Think back to before you started college.
I still remember walking around the campus with my tour guide, looking at every building and imagining myself in the classes. I remember walking through the cafeteria and learning how the meal cards worked. I remember testing out the room reservation system in the library.
And, at the end of my three-day stay, I remember going home with a backpack full of brochures and flyers to review as I prepared for the big transition into school.
Colleges are great at this, which makes sense. With thousands of new students each year, they have to be good at processing people.
We entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are terrible at handling new hires.
Unless you're a funded Silicon Valley startup with a cool cereal cafe to show off, orientation at your company is likely an afterthought--and your new employees can tell. Here are six ways to ensure your next hire gets started off on the right foot, so you don't look bad:
1. Announce the arrival.
A new hire's experience starts before they even step foot in your office. So, build the anticipation by letting them know that you and your team are excited.
Send a welcome email to your entire company or department and encourage your other employees to reply and say hello. An initial flurry of messages may seem like a small thing, but it shows the employee that they are being invited to their first day, and not showing up to a party as a stranger.
2. Surprise with swag.
I went to a TED conference years ago, and the swag bag was almost as memorable as the speakers. Before I even set foot in the theater, I was posting pictures on Facebook and calling my wife to tell her how cool TED was.
You have the same opportunity to delight your employees on their first day. Consider that you're investing thousands of dollars per month, maybe even thousands of dollars per week on this new hire, but many companies hesitate to give away a $16 t-shirt or $11 water bottle as a small token of appreciation. Don't be cheap.
Even if you don't hire frequently, invest in some simple branded merchandise that you can order on-demand from companies like Printful or Custom Ink, and watch the reaction that you get.
3. Share your story.
Every company has a story, from startups to fourth-generation conglomerates. Think back to your humble beginnings, like Steve and Woz in the garage.
Why did you start this business? What drives you to push forward each year? Where are you going as a company, and where did you come from?
This context is crucial for new hires to understand. Too often, we skip the story and go straight to the grunt work.
If you can, compile photos from the early days. Show off your first office, or your first customers, or your original business plan. Those assets from your early days in business are the fuel that can turn employees into evangelists.
4. Explain your full process.
Before you dive into the details, how about explaining what everyone else at the company does?
Take some time to explain your company's entire process to your new hire. From your earliest lead-generation efforts to depositing the checks, your company has a unique start-to-finish process with different departments and people at each step in the metaphorical assembly line.
Back in my consulting days, it amazed me to see how few employees actually understood what their peers did. Communicate this in your onboarding to give your new employee an appreciation for the customer's full experience with your company.
5. Set the path to success.
An employee's first day can be like drinking from a firehouse: overwhelming.
When you send them home for the day, they should know whether they've seen the tip of the iceberg or the whole iceberg. Is your training process a four-week engagement or a four-hour crash course? Do you expect them to hit the phones at 8 a.m. the next day or at the end of their second week?
The best onboarding experiences aren't necessarily the ones that train employees the fastest, because every industry is different. Set expectations for when the new hire should be up to speed so they know where they stand throughout the process.
6. Just make it memorable.
Every time I log into LinkedIn, I'm prompted to congratulate a dozen people on their work anniversaries. That's actually not a bad idea for your office. Give your new hires a day worth celebrating each year, and they will be thrilled to join your company!