The first day at a new job means a new company, new responsibilities, new co-workers, a new commute–a whole new routine.
Employers have a lot at stake, too. Many people put a lot of time and energy into picking this new hire. They’re counting on that person to get up to speed quickly and start contributing. They need the new employee to be a good fit.
But according to researchers, new hires aren’t focused just on fitting in, they’re thinking about reinventing themselves. A new job and a new social setting represent a rare opportunity for people to show their authentic selves or even to reshape their personalities.
It’s like the first day at a new school–a clean slate and a chance to be somebody new.
Given this motivation, researchers argue that most organizations focus way too much attention on getting new hires to fit in. There’s certainly a lot for a new employee to learn, and the sooner they get up to speed, the sooner they can have a positive impact.
As many of us have seen from our own careers, it’s tough to do a lot of actual work on your first day. It’s much more about learning about the organization and the role you’re going to play.
See also: How to Shrink Employees’ Waistlines
Take a look at the top three reasons people quit their jobs within six months, according to a survey by BambooHR:
- They decided that the work was something they didn’t want to do any more.
- They felt that they were given different work from what they expected based on their interview.
- The boss was a jerk.
While these may look like problems with the work and responsibilities at first glance, they may actually have more to do with cultural issues like incompatible management styles and unclear expectations.
With a few tweaks, you can shift your organization’s approach to an employee’s first day and help employees define themselves within your organization rather than feeling like they have to change to fit in. That shift, coupled with some other first-day best practices, can get employees up to speed and productive much more quickly. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Keep paperwork to a minimum
New hires walk through the doors on their first day ready to hit the ground running and prove their value. They want to define their identities, and that usually includes being seen as a hard worker. But at too many organizations, that zeal is squandered on administrative activities like filling out HR forms. The result is a notable dip in spirit and some paperwork that’s filled out really, really well.
As much as possible, keep administrative tasks to a minimum on an employee’s first day. Ideally, new hires will fill out all or most of the forms before their first day. Here’s a great way to communicate a little culture–send an email that says, “We can’t wait for you to dig right in on your first day, so please complete this paperwork and bring it with you.”
2. Prepare for downtime
No matter how prepared you are to welcome a new employee, he or she is going to have some downtime on day one. Inevitably, a meet-and-greet will get rescheduled or something unexpected will crop up, leaving the new hire having an hour to kill. Even after day one, new hires aren’t likely to accelerate to full throttle right away. It will take some time–days, weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the job–before a new hire hits full stride. Continuing engagement and coaching is critical during this onboarding phase.
Have a plan in place that goes beyond just sending the employee back to her desk to, say, fill out paperwork. Instead, give new employees a chance to express some of their personality with an introductory email. Encourage them to be a little less formal, to share a bit of their personal lives and why they’re excited to join the team.
A better option is to set them up with a learning list: online courses, books, articles, webinars and podcasts to help them learn how your organization sees the industry and to show that lifelong learning is a top priority.
Ideally, this list would be created internally as one more way to demonstrate your culture. But there are plenty of external sources, including The Community and other collections of resources.
3. Show your culture
One of the best ways to help new hires find their niche within your organization is to give them a glimpse into your culture from day one. Make a point to include the new hire in social activities in your office–a group lunch, an afternoon trivia challenge, chats about popular TV shows, etc. New employees will feel like part of the team and get a chance to show a little personality.
Demonstrating your culture doesn’t require fun distractions. Bringing the new hire in on a brainstorm session or setting up an informal meeting with a company leader can also showcase the attitudes and behaviors your organization values most.
Or it could be as simple as sneaking a little bit of your company perspective into your welcome letter. Here’s how Apple, for example, welcomes new employees.
See also: The Era of Free Agent Employees
4. Start your formal onboarding process
Don’t forget to incorporate your employee’s first day into your formal onboarding process. As you work to make the first day engaging and culture-focused, also set the new hire up with a clear path to success over the first several months on the job.
Help the new employee develop a support network, including a mentor, and be sure that new employees know where to turn for the resources they need to do their job successfully. Peer-to-peer learning is a powerful tool that gives employees a certain sense of independence and belonging, which are important attributes to success. Connecting new hires to others who have recently been in the same situation can also help ease new hires into their role and help keep them on track to success.
If you choose to assign new hires a mentor (and you absolutely should), that mentor can take the lead on a lot of these day-one activities, from organizing a company lunch to making the most of downtime.
Be sure to schedule periodic meetings to catch up with new hires. These scheduled meetings give both the hiring manager and the new hire some dedicated time to review progress, answer questions and stay engaged with one another.
Like many things in life, you will get out of new hire onboarding process only what you put into it. While it takes precious time and effort, the cost of not successfully onboarding your new hire is even greater, and a failed hire will put you right back to the beginning of the hiring process and further from realizing the organization’s goals.
Want to bring new employees up to speed in the rapidly changing insurance industry? An AINS designation is a good place to start.