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Onboarding: Don't Underestimate the Power of a Good First Day

A positive experience can help set the stage for a loyal and contributing team member.

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It's your new employee's first day and they are full of nervous anticipation. Will they like the company, the people, the job? But more importantly, will their desk be set up and will they have a functioning computer and phone?

Don't underestimate the power of good onboarding for new employees. A positive experience can help set the stage for a loyal and contributing team member, but a bad experience can leave an enthusiastic beginner feeling disenchanted and bitter. How can you set your new hires up for success (and in turn, your business) from day one? I'll share some of my favorite tips from over 12 years of hiring.

Set for Success

Michael Burke, executive general manager of equipment financing at GE Capital says if your business lends itself to your employees needing their own computer, your number one objective should be, "Have a laptop on day one." If your new hire doesn't have the right gear on their first day it can lead to frustration and delays that could hinder their ability to hit the ground running. And don't take for granted that they'll know how to use all the technology you throw at them. Take the time to teach folks how to do seemingly simple things like access their voicemail and forward calls. Remember to provide them the basics too, like a stapler, pens, paper and the all important copy of the org chart.

Put It In Writing

Every new hire is going to be overwhelmed for the first few months as they learn the job, the people, the culture and how to navigate the system. You can help them by ensuring as much of their onboarding is documented and in writing so they are completely clear about what's expected, who to work with and how to do it. Having it in writing will give your new hire a step-by-step plan and how-to guide all in one. Oh, and I'm a big believer in using Google docs and sharing it with the new employee.

Will it take some time to put together? You bet, but the positive impact it can have is worth every minute. Did you know that U.S. and U.K. employees cost businesses an estimated $37 billion every year because they don't fully understand their jobs. Makes creating some simple documentation seem well worth it in my eyes.

Slow Down to Speed Up

Our immediate need to fill a position and get our new hire contributing as quickly as possible can actually do both parties a disservice. I say put on the brakes a bit and make sure you make your new hire feel welcome. Give them a taste of your employee culture from day one. Place some company swag on their desk and maybe assign them a new hire buddy. A tech firm here in San Francisco provides their new hires three $25 gift cards and the name of three colleagues. The new hires are asked to take the colleague out to lunch and get to know more about them, the job they do and the company culture. Cool idea right? You could do the same thing with gift cards for coffee or something similar.

Something else we do at my e-mail marketing company VerticalResponse, is to have every single new hire go through a certification program to learn to use our core products. From customer support, to marketing and engineering, everyone should know how our products work because everyone can have ideas to improve both our products and our service. We also have every new hire spend time listening to Customer Support calls. It's great to see this in action and the insight it provides about our customers to every part of our organization.

Check In

Make sure you prioritize frequent check-ins to connect with the new employee. Talk honestly about how things are going and give them the opportunity to provide feedback about the onboarding process. They can provide you valuable information about their perception of the experience that you may not be aware of that can help you make improvements to the process. And if I'm hiring that person directly? I try to block out at least a half hour every day for the first two weeks, then weekly thereafter. Having a regular check-in will give them the confidence that they have a forum to ask questions, get feedback and be in-the-know.

Using these tips should ensure smooth sailing for your new hire and your biz.

What other tips do you have to add to my list for successful onboarding? I'd love to hear them in the comments.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, sign up for the free VR Buzz weekly newsletter and check out the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

Last updated: Sep 30, 2013

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JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000.
@janinepopick




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