Small Business Services

Onboarding New Employees: Your Responsibilities

The first day on a new job can be brutal. All of those forms to sign. Those sometimes-awkward introductions to co-workers – the people you’ll be spending dozens of hours with every week with for years – and your frantic attempts to remember their names and positions.

Learning the building layout. Learning more about your job responsibilities. Learning about the corporate culture, the office protocol, the office equipment — and who to call when the copier won’t work.

PC and internet technology have changed the way we work. It should also be changing the way you welcome new employees to your company, as well as their level of readiness when they walk in the door on that first day.

Starting Early

Your responsibilities as a manager can’t all be handled with your mouse. But you can utilize the internet, your company intranet, and other communications tools to:

  • Take care of any HR-type paperwork that can be supplied and completed online. Avoid that blizzard of forms that usually greets new employees by emailing forms and links to forms. Try to do this in one neat electronic package, rather than dispatching what’s needed in a piecemeal fashion. It presents a clean, organized image of your company.
  • Help new hires learn names and faces and job titles before the first meetings. Hopefully, your company website or Facebook page or blog contains pictures – both professional and casual – of staff. Explain the new employees’ relationships to the people they will be working with the closest.
  • Distribute your policy handbook, recent copies of newsletters, and other materials that will help employees learn about your rules, the building layout, the best restaurants nearby, etc.

The Human Element

You’ve just saved yourself a lot of time and helped new hires learn — at their own pace — what would normally be presented en masse the first day, which means that this information is more likely to be absorbed and retained.

Here’s what’s left to do in person with new hires.

Humanize the company’s founding and founders.

Your new hires will have read the PR/marketing version. Talk about the founders’ vision, why the company was started, and what problems they were trying to solve.

Make employees’ work areas look like they’re expected. Order the business cards in advance and have them ready, as well as the door (or cubicle) nameplate. Put their names on as many things as you can – their paperwork, the company phone directory, a personal cover letter attached to the standard employee handbook, etc.

New employees will have learned about their soon-to-be co-workers through their online browsing, so offer the same courtesy to existing staff. Send out a department-wide (or company-wide, if you’re small) email introducing the new addition. Pass along anything you’ve learned that’s not on resumes that might help break the ice when the in-person introductions begin.

Assign a co-worker to mentor new hires. This shouldn’t be a boss-underling relationship, but rather someone with good people skills who can walk them through the company’s computer work-and-collaboration system, take them to lunch, be available for questions, etc.

Give new staff members some breathing room the first day or two. Despite all of the information they may have amassed by doing their online prep work, they’ll still be getting bombarded with new stuff. Let them putter around in their work areas and learn about the technology you’ve provided them –without being stared at constantly.

Don’t assume that they’ve absorbed everything they read before their first day. Schedule an hour that first day to ask them if they have any questions or concerns about the paperwork they’ve done or anything they saw in the policy handbook or other materials. Hand them a written job description, and if you can, share information about the structure and content of their first employee evaluation so they know how they’ll be assessed. Try to do an informal check-in once a month or so until the first formal review.

What you’re trying to do in the onboarding process, beyond ensuring that the required paperwork is done and all policy and other compliance issues are understood, is to send a message that new employees were needed, and that they play an important role in achieving the company’s overall mission. They’re a box in the org chart, yes, but a welcome, important one.


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