4 Ways to Ensure Employee Success From Day One

You're never going to have a better shot at engaging employees than on their very first day.

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By Lisa Haugh


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Starting a new job is equal parts stressful and exciting. New hires are anxious to make a great first impression, and their new teammates are anxious for them to hit the ground running and become part of the team.

However, we don't always stop to consider what's expected of employers in these early days. Making a good impression cuts both ways, and companies have to start laying the foundation for a mutually rewarding relationship beginning on Day One of the employee journey. (This Udemy course by Josh Bersin offers some great tips for engaging and retaining talent each step of the way.)

Related: The 3 Most Common -- and Costly -- Hiring Mistakes

Before you throw a new employee into the deep end, you should take advantage of the golden opportunity you have to introduce your organization's culture, values, and work environment to a completely open and receptive mind.

Don't wing it.

As a small business owner, you're super-busy, but integrating new people into your team is among the most sensitive, mission-critical events your business may undergo. You need to take this process as seriously and intentionally as how you build new products, enter new markets or pitch new customers.

Come up with a new-hire checklist and detailed agenda for the first day and week. Not only does this let everyone know what to expect, it ensures consistency that will keep your culture strong as more new faces join your ranks. Plus, you won't have to scramble to prepare next time.

A note of caution: The first days and weeks of a new job are emotionally draining. Resist the temptation to pack as much as possible into the shortest amount of time, thinking you'll get people doing "real work" faster. Build breaks and lighter content into your schedule so new hires don't exhaust their capacity for absorbing new information. (Shameless plug: Come to work at Udemy, and you'll enjoy Rookie Cookie Hour your first week!)

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Get a New Employee Up to Speed

Give them a warm welcome.

Unless your office is huge, try to have someone take new hires around to meet as many people as possible that first day or week, including people they won't necessarily work with directly. This removes the awkwardness of crossing paths with "strangers" in the office and sends the message you're one big team, united behind a common purpose and goals.

It's easy to send out an email about a new hire, but you can do better. At Udemy, we include new employee photos and infuse those announcements with fun facts and personal interests that can serve as icebreakers. Remember, you're welcoming people to your team, not job titles or resources.

Another nice touch one of my former employers did was creating a "neighborhood guide" for our office location. We were hiring a lot of young transplants to the city, and they didn't necessarily know what was available nearby if they had to run a quick errand. It was a small gesture that showed consideration for people's lives away from the office.

Related: Does Your Onboarding Give New Employees the Urge to Flee?

Don't leave them alone.

There's nothing worse than being new and knowing no one. My company isn't unique in pairing new employees with buddies outside of their department to help them learn the ropes, get a feel for our culture and include them in things happening around the office. By design, buddies aren't managers or teammates, so newbies meet more people and get exposed to a wider cross-section of work being done.

It's also important for upper management to signal how they value employees by spending time with newcomers away from their desks. At the very least, carve out space to go to lunch during the employee's first week, and try not to squeeze it between meetings when you're rushed or distracted. You're setting the tone for this person's time at your company; you want to motivate them, not give the impression she's just joined a hectic, stressful environment where people can't even take a lunch break.

Related: 4 Tips for Keeping That New Hire

Get them set up right.

Imagine how awkward it is when someone shows up at his new job only to discover no one bothered to tell IT to set up his workstation or turn on his email account. It suggests you're disorganized or don't care about your employee's experience, neither of which is likely true.

This is an easily avoidable first-day snafu that should never happen but still does. Your onboarding checklist needs to cover more than the new hire's agenda of activities. It should also include logistical items, so new employees see nothing but a well-oiled process that demonstrates competence and instills confidence.

You're never going to have a better shot at engaging an employee than on her very first day, so make the most of it by giving your new hire your time, interest and investment.

Lisa Haugh

VP of People and General Counsel at Udemy

Lisa Haugh has more than 15 years of experience leading legal and HR functions for a range of startups and mature companies. At Udemy, she heads up all legal and human resource functions, including all hiring, training and diversity efforts. She received her BA from UCLA and her law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law.  

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