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Blue @ Work

Part I: Rethink your employees' first day, culture edition

Let’s face it: The first day on the job is often the worst day on the job. That’s because too often, new employees are introduced to a few coworkers, then placed in a work space with a pile of papers to sign or training videos to watch. In other words, there is little to inspire or motivate.

You’ve heard the old adage, “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” Once formed, a negative opinion is quite difficult to change. Likewise, an employee’s first day can make — or break — a new job.

Why not take a different approach?

The first day may be the most important time to show new employees that the conversation you had at the job interview was more than just lip service. Now is the time to put words into action, to cement your brand and reinforce your core values.

The overall goal? You want your new employee to go home and tell everyone how excited they are to work for your company.

8 out-of-the-box ideas to make the first day memorable

Inspire and motivate every new employee with these tips for a smooth onboarding:

  1. Get the team engaged.

    Communicate with all employees, or team members, about the employee’s arrival. Consider having everyone on the immediate team present when the employee arrives for introductions and greetings. Before the start date, be sure everyone knows the new employee’s name, title and role that individual will fill on the team. Also provide a bit of personal information that may help spark a conversation, such as a shared interest, hobby or experience.

  2. Consider starting new hires on a Friday.

    Monday may be the start of a workweek, but it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to enthusiasm or energy. Early in the week, most employees are busy gearing up for the week, organizing schedules and projects. They are less likely to make time for a new employee. By Friday, employees are ready to wind down. It’s a great day to introduce a new employee who will officially “start” next week.

  3. Save the paperwork for Monday.

    Most companies start new employees with a pile of paperwork and to-do’s. While it’s important, it’s not very energizing. If you can, save the bulk of these activities for Monday, or at least after the start date. Be sure to prioritize your benefits package, particularly health insurance, which is a big part of how you build your brand and create loyalty. It's worthy of focused attention, so set aside time for it later.

  4. Deck out the work space.

    What kind of work space will your employee need? Be sure it’s prepped with the equipment and supplies : a computer, phone, network access and office supplies. Include a special touch with an accessory of some sort like balloons, flowers, a plant or another welcome gift.

  5. Provide a tour of the company.

    This may go without saying, but employees need to know the basics. Where is the bathroom? The break room? Beyond that, though, a new employee needs a ‘'big picture' tour of the company to gain a sense of how things work. Take the formality out of the company tour, making it friendly and light, without getting too bogged down in unnecessary details. The goal is to give new employees a sense of where they fit into the company culture, and introduce them to friendly new faces along the way to help them feel comfortable and welcome.

  6. Plan a team lunch.

    Team dynamics are critical to successful work environments. But they don’t happen by accident. Be intentional from day one, and schedule a celebratory lunch for the new employee to meet the team, or have a team potluck or meet-and-greet. Direct the conversation in a productive manner. Ask each team member to answer a helpful question like, “What do you wish you knew on your first day that you know now?” Or, “What is the most important thing you should know about our brand?”

  7. Assign an “employee buddy” or mentor.

    This isn’t a random assignment. Thoughtfully consider who this individual might be for each new employee. The “buddy” or mentor will proactively check in with the new hire and help out periodically over the first few weeks. The new employee can go to this person for every question, from “How do I use the copy machine?” to “Who do I go to in order to complete this task?” Choosing the right person can help the new employee adapt to the culture more quickly.

  8. Send the new hire home early, with a welcome gift.

    If you start your employee on a Friday, send them home early — after the team gathering — with a gift card to a restaurant, so he or she can enjoy a complimentary dinner with a friend, spouse or family. Let them know what to expect Monday, so they arrive excited to begin, but with an accurate expectation of what awaits.

You can offer your employees the best benefits and salaries, but if they don't feel connected to the work or mission of your company, odds are they aren't engaged. With the help of SALVEO Partner's Thriving Workplace Culture Survey (TWCS) and your dedicated well-being consultant, you can learn how to bridge the current engagement gap within your workplace.

After the first day, there will be more details to iron out, including paperwork, security clearance and benefits sign up. But the training doesn’t stop there:

  • Schedule meetings with key leaders.

    At some point in the first month, schedule meetings for the new employee with leaders of the various key departments. This will help the new hire learn firsthand how his or her role contributes to the corporate goals.

  • Follow up.

    Periodically check in with your new hires to be sure everything is running smoothly and to address any questions or problems.

  • Offer a solid training program.

    Provide a comprehensive, ongoing learning and development program to help all your employees feel prepared and motivated for their jobs, regardless of whether they’ve been there for one day or 20 years.

Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from onboarding employees effectively. There are creative ways to work through onboarding virtually. For example, instead of having a team lunch, set up a virtual team happy hour to meet the new employee. Instead of outfitting a desk at the office, help them set up a healthy work-from-home environment Opens in a new window.

We're here to help

As a human resources professional, your most important job is to hire and retain great talent. More than anyone, you know how difficult and expensive it is to recruit good employees. Make it your goal to do this well, and your company will be known as the best place to work.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is here to help you communicate to your employees about their benefits. Get started today with our benefit-smart employee toolkit. This online storehouse serves up ready-made communications that get to the heart of coverage and benefit questions your employees may have.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.