Tips for onboarding a new employee

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Q: I recently started a new job.  It is with a small company.  On my first day, it felt like they were not expecting me.  The receptionist didn’t know who I was.  My manager seemed overloaded and confused by even showing me around.  I am not going to lie.  It was not a great start.  We just had an HR person start, which is a relief.  I want to give her some recommendations on how to onboard a new employee but I don’t want to offend her.  I think this new role and company will be fine but it was not a good first day or even a good first week.  Is this typical for most small companies?

A: Congratulations on your new role!  Small companies often have limited resources and it takes time to build internal systems and processes (like onboarding).  It sounds like you were introduced to the company before an onboarding system was created.  Here are some best practices that we see being used by some of our smartest clients.

  1. Reach out to a new hire before they even start. Either HR or the hiring manager can send the new hire a quick email welcoming the new employee (you can find the best PEO providers here).  Information on parking/public transportation, building access, what to bring and what time to arrive can all be part of this first email (or phone call).  The tone should be “we are excited to have you join!”
  2. The new employee’s first day should be memorable (in a positive way). A work space (e.g., office, desk or cube) should be set up in advance.  If appropriate, a PC or laptop should be waiting for them. Their hiring manager, a co-worker or a member of the HR team should give them a tour and introduce them to key colleagues.  Make sure the new employee has someone who can join them for lunch on day one.  Yes, there will probably be a few forms to complete too.  Many friends and family will inevitably ask the new employee, “How was our first day?”  Ideally, the response should describe the first day as welcoming, exciting or even fun.  One of our clients has an electronic sign in their entry way.  For an employee’s first week, the sign reads “Please welcome Jane Doe, who is joining the sales team on November 8th!”
  3. Assign a buddy. Many of our clients assign a buddy to the new employee.  One of our clients will pick up the tab for lunch so the buddy can invite the new employee out to lunch during the new hire’s first 30 days of employment.
  4. Schedule a check-in with the new employee after day one, week one and the first month. Ensure that they are understanding the work environment, expectations and feeling connected to others.
  5. One of our clients ensures that the CEO stops by and says hello during a new employee’s first week. A warm greeting and handshake from the CEO sends a message to the new hire that new employees are important and valued.

Candidates often share that one of the reasons they accept one offer over another is that they “had a good feeling” or “they made me feel part of the team” or “I could see myself working there.”  Don’t let this energy stop when a new hire begins!

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.