The New Employee On-boarding Guide

posted on September 19th 2016 in Hiring & Onboarding & Retention

After rounds of interviews, paperwork, and logistics, you’ve finally found the right person for your team. As they come on board, a few strategic efforts will help ease the transition and make for a fully engaged (and productive) new employee.

New Employee On-boarding: Day Zero

There is an often overlooked sweet spot for employees in the time between they accept your offer and when they show up on the first day, the “honeymoon period”. This honeymoon period is when employee engagement is likely the highest. They are telling their friends and families about their new job and are making the mental switch to come to your team.

Being prepared for your new employee to start is key. The first day of work is already nerve-wrecking, so being prepared for them will set them at ease.

Make sure you take care of these housekeeping items before their first day:

  • Make sure all equipment is ordered and set up.
  • Print out any technology instructions and put on their desk so they can get online right away.
  • Put up a name card at their desk.
  • If you have an intranet, send them any quick links for benefits enrollments, company background, pay schedule, company directory, etc.  
  • Schedule several onboarding meetings via the calendaring system for the employee before they arrive. Include an introductory note and quick description of the person’s role with whom they are meeting.
  • Put some basic office supplies on their desk and include a list of key contacts to use as they learn names and faces.  
  • Send something to their home. Whether it is a simple welcome-to-the-team card or a swag basket, any effort made during this time will be a happy surprise.
    • At the very least, make sure they receive an email (from the manager or HR team) with details on what to bring for paperwork, where to park, and any other key details.

New Employee On-boarding: Day One

If your company does group orientation, make sure the room is welcoming before the session starts. Have music playing, provide tent cards for names, put something out for employees to read (e.g., annual report, benefits information, etc.), and provide water plus a pen and paper. In our digital age, employees often forget to bring something to take notes with during their first day.  

By Day One, send an internal announcement of their arrival, position, and key work initiatives. This will help as they meet people both formally and in the hallway. Have the employee provide a few personal details that you can include in your announcement, such as “Rick is originally from Texas and still has a healthy respect for guacamole. When he isn’t keeping our internal finances in order, he enjoys running in 5Ks, taking road trips, and helping coach his daughter’s soccer team.”

Make sure you have one-on-one time scheduled on their first day (and a couple times during the week as well). In this first meeting, go over the other individual or group meetings they have scheduled and be sure to discuss any changes to the role since their interview. Between posting the job and the actual start date, job requirements can evolve and the employee may be confused or frustrated without having the rationale for any changes.

Here are a few other quick items for a smooth first day:

  • While technology is a great tool for tracking schedules, a printed out list of first-week meetings is a great extra touch for the employee to see their week at a glance.
  • Try to arrange for a welcome lunch with either the team or the manager. And if a lunch is arranged, let them know before they arrive. It can help offset any first-day anxiety or showing up with a bagged lunch.
  • Clearly explain the connection between their job and the company’s mission and strategy. A little context goes a long way and knowing the company vernacular will help them feel part of the group faster.
  • Enable some nerdiness by giving them anything with the company or team logo on it.   

New Employee On-boarding: Week One

Now that some of the basics are in place, take a couple extra steps to keep the momentum going. Having work to do right away is a key factor in an employee feeling productive and valued. Introductions are helpful but balance meet-and-greets with tasks the employee can be involved with right away.

Even if they aren’t in a position to lead work yet, ask for them to review documents, work on one part of a plan, and or do some research on a business item.

  • Do a quick walk-around the office with them so they can meet other people without needing formal meetings. It can be as casual as swinging by some work areas on your way to get coffee together and helps them get a lay of the land. You may want to do this more than once based on how big the office space is.
  • Ask the employee directly, “What questions do you have?” It may be as simple as not knowing how to set up the printer from their computer or how to order business cards or it could be a missing piece of information that can make a big difference.
  • Set up a regular schedule for how often you will both meet. For the first month, it might make sense to meet once a week (or more) but knowing when meetings will happen can help them feel comfortable to save up questions and ideas.
  • Talk about the time-off policy and ask if they have any scheduled vacations. Most employees hesitate to bring up time away when they’re new, so a proactive conversation will help them understand the office norms as well as what levels of flexibility there are so they can make personal plans accordingly.

Simple On-boarding Steps = Happy Employees

The most important part of any on-boarding experience for an employee is access to their manager and team. Much of the learning curve happens organically so making a few efforts early on will help the employee feel comfortable and confident on your team.  


Mikaela Kiner

Mikaela is a native Seattleite who’s spent the last fifteen years in HR leadership roles at iconic Northwest companies including Microsoft, Amazon, PopCap Games and Redfin. She has an MS in HR Management with a certificate in Organizational Development and is an ICF credentialed coach. Mikaela delivers results by building trust and engaging her clients in creative problem solving. Clients appreciate her strategic thinking and hands on execution.