One day years ago, I was walking in mid-town Manhattan on a lunch break and came upon a movie shoot with Robin Williams. There was only a small crowd gathered, so I stopped to watch. About ten minutes later, they broke and Robin immediately came over to sign autographs. He asked for a pen, no one replied, so I offered mine and he took it. He signed, joked away, then quickly wrapped up to get back on set. Before he did, he came over to me, smiled and said “Thanks a lot for the pen.” as he handed it back to me. It was very special and memorable for me. Why? Because he gave me a few moments of his direct attention.
That’s also what makes the difference and greater distinction when welcoming a new employee - our direct attention. It’s what I consider to be the most important part of onboarding a new hire. Sure, we are all busy and onboarding is a process, but taking the time to ensure focus is given to each new hire as an individual who matters when they join a company is golden.
Here are a few tips on how to give new hires attention:
Streamline the boring stuff. Through today’s technology, lighten the chore of completing necessary payroll and benefit paperwork for each new hire. Use an online system. This clears time for more interpersonal activities when a new hire starts. The days where new hires are sitting on the sidelines completing forms and learning policies should be gone!
Spoonfuls of information. Simplify beginner’s information. Explain what the new hire needs to know for orientation and help them build their learning base over time, and not in large chunks of information. Design orientation purposely with a new hire in mind. Don’t inundate them at the start. Provide a self-paced online program for initial and future learning.
Old school is still cool. When it comes to sending a welcome message, not much can beat a card with handwritten notes from the team and manager. It always makes the receiver feel special. Be creative, make it fun and let it speak of the culture beyond having it say just “Welcome”. This is a wonderful personal touch that stands the test of time.
Facilitate meetings. Set up initial meetings with the new hire’s manager and their team. Don’t start a new hire on a day when their manager is out. If you have to, wait. The manager is a key influencer to their new hire and needs to be there on day one to look them in the eye and say “Welcome, let’s get started."
GPS to HR. Ensure the new hire knows how to find human resources. For a new hire, human resources is their navigator, especially in the early days and weeks. Give them a direct contact in HR and have that contact purposefully check in with them during the first couple of weeks to make sure they are on their way. If a mentor/buddy is assigned, that’s a plus, but HR needs to stay actively involved in this early stage as well and offer guidance.
Treat post-hire seriously. In many of my conversations with human resource professionals and upper management, the post-hire stage is one that often falls through the cracks. Not intentionally, but because a structured process isn’t in place. Relying on a philosophy of “no news is good news” when it comes to a new hire is highly risky. Too often dissatisfaction or frustrations are silently building with new hires. Actively checking in and getting their feedback at 30, 60, 90+ days, one on one conversations and meetings following their arrival will help manage their success and retention.
Building a streamlined onboarding process and using technology to help transition new hires into productivity is essential. The ease and efficiencies they bring however, should be leveraged to the most important component of onboarding: direct attention to each new hire. The genuine and thoughtful attention new employees receive right from the start will cement great first impressions and create a better employee experience.
Cathy A. Reilly is the author of “The Temp Factor: The Complete Guide to Temporary Employment” and Founder/CEO of Onboardia, Inc., HR software.