By Polly White
Just as you expect a candidate to arrive for the interview dressed
and groomed appropriately, to shake your hand with a firm grip and
to introduce himself or herself with confidence, you need to present
your organization at its best to create a great first impression.
While larger organizations often have extensive programs for their
new employees, following these few steps outlined below will allow
smaller organizations to enjoy the benefits that come from a well
thought-out orientation program.
1. Have a plan.
The difference between a worker who becomes productive quickly and
one who languishes is often how well they are oriented to their new
company. The first hours and days of an employee's new career are
the time when they become acquainted with the requirements and
expectations of their job, the culture of the organization, and
where and how they fit into the company.
You can greatly increase the speed at which your employees become
fully productive by having a personalized orientation plan in place
for their on-boarding. The plan should balance time spent learning
about the organization and their coworkers' responsibilities with
his or her specific job duties.
It is not necessary that their first hours be spent filling out the
myriad of employment-related forms. This may be convenient for HR,
payroll or accounting, but does not create the best first
impression. While the employee will eventually need to fill out
certain forms, most federal and state requirements allow the new
employee and your company several days to complete the task.
Spending your first hours creating a friendly, comfortable and
productive experience for the employee is a better use of time.
2. Have a place for your new employees to call their own.
Whether the employee will have a desk, a locker, a workstation, or a
peg on the wall, you should have it labeled, clean and stocked with
all of the equipment the employee will need to do his or her job.
Nothing says, �We really want you to be happy and productive� like a
When desks and workstations are left empty for any length of time,
two things happen. First, any useful equipment, office supplies or
gadgets seem to walk away. Second, the empty desk becomes a dumping
ground for stacks of papers, files and other debris. The day before
the new employee is to arrive, take a few minutes to restock the
workstation and clean off unnecessary clutter.
My daughter went to work for a very small company. On her first day,
she arrived to find a desk stocked with all the supplies she needed
to do her job. In the middle of the desk was a placard engraved with
her name. She sent me a picture. It made her feel very important and
3. Introduce them to their co-workers.
Most businesses provide new employees with the standard tour and
introduction. While this is a step in the right direction, there are
ways to increase the benefit to the organization. Spend at least
part of the first day celebrating the arrival of the new employee.
Have coffee with everyone on the team, allowing time for socializing
and rapport building. If possible, add bagels or other snacks into
the mix. There is nothing like food to help with bonding and
creating great memories.
4. Choose carefully when involving others in the on-boarding
Unless you have worked with me or attended one of my workshops on
recruitment and hiring, I am sure you have not heard the term
�curmudgeon buzzard.� It is the term I coined to describe the
longer-term employee who feels obligated to swoop in on your new
employee and explain in great detail why working in your
organization may be the biggest mistake of their career.
The curmudgeon buzzard pecks away at the employee�s confidence
regaling their new colleague with stories of times when management
was unfair or unkind to the rank-and-file. They carry a great deal
of baggage with them that must be unloaded on the unsuspecting
newbie. However, they are only effective if they can poison the new
employee before he or she has fully formed his or her opinion of the
Keeping the buzzards away from your new hires during the first few
hours or days of their employment will allow the new employee to
form a favorable impression of your company � one that will be hard
to change. Therefore, choose wisely! Coach the newbies yourself or
assign them to employees who will represent your company in its best
light. The rewards will be long lasting.
5. Outline what the new employee needs to accomplish to succeed �
then set them up for success.
Finally, explain to your employee what you want them to accomplish
in his or her first days on the job. Understanding exactly what you
want them to do and how you will measure their success will increase
the new employee's confidence and the likelihood that you will get
Make sure that the tasks you select are ones that (1) will be part
of the employee's routine assignments, and (2) are very do-able.
Remember, you want the employee to succeed in the early days so that
they will be eager to take on the more difficult work that lies
To paraphrase an old saying, employees are not your greatest asset �
great employees are your greatest asset. Whether your organization
is large or small, make sure you set the stage for their success by
creating a positive first impression.
Polly White is a principal at Whitestone Partners. She has more than
twenty years of experience working with companies to improve the
skills, behaviors and attitudes of their workforce. Her career has
included roles in administration, human resources, curriculum and
employee development. She is a noted author, speaker and instructor
and has worked for companies ranging from small start-ups to Fortune