April 22, 2018
Hiring 21 July 2017
Employee Onboarding: First Impressions Really Do Matter
Jessica Barrett Halcom
employee onboarding

The days of a “sink or swim” introduction into a company are (thankfully) beginning to dwindle. Why? The approach simply isn’t successful. In fact, the impact of the first few months of employment is quantifiable — 22 percent of turnover occurs within the first 45 days which is a costly statistic that can be easily avoided with the right employee onboarding.

No matter how prepared a new hire is for a role, change is hard. In the first few months, new employees have to meet coworkers, learn the ropes of their role, integrate into an existing team, and figure out your company culture.  

To be successful, they need the support of a well-planned and deliberate onboarding process. There are a few key things to keep in mind as you work to craft an onboarding program that makes a great first impression.


Onboarding Begins Before Day One

Many companies consider an employee’s first day as the start of onboarding, but the truth of the matter is that onboarding begins the day you send an offer letter. With communication and follow-ups, you have the opportunity to make or break someone’s first impression as an employee of your company versus an applicant. 

Be sure you’re using your applicant tracking systems or hiring software to effectively manage the process. Was your offer letter timely and did it include all the relevant details? Did you ask any team members who’d interviewed the applicant to reach out with congratulations and encouragement to accept? These small details matter, particularly when an applicant is making a choice between your offer and others. 

After an offer is accepted, onboarding continues in the days, weeks, or months leading up to the new hire’s first day. Your new hire has just resigned from a current role, and may still be reconciling that decision. Many companies make the mistake of going dark during this time period, which can leave a new hire feeling particularly uneasy. Successful use of this time can include sending the new hire branded swag, PDFs of reading material, or even just a day one logistics email. Simply knowing that a team lunch is scheduled can take away some of those nervous feelings about the first day. 

Also, consider getting all of a new hire’s paperwork, security, and tech details out of the way before day one. That way, on the first day in the office your new hire can focus on meeting the team, getting to know supervisors, and settling in. 


Take Your Time

With about one-third of new hires quitting their job after only six months, it begs to look into what impacts the way a new employee determines whether or not they’ll stick around for the long haul. 

It can be tempting to let a new hire hit the ground running on day one, especially if you’ve been clamoring to fill a position for a while. While that’s often times mutually rewarding, it’s important to remember that you sometimes need to go slow to move fast — a common reason people quit within the first year is due to unclear expectations

Be sure to take time in the first days or weeks of a new hire’s employment to establish clear expectations of the role, but most importantly, explain how they can be successful in their new position. What does that look like? What will they need to do, learn, achieve, and produce? Where can they go for support? Even if you went after a new hire for his or her seasoned experience and expertise, success is defined differently in every organization. 

Another pro onboarding tip? Create a sense of accomplishment on the first day. While you may be tempted to go extra light on day one, assigning even a simple task that the new hire can accomplish (and accomplish well) will provide a boost of self-esteem associated with the work. 


Establish a Mentor

Formally assigning a mentor to each new hire not only gives them a point person to ask questions of but creates a trusted bridge from new hire to mentor to management. Mentors are positioned to gauge how well the new hire is doing so that they can course correct should there be any concerns. You may also consider rotating mentors from time to time to provide your new employees with other perspectives and help them get to know more of their colleagues.

Keep in mind that it’s sometimes helpful to make it clear to new hires that asking questions isn’t just OK, but preferred and essential with regard to learning in your culture. As much as you want to make a good impression on your new hires, they want to impress you with what they bring to the table. Making it clear that no question is a bad question, and showing where extra resources for self-learning can be found, will make them more comfortable. 


Check-In

It’s important to check in on your new hires quite often. For the first week or two, you may want to check in with them every day, even for just a few minutes, to see how they feel, encourage questions, field any concerns, and see how you can help. For the first several weeks, consider scheduling a formal 15-minute meeting with them on Friday to keep a pulse on how they’re doing. These quick touches with new employees show them they’re already valued members of the team and lets them know that you’re invested in their success.

First impressions do matter. With new hires, a solid onboarding process from offer to pre-first day to the first six or nine months creates a huge impact on job satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty. But also remember, for every applicant you hire, there are more you have to reject. As much as you consider your new employee’s first impressions, consider your rejected applicants as well. A respectful and informative rejection process promotes goodwill and makes top applicants more likely to come back to your company in the future. 


Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in human resources, healthcare, and transportation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN.