Onboarding Nightmare: When Your First Day Is a Bust

May 9, 2018

We can all remember the anticipation and nervousness of the first day at a new job, especially 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 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 past remarkable employees who were able to do make a huge impact. Southwest also has a “Sponsor a New Hire program” to make sure every new hire is accounted for and someone is investing in their success.
  • Throughout the Ritz-Carlton onboarding process, they know how to make sure new hires feel special and emphasize how lucky the Ritz-Carlton is to have them. In fact, they tell their employees that they know “work is the second most important place where an employee is (second only to home)” and that they feel blessed the new hires chose them as their “second place.”

Other organizations take the onboarding process to a whole new level with formal mentoring programs. According to the Gloo.com blog, 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentorship programs. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every employee at those companies is involved in a mentorship program. But check out these companies that are putting resources behind orchestrated mentoring: Google, General Electric, and Intel.

According to TNW, corporations like Caterpillar are making sure to include training past the typical “on-the-job” stuff. “Mentors at Caterpillar provide guidance on almost every aspect of in-house practice such as career exploration, corporate culture, “soft skills” development, organizational understanding, internal enterprise awareness, work-life balance and community knowledge,” said Jamie Meyers, Corporate Counsel at Caterpillar.

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 not a nightmare.

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