Why a New Hire’s First Week Is So Important

By Robert Half April 7, 2017 at 3:00pm

After you successfully recruit a highly sought-after job candidate, you can be left feeling like you just ran a marathon — accomplished and excited, but exhausted. So when you find the right fit, you don’t want a poor onboarding experience to make your new employee think they chose the wrong employer.

Skilled workers are in high demand, and they know it. If they start questioning your firm’s competency so quickly, they may not wait around to see if the situation improves. In today’s market, a new recruit may jump ship just to see if another employer can offer a better fit.

The importance of Week One

The reality is that you don’t know for sure if the newly minted employee is fully committed to their new work situation. Change is hard and stressful for everyone. People navigating a new work environment are bound to feel like a fish out of water. There’s also a chance the employee is wistful for their old job and missing former colleagues. Another possibility: They might still be thinking about another employment opportunity they were pursuing.

The best way to show new employees your firm is the right place for them is to have a strong onboarding process in place. Good or bad, you make lasting impressions in those first few days, so it’s essential to keep emphasizing to your new hire that they are in the right place. Don’t let them doubt for a second that your company is excited to have them on the team.

Here’s some advice for doing week-one onboarding the right way.

Lay the groundwork early

Before your new employee even starts, there’s a lot you can do to make sure they’re feeling confident about their new path.

For example, call them or send a quick email to tell them how glad the team is to have them on board. Use that time to provide an overview of what they can expect on their first day (“We’re taking you out to lunch so you can get to know everyone.”) and during the first week (“There’s an all-hands meeting on Wednesday, and it’ll be a great opportunity for you to learn about the company and department.”)

Consider sending your new hire any paperwork they can fill out ahead of time so they don’t have to spend most of their first day on the job meeting with human resources. Also, forward any work materials they can review in advance so they can get up to speed on their new role and better understand expectations. Include an organizational chart that highlights key people they’ll be working with.

Don’t forget to reach out to your existing staff during this time, too. Update them about the new hire’s professional background and how they will be contributing to the team.

Make the workspace sparkle

Employers often overlook the importance of making an employee’s workspace both comfortable and functional. Few things are more demoralizing than showing up for your first day of work to find the company has done little or nothing to prepare for your arrival.

The new hire’s workspace should be clean and stocked with everything needed to get down to business — from basic office supplies to a working phone and computer and a comfortable chair. Make sure all the current documentation for setting up email, voicemail and other work tools is readily available (and easy to understand).

It’s also good practice to have someone from IT standing by to help troubleshoot any technology issues so the employee doesn’t spend their first day waiting to access email or the company’s intranet. This simple courtesy also shows the new hire that the company is ready to help them succeed.

Set aside some quality time

Taking a new hire to lunch on their first day is a well-known best practice. Also, consider setting up lunches or coffee meetings with people they‘ll be collaborating with. That will allow them to start forming new work relationships right away.

It will also help your current staff to get to know their new colleague. Remember: They need to adjust to the change, as well. Making sure everyone has an opportunity to spend some quality time together during that first week helps promote an inclusive corporate culture.

Don’t forget to reserve some quality time on your calendar during that first week so you can get to know the employee and discuss their job duties and your expectations. Be available. Be present. Be engaged. Encourage them to come to you with any problems or concerns. Check in regularly to make sure they’re settling in. And touch base with other staff members to get their feedback on how their new colleague is performing and adjusting to the new environment.

Give the green light to get working

Another way to engage your new hire during Week One is to assign a meaningful task or project. That will show you’re eager for them to contribute. It will also demonstrate your confidence in their abilities, which can help them feel like they made the right decision to join your firm.

Just be careful not overwhelm your new employee. Even the most experienced workers require a learning curve. If they need any training, connect them with the necessary resources as soon as possible.

Remember: First impressions matter. If you want your new employee to stay for the long term, you need to ensure your onboarding process is a positive experience from Day One, through Week One and into the months ahead.

Paul McDonald photograph
Paul McDonald

Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half. He writes and speaks frequently on hiring, workplace and career management topics. Over the course of more than 30 years in the recruiting field, McDonald has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.

McDonald joined Robert Half in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse. In the 1990s, he became president of the Western United States overseeing all of the company’s operations in the region. McDonald become senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in 2000, and assumed his current role in 2012. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from St. Bonaventure University in New York.

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