Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Onboarding new employees 101 – 3: day one on the new job

Posted in career development, HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on November 9, 2012

This is my third posting to a series on the onboarding process and on bringing new employees in and up to speed working at a business (see Part 1: the basic goal of an effective onboarding process and Part 2: preparing for a new hire’s day one on their new job.) And I begin this with a crucially important point:

• When a new hire comes onboard and begins to work there, that is when the most lasting first impressions are made, and in both directions. The interviewing process is brief and provisional and can seem very contrived and artificial, and certainly as managers meet with prospective new hires in the brief getting to know you conversations that constitute job interviews. The lasting and meaningful first impressions that take place, come when that new hire actually arrives and starts working. So in a fundamental sense, how the onboarding process is designed and how it proceeds for actual hires sets the stage for those new hires’ success or failure.

The goal of an effective onboarding process when viewed from this perspective is to facilitate smooth and comfortable transitions into the organization and its work flow, and into working with the individuals and teams that a new hire will be expected to work effectively with. And this begins for the new hire and in most respects for their new manager and fellow team mates on the new hire’s day one.

I looked at the checklist requirements of the onboarding process from the hiring organization’s perspective in Part 2, there focusing on preparation that should be in place before the new hire arrives for their first day on the job. I turn here to consider that day one itself, and more from the new hire’s perspective as they are the ones who at least should be facing the most new and different in that. And my goal in this is to organize the day one process by way of a fairly commonly followed series of steps, simply noting in advance that the precise ordering of those steps is not as important as covering all of the key ones in a logical and easy to process progression.

• The new hire arrives and finds they are expected. If they need a preliminary visitor’s ID to get into the building or within it, into their new employer’s business area that should be prepared and waiting. Or their new manager or someone specifically tasked to do so should be ready to come down to the entrance or waiting area to escort their new hire in.
• Ideally, this can be timed so that the hiring manager can be available for at least a quick greeting, and to outline what this new hire will be going through and at least for the first steps. For small businesses and for hires to positions that do not involve confidential information handling or other complications, this might be all that is needed before sending the new hire on to Human Resources to fill out paperwork related to benefits such as health insurance coverage, setting up direct salary payment to a bank account, and any immediately necessary internal-to-the-business documents that would go into the new hire’s personnel folder.
• In many if not most cases the new hire’s manager would, in their first day one meeting with the hire, show them where they will be working and begin introducing them around. They or a designated member of their team would help them get settled in in this way, calling in a support staff member from Information Technology or other services if needed to get them set up with their computer and email, and their intranet access and phone. Other specialists might also get involved in this welcoming and onboarding process too though not necessarily on day one.
• This is where the little things count a lot – showing the new hire where the rest rooms are, and if there is a break room or company cafeteria telling them where that is. And by lunch of day one, every new hire should get an invitation to join some of their now fellow team mates for lunch, and both to help build interpersonal connections and to help share day to day and immediately important, task related information. But that is getting ahead of my timeline when I move ahead to lunch now. And I have simply assumed that parking information and permissions will have already been set up and shared with the new hire for when they arrive at work that first day and before they even get to walk up to the building. So I add that this narrative as begun above did not necessarily begin at any given business’ real step one either.
• But to shift back into the step by step process which I began above with entry of the building, after the initial meet and greet with the new hire’s manager and some colleagues and after they have been shown their work area and have been given at least some preliminary orientation, they would meet with someone from Personnel or Human Resources, and with directions as to how to get there and with that department’s assigned staff member waiting to meet with them as one of their scheduled appointments.
• The list of specific tasks and issues that would be covered here and on day one can be very short and generic to the business or even to the industry, or complex and position-dependent for what types of detail would be covered. This would always cover generic issues of salary distribution and health insurance coverage as that is offered, and getting or at least scheduling and arranging for the new employee’s company ID card. Sometimes this includes signing special nondisclosure or other due diligence and risk management forms. For employees who will be working in the field, this is likely to include information about expense accounts and how they should be documented, though topics like this might very well be handled by someone in Finance instead – a new hire might in fact meet with a series of people. And this might be spread out over several days, and certainly for issue areas that do not become important on a new hire’s day one. So if a soon to be road warrior who is to be in the field most of the time is going to go through an initial home office training period before being sent out, they can find out about at least some of the expense account issues later and as needed.
• For larger organizations, it is fairly common to hold off on presentations on workplace harassment and other workplace due diligence issues until a scheduled meeting date, but information that needs to be shared immediately should be, with the Powerpoint presentations and short films shared to groups of new hires coming later. The important point is that this be done and that it not simply get set aside and forgotten.

So I present this as a posting about day one on the new job but have significantly expanded beyond that for context. I return to day one with some general points:

• Think about and prepare for the arrival of a new hire and their day one and beyond, with an awareness of both the business’ needs and those of the new hire.
• Prioritize what has to go into that busy and everything new first day for the new hire, and be sure to include preparation for issues such as employee parking, that might seem to be more important to the hire than to their manager or immediate work objectives. Don’t overload or over-stress, and that applies to both the new hire and to the people who they will be working with in this.
• And remember that the onboarding process only ends with the completion of that first on the job performance review at the end of the probationary period. This is a very important point that is all too often overlooked. With the possible exception of hires into small and leanly organized businesses, onboarding does not all happen in the first few days there. And that certainly applies for large corporations and for hires into complex positions.

I finish this posting with a final point that constitutes a reality check for real businesses in the real world. A manager might plan to meet with their new hire for an hour right after they arrive to help orient them and get them started on some specific high priority task or project, and to give them a heads-up as to what will come next. And they might have specific goals for helping this new hire get oriented and settled in. Then their schedule might be pulled out from under them by unexpected demands on their time and suddenly a plan B is going to be needed, with someone else stepping in. Prepare for those Plan B’s with earlier visits to Personnel for their part of this day one process, with a trusted team member managing the introductions and helping the new hire get settled in, and so on. The unexpected might still be unpredictable as to detail, but the fact that it can happen and at times will happen can be expected and prepared for, and with a flexible mindset and approach if nothing else. And having that in place can make the entire onboarding process easier and more positive for all concerned and regardless of scheduling and other challenges.

I am going to continue this posting with next steps going past day one in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at HR and Personnel.

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