3 steps to giving new team members the ‘best first day ever’

Any teenager who has ever had to change schools can share the pain and stress of finding new friends and becoming a trusted member of a new group.

Childhood is filled with many instances of joining tight-knit groups and feeling like an outsider, including playing for a new sports team, studying with a new Sunday school class or moving to a new neighborhood.

As a business coach, I know that when a new team member joins your organization, that person could have similar feelings of stress and anxiety. I’ve seen it firsthand. That’s why I often tell leaders that it’s important to have a plan to minimize these feelings for new team members.

To hear about specific onboarding processes from a company doing it well, I sat down with Corey Cormier, CEO of Legal Monkeys, a national medical records collection firm for law firms and long-time client of Petra Coach.

He shared with me his company’s strategy and how everyone on staff works to create a Best First Day Ever for new team members. Below are the three steps he outlined that best help new team members.

1. Make them feel welcome

When Legal Monkeys brings on a new team member, that person’s start time is scheduled for mid-morning on his or her first day. This gives the company time to prepare for the new team member and to welcome the person in a grand and public manner.

The company usually plans a grand gesture such as assembling outside the office a few minutes prior to the new team member’s arrival time and holding giant signs that say “Welcome” and the name of the new team member. It creates an incredible spectacle for the person — and for anyone driving by at that time.

While it certainly works, the public display does on occasion create some unintended consequences. Corey shared, “Our welcome signs can look like we are picketing for some cause. We had a new team member drive up to our building, see the welcome signs and think we were picketing some business. So, the new team member drove back home and never came to work.”

Just like Corey’s team, start an onboarding process by encouraging your team members to make a similarly public gesture right at the beginning. This will help to quell right away the new team member’s fears or apprehensions about fitting in to the culture.

2. Open up your culture

As part of our dialogue, Corey clarified a problem: “We have a strong, tight-knit culture, but this great culture can also alienate new team members. Without intention, it is easy for a new person to be the outsider to a group of people that have been working and bonding together for years. It is a natural reaction for people to protect the group and not reach out to accept the new person. And not many people have a personality that will immediately break into an existing group. This created a need for Legal Monkeys to be intentional about making the new person feel welcome and a part of our family.”

In your business, it is possible that any newbies with an outside perspective may not feel included right away, especially if your current team members are too protective of an existing group bond. To make the transition painless (even enjoyable) for new team members, talk to your existing team about the importance of keeping the company culture open and inviting. Then, take the time to give a culture tour to your new hires, explaining the programs and encouraging their involvement.

3. Help them hit the ground running

Now that you have your new hires, help them succeed quickly. Legal Monkeys has a process to make sure all new team members have all of their essential office materials on the first day, including a desk, computer, phone and business cards. A new team member’s excitement about joining your company can quickly deflate if he or she feels you aren’t ready for them.

The company also has created a detailed onboarding process that schedules time during the first few days with key leaders in the organization so the new team member can learn the history, core values and core purpose of the company. Training for their new position starts immediately as an additional sign of the importance of their addition to the team. Corey himself is also quick to deliver hand-written notes of appreciation to the new team member and any person who played a critical role in onboarding the new hire.

The efforts don’t go unnoticed. Corey noted, “On multiple occasions, people have told us that they are so thankful for being welcomed in this manner. They say it makes them feel appreciated and a part of our team. They will even post it on Facebook, calling it their best first day ever.”

Corey summarized the importance of doing this by stating, “You put so much work into hiring slowly to find the right team member. Why not create a process to onboard them properly to your team?”

This article was originally published by The Business Journals.