You don’t get a second chance at making a great first impression. We’re not saying there’s no fixing a relationship after a lacklustre on boarding experience, but how you start things off with a new employee will make a big difference.

When you dedicate time and resources to building out a comprehensive employee onboarding process, you gain a lot more than you give. The return is clear: happy, engaged, productive employees who know exactly what’s expected of them in their new roles. What’s great about a good on boarding experience is that it doesn’t have to cost you anything.

This quote from a Harvard Business Review interview on navigating major career transitions sums it up well:

“The biggest reason why people fail or underperform has to do with the culture and politics of the organization, so I focus a lot on basically three things: how we are going to help this person adapt to the new culture; how are we going to connect them to the right people and help them form the right relationships; and how are we going to be sure that we really align expectations in every direction so that they’re set up for success.”

— Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days

1. Make the first step

Don’t wait till the employee’s first day to start communicating. Whip up a simple email to say hi, send new-hire paperwork and offer some helpful details, such as what to wear, what to bring and a quick run-down of what their first week will involve. Even if the information is already available to them, the act of sending an email opens a line of conversation and gives the employee the opportunity to ask questions.

2. Deliver a proper orientation

Many companies conflate on boarding with orientation. Remember: Orientation is only a part of the on boarding experience. A good orientation should include:

  • A tour of the facility, including bathrooms, parking, kitchen areas, conference rooms, and break rooms;
  • An introduction to company technology, including a computer, an email address, apps, and a phone;
  • A brief overview of the company’s current status, challenges and goals
  • Access to an up-to-date company organisational chart
  • A review of company culture, etiquette, and expectations

3. Assign a mentor

You may not have the time to reply to requests for information, and it’s likely that a new employee will be very aware that you’re busy and don’t want to be bothered unnecessarily. Formally introducing your new hire to a team member who’s established in your company and has good interpersonal skills will be tremendously helpful towards building a bridge between your team and your new hire.

4. Create a social experiences

Make sure that within the first week of your new hire starting you organise a lunch or a casual evening where your team can mingle and socialise. Try to go for something casual, accessible and modest, where conversation can flow easily (no loud clubs!).

You should also make it a point to organize regular team-building events during and after work, as this will help new hires make friends, assimilate, and feel like part of the team. (After all, research has repeatedly shown a clear link between having best friends at work and the amount of effort employees put in on the job.)

5. Ask for feedback

We suggest a two-pronged approach: First, send an anonymous survey to new hires asking for feedback, points of contention and recommendations. This will give you the opportunity to get real, unfiltered feedback. Let’s face it, no new hire who wants to keep their job will be willing to criticise you in front of your face.

Then, and perhaps more importantly, schedule an hour for your employee and yourself. This time, make sure it’s just you and them, and use this time to learn more about their goals, expectations, interests and challenges. Remember that the easiest way to get them to open up is by doing so yourself. We’re not saying tell them your life story, but letting them know what kind of person you are will help inform them as to what they should expect in the future as well as have a keen understanding of what you expect from them in return.