For many small businesses, employee onboarding is a hit-or-miss process. Sometimes a new employee shows up for work only to find everyone else is too busy to welcome her or offer guidance. Other times a new arrival gets thrown into the thick of things without any preparation or training. In either case, these experiences can have a negative impact on morale and can set the stage for further discouragement in the weeks to come.
The end-result? A potentially valuable member of the team feels alienated from the workforce and is a less likely candidate for successful retention.
Small businesses that recognize the crucial importance of a new employee's first day on the job can begin instilling a sense of purpose and belonging that can contribute to long-term retention. Here are steps to consider in order to help bolster a new employee's confidence and make her an enthusiastic member of the team:
Have Everything in Place
A new hire is better equipped to get started if all of the introductory paperwork is immediately available. The same holds true for the tools and resources the employee needs, including a computer, telephone, etc. The first day is much too valuable to waste on administrative chores or hunting around for a spare laptop.
Introduce the New Employee to the Team
A welcoming email distributed on the employee's first day can help smooth his or her entry into the workforce. Include a description of the new hire's job responsibilities, a few details about his or her educational and work background, and—if the new person is comfortable with the idea—an interesting fact or two about a favorite hobby, volunteer work, travel experience, etc. This makes it easier for others on the team to introduce themselves and start a friendly conversation.
Schedule Meetings with Key Team Members
If success in the new hire's position depends on interactions with specific team members, it's a good idea to meet with those individuals ahead of time to discuss how the new hire will fit in. Then schedule times for the new employee to meet these team members (perhaps one or two on the first day, and others later in the week). This enables team members to explain their own job duties, how they plan to interact with the new hire, the best way to communicate on projects, etc. Taken together, this can quickly instill a sense of the importance your business attaches to productive collaboration and being part of the team.
Look For Small Tasks That Can Become "Quick Achievements"
You've gone to a great deal of trouble to hire a talented, hard-working employee. Giving her a small, attainable task to complete can help her cope with what might otherwise be an emotionally overwhelming first day on the job.
Share Stories About your Company and Values
A new employee is naturally eager to hear more about the business she's chosen to work for. Consider taking her out to lunch and sharing anecdotes about how the business came into being, as well as stories about your company culture and values. Talk about both successes and failures in order to convey a better sense of the challenges and opportunities the company faces. This type of information can help cement the new hire's sense of being part of something bigger.
Encourage the New Employee to Offer Feedback
On her second day of the new job, offer the employee an opportunity to provide feedback about her initial job experience. Did things go well? Do any concerns need to be addressed? What other tools and resources might be needed to do the job better? The answers you get may not only improve that individual's chances for success, but provide insights to improve the "first-day-on-the-job" experience for new hires to come.
Effective employee onboarding means more than just having new employees quickly "catch on" to their job duties. You want to create an environment and a sense of purpose that builds over time and ensures the employee feels a strong tie to her employer and wants to be part of a successful company for a long time to come.