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Innovative Onboarding - Striking A Lasting First Impression

June 28, 2021

Imagine this: You wake up early, clean your face, brush your teeth, and put on fresh, newly purchased clothes for your first day of work at a new company. Excited having been selected from a large candidate pool, you walk into the office already knowing the names and a bit about your direct team. By now, you have talked to your direct manager outside of the interview and they have inspired a level of confidence within you. You understand the role you will play in the company and feel aligned to their core values, and - you feel like you really belong in this company.  

Isn’t that the feeling and onboarding experience we want all of our new employees to have?

Attracting and retaining top talent is a constant focus for HR professionals, and building a fantastic employee experience is crucial to short- and long-term retention of key talent. 

In this post we share our top tips and tricks to get your employees started off on the right foot for a long-lasting and enjoyable employee journey.

Creating a new employee success journey

The onboarding journey is different for every company, but capitalizing on the time post-contract signing, and pre-workplace entry is important. This period can be leveraged to enhance the employee onboarding journey. Here are some of our favorite ideas:

Welcome Videos

Choose several employees from the new hire’s team to make a quick introduction video about themselves. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy – even a 30-second video is great. Ask your team to share their name, a smile, and an entertaining industry fact or personal anecdote about themselves. Some fun, industry-specific questions include - favorite fonts for writers or favorite coding line for programmers– anything that builds an initial connection and breaks the ice. 

Sticky note greetings

Get your team to write short messages and wishes for the new employee on colorful sticky notes and post them all around the office or working space.  

‘Get to know you’ survey

Ask a few quick questions about your new hire’s preferences, and apply that to their work environment. Some examples include:

  • Favorite color – which can then be applied to their computer desktop background. 
  • Coffee or tea – with a selection of custom tea bags or coffee pods ready for them on their desk for the first day or mailed to them as a welcome gift.
  • Pen or pencil – for a welcome gift with branded company stationary. 
  • Food and dietary preferences – having their favorite dish or pastry at your next morning tea meeting, and avoiding allergies helps new employees feel right at home.

The list is endless.  Choose some industry-relevant questions too – anything that will help build rapport and improve their social or physical inclusion. 

‘Coffee catch-up’ with the manager

Have the new employee and line manager set aside 15-20 minutes before official onboarding to have an informal discussion.  This way you can welcome the new hire to the team and get to know them outside of the interview process. Many employees go straight from seeing their manager at an interview – a highly stressful situation, to being nervous and seeing their manager on their first day. Breaking the anxiety with one or two informal discussions can help set aside your new hires’ nerves, paint the line manager in a more human light, and be the start of a strong relationship in their team.  

Be crystal clear

Did you know that around 20% of new employees feel completely lost before their 45th day at a company (Harvard Business Review report)?  Make sure your employee understands what is expected of them, what scope and in what timeframe, who they are reporting to and how their success will be measured.  

Have a good casual talk with new employees

Day 1 – and beyond

After your new employee has landed, it becomes easier to keep the momentum and positive experiences flowing. Building their inclusion from a social and productivity perspective can create a strong sense of belonging and engagement with your newest team member. 

Some great methods for building this experience include:

Creating some week 1 ‘easy wins’

Creating a situation where a new hire can successfully complete a team task early in their employment is useful for retention. This type of planning demonstrates the contribution they will be making to the team and validates their sense of purpose in the workplace, both factors in enhancing employee retention according to the Deloitte 2020 Talent Report. In addition, it creates a sense of belonging, builds the employees’ professional image, and develops resource links within the team.

Early team building

Fostering work friendships is one of the most powerful and underutilized techniques for encouraging employee satisfaction and retention. Here are some simple ideas:

  • Assign a “buddy” for the new employee in week 1 and rotate to a new person in week 2.  The buddy can show the new employee around the office, take them to the local coffee shop and show them all the ropes, making their start smooth and welcoming. 
  • Invite your new member to take part or present in a weekly ‘lunch and learn’ - sessions where team members rotate in teaching everyone about something not-work-related that they love and are passionate about.  This gives other team members the opportunity to get to know each other in a fun, relaxing environment. We’ve heard of sessions about everything from origami to Greek philosophy! 

New hire engagement and onboarding are not easy. Larger companies have entire teams dedicated to the new employee experience and it represents an emerging metric in all sectors. If you want to ensure early employee retention, focus on creating unique and personalized onboarding for every one of your new colleagues.

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