Onboarding Nightmare: When Your First Day Is a Bust

January 20, 2023

As we start the new year many of us are thinking about new beginnings. It reminds me of the anticipation and nervousness many of us feel on the first day at a new job. We set intentions and are eager to see how the journey will unfold! Those nerves are especially prevalent when it’s the first day of your first real job. My first assignment after graduating from college was to establish a marketing communications function for a regional life insurance company, so I thought I’d landed a job coup. I’d practiced the commute ahead of time and thoughtfully selected a grown-up outfit to make the right impression. But when I reported for duty, my hiring manager was “out of the office” and I could sense that the string of individuals who greeted me weren’t sure what to do next. It turns out, my hiring manager had been terminated without leaving a solid paper trail about my hiring. It was a nightmare first day in the “professional world” that had me wondering if the job was real. I ended up staying at that company for three years, but vowed to create memorable, encouraging first days for others for the remainder of my career.

Organizations today recognize the direct correlation between a solid onboarding program and retention. In some industries, turnover for hourly workers is a major problem, particularly in the first 120 days when approximately 50% leave their new jobs. When you compare the cost, time, and effort to replace employees, it is easy to build the case for a system that gets new hires started off right.

Onboarding is a critical link in setting up employees for success. The following organizations have personalized the process to fit their companies. Here’s to amping up our culture game by learning from these trendsetters.

  • Warby Parker sends new hires an electronic welcome packet with a list of expectations for the first day, week, and month.
  • Amazon provides all new employees a “Launch Your Career” roadmap that outlines what to expect in the coming years.
  • New hires at Disney find out right away that they’re not employees—they’re cast members. The first day on the job includes a Disney traditions class that touches on what “cast members” need to know about their specific roles but also about the history and legacy of The Walt Disney Company.
  • Southwest Airlines knows onboarding isn’t simply about paperwork and forms. They onboard with an emphasis on helping new hires see how they can make a difference, inspiring their new employees with tales of remarkable employees who were able to make a huge impact. 
  • The Ritz-Carlton makes an employee promise, stating that every employee is the most important resource in the company. This motivates their employees to be the best because they know how valuable they are and how much their responsibilities matter. 

As with every topic we’ve discussed, the goal isn’t simply to replicate the approach of successful organizations. Let these examples inspire your own creative thinking. Ask yourself, what unique way can our onboarding experience reinforce our culture?

The most important day on the job for a new employee is the first day. Make sure it’s a memorable one for your employees and that your plan to make them feel valued extends far beyond that first day.

Together, we truly can build Unstoppable Cultures!


Ginger Hardage

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