The Honeymoon Period: Onboarding and Retaining New Employees

This post was originally published on CareerPlug's blog.  

Congratulations on your new hire! The hiring process can be tiring, especially if you don’t have to go through it that often.  But before you get back to business as usual, remember that one stage of hiring a new employee ending means another begins: orientation and onboarding.  Perhaps you think this involves some paperwork and reminding IT to set up a new email address, but the truth is that the first 90 days an employee has at a new company strongly affects their decision to stick around long term.  You did a great job of selling them on you and your company during the hiring process, now it’s time to carry that forward and follow-through.   The cheat sheet of what follows is this:  make them feel welcome and have a plan.

The First Day:

You’ve had a bad first day at a company, right?  Or maybe it was just awkward.  You weren’t really sure where to go and no one seemed to be expecting you.  You had to wait nearly an hour to get the supplies for your desk and find someone to show you how to get on to your email.  Maybe it wasn’t set up yet.  At lunch you couldn’t find the break room or it didn’t look like a social place so you ate at your desk.  Face time with your boss is at a minimum.   And when you leave, after the rest of the crowd so it doesn’t look like you’re ducking out early, your head is already clouded with doubts about accepting this position.

If you’ve been through this, you know how important it is to not recreate this experience for anyone working for you.  Before a new hire’s first day, you should already have announced the employee to the company (or at least key colleagues), set up their desk and email, and communicated to the new employee what their first day or week will be like.  Maybe you send them an orientation packet or HR paperwork.

Write a first-day checklist.  This one is an all-star example to work off of.   Include lots of face time with you and the employee, with time to get to know one another and talk about the position in more detail.  Take them out to lunch or bring lunch into the office.  Give an office tour and provide introductions that last longer than an exchange of hellos.  Necessary paperwork should be completed, but consider spreading the rest of the paperwork throughout the week.  The important thing is to let them know that they are welcome and appreciated by you and your company, even before they have time to make significant contributions.  

The Social Component:

Depending on your company culture, you may already provide a plethora of opportunities for employees to socialize in and outside of the office.  If this doesn’t sound like you, onboarding a new employee is a great opportunity to build this into your culture.  Introductions to peers and managers may be successful, but by scheduling a lunch or happy hour at the end of the first week you are providing an environment for a new employee to not only get more comfortable with the people they’re working with, but to ask questions in a less formal (read: less intimidating) setting.

As a manager who will want to ensure their hire’s success, using social settings to check-in and discuss how the employee is doing is a great idea.  Not to mention that taking someone out to lunch during the first week is an appreciated gesture and an excellent venue to tell the story of the company.  As you communicate the company’s goals, you also want to be communicating the company’s values.  Hopefully taking care of your employees is in alignment with them.


I’ve alluded to it already, but I’ll say it right out: do not forget about a new employee.  Or, do not forget that are new when they are still new.  Even if you get the first day or week down, you still need to regularly check-in on a new employee, especially through their first 90 days.  If you can do this, you’re also setting a great precedent for future evaluations.  Give new employees a mix of small and large projects to get their feet wet while they begin making meaningful contributions.  Have an in-depth check-in after a month and then at the 45 day mark.  Plan out these benchmarks, including what you’d like to discuss at each one.  And stick to it.

Hiring employees is unavoidable – people move, retire, change careers, or just don’t want to be there anymore.  It’s that last one you can actually do something about.  Retention begins during the hiring process and becomes a visible reality on day one.  The Honeymoon Period can be as positive as it sounds, and it doesn’t have to end after 90 days.  Work to welcome and support your employees on day one, and you’ll not only see more employees stick around for longer, but see happier employees helping you create a positive, welcoming culture.  


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