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Mastering New Employee Onboarding: A Comprehensive Guide

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What does it mean to feel welcome? Everyone has a different answer to this question, but feeling welcome boils down to feeling understood - that others recognize you, support you, and accept your place in the group.

When your company helps your employees feel welcome during onboarding, you create conditions that can lead to deep emotional bonds. These connections help create a foundation of trust that increases employee engagement, removes barriers to collaboration, and leads employees to long and productive tenure.

The importance of first impressions

One of the biggest obstacles to mutual understanding is the way our brains react to first impressions. Psychologist Alex Todorov of Princeton University has found that milliseconds after we first see a person's face, we form an initial impression of trustworthiness, likeability, and even competence. He explained this phenomenon by the fact that the brain treats the first impression like a fear reaction and processes it in the amygdala (threat center) instead of the frontal lobe (rational thinking).

In other words, the same mechanisms that helped our ancestors avoid leopards now cause us to avoid suitors wearing leopard print.

Of course, these same mechanisms also determine the impressions employees form during the hiring process. You decide whether your work environment is welcoming, indifferent or hostile. These first impressions are one of the reasons hiring is the first step to effective onboarding.

Complete the new employee's welcome

Fortunately, the first impression is not the only one. The first days and weeks send a clear message about what new employees will experience at your company - not only through the messages of the official welcome conversation, but also through what they see, hear and do during working hours. These experiences confirm or undermine the impressions new employees have during the hiring process and can determine the strength of your employee welcome.

This pattern is evident in a list of reasons new employees leave their jobs within the first six months, as found in an onboarding report:

  • They didn't get enough training
  • The work was not clear
  • They didn't feel sufficiently appreciated
  • They felt neglected
  • They felt overwhelmed

These employees took a job that gave them the right impression - a job that offered them fulfilling work for which they were qualified, with competent management, complete training processes and the opportunity for recognition and promotion. When the onboarding process did not confirm these impressions, they left the company.

How can you avoid this outcome in your onboarding process? The first step is to understand the two types of impressions your new hires want to confirm in their first days and weeks at your company.

Two important impressions when welcoming your new employee

Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy has studied first impressions for more than 15 years. She found that people judge you on a spectrum she called warmth and competence:

  • Warmth: This impression determines how much new employees feel that they can trust the people in your company, including their boss, their colleagues, and management.‍
  • Competence: This impression determines how much the new employees respect the abilities of their new company and the people in it.

Cuddy's results show that while both impressions are important, they also need to occur in a specific order. An impression of warmth leads to an impression of trust. As she put it in an interview with Business Insider:

"If someone you're trying to influence doesn't trust you, you won't get very far; in fact, you might even arouse suspicion because you appear manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong inspires admiration, but only Once you have built trust, your strength becomes a gift, not a threat."

Simply put: the greeting comes first. Every company can say that it is competent. However, for employees to believe your company is competent, their experiences must match expectations. A strong impression of warmth opens the door for your company to continue to demonstrate competence and meet those expectations.

Employees may never have all the information about company strategy, and even the most connected company can't fully understand all the nuances of every employee's daily experiences. However, when the company recognizes the potential of the new employees and offers them the support they need to fully adapt to their new role, it paves the way for mutual trust, higher engagement and better results.

Below are some strategies for conveying these two key impressions when greeting your new employees:

1.Greet your employees warmly

Remember what it is like

When you've worked at a company for years, it can be hard to remember what new employees go through on their first day. There is a series of information that your current employees take for granted that you should definitely pass on to new employees so that they don't feel like an outsider.

This includes:

  • Team vocabulary terms - names of regular meetings, software programs, employee groups, conference rooms, etc.
  • Your company's neighborhood - when putting together your welcome pack, be sure to include a guide to the area with suggestions for nearby restaurants, cafes, banks and gas stations.
  • A first day overview - give new employees an overview of what they will learn, who they will meet and what they will be doing.

Connect with culture

Leaving a new employee with empty hours after an impressive welcome presentation is a bit like a Potemkin Village: a good show with nothing behind it. While work can't stop every time a new employee comes on board, it's important to provide the new team with time and resources to fully introduce your culture - and demonstrate how you work, interact, succeed have and celebrate.

Consider the following ideas to familiarize new employees with your culture:

  • Introduce your company values - emphasize how your company lives its values in day-to-day business.
  • Auto-enroll in recognition software: Rolling out a day one bonus from a peer-to-peer recognition program (like IceHrm) is a great way to show firsthand how important recognition is to your business.
  • Go for lunch - having lunch with the new employee gives them time to break the ice without having to worry about interrupting important work.
  • Celebrate at the company level - recognizing all new employees during a company-wide meeting, happy hour, or initiation will help expand the new hires' connections.

2.Provide a competent employee

Make the preparations

A new employee won't enjoy the new culture or engage in their new tasks if they stand at an empty desk waiting for the IT department to bring them their computer and chair. Creating and following a checklist for new employees distracts from the important trust-building measures of the first day of work.

Here are some important items on this checklist:

  • Compliance preparation
  • Obtaining electronic signatures before the first day of work
  • Provide new employees with start times and directions
  • Preparation of the workplace
  • Desk
  • Chair
  • Internet connection
  • Computer/Computer Accessories
  • Software and permissions
  • Automatic login to recognition software
  • HRIS information
  • Confirmation of correct personal information
  • Providing information about self-service services
  • Financial/Health Benefits Guide - invite your providers to monthly (or quarterly) meetings to give new employees expert advice on these often complicated benefits.
  • Social Media Guide - in a connected world, teaching your new employees how to represent your company on social media sets clear expectations and promotes the development of your employer brand.
  • Company culture follow-up - after your new employees get to know your culture, give them the opportunity to ask questions about your values or processes.

Take your time

Completing the onboarding process requires more than a welcome event on the first day of work. New employees need additional information to understand how things work in your company, and they will receive this information after their first few days at the company. A software company recently expanded its onboarding process from a single meeting to four weekly meetings over the first month based on employee feedback.

Prioritize warmth and competence in onboarding for lasting employee engagement. Explore IceHrm for seamless integration and employee satisfaction.

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