Making a Lasting First Impression

Setting Expectations

The onboarding process marks the beginning of the employee’s experience at your company. It begins at the moment an offer of employment is extended to a candidate, and runs up until the end of their probation period (which is usually three to six months in duration). The onboarding process is your chance, as an employer to prove that you will meet the expectations you have set for the candidate during the attraction and recruitment stage of their employee lifecycle. It’s your opportunity to prove that you will live-up to the ‘psychological contract’ created through enticing job advertisements, staff testimonials, guarantees of ‘growth trajectories’ and career progression.  

Employers should take care that their offering is realistic, and presented to the candidate in a candid way, such as to ensure a long-term fit between them and your company.  

Keeping Contact

It’s critical to keep in-touch with your new employee after they’ve accepted their offer of employment. Candidates can often be enticed back to previous employers by counter-offers, or may have their heads turned by other offers of employment on the run-up to their first day. Notice periods (especially for more senior hires) can be long (up to three months), and so there’s plenty of opportunity for candidates to lose interest if you are not proactively and consistently engaging. 

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to have a telephone conversation with your new employee once per week (if their notice period is one month or less), or once every two weeks, if their notice period is between one and three months in duration. During these calls, be sure to cover: 

  • Business updates
  • Preparations for their start and provision of new start forms
  • Information relating to company benefits sign-up
  • Introductions to other members of their team/adjacent stakeholders
  • Voluntary invitations to the start of team meetings to meet with/introduce to other staff
  • Right to Work checks

These are all excellent opportunities to give you a reason to engage the candidate’s attention. 

Clear Agendas and Timescales

Starting a new job is stressful – the number one priority on the candidate’s mind will be creating a strong first impression on their new colleagues and peers. It’s up to the business to take the stress out of onboarding, by allowing the new staff member time, and space to focus. 

Provide agendas which map-out the onboarding process, all the way up to the end of probation. Make clear your expectations, and let them know that you’re available for clarification. 

Provide clear lists and timescales of when you would expect certain milestones to be reached. Make sure these are reasonable, and factor in the extra time a new employee will need to become accustomed to new systems and embedding within the new working culture.  

Ensure the employee is not utilized at their maximum capacity right at the outset! It’s important to play this step by ear – ease the employee in; talk with them and consult with them to find out their comfort zone, and ability to commit to day-to-day delivery. Critically, don’t ‘throw them in the deep end’ – even if they ask for it! This can often be an eagerness to impress and deliver right from the get go, but such an approach is rarely constructive, despite the best intentions (or hopes) of the employer.  

Check In Meetings 

Be sure to check-in with your new start regularly – it only takes 15 minutes: 

  • End of day one and two
  • End of week one and two
  • End of month one, two and three

During these calls, cover off the employees first impressions – confirm the relationships they’ve managed to build so-far across the company. Ask them about their workload, projects they’re engaged with, and their ability to find and access critical resources. 

User Guides

Allowing new staff members to create a ‘manual’ on how they work best, can be a great opportunity for the new staff member to bring a piece of their personality to the company. It’s an opportunity for the employee to make clear to their employer what motivates them; how they like to give/receive feedback; how they like to be communicated with, and when their ‘peak times’ are for concentration and delivery. Make sure to set aside enough time for the employee to fill out their user guide within their first week in their new role. 

User guides are at their most effective when they’re paired with a psychometric profile – perhaps an Insights profile or a Myers Briggs profile. This can then be used by the employee as a self-development tool, and by the employee’s managers/peers to interpret how they may react in certain work situations.  

Personal Development Plans

Keep your commitments to your candidates by issuing personal development plans within the probation periods. These are effective tools which detail to new employees, how they can expect their careers to develop, and what they need to do in order to progress through the company. 

Through my career so-far, I’ve onboarded around 300+ employees into new roles – those which make the biggest, most positive long-term impact, are ones which are: 

  • Communicated with clearly. 
  • Have reasonable expectations based upon promises made through the recruitment process. 
  • Recruited for cultural fit/attitude rather than skills compliment. 
  • Given an opportunity to bring and display their own unique personality to the business. 

For more information on how to formulate an effective ‘right first time’ onboarding strategy, which makes powerful and lasting first impressions on candidates, reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to assist! 

By Scott Baxter, Senior HR Consultant