All Onboard! The Art of a Fright-less First Day

The first day of work can be extremely intimidating. There you are, in all your “new employee” glory, smiling at dozens of people you don’t know, repeating names you’ve already forgotten, and scrambling to retain as much information as possible all in a building whose restroom you can’t even find. Throw in an axe-murder with a chainsaw and a dark and stormy night and you’ve got all the components of a horror movie.

First days can be rough.

Thankfully, however, while tales of first day horrors are still gracing the business campfires of organizations everywhere, joining a new company doesn’t have to be that way. Using just a few of the tips below can help ensure your on-boarding process is not only effective, but also an engaging and exciting experience for new employees.

Make Them Feel Welcome

The first step to turning an employee’s introduction into an enjoyable experience is to instill a welcoming atmosphere. Bringing new employees into a friendly environment will help reduce both their stress and nerves. Make a point of prepping the relevant department or coworkers of a new hire before that employee arrives for their first day—show new hires that the company was anticipating their arrival and excited to get a new member. Coming up to a group of smiling people who already know your name is far less intimidating than meeting up with a group who didn’t even know you were coming.

It also isn’t a bad idea to have the new worker’s space already cleared, cleaned, and prepared with the necessary equipment. This further demonstrates that you were expecting them and looked forward to them being able to begin contributing to the office as soon as possible.

Make Them Feel Confident

Though it’s usually not intentional, oftentimes it’s easy to over-assume what new employees know and send them out feeling unprepared. The longer you have a job, the harder it is to remember what it was like when you first started. When bringing in a new employee, ask them if they are following your explanations. Limit your use of jargon. Be patient if you feel like you are over explaining something. Don’t forget that you too were an untrained rookie once upon a time.

Make Them Feel Comfortable

Though experiencing comfort and welcome in an environment can be similar, each is important in its own right. Whereas welcome is a great tactic for reducing a new hire’s stress, a sense of comfort will encourage them to act natural and confidently demonstrate the skills and knowledge they will be adding to the office.

Help them transition by taking new hires out for lunch with their direct coworkers—this allows them to interact in a smaller (and more relaxing) setting. Try to have the proper HR paperwork completed before they come in on the first day—this reduces the amount of information they have to remember and frees new hires rather to devote their concentration to learning about the company policies and further understanding the culture of the work community. Schedule training sessions throughout their first couple of weeks; pouring all of the necessary information on them all at once will not only be overwhelming but limits the amount of information they will be able to remember. Spreading it out gives them a chance to process the information, ask questions, and removes one more factor that can add to unnecessary stress during the onboarding process.

Make Them Feel Valued

However, if you want to bring in employees who stick with the business long-term, perhaps one of the best things you can do is ensure new employees understand why their job is important. Explain why you hired them. Make a point of telling them why their job is imperative to the whole organization’s various functions. Tell them what value your organization adds to the world and how their job fits into that picture. You don’t have to over-exaggerate, but workers like to know that their efforts are contributing to something bigger.

On the same note, nothing is more frustrating to a new employee than failing to know what they are going to be evaluated on. As soon as they begin working, explain to them what a “job well done” looks like and the expectations of the company. How will they know how to improve if they don’t have a measuring stick?

Make sure to make an effort to monitor new employees, sending emails, stopping by their desks, and maybe even scheduling a meeting to create various opportunities for them to be honest about their transition. Set new hires up with a mentor who they can go to for questions regarding departmental or job functions. Give them plenty of ways to let their voice be heard.

To Infinity and Beyond!

But even after all the excitement has died down and a new hire isn’t so “new” anymore, the onboarding process shouldn’t stop. The best way to help employees enjoy their onboarding experience is to continually evaluate the process and listen to the feedback of the new hires actually going through the process. (Just because your PowerPoint has sound effects doesn’t mean it should be used.)

What Now?

Onboarding isn’t an industry specific event; it happens anywhere from a law firm to a burger joint. People are always coming and going, meaning there is plenty of opportunity for onboarding experiences to get a face-lift. This doesn’t mean onboarding will lose efficiency, but rather gain effectiveness in ways like never before. Making just a few changes to the process can make a world of difference to new hire attitudes towards the experience as a whole.

So, what are you waiting for? Go rescue that new hire cowering in the corner and give them something they can look back on without cringing!