For Employee Onboarding There’s No Second Chance for Day One

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Like it or not, humans are hardwired to draw conclusions from first impressions. How fast? Try 100 milliseconds—a tenth of one second. In personal and professional settings throughout the day, every day, people you meet for the first time are drawing conclusions about you—fairly or unfairly—in the blink of an eye. No wonder some rank starting a new job as among the very most stressful life events, behind only death of a loved one and divorce/marriage. However, a lot of stress could easily be avoided by implementing thoughtful employee onboarding practices.

But it goes both ways. Just managers and co-workers form impressions about new hires, people joining the organization experience reactions ranging from “Hooray! My dream job come true!” to “My goodness what have I just done?” and everything in between. That’s why it is incumbent on employers to make an immediate positive first impression on new employees. It’s up to the employer to do everything possible to reinforce what a smart choice the employee made in choosing to devote her or his time and talent to the company and begin to inspire peak performance. It starts right on Day One.

Recruiting talent, especially with today’s record low unemployment, takes lots of time and tons of money. But the main cost isn’t simply finding someone new to bring on board. According to Forbes, the cost of losing employees increases with seniority: the cost for entry-level employee is 50 percent percent of salary; mid level is 125 percent; and senior executive more than 200 percent. The employee onboarding process is the very first chance to retain employees. When companies have solid onboarding processes, 91 percent of employees stay for at least a year and 69 percent of them stay for at least three years. There’s no way around having to complete paperwork on Day One but employee onboarding process shouldn’t be dismissed as a single day full of health insurance forms and compliance. Day One employee onboarding sets the tone for the employee’s loyalty and experience.

professionals trading business cards at a trade show

Converting First Impressions To Productive Partnership
There is no doubt that there’s a lot of information to process, but it’s important not to overlook the softer side of what new employees are feeling as they navigate through their first day. What should companies prioritize? According to a LinkedIn poll, new hires want to meet one-on-one with their managers above all else. Netflix understands this importance of creating a relationship between new hires and leadership. At an orientation program, new hires meet with all the executive managers; even CEO Reed Hastings meets with new hires in small groups within the first quarter. Strong leadership setting expectations and articulating common goals begins on Day One and immediately helps employees feel empowered and engaged. In the same poll by LinkedIn, new hires say they also want clear performance goals and a road map for their initial projects. This is fantastic! Think about it. Among the things new hires want most is to understand how they can perform for their new employers. Quora jumps at this opportunity. The company makes sure that new hires begin working on a project during their first week. New hires develop immediate buy-in and the company ramps up productivity. Clear objectives set employees up for success, and down the line, appropriate and unique rewards and recognition forms a vital part of company culture and motivation for employees to stay engaged throughout their tenure.

Day One Doesn’t Need To Wait For Day One
Depending on the role and responsibilities, some companies need to prepare new employees in advance of their arrival. Employee onboarding can begin way before Day One, weeks (if not months) before an employee’s start date. Facebook has a six-week “boot camp” during which new hires can meet with management and are given the tools they need to prepare to begin work. When Day 1 finally rolls around, employees start working on projects within the first hour. Facebook employees understand that the company trusts them and wants them well prepared to work with a sense of clear purpose and autonomy. Early employee onboarding doesn’t have to take place in person. Protivi communicates with new hires through email, webinars and social media. Before a new hire enters the office for the first time, he or she should already know the organization’s history, vision and mission. Helpful onboarding tools like Click Boarding make it easy for companies to engage new hires in a process that’s thoughtful and efficient. Click Boarding also streamlines paperwork to make it painless (or at least less painful!).

 

click boarding logo

 

Inculcating Company Culture Throughout Employee Onboarding
It doesn’t matter whether you’re 16 or 60, nobody wants to be the new kid sitting alone at the lunch table. After all the formal direct meetings and understanding the work roadmap, employees want to understand the company culture and how they can become full-fledged members of the crew.

In a new animated short, Pixar highlights how common it is for companies to squelch the diversity of employees they have invested to attract. The film follows Purl, a pink ball of yarn, on her first day of work where she is ignored and side-eyed by the bros at B.R.O. Capital, making her feel ostracized. She decides to change her appearance and actions and soon she becomes one of the bros herself. The company loses a unique voice as she fades into the group. We won’t give away the ending but the film poignantly displays the harm that bad employee onboarding and poor diversity measures can cause.

There are ways companies can try to assure a more pleasant and authentic transition. Mentorship programs are a great way to help new employees learn the ropes and feel at home. As Diversity Inc. reports, Target pairs new hires with upper-level veterans for the first couple weeks on the job. Besides aiding in job training, mentorship can foster friendships. At least 70 percent of employees feel that having a work friend is vital to their happiness at the company. And let’s not forget the swag. While companies employ a diverse group of people, swag acts as company symbolism, a reminder of the collective Shared Purpose employees have come together to accomplish and shared community. Glassdoor greets its new employees with a branded Rickshaw bag full of a Glassdoor T-shirt, tumbler cup, multi-device charger and more. No wonder employees report that their family members try to buy or purloin their Day One treasure from them.

red and black box of material for Olgivy Mather


Two-way Communication Is Key

Just as employee onboarding begins before Day One, it needn’t end on Day One. The employee onboarding process can extend for as long as a company defines it. L’Oreal provides an onboarding program that extends through the first two years of employment with a focus on employer-employee communication. Regular check-ins make new employees feel heard and welcome, and they provide ongoing guidance as the employee settles into her or his new role. But employee onboarding check-ins perform another essential function—they’re an opportunity for companies to obtain feedback from a fresh pair of eyes. The Motley Fool takes this idea to the next level by training “Foolish Coaches” who have special training to solicit, analyze and report honest feedback from employees. This method alleviates some of the fear employees can feel when criticizing managers directly and promotes candor in the interest of continual improvement. Establishing solid channels of communication during the initial employee onboarding experience helps ensure that two-way communication between employer and employees starts on the right foot and continues to foster constructive dialogue.

Sometimes Offboarding Is The Best Alternative
With all this effort to integrate and retain new employees, it’s easy to conclude employers have covered the bases. But here’s a twist. Remember how expensive losing even a single employee is? Keeping disengaged employees is even more costly in the long run. The employee onboarding process is a great time to “offboard” those who really don’t want to give it their all. Zappos, at the one month mark, offers every new employee $2,000 to quit if it’s not a good fit, no questions asked. Remarkably, only about 1 percent of new employees have opted to leave. Zappos is left with only employees who feel invested in the company and their roles there.

Building On First Impressions
Employee onboarding is so much more than just Day One but making the first-day count is so important and companies need to treat it as such. The general “4 Cs” rule for onboarding is to provide compliance and clarification while promoting culture and connection. It’s an essential process that reflects on the company’s efficiency and values. But from the first 100 milliseconds, the initial interactions a hire has with a company demonstrate the company’s commitment to an employee’s happiness and value. New hires quickly judge the company by this initiation process—as humans, none of us can help it. Employers need to keep the imperative of Day One in mind, at least until AI advances to render human first impressions moot!

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