Rethinking Your Employee’s First Day on The Job

A Memorable Statement of Your Culture

Author: Heather Lovell

It is well known that you never get a second chance to leave a first impression. In the business world, this is hammered into candidates and new hires, yet often companies and hiring managers fail in one important area—a new hire’s first day of work. Companies work very hard to create a culture that entices and engages their employees and the first real taste an employee will get of that culture is their first day on the job.

Most of us can remember our best first day or our worst. I vividly remember my worst when I showed up, filled out some HR paperwork, was escorted to a newly added back cubicle and left to wait there for an IT guy to bring me a computer. My first impression of my new company was being left alone in a cube staring at the walls with no supplies, no computer, nada. One of my managers stopped by for 2 minutes on his way to a meeting. I got a tour from a facilities manager. I ate lunch alone in my cube, thankful I had brought one because no one offered me other options. It was horrible.

In looking back, that first day clearly reflected the culture at that company. A lot of disjointed processes, no personal interest in employees, and lackluster employee engagement. The way you craft (or don’t craft) the first day of your new employee speaks volumes about your culture. A new job is an important transition for a new employee and one that will stick out in their memory—as an employer you can make that memory wonderful or terrible. In The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, they describe four characteristics of powerfully memorable moments—Elevation, Insight, Pride, and Connection. As a hiring manager or HR leader, you have the opportunity to craft a moment that reflects your culture and that your new employee raves about.

Thinking through the Heath’s lens, here are some tips about how to set-up new employees’ first day right.

  • Elevation—make the day special. This can be as easy as a small welcoming gift like a company coffee cup, fresh flowers, homemade cookies and a handwritten welcome note on their desk. Our company sends out special First Day boxes with a variety of gifts inside.
  • Insight—help new employees see how they will grow, stretch and learn in the new role—preparing them for self-insight. Maybe this is a laid-out training plan, a set of KPI’s that they will soon be prepared to reach, or a summary in the impact you expect them to make in the first 60 days.
  • Pride—your new employees were hired for a reason so share that with the team. When introducing them to others, let the team know what the new hire has expertise in and how they will be a valued addition.  
  • Connection—this one is easy! When new employees join your team, they need to feel like they belong.
  • Set up a lunch for them to get to know other team members.
  • Have the first day planned so they sit with different people who are prepared to train them, rather than having them shadow someone that found out 5 minutes prior they were coming and are annoyed at fitting them into their schedule.
  • Make sure the manager welcomes each new employee—if not in person, over the phone or with a handwritten note.

A new hire’s first day is an artifact of your company’s culture–a translation of your company’s values into action (or inaction—in the case of my terrible first day). Not only is it a reflection of the culture, the first day also sets their expectations of working at your company. Should they expect a place where connection and collaboration are valued or where training is a merely some boxes to be checked? That first day creates a perception and expectation of what is to come. With a little preparation, you can make the milestone one that they remember fondly and highlights all the best things about your company culture. Don’t make a bad first impression!

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