How to engage (versus initiate) your next employee

While daydreaming about snapping up some of the incredible talent now available due to a sluggish labor economy of late, I tried to imagine a perfect “first day” experience from a new hire’s perspective. And from that exercise, I’d like to pass along ideas for improving our new-hire initiation program, converting it into an integration plan instead.

If you have additional ideas (we aren’t a large enough company to offer a one-on-one mentor or a shadowing opportunity, for example), feel free to tack it to the list in the comments section. Also, if you’re looking for a job and have an idea of what a perfect “welcome” to that job would be (beyond an immediate raise and promotion), post it!

Before the employee’s first day

1. The 15-day professional development plan: The new hire’s manager compiles a list of 15 objectives for the new employee to accomplish, one special action per day, for the first 15 workdays. Think beyond day-to-day tasks – this is not the normal job-training program but rather a “cultural fit” program with the goal of engaging and integrating the new employee. Actions could include sitting in a sales meeting (for non-sales staff), lunching with another key manager, visiting a vendor’s site, meeting a key customer, attending a chamber event, scheduling time with the CEO to learn about the company’s history, etc.  

2. Co-worker introduction: Before the new hire arrives, let staff know when the person is going to join the company and talk about his or her role, supervisor, and areas of responsibility. Then include a paragraph about why this person was hired – skills, past work experience, etc. – and where he or she came from. Thank your staff for helping make the new hire feel welcome.

3. Workstation checklist: What office supplies does the new hire need, and is the workplace stocked prior to arrival? Also, does he or she need keys, a credit card, travel vouchers, or a cell phone? Consider adding a small “welcome” gift like a mug or a plant. Your new hire will tell family and friends about it, and it’s a good way to give him or her a positive experience to report.

4. FAQ booklet for the employee: What questions would a new hire naturally have that aren’t part of the employee handbook? How does the phone work? Where is the pencil sharpener? How long do most people take for lunch and are there a few quick dining options in the area? Does the company sponsor volunteer opportunities? When is the next payroll date? How should employees prepare for staff meetings? What is the dress code? Can employees personalize their workspace – and if so, within what limits? What company-wide celebrations are coming up? What do people typically do to celebrate birthdays – bring treats? It’s easy to prepare an online document, keep it updated, and then print a copy for your new hire and present it to him or her first thing, with a page for notes.  



First day

5. Onboarding across departments: To help acclimate new employees, schedule a welcome lunch with a few key employees and managers across departments. This helps new hires understand the role they will play within the scope of the company and it will inspire engagement. It’s great for new hires to feel that they are part of a team.

6. Managers: Schedule a one-on-one meeting to discuss your preferred communication style. During the training period, do you want to be informed of everything (by email or summary post) or do you only want to be informed of challenges? Do you want to set aside 10 minutes every day for the first couple of weeks for a formal check-in? How “open” is your open-door policy? Also, if the HR department forgets to do this for some weird reason, to reduce company liability as well as fully welcome a new employee, make sure you let the person know company policy for conflict resolution and/or pay disputes – who to bring their issues to and how to do that. This should uphold employee handbook “safe harbor” issues.

7. Formal meet-and-greet opportunity: If possible, host a new-staff half-hour welcome near the end of the first workday so others don’t have to “slip in to say hi” during an understandably overwhelming first day.

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