Updated: June 23, 2020
You swiped right (on your pile of resumes, that is), and found the employee you’ve always dreamed about.
But before it’s officially their first day, you need to bring them into your inner circle of all-stars. Or in other words, you need to make sure they know exactly what to expect on that jazzy day when it all begins.
There are a bundle of things you can do before your new employee starts to make sure their first day is truly first-rate. In this article, we’ll help you get it all together so you can be ready to go before they even stroll into the office.
Gusto makes it easy to onboard your new team members. With a seamless onboarding experience, new employees can take off running. Learn more.
First things first: Why is this stuff important?
Streamlined onboarding helps people ramp up quickly and feel integrated into the fabric of a company. What’s more, it can also help you as an employer retain great employees.
According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), employees at Corning who went through an exhaustive onboarding program were 69% more likely to stay at the company for up to three years. This is because the first experience a person has leaves an indelible mark on their entire journey with the company.
A survey from BambooHR also found that nearly one out of three respondents have quit their jobs within the first six months, with the most resignations happening in the first three months. Those who left their teams shortly after joining identified the following areas where onboarding could have made a difference:
- 23% wanted to “receive clear guidelines to what responsibilities were”
- 21% wanted “more effective training”
- 17% said “a friendly smile or helpful co-worker would have made all the difference”
The good news is, a little planning can help you meet all these needs and more. Now, let’s explore how to create a great onboarding experience through:
- clear communication,
- rolling out the welcome wagon, and
- making sure all your ducks are in a row.
Step 1: Communicate clearly.
We’ve all had first-day jitters. People are usually excited and nervous all rolled into one when starting a new venture.
To help set new hires up for success, proper communication is essential right from the beginning. When you make people feel like you’re being honest with them and vice versa, it can squelch a lot of unnecessary mishaps.
With a little proactive communication, your new hire will be more likely to bring the correct items on their first day, and you’ll be able to ensure they’re off to a compliant, well-prepped start.
Once you’ve made the hire
Send a customized offer letter or welcome note.
Once you’ve made your hiring decision, be sure to send your new hire an offer letter with the details of their position, including their title, compensation, benefits, and other logistics. Customize the offer letter with your personal congratulations, or consider sending a separate note welcoming them to the team.
A few days before they start
Tell them what they should bring to fill out their I-9 and W-4 forms: Usually, this involves a passport, driver’s license, or a Social Security card. Side note: If you use an HR service that does this part for you, they’ll be able to complete this stuff all on their own.
Email them explaining what to expect on the first day: Lay out any details they may find useful, like your business address, the weather, what people normally wear, and the parking and public transportation options they have on hand. Is there a great cafe on the way from the train? Highlight it so they can start the day off on the right foot, or latte.
Email the team introducing your new hire: Before sending the announcement email, ask your new employee to answer a few questions about themselves. These icebreakers will speed up the introduction process and help the team find easy ways to connect with your new hire in the early days. You can use this template to give you a head start.
Step 2: Roll out the welcome wagon.
Once you’ve made it loud and clear what’s going on, it’s time to get your hands dirty by making your new hire feel extra loved at this exciting (but nerve-wracking!) moment in their life. Don’t be afraid to get creative; here are a couple ideas to get you started:
Send a personalized welcome gift: Try scheduling a delivery from a local flower shop, and for virtual gifts, check out Giftly.
Hook them up with two buddies: Over half of new employees say they want a mentor or friend to help them show them the way when they first start. A dedicated buddy can help show them the ropes while a mentor can help sow the seeds for career and personal development. Another idea is to start people with similar roles on the same day so they have a built-in buddy to go through orientation with them.
Step 3: Set stuff up.
Now, let’s put some of the basics into motion. This will ensure that the first day runs as seamlessly as possible.
Set up their equipment: When your new hire walks in, they should be ready to jump into work right away. To help make this happen, ask them in advance about what kind of laptop, desk, headphones, and other items they would like to have so they can do their best work.
Set up their software: Keep a running list of the digital tools your team uses on the daily for communication, file sharing, performance tracking, and so on. Note the software that your whole team uses, as well as tools that are specific to certain teams or job functions. Then give your IT folks a few days’ heads up to get your new employee the access they need on day one.
(If you’re a Gusto customer, you can sync with your favorite software, including G Suite, Dropbox, Office 365, Slack, and Zoom, and give new employees access with one click.)
Set up their email address: As soon as they start receiving work emails, they’ve officially joined the team. Give them an email address before they start so they can get rolling right from day one. (Gusto customers, you can also do this through your account.)
Secure any access cards they need: Does your office require a key or access card? Make sure you put in the order right away so they’re not frantically messaging teammates to let them inside.
Spruce up their desk: Add a balloon or some other marker to their desk indicating they’re new, so people will be more likely to come over and introduce themselves. If you know more about their interests, decorate it with related doodads, like plants or toys.
Order their company swag: Buy them a T-shirt, hoodie, jacket, or other company apparel, so they feel like they’re already a part of the team when they start. If you have a required uniform, make sure you place the order in advance so your new employee has what they need once they arrive.
Order business cards: Sometimes seeing your name and your new role can make it all come to life. Handing them business cards allows them to also begin sharing their news even before they start.
Add them to your employee directory: An employee directory is a map that helps them understand who everyone is on the team. Photos, team names, fun tidbits, and other details can help them fill in the blanks as they’re trying to learn everyone’s name.
Once you knock off the communications, welcoming, and setup stuff, your new hire will be ready to enter the sheer wonder that is their first day. Nerves will melt away, and happiness and excitement for what lies ahead will take their place.
Plus, you’ll feel good knowing that you did what you could to craft that perfect first-day experience.