Adding new employees to an organization is a big step for both employer and employee. Every hiring decision can be difficult, and there’s a deep desire on both sides of the table for everything to work out. New employees tend to hold on to their first impressions of a workplace, so doing some leg work to ensure that the first week runs smoothly will pay huge dividends in establishing trust. Here are a few ways we’ve found to help new employees integrate seamlessly into your workplace.

1. Express Empathy

In the weeks before an employee arrives, take a few minutes to reflect on your own employment history. Can you remember your first day at a new job? Or, perhaps you had to switch schools or homes in the past? Put yourself in the mindset of a newbie. Starting out at a new place can be intimidating! Even basic knowledge like access to food or restroom locations is unknown.

New hires often have many questions but don’t want to bother management with small issues. Encourage them to voice those questions. It will give you valuable insight and will help them feel heard. Remember to verbalize the fact that they might feel overwhelmed, hesitant, or have many questions. By speaking these things aloud, you’re normalizing these experiences and setting them at ease.

2. Help Them Understand Your Company Culture

The best way to do this is by creating a document or guide that explicitly describes the tone, mood, expectations, unique elements, and quirks of your workplace. This is the place to explain certain phrases or acronyms everyone uses—or rituals or habits that have been established over the years. The guide doesn’t have to be stodgy or corporate. (Relegate all essential legal and corporate information to the employee handbook.) Injecting warmth and humor into this document can go a long way toward putting the new employee at ease.

Close the guide with short excerpts from current employee interviews. Ask employees to write about what they wish they had known when they first started. Have them come up with tips for how to succeed at the company. Your current employees can be a fount of knowledge when it comes to what new employees might need to know.

3. Plan A Balanced Schedule for The First Week

Many employers worry too much about overwhelming new hires and end up leaving them with too much downtime in their first week. Too much unscheduled time, however, will be just as intimidating. Without an established routine or set of tasks to complete, unfilled time can drag on interminably. The key to finding the right balance for each new employee is through asking them simple questions like “Should we take a little break?” during longer info sessions. This can give an individual the chance to voice when he or she needs a mental break.

Establishing employee preferences even before the first day is highly recommended. Send a quick email asking if the employee wants to dive into client work right away or take a few days to get settled. It’s important to stress in that email that both answers are acceptable and that it’s just a matter of personality or learning style. Their answer will allow you to better set the pace for their first week.

4. Prepare All Technology, but Be Prepared for Technology to Fail

Today’s workspace is built around a lot of functioning technology. Depending on their role in the company, your new employee may need a laptop and laptop charger, a cell phone, a laptop stand or case, a sitting or standing desk, endless passwords and software accounts, a new email address, and more.

With an influx of technology comes a bevy of difficulties. You should fully expect that one or more components won’t work correctly. Being prepared to handle this with grace will model how setbacks are handled in the workplace. If you can, take some time before the employee’s first day to take the technology for a dry run.

5. Prep All Hiring Documentation Before Arrival

The only thing more plentiful than technology on an employee’s first day is the amount of paperwork they need to fill out. In addition to the relevant governmental and state forms, they’ll need to set up healthcare and retirement accounts, direct deposit forms, and other legal or corporate paperwork. Depending on the type of orientation you want to have on the first day, you can have some of this paperwork completed electronically prior to onboarding.

It’s also a good idea to have a checklist of all paperwork, technology, software, and agenda items you plan to address on the first day or in the first week. Having the new employee place a checkmark or their initials next to each item once it is covered allows you to both keep track of what you’ve done and provides legal documentation that all topics were addressed. You can even involve other departments or employees in this process. The new hire can meet with a variety of individuals for different aspects of onboarding. Collecting initials from each department allows new employees to physically orient themselves and provides the opportunity for them to connect with others in the workplace.

6. Make Time for Joy

Whenever you can, break up straightforward delivery of information with fun tasks, small activities, or opportunities to interact with others. Consider if certain information about the workplace is best given by someone outside of HR. For example, maybe the resident technology expert could walk the employee through the workflow, or an I.T. professional could handle setup of all technology. Varying the people an employee interacts with will give them a chance to meet others in a natural way. (Obviously, more sensitive or serious orientation materials should always be presented by an HR professional.)

Welcome gifts are always helpful in making someone feel valued. Even a small item with the company logo on it can help send a strong positive message. New employees often feel nervous about the social aspects of work. Take the pressure off the first week by having a different individual take them out to lunch each day for the first week or one day each week for the first month. This can take away the anxiety new employees feel about getting to know others or fitting in.

Onboarding as an Opportunity

From paperwork to technology to office space, it’s important to present basic info to employees in ways that make them feel empowered and armed with new knowledge. Slowing down and making sure you’ve answered all questions will go a long way towards building a mutually beneficial relationship. Throughout the process, it’s important to establish a culture of questioning. New employees may have a myriad of questions about the tasks and processes at a company. Encouraging them to voice those questions will give you valuable insight and will help them feel heard.

Onboarding is an opportunity to introduce new employees to workplace culture and to help them get settled. There’s a lot to cover as this process occurs.  If you’d like some guidance as you plan your onboarding procedure, contact us today. We’re a trusted HR outsourcing company, and we’re passionate about helping people create better workplaces. In fact, we’ve been named one of the Best Places to Work several times by The Tennessean. We love assisting employers as they continue to grow.