
Now that you understand the new employees’ journey, we have some practical tips that can help ensure the onboarding process is as smooth as possible.
- Ensure they arrive to a clean desk. It is not a positive experience for a new starter to arrive to find a desk covered in clutter from its last occupant. This can give the impression they are ‘filling a dead man’s shoes.’
- A welcome pack or similar document or even giftbag can help engage a new employee and presents a good impression.
- If you are working within a larger organisation introduce the new starter to key they are likely to call on over their first few weeks.
- Send a welcome email out which introduces the new starter to the broader organisation and explains what their role is.
- Having an onboarding checklist, including key milestones such as showing an employee where toilets are, safety exits, organising a pass for the building, liaising with HR and IT to set up their systems and showing them around ensure that nothing crucial is overlooked or missed and that each new starter’s experience is uniform.
- Diarise your catch up with the new starter to ensure this is not forgotten and keep this appointment consistent every week.
Stay tuned for our blog on the next step in the employee lifecycle – initial development.
This blog was written by Tom. You can contact him by connecting with him on LinkedIn or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org