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Ask Doug & Polly: Creating a great first impression for a new employee sets the tone
Ask Doug & Polly

Ask Doug & Polly: Creating a great first impression for a new employee sets the tone

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Doug & Polly White

QUESTION: I just hired my first employee. He starts next week. I want to make sure I get him off to a good start. Do you have any tips?

ANSWER: In any relationship, first impressions matter. The first few weeks of employment will set the tone for the months and years ahead.

It is easy to create a great first impression. If you start off well and gain a favorable first impression, it will pay huge dividends.

The impact of a good first impression will be with you for years. Unfortunately, so will the impact of a poor first impression. Once missed, you cannot get this opportunity back.

Here are some tips that take little time and money but can enrich your relationship for years to come:

Food and fellowship before forms

  • : On the first day, start with breakfast. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Doughnuts and coffee is sufficient. Sharing a meal is one of the best ways to break the ice and make a connection. Spend some time socializing and getting to know each other.

Of course, in today’s environment, this needs to be done with appropriate social distancing. If your company is still working remotely, this will be difficult, but it is still worth the effort to create a social environment using Zoom or some other technology.

You have probably only spoken with your new hire during the formal interview and negotiation process. It’s time to change the relationship. When you bring on workers, invite the team to help welcome the newbie. Yes, there will be manuals to read and I-9 and W-4 forms to fill out and maybe insurance documents. This can wait till the afternoon or the next day.

Make time to set goals:

  • You are a busy entrepreneur; otherwise, you wouldn’t be hiring staff. But if you want to get this person productive quickly, you will need to invest in training. Most likely, this means you’ll need to block out large chunks of time during the first few weeks to spend with your new employee.

Your new hire probably brings some skills and experience to the table, but the person doesn’t know how you want things done in your organization.

You cannot expect your new employee to know what to do and how to do it unless you tell the person.

Set expectations and measurable goals. Develop a plan for the first week. Paint a picture for your new employee as to what you want the person to learn and accomplish by the end of the first 30 days. Explain how you are going to help your new hire succeed.

Assign meaningful work

  • : In many situations, your new employee may not be much help on the first day. In the beginning, the person most likely will be a time sink rather than freeing you up to do work that is more productive. But the quicker you can give your new hire meaningful work, the faster the person will be able to take on some of the workload.

Even if your new charge is entry-level, the person can make a meaningful difference right from the start.

We believe that employees want to be recognized, contributing members of a winning team. Let your new employee contribute from day one. Set the person up to succeed. Make a list of tasks that you want your new teammate to take on. Assign one or more very specific tasks that you believe the person can perform well. When your new employee is successful, give positive feedback and thank the worker. You will be off to a great start.

Set the stage

  • : Finally, make sure your new hire has all the tools the person will need to be successful and a place to store personal things. Load your new employee’s computer with the right software and stock the desk with supplies. Have business cards or a nametag preprinted.

Anything you can do to show the new teammate how much the person is welcome will help you to cement a relationship that will be positive and productive. You’ll be on your way to developing a loyal employee.

Doug and Polly White have a large ownership stake in Gather, a company that designs, builds and operates collaborative workspaces. Polly’s focus is on human resources, people management and human systems. Doug’s areas of expertise are business strategy, operations and finance.

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