Your workforce is the lifeblood of your business: it may have become a cliché, but it’s with good reason. However experienced you may be, whatever the strength of your core idea and, for now, your finances, your employees remain a tremendous variable. When they are talented, motivated, and they know what they’re doing, they can take your business to places even you had not foreseen. If any one of those elements – talent, motivation, training – is missing, their other strengths can go to waste.
And no moment is too soon to get these attributes on track. As with personal relationships, the dynamic between your employee and your company can become defined by first impressions and founding moments. It is not an encounter to take lightly, but for which instead you should prepare for, so as to facilitate a calm and productive first few hours, days and months with your new colleague.
That means starting in good time before their first day. Your new recruit will need both environmental and operational orientation, and the latter in particular can begin to take shape before they even step into the office. Choose an employee for your new recruit to shadow or buddy with, and let this sponsor know what is expected of them and the boundaries of their new responsibility. It can be profitable to discuss the sponsor’s memories of their own onboarding process in case there is anything you can improve on this time around, or any suggestions they have for how to do things differently.
Look once more at the job description which your new employee saw when they applied for the job. Is it as clear as it can be? You might want to create a fattened-up version, with a bit more depth on each particular responsibility, on your expectations of your new recruit, and what they should expect of you. This is all stuff that you will go through together during their first days, but it’s good that you should both have a reference document, even if you need to be clear that it is only a guide and not a binding contract.
You can put these responsibilities into a time-based context, too. If there’s stuff your new guy needs to learn, add deadlines and review points. Figure out some reasonable targets and add these, too, to their weekly goal plan. These points can be reappraised as time goes by.
You should also leave plenty of time in advance of that first day for anything that needs to be ordered and delivered for your new employee to receive the warmest welcome. Hardware, company phone, key cards and passes can all take a while to come through, and their absence can cause a stutter while your recruit is getting started. Online clearances, email addresses, files and accounts should all be ready to go long before your new employee turns up – aside from anything else, it will make their induction period much more meaningful for them to have access to all the tools and resources for which they’re being trained.
Everybody has different social expectations and skills, so it can be a challenge to get the welcome balance right when your recruit finally turns up. Depending on the size of your company, it may be overwhelming to be greeted by the boss on the first day, but certainly someone should be on standby to greet and orientate the recruit on arrival and bring them to you to say hello. Making personal time for your new recruit at this stage can help to foster trust and loyalty on the long run.
Likewise, while it can help break the ice to arrange some kind of informal greeting later in the day – a company lunch or a cake and coffee break – for some new employees this will be a nightmare scenario. Try to think of a way to create this atmosphere without shining too much attention on them, and be sensitive to their personal space and their needs while they learn the ropes.
There will be lots of technicalities to get through, but don’t be in a terrible rush to get it all out of the way on the first day. Deal with the essentials such as health and safety, log-ins and access, and introductions to their immediate colleagues. Payroll stuff and some workplace routines can be left for later in the week or month. Leave plenty of time for questions, listen carefully throughout the day, and hold a small end of day informal meeting to check that everything’s been understood and give a chance for your employee to let you know how they think it went.
As the week rolls on, you can begin to build on the responsibilities and tasks entrusted to your recruit. Try to give them something manageable and achievable on which to sharpen their teeth, and consider setting up another informal social event later in the week, to keep the momentum going and ensure they are bonding with the team. Don’t let those other tasks involving starter paperwork get away from you – while you needn’t rush, it’s good to establish a sense of discipline and timeliness by example.
During the first month, you can begin to thicken your recruit’s engagement with your business. Let them know more about your ethos and your goals, give them background reading and try to involve an element of research in their tasks so that they get used to growing into the role and engaging with the industry. Talk about any specific direction or ambitions your recruit would like to pursue, and think about training opportunities and tasks that you can work out for them.
And as you approach the ninety-day mark, it’s time to finish thinking about them as a new employee. Hopefully by now you will trust them enough to deal with more major responsibilities, and if not then it’s something to bring up at their 90-day appraisal. You can scale down the frequency of check-in meetings, but hopefully by now you will have developed the mutual trust to will approach each other with issues, difficulties, or of course fresh ideas.
For a step-by-step guide on how to make this process as smooth and healthy as possible, try working through this checklist from The Business Backer. Get those first hours and days right, and the months and years should slip into place.