Bringing new employees into the fold of your growing startup is a monumental undertaking. If you haven’t hired before, hiring your first worker means meeting new legal requirements and delegating tasks for the first time. But even if you’ve already made your first hire, adding further workers requires due diligence on your part to ensure the company culture you’ve been trying to create is upheld.
So much effort goes into the hiring process that many startup founders forget to invest in the key process that influences whether the new workers they’ve selected will go on to be successful: onboarding.
If you haven’t put much thought or effort into your onboarding process in the past, the following tips will ensure that your relationship starts out on solid ground from day one:
1. Start late.
At a minimum, your new staff member should start the day at least two hours later than when the rest of your staff arrives at the office. This prevents two unfortunate possibilities that could leave your new hire feeling unwelcome.
The first is the risk that your new employee arrives at the office while it’s still locked and dark -- not a very welcoming way to start a new position! But even if staff members are there, having the new hire arrive with everybody else -- especially on a Monday -- raises the possibility that the stakeholders involved in the onboarding process will be tied up putting out the previous night’s fires.
Your onboarding process will go much more smoothly if it begins after everybody has had the chance to settle in and address pressing issues.
2. Have key staff conduct the welcome.
So, you’ve got your new staff member coming in later -- now you’ve got to think about who’s on deck to greet this person.
Companies that already have a small team on board are prone to leaving the greeting, tour and initial conversations to the admin staff (or worse, the employee closest to the door). But welcoming new employees in this way sends the subconscious message that they aren’t your top priority -- and nobody wants to feel that way upon joining a new company.
Instead, schedule your new hire’s first day when your schedule (or the schedules of other top staff members on your team) is relatively empty. Then devote your full focus to the process of welcoming your new worker onboard.
3. Reaffirm their choice for taking your position.
“First days are an opportunity to tell the story of who you are and what you want to accomplish, and have that stick with every single person who joins your organization," says Carly Guthrie, a San Francisco-based human resources consultant. "You want to take the opportunity to validate their decision to join.”
Too many startups put all of their energy into recruitment, and then drop the ball when it comes to onboarding. Remember the old adage that you only have one chance to make a first impression. Use this time wisely by taking the time to reaffirm both your company’s mission and the new hire’s choice in taking a position to work with you.
4. Hold a team lunch.
“We host a catered welcome lunch on everyone’s first day where our office manager Juliette is the mistress of ceremonies. She makes sure conversation is flowing. Then at the perfect moment, she has everyone go around and reintroduce ourselves.”
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your team lunch, but you do need to take it seriously as an opportunity to introduce new teammates to each other in a non-threatening, social environment.
5. Have the new hire spend time in customer service.
John Rampton of Hostt describes his process of having new hires in every position -- even the CEO -- spend two to three weeks in customer service, saying, “This helps every person in the company know our product and what our real customers are saying.”
Take a lesson from his playbook by requiring your new hires to do the same. Even if they’ll eventually move into very different positions, having a background in the company’s customer service process and customer concerns will help new workers to start out with a balanced understanding of the company and its objectives and challenges.
6. Keep the first day light.
Finally, keep in mind that, while having new hires spend time in customer service is a great idea, they don’t need to dive into everything right away. If you’re already short-staffed, it can be difficult to think about delaying your new worker’s immediate productivity. But take a longer term approach. Burning your new employees out on their first day isn’t the best way to kick off a long, fruitful relationship!
For even more tips on getting the most out of your new hires, check out my report, “25 Hiring Secrets from Top CEOs.” If you have other questions on how optimize your startup’s onboarding process, leave me a note in the comments section below.