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How To Avoid Onboarding Overload

Shannon is an Operations Specialist turning ideas into action. Banyan Communications.

We’ve all had that first day at a new company that feels like a whirlwind of meetings, handshakes and information overload. You may see a blur of faces with names you’re trying desperately to remember while sitting at your desk in the open area, looking around with that wide-eyed gaze of anxiety, trying to take it all in. Or worse, you may be sitting in the quiet of your home while drinking from a fire hose of information passed your way, trying desperately to listen closely enough, write quickly enough to capture useful notes or just follow along with a litany of company-specific shorthand that can sound like a foreign language.

While it is important for employees to show up enthusiastically for their first day, ready to absorb a significant amount of new information, the onus is really on company leaders to set new hires up for success as they dive into their new role. To ensure the first day starts off on the right foot for your new employees, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Begin with personal interaction and face-to-face conversation. Having a meeting first thing can help your new employees experience inclusivity — and feel like they are not alone on this acclimation journey. Tell them what to expect for the week (and have a plan for what they should expect for the week). If there is standard information you want to make sure everyone knows, don’t just cover it verbally. Have a document ready so they can refer to it after the first-day “blursday” feeling wears off.

2. Have some self-paced activities to break up the day. Throughout the day, give your new employees breaks for requisite paperwork needed and to explore their new technology setup. Have some self-paced onboarding information so they can go at their own pace, which will help them catch their breath on that first day/week.

3. Orchestrate an opportunity for new employees to meet everyone at once on the first day. One of the most overwhelming things that I find most people report on their first day is that parade around the office, meeting everyone individually, sometimes even before they’ve had a chance to drop their bag at their desk. With that being said, it is nice to meet your colleagues on the first day. If you have a standing all-company meeting, try to have your new employees start on that day, and give them a cheat sheet of staff members to help them remember names and roles as they meet people.

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4. Don’t pack it all into the first day. Too much information at once leads to an ineffective onboarding experience. Have a plan for the first week, and spread things out. Make that first day a short one. Give them time to process. I find that people often underestimate the emotional and mental exhaustion experienced on that first day, especially when onboarding remotely.

5. Follow up beyond the first day. Onboarding isn’t done after that first day. Check in to ensure your new employees are feeling supported and included. This is imperative for a successful start for any new hire. And don’t be afraid to get them started on a project that first week. It will help them feel like part of the team sooner than later.

Companies only have one chance to make a positive first impression with new employees. There is an investment inherent in every new hire. When you show that you are invested in their integration into the company, I find that new employees are more likely to be invested in their new jobs and, by extension, the company. Their success will be the company’s success.

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