Hey Boss: My First Day Really Stunk
May 30, 2017

Hey Boss: My First Day Really Stunk

by Brian de Haaff

I will never forget that day. I had just started a new job after finishing graduate school and moving back to the San Francisco Bay area. I showed up at the specified time and aimlessly walked around the office, looking for my new boss. He was at a “breakfast meeting,” I was told. “Go ahead and wait in the lobby.” I waited — and waited. Sad.

Remember your first day? You probably felt a mix of emotions — nervousness, excitement, maybe apprehension. Your goal was to meet the team, understand what was really going on at the company, and figure out how you could contribute.

But instead of feeling welcomed, you spent the morning completing HR paperwork and the rest of the day feeling lost and mostly invisible. Perhaps one person took initiative and introduced you to the team. But overall, it was a poor first impression of your new employer.

It is a familiar story. The new employee arrives fully prepared for the first day — but no one else is and that first day really stinks.

This is a shame because those first days are critical to a new hire’s long-term happiness. In fact, in a survey of 1,000 employees, one-third quit a job within six months of starting.

The top reasons for quitting? New employees wished for clearer guidelines and responsibilities, more training, and a helpful co-worker to shadow. But despite high turnover rates, 22 percent of employers still have no formal onboarding program for new hires.

At Aha!, we worked hard building out a program that ensures every new person feels welcomed and knows exactly what to do. Every new Aha! hire receives intensive training on the product and the market, which gives them a clear understanding of what we do and the problems our customers face. Each person becomes an honorary member of our Customer Success team, which culminates in a “graduation” — giving a live customer demo of our product.

Of course, your own onboarding program will look different depending on your company and the products you deliver. But if you want to help new team members start out strong, there are some universal actions you can take:

Be ready Grant access to any systems the new hire will need. Managers should plan to spend time with them straightaway, answering questions and setting expectations for the first few days.

Teach hard Give your new hires something that shows you are investing in their growth. For example, before their first day, we send each Aha! a set of books we have enjoyed as a team. Some recent titles include Drive by Daniel Pink, Grit by Angela Duckworth, and our own bestselling new book, Lovability.

Welcome proudly Send out a welcome email to the entire team that includes a short bio, explanation of the new team member’s responsibilities, and an encouraging nudge for others to say “hi.” For example, we invite our newest Aha! to join the conversation in our chat tool.

Assign tasks People gain confidence when they can start contributing quickly at a new job. So assign some tasks as soon as possible, and then ramp up responsibilities as they become acclimated to their role.

Make connections Remember how long it takes to connect names with faces at a new job? Encourage team members to schedule one-on-one meetings with the new person.

Encourage mastery I mentioned that each Aha! delivers a live demo when their onboarding ends. I meant it — everyone, from engineers to finance specialists. With proper onboarding, new hires can answer questions, and using the product becomes second nature.

You do not want anyone to have a rotten first day. You want it to be memorable — a good memory.

If you are a leader in title or action, you can do your part. Prepare for a new team member’s arrival in advance, and keep in close contact in the weeks and months to come.

A thoughtful onboarding process will help you keep those team members you worked so hard to hire. And you will have a happier team for it.

What went right (and wrong) on your first day?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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