Starting a job is always stressful for a new hire, but sometimes it can be more stressful being the one responsible for introducing a new employee to the workplace, making sure the employee feels welcome and engaged, and providing thorough and helpful training.
Being in charge of this process can put you under a lot of pressure. Based on advice from HR experts and business leaders, here's what you need to know about creating a successful employee onboarding program.
What to do before and during the first day
First days can be overwhelming for new employees, so one thing you can do to ease the pre-start jitters is to send the new hire as much information beforehand as possible, according to Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of career advice resource The Muse and Udemy course instructor.
"Sending them benefits information and your employee handbook ahead of their first day gives them a chance to get acquainted with the culture before they step in the door," Minshew said.
According to Erika Kauffman, founder of E-PR Publicity, before a new employee's first day on the job, all relevant staff members – HR, the person's direct manager, direct teammates, etc. – should be prepared for that person's arrival. You'll want to have all the requisite HR paperwork and tech equipment set up and ready to go prior to an employee's first day.
"You worked so diligently to recruit this new employee, but the process is not yet over," Kauffman said. "A [good] first impression on day one of the job is the most essential step in proper onboarding."
David Almeda, chief people officer of Kronos, said that many managers greet employees when they start and then send them to their desk to pore over materials like handbooks and manuals. However, you should be facilitating integration into the company's culture and community. When your new employee arrives, block off time to go through everything together and help them process information, he said.
"Make it personal," added Almeda. "Have the [new] employee's co-workers decorate his or her cube and leave personal welcome notes. Invite the new hire to a yoga class or play basketball at lunch. Folding new employees into your culture will increase their engagement and productivity and lower your turnover."
Mistakes to avoid
Developing a strong, consistent onboarding process takes time, and there are crucial mistakes employers should be aware of and avoid to make a new employee's initiation period successful.
Don't give new employees too much too soon. The first few weeks at a new job can be an overwhelming adjustment for an employee. You don't want to overload them with too much work before they're ready, said Deb LaMere, vice president of HR strategy and employee engagement at Ceridian.
Don't assume new hires understand everything. You can't expect an employee to pick up on all the nuances, buzzwords and procedures involved with their new job after one quick run-through. Jack Hill, director of talent acquisition solutions at PeopleFluent, reminded employers that even new hires with industry experience should be given the chance to digest all the information they're given.
Don't forget to measure the onboarding process. As with any business process, measuring the results of your onboarding efforts is the key to improving it. For example, Minshew told Business News Daily that The Muse sends out a new hire survey after a month of employment to assess the effectiveness of their onboarding.
Continue the momentum
One way to make sure your onboarding process doesn't end on the first day is to assign your new hire a mentor (other than their direct manager) to check in with them as they get settled. The mentor can use a company stipend to take the new employee out of the office for coffee or lunch, as well as check in with them throughout their first few weeks, Minshew said.
"It means a lot for new hires to have a friendly face they feel comfortable talking to, and we've seen a lot of long-standing office friendships start this way," Minshew added.
LaMere advised scheduling detailed training sessions in an employee's first week of work, as well as emphasizing and demonstrating the importance of open communication.
"During the first few days of the new hire's onboarding process, [frequently] check in with them via email or, better yet, in person," LaMere said. "It could simply be a 'how's it going?' or even sending them company information or industry news until they are added to the distribution lists. The more you can communicate and share with the new hire in the first few days, the better the experience is for him or her."
Onboarding is an ongoing process that should ensure engagement and involvement long after day one.
"Today's employees are looking for immersive and interactive communication channels, content libraries, and more that continue the experience post-hire," Hill said. "Onboarding [goes] beyond just learning tools and paperwork, [and is] really seen as a part of career development."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.