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Alleviating First-Day Jitters

Best practices for new employee onboarding

Onboarding new employees can be nerve-wracking, but with a bit of pre-planning you can take many stumbling blocks out of the process. Susan Heathfield, owner of TechSmith and human resources and management expert for TheBalanceCareers.com in Okemos, Michigan, has been helping employers perfect onboarding practices since 1984. “There’s nothing worse as a new employee than walking in and feeling like the company wasn’t prepared to have me come on board,” Heathfield says.

So how can you, as a business owner, help create a great first-day experience?

Be Prepared
Developing a checklist so you don’t miss or forget steps during that first day is an excellent way to plan. If you don’t have an online onboarding process in place, consider creating a packet to send to the employee’s home before they arrive at work. Include paperwork that can be done ahead of time and materials that will help familiarize an employee with the position.

Heathfield also advises to have everything ready to go when the employee arrives. “If there are any tools that the employee will use on the job — a laptop or cellphone, equipment — make sure all of this is lined up and ready for the employee.”

Have an Employee Handbook
Heathfield emphasizes the importance of an employee handbook, no matter the size of your company. Create a simple, small number of written policies that ensure all employees are treated fairly and equitably. The handbook should be specific to your organization and state laws. Include a form for new employees to sign saying they received and read the handbook to keep in their file.

Make Them Feel Welcome
Everyone wants to feel welcomed and valued. Give good instructions and set expectations the first day that will help employees feel like they know where they are going and why. Address questions new employees have but may not feel comfortable asking: Things like where to arrive, park, find the bathroom and whom to contact with payroll questions.

Introduce Them to the Team
Decide the best way to introduce your new employee to the team ahead of time. You want it to feel planned and be well executed. In a smaller business, consider taking the new employee around to meet other staff one-by-one, giving brief introductions and how their positions affect the new employee’s job. You could also plan a morning huddle, team lunch or quick meeting when the new hire arrives.

Schedule new employees to start on a day when their immediate supervisor will be available to greet them and answer questions. “I think meeting with the boss is a huge investment in retaining and making the person feel valued,” Heathfield says. And have someone for the new employee to shadow for a few days to learn the job — preferably someone who does the same type of work in the company.

Check In and Give Feedback
Checking in with employees is one of the best ways you can help prevent turn over. Do it at the end of their first day, first week, 30, 60 and 90 days.

Heathfield says feedback is important, too. “A lot of times business owners and co-workers are shy about offering feedback to employees,” she says, “but it’s critical. For employees to be happy at work, they absolutely need to know how they’re doing.”Planning and organization can go a long way toward helping you feel confident with your onboarding process on the first day. It will also help your new employees become productive right away, ease the transition into your company and keep them excited to be a part of your team.

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