Enhancing Employee Onboarding: 5 Things New Hires Want On Day One

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by viperk's , last updated on

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When new hires come aboard at your company, do you have an effective employee onboarding program in place, or are you just throwing them to the wolves?

If your answer is the latter, your doing those new employees --- and the organization as a whole --- a great disservice.

According to HR.com, an employee onboarding program can increase retention by 25 percent and improve employee performance by 11 percent. Not only that, new hires who go through an employee onboarding program are 69 percent more likely to stay at that company for at least three years.

As anxious and nervous as new hires may be on day one, they're also not naive. They know what they want, and expect, from their new company, and they're eager to learn and dive right in.

So if you're not fully prepared to acclimate your new hires and give them all the tools they need to hit the ground running, they may go running --- out the door and over to a competitor.

Here are the top five things new hires are looking for on the first day on the job.

A Tour and a Functional Workspace

The last thing you want to do on employees' first days is stick them in a conference room and have them fill out paperwork all day. Take care of those administrative tasks in advance, and more importantly, use that first day to get your new hires use to their surroundings. Show them everything --- their department, where to get supplies, the location of the mail room and IT department, the "executive wing," and, of course, where the break/lunch room and restrooms are.

Also, show them where their office/workspace is --- and make sure it's set up and ready to go. Having a fully-functional desk (filled with all necessary office supplies), a connected phone extension, and a computer with email and network access will show the new hire they're welcomed and valued, while ensuring that they don't waste time waiting to get the tools they need to do their jobs. As outlined by an engineer at Netflix in a Quora thread, the company asks new hires about their computer and technology preferences ahead of time, and has their workstations ready to rock on day one.

Hearing From Leadership

Meeting, talking to, and interacting with colleagues and managers during the first day company tour is great, but a lot of the time it's mostly small talk and pleasantries. Getting a run-down on the company and its culture adds another level of orientation, but if you really want your employee onboarding program to be impactful, get your senior leadership team involved in the process.

Hearing about the company culture first hand from senior leaders will show your new hires that you're all in it together --- that the bosses aren't siloed and tucked away in some "ivory tower." And don't worry, you don't have to ask the higher-ups to commit a whole (or even half) day to the onboarding process. Just make it so they're visible and available. For instance, at Cohen & Company, the CEO, partner emeritus and other senior executives take a few minutes out of their days to conduct Q&A sessions with new hires. And at Budget Dumpster, the executive team --- including the CEO --- shares space on the office floor with the rest of the staff, maximizing their exposure to new hires.

Review of Company Structure/Culture

The main goal of any employee onboarding program is to make sure the new hire fits into the company culture. But how can an employee fit into the culture if they don't fully understand the culture? Company culture goes beyond mission statements; you need to educate new hires as to who the company is and what it's about, what its values are, and what it's really like to work there.

A great example on how teach, live and breathe company culture can be found at Percolate, where co-founder Noah Brier has created a "Day One Document." This ever-updating Google Doc constantly and consistently defines the company's culture. As Brier told First Round Review, "It's our living, breathing document that covers all aspects of our culture, from where the company comes from to our point of view on meetings. Mostly it's about our culture, ideas and methodology. We try to focus on explanations, not rules. In fact there are just three listed rules at Percolate."

Icebreaking Activities

One thing companies sometimes miss when crafting an employee onboarding program is the simple fact that it should be fun and engaging. After all, you want your people to be excited to come in everyday! Icebreaking activities like games, contests, and competitions will help your new hires connect with one another, current employees, and the company.

If athletic endeavors or scavenger hunts don't really fit into your company culture, there are many other things you could try. At Birchbox, the company doesn't just make sure new hires' workstations are up and running, they also leave candy and a handmade welcome flag with the message, "Hi. I'm new. Come say hi!" This helps facilitate introductions and conversations without the new hire having to walk from cubicle to cubicle and interrupt others' workdays. And at Bonobos, when a new person comes on board, every existing employee gets a "two truths and a lie" email about that person --- they get three facts about the new hire (two that are real and one that is fake), the first person to guess which is fake wins a $25 store credit. This gets the current employees to talk and engage with the new hire to try and figure out which is which.

Getting a Buddy and a Mentor

Many companies just place a new hire into a cubicle with a coworker and basically say, "watch and learn." While learning on the job from someone who has actually done the work is beneficial, your employee onboarding program needs to incorporate deeper levels of learning. This is where buddies and mentors come in.

A "buddy" is just that, a friendly co-worker that will show the new hire the ins and outs of the office, assist with introductions and answer general questions not pertaining to job functions. A "mentor," however, should be someone from the same department as the new employee --- but not their team leader or manager --- who will train, acclimate, and ultimately help cultivate that employee's career. Finding and assigning buddies and mentors should be quick and easy, and the process can even be automated. Once someone is hired at Hyland Software, their internal systems sends an email to their manager to assign a mentor. However you do it, it's probably a good idea to wait until after the new employee's first week to designate a mentor, as you'll have a better idea as to who would be the best fit from a chemistry standpoint. Buddies, on the other hand, can and should be assigned day one.

As you can see, an effective employee onboarding program will go a long way in ensuring your new hires are not only ready to contribute on day one, but also ready (and willing) to keep contributing for months and years to come.

At viperks, maximizing employee happiness is at the heart of everything we do. Our employee discount and appreciation program optimizes employee engagement, putting smiles on your staff members' faces and boosting your company's bottom line.

Want to learn more about how you can help your employees be happier and more productive? We're here to talk.

Topics: onboarding

blog author

Scott Moss

Scott is a business development professional with over 20 years of veteran experience dealing with large, complex sales of intangible services with extended sales cycles. He has domain expertise in rewards/recognition programs for Fortune 1000 organizations along with intimate knowledge of ecommerce best practices, consumer & B2B marketing, and behavioral economics. Scott is a 1991 graduate of Syracuse University.