new employee's first day
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Create an Engaging Onboarding Process

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: We really need to look at how we onboard our new hires. I think we're missing a good opportunity to "wow" them because we put them to sleep with reading materials and signing forms on their first day. How can we make the first few days more engaging?

A: You're absolutely right: A well-crafted and well-executed onboarding process is the first step toward engaging and retaining your new hires. Think about the time and money your organization spends on hiring great new people. You want them to know they made the right decision to join you, and you want them to be productive as quickly as possible.

A good onboarding process starts as soon as the candidate accepts the job offer. Use this time between acceptance and start date to communicate with new hires. Email them with things they need to know: arrival time on day one, where to park or what commuting options are available, whom to ask for when they arrive, and a schedule of the day's activities. And don't forget to let the receptionist know they're starting so they will be warmly welcomed.

Also, send information on your benefits package, and if possible, have new hires send completed enrollment forms before they arrive so that you don't take up valuable job training and learning time during the first week.

A good onboarding process starts as soon as the candidate accepts the job offer. Use this time between acceptance and start date to communicate with new hires.

Be sure you're ready for new hires to get started. IT and office services should have desks, computers, and other work equipment ready, and it's a nice touch to have a gift, such as a company mug or card signed by coworkers, on their desks to make them feel like they're officially part of the team.

Most organizations make what I think is a mistake by putting new hires through boring orientation sessions on day one. Yes, they need to complete the I-9 form during their first three days of employment, but after that's done, the manager should spend some time discussing plans for week one and beyond.

Share the organization's history, vision, values, and mission. Introduce new hires to the leadership team and discuss their role in your department. Let them know about your 30-60-90-day new-hire follow-up process, where you check in to set goals and monitor their progress and get their feedback on how things are going.

Don't try to do all of this in one day or even one week. Spread it out so new hires can process what they're learning and determine what questions they need answered. You may want to develop a series of checklists for what to do at each stage: before they start, day one, week one, and so on.

Onboarding is all about making new hires feel as welcome and become as productive as possible. It takes some work, but the payoff can be huge.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

Orientation and Onboarding