Why a New Hire’s First Week Is So Important

By Robert Half April 7, 2017 at 3:10pm

Recruiting great talent often takes a lot of time and effort. So, when you find the right fit, you don’t want a poor onboarding experience to put you at risk of losing that person. The first week on the job is an especially critical time for a new hire. In this post, I offer suggestions for delivering a week-one onboarding process that helps new employees feel confident that they’ve made the right choice. But, first, let’s take a look at the newly released jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to get a sense of the hiring market.

U.S. employers add 98,000 jobs in March. Although last month’s gains were well below analysts’ expectations, March nonetheless marked the 78th consecutive month of job growth. Updated figures for January and February show that 38,000 fewer jobs were added than originally reported by the BLS. Still, the U.S. economy gained 533,000 new jobs in the first quarter of 2017, or about 178,000 positions per month.

The jobs report also indicates that the national unemployment rate edged down from 4.7 percent in February to 4.5 percent last month, the lowest level in nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older — the most sought-after workers — increased slightly to 2.5 percent from 2.4 percent in February.

Following are a few industry-specific highlights from the March jobs report:

  • Employment in professional and business services rose by 56,000 jobs. That’s in line with average monthly gains for this industry over the past 12 months.
  • Healthcare added 14,000 jobs. About 20,000 jobs per month have been created in healthcare since the start of 2017. 
  • Employment in financial activities grew in March, with employers adding 9,000 positions. Over the past 12 months, the industry has added 178,000 jobs.

The BLS also recently released its latest Job Openings and Employee Turnover Summary (JOLTS). According to the report, the number of job openings in the United States was 5.6 million on the last business day of January — up just a bit from the 5.5 million open positions at the end of December 2016. The quits rate (the percentage of people who voluntarily quit their jobs) also ticked up slightly from 2.1 percent in December to 2.2 percent January.

The takeaway for managers

Together, the March jobs report and latest JOLTS release highlight three trends:

  • Unemployment remains low, especially for skilled professionals. 
  • Employers have millions of open roles and are struggling to staff them as they compete against each other for the best talent.
  • Many workers are willing to leave their jobs for better opportunities.  

These trends underscore why it’s so important to hold tight to new hires. Skilled workers are in high demand, and they know it. If they feel they made the wrong choice by joining your firm, 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 his 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 his old job and missing his former colleagues. Another possibility: He might still be thinking about another employment opportunity he was 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. And it starts in Week One, when lasting impressions are often made. In those first few days, it’s essential to keep emphasizing to your new hire that he is in the right place. Don’t let him doubt for a second that the company isn’t really excited that he decided to become part of the team.

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

Lay the groundwork early

There’s a lot you can do even before the employee starts work to make sure she’s feeling confident about her new path. 

For example, call her on the phone or send a quick email to tell her how glad the team is to have her on board. Use that time to provide an overview of what she can expect on her 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 she can fill out ahead of time, so she doesn’t have to spend most of her first day on the job meeting with human resources. Also, forward any work materials she can review in advance so she can get up to speed on her new role and better understand expectations. Include an organizational chart that highlights key people she’ll be working with. 

Don’t forget to reach out to your existing staff during this time, too. Update them about the new hire before she starts work, so they know about her professional background and how she 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 work — from basic office supplies to a working phone and computer to a comfortable chair. Make sure all the current documentation for setting up email, voice mail and other work tools is readily available (and easy to understand). 

It’s also good practice to have someone from the IT department standing by to help troubleshoot any technology issues, so the employee doesn’t spend his 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 him succeed.

Set aside some quality time 

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

That will also help your current staff to get to know their new colleague. Remember, they need to adjust to 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 the job duties and your expectations. Be available. Be present. Be engaged. Encourage her to come to you with any problems or concerns. Check in regularly to make sure she’s 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 him to contribute. It will also demonstrate your confidence in his abilities, which can help him feel like he 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 he needs any training, connect him 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. 

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