Here in the south, our kiddos are heading back to school. They’re showing up in their brand-new outfits, a backpack full of school supplies, and going into another year of the unknown. By the end of the they’ll start creating patterns that will be repeated throughout the school year and make new bff’s.

Those days are long gone for most of us, but I remember, no matter what year I was starting, the first day was always the same: new faces, new rules, and buddies buddies.

As business owners, we should take a hard look at our Onboarding processes and learn from our first days of school. They’re both very similar and can be repeated in the workplace.

Expectations are explained on day 1.

At school, the teacher would have the rules of the classroom on the wall and always made them known. They were easy to follow and understand.

In the working world, I can’t tell you how many times my first days of starting a new job looked a lot like this:

  • show up early to work to make a good impression. I had on some of my best clothes.
  • I got greeted by a very distressed boss that didn’t know what to do with me.
  • I was shown where I can put my lunch, where to park and my desk.
  • Then, I was expected to read the employee handbook and fill out my employment paperwork.
  • Sometimes I would start to shadow on the first day, but not very often.

That was my typical welcome to a new position with a new company. I’d have to ask where restrooms are, how to clock in and out and other vital information that seemed to be left out. It was always a let down and the day dragged on.

This kind of Onboarding made me second guess my decision to work for my new employer. Soon, I was back at it, applying to new jobs, hoping for a better environment. The problem with this type of orientation is that it makes the new employer feel like a burden. I didn’t feel comfortable asking questions because I didn’t know where to start. All I had to go by was an outdated job description that I would be told really isn’t how we do things anymore.

Another scenario I would run into was that I would apply for a certain position and once hired, everything changed. My responsibilities were different. It really seemed like the employers didn’t know what they were doing when hiring me. I’ve been in jobs before that I got paid a lot of money to do nothing. I was once responsible for stuffing the Christmas gift envelopes for employees. If that was a typical part of the job, it would have been understood, but I was given numerous tasks that seemed like busy work. That brings me to my ext point:

Everyone has to be on the same page.

The whole department has to agree that the newbie should be involved. I remember having to beg co-workers to shadow them or let me help with things, but I would be shut out. I was unable to get the training I needed because people were unwilling to share the workload. There were days I literally did nothing. Nothing. Those are long days when you’re not the type of person that wants to work together towards a common goal.

I’ve always believed that knowledge is only good when you share it. Otherwise, what’s the point of having it?? When team members are not playing the game, then good players get left out. Translation: everyone has to talk about what the new person will do and actually do it. We can plan all day, but if we don’t execute our plans, they just sound really good.

If you suspect you have an employee that’s resistant to change or seem to hold on to projects or tasks, try addressing them in a way that makes them feel powerful. Ask them to list out tasks they don’t like to do or don’t feel as confident in doing. We’re all good at somethings, but not everything. Let THEM tell you what a new employee could do and go from there. It makes for a much less hostile situation. When people feel threatened, they withhold information and want the new person to fail.

Also, don’t assume because you told someone to do something that it is done. Keep an open line of communication with your new employee and others to see that things are getting done. Ask the new employee what he or she is learning if you’re using a buddy system for training. Find out what questions he or she has about processes. Then, talk to the buddy (separately) to find out what he or she thinks about the training. Keep from gossiping about the newbie. That’s just plain tacky. Instead, ask specific questions about retention of information and what type of questions are being asked.

How can you stand out as an amazing employer on the first day?

The worst thing is to have a new employee leave feeling disappointed on the first day, so here a are some small but very impactful things you can do to make a newbie feel important:

  • Have his or her desk ready. Set up any technology needed prior to the first day and make sure the employee has access to login into needed systems. Other things like basic office supplies should be at the desk as well. I’ve had to use my own supplies on the first day because there were sticky notes, notepads, or pens available to me. Fortunately, I came prepared, but it definitely made me less excited to be there.
  • If you use the buddy system, create the training outline before the first day. Making it up as you go is a terrible way to go.
  • Do something fun like get breakfast or go out to lunch. It’s a great way to unwind and get to know the new person and to let him or her know you.
  • Announce the new employee. Send an email out to the company and introduce him or her. Another small gesture, but very powerful. People will respond and create an even more welcoming environment.

In the end, you want a new employee to feel needed and wanted. It is up to you how the first day looks and and that can leave a lasting impression on all of your employees.


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