Advice for Employers and Recruiters

Onboarding new employees starts before first day on job

Matt Krumrie AvatarMatt Krumrie
May 2, 2017


A new employee who is not onboarded the right way is going to have difficulty finding a sense of belonging inside an organization, says Scott Redfearn, executive vice president of global HR at Protiviti, a global business consulting and internal audit firm.

“Employees who don’t have a meaningful career experience aren’t going to last, and they will not perform to their full potential,” says Redfearn.

The reality is, the process for onboarding new employees starts well before the new hire’s first day on the job. Successful companies know this, and set up a series of touchpoints and check-ins to ensure new hires feel welcome, and are prepared, before the first day on the job.

This is especially important for the recent college grad embarking on their first journey into the real world. The process for onboarding new employees is the employer’s opportunity to make a great first impression, and show recent college grads their company is a good place to work, and that they will be given an opportunity to grow and succeed.

“Employers should realize that some recent college grads are still in the process of understanding the difference between their initial dreams and reality,” says Max Dubroff, an HR consultant and former adjunct professor with the University of Phoenix who taught Masters level courses on management and organizational behavior.

“They may have thought for years that they would get into one of the best-known companies, but even if your company doesn’t make those best places to work lists, or even if it isn’t a Fortune 500 organization, you have the opportunity to show them the value of a good/great job in a good/great organization.”

Onboarding should engage new employees before the first day on the job

Grow your new hires by planning effective onboardingAt Protiviti, new campus hires start the onboarding process months before their actual start date, because in many cases a student will accept a job offer during the fall semester, but not actually start until after graduation the following May, says Redfearn. These new hires are also assigned a peer advisor who meets with them before they start and new hires are even invited to holiday parties, community service activities, and other office events where they can meet their future co-workers.

Related: Onboarding best practices, from pre-boarding to the bottom line

“Once candidates accept an offer, we begin integrating them right away,” says Redfearn. “During this time, we communicate often through email, webinars, social media, and in person.”

Before a new employee walks through the door for the first time, employers should have already share the organization’s history, vision, and mission.

“Insight into the company’s purpose and plan for success will help immerse new employees into the workplace culture more quickly,” says Deb LaMere, Vice President of Employee Experience at Ceridian, a human capital management firm.

Sharing this type of information can be done through a portal that new hires can access before they officially start, or simply direct them to any relevant public content from the company website or blog that addresses the organization’s values, says LaMere.

How important are these steps? Robert Half Finance & Accounting research shows new hires have less than three months to prove themselves in a new job. Many recent college grads are looking for guidance, and good employers provide that through a strong onboarding program.

Doing little things provide big value. For example, Steve Saah Director of Permanent Placement Services with Robert Half, encourages employers to send a welcome letter to a candidate immediately upon acceptance of the job offer. Consider including some kind of company ‘swag’ with the letter, if it’s available.

“This gives them a warm welcome and gets them excited to start in their new role,” says Saah. “It also reinforces that the candidate made the right decision in accepting the offer.”

Saah recommends these additional onboarding tips for employers:

  • Send prep material: Send any prep material for the candidate to review in advance, before they start the job. This can include company information, relevant details about their job description, or anything that will help them come in better prepared on day one, and set them up for success.
  • Check in a few days before the first day on the job: A day or two before the start date, call the candidate to let them know what they need to bring on the first day, what time to arrive, and what to expect on day one and the first week. See if they have any questions.

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Keep in contact with new hires after acceptance of a job offer

HR should keep in touch with new hires to continue onboardingIt’s important to keep in contact with new hires after they’ve accepted the offer, says Kelly Marinelli, J.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR, and founder of and Principal Consultant at Solve HR, Inc. Marinelli is a member of The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 285,000 members in more than 165 countries, and serves on the SHRM Talent & Acquisitions Expertise Panel. Marinelli has experience working in HR in manufacturing and energy for Fortune 500 companies, large privately-held international entities, startups, and Colorado nonprofits. “During the process of background checks and pre-hire, make sure to let new hires know when they’ve cleared the process and send them a detailed plan for their first day at work. This detailed plan should include people’s names and titles and a little information about what they will be doing on that first day.”

Make new hires feel welcome – literally.

“We give all new employees a welcome packet that includes letters from all leadership and pertinent information about their initial experience with the company,” says Jeffrey Luttrell, Director of Talent Acquisition with Alorica, a business process outsourcing company based in Irvine, Calif. Lutrell is also a member of the SHRM Talent & Acquisitions Expertise Panel. Prior to his current role, Luttrell was a Recruiting Manager in Global Talent Acquisition and Staffing with Xerox in the outsource services division and an Area Manager for Kelly Services. “We have key leaders and trainers call our new employees prior to start date to ask of they have any questions and make them feel at ease for their start date.”

Employers should use technology to ensure administrative paperwork is done before the first day – instead of taking up the new hires first day. To help get this task done right and fast organizations should look to provide online access to relevant content and HR forms that new hires can complete in advance of setting foot through the door, says LaMere. A checklist that outlines the first three weeks of employment and what needs to be completed and by when is helpful and can also be included within this portal as well as toolkit with direct links to resources such as the organization’s employee assistance program, rewards program, training and development programs, travel management programs, and the IT service/help desk contact, are good to share online in advance too.

Onboarding continues the first day on the job

Onboarding before the first day is important, but don’t forget to keep providing the necessary tools and support once the employee starts, especially those first few days. Saah recommends these additional tips:

  • Set up the employee workspace and equipment: Be sure their desk and seating area is clean and ready to go. All technology (computer, phones, passwords) should be set up properly and working.
  • Have a day one and week one plan: “Nothing is more frustrating to a new employee who is ready to go and eager to start a new role than having to wait around and feeling no one is ready for them or that there is no plan,” says Saah.
  • Take the new hire out to lunch: Take the employee out to lunch on their first day or first week with your team to welcome them. Set this up in advance, and let the candidate know when it will happen. “It will make them feel very good about walking in the door when this is done in ahead of time,” says Saah.

Introduce your new hires to their teamsA big part of the onboarding experience also involves introducing new employees to the team, says LaMere. “Walk them around the office to make introductions, add them to meeting invites and email distribution lists right away so they are in the loop from day-one,” she says.

Dubroff agrees.

“When conducting the office orientation, don’t miss the small stuff,” says Dubroff. “Show the new hire where to find the rest room, break area, parking details, and understand that one time may not be enough, since not everything will be remembered while trying to drink from a fire hose.”

To help the new hire succeed, appoint a capable and willing employee to be the new hire’s buddy.

“This person should not be the new hire’s supervisor, but should be someone in the same department or work area,” says Dubroff.

It’s important to learn about the employee outside of work too.

“It also can be helpful to gain insight into what the new staff member has interests in outside of work in order to connect them to others in the firm with similar interest,” says Dan Ryan, also a member of the Society of Human Resources Talent & Acquisitions Expertise Panel, and Principal at Ryan Search & Consulting, where he leads talent acquisition, talent development, and succession strategy processes for the firm.

At Alorica, recruiters greet all new hires right away, that first day on the job. Those familiar faces from the interview process help put new hires at ease. So do treats.

“We give them welcome bags and treats for the day,” says Luttrell. “This results in lots of smiles and thank you’s. It is our job to make our candidates feel welcome and appreciated. We need them as much as they need us and we cannot forget that.”

Onboarding is a process. Not something done in one day, or in one week. It’s done in advance of a new hire start, and throughout the employee’s first year. This is crucial to long-term satisfaction and success.

“Remember that onboarding is more than the new hire paperwork, or the first day’s activities, or even training in the first month,” says Marinelli. “Onboarding should include check in at regular intervals throughout the year. This will help ensure that on boarding is effective, complete, and supports employee retention and performance.”

Any step an employer can take to make the transition into the new organization as seamless as possible will only help, says Ryan. “I have seen and heard of horror stories where new employees came on board and had no established space, no equipment, and little insight into how they would fit into the team and the direction of the organization,” he says. “These oversights only lead to turnover.”

Onboarding starts before an employee’s first day on the job. For some companies, it’s a yearlong process.

What’s your process?

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