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Employee's first day of workThe first day of any new job is often nerve-wracking and overwhelming, no matter what your position in the company may be. Not only is it time to show off all of the skills that got you the job in the first place, you also have to meet the whole team, fill out reams of paperwork, and figure out where the bathroom is located.

As an employer, you can make the onboarding process go more smoothly and help a new employee feel more welcome — and start on the right foot — if you do a few important things on the first day of work. Instead of showing a new team member to his or her cubicle and dropping a pile of file folders on the desk, take some time to get him or her comfortable and off to a good start. After going to all of the trouble to find and hire the perfect candidate, you don’t want to make him or her feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable from the start.

Prepare Ahead of Time

Before your new employee arrives to work, run through his or her workspace to ensure that everything is in place before day one. That means making sure that there is a clean desk and chair, that all evidence of previous employees has been removed, and that the tools and equipment necessary to be productive are all in place. Would you want to have to track down a stapler and some pens on your first day? It’s also thoughtful to put together a small welcome gift of company swag for new employees. A coffee mug or tote bag is a nice way to help the employee feel welcome and part of the team.

Use the Buddy System

New employees shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves on their first day, or have to track down others to find out what to do next. Pair new employees with others from the team to help show them the ropes; several people can takes shifts throughout the day to avoid overburdening one person. Make sure that at least one person is available to take the new employee to lunch; all the better if the boss can join as well.

Ease the Paperwork Burden

Most people expect to spend the better part of their first day on the job filling out endless forms. While it’s important for HR to check certain documents to ensure eligibility for work, many forms can be taken care of via a paperless system, or given to the employee to fill out at home either before or after the first day. Not only will that save time, it will also allow the new employee to more thoroughly review the options and make better choices.

Provide Training

Inevitably, there will be equipment, a process, or a procedure that the new employee is unfamiliar with. Before his or her first day, prepare a checklist of the areas that the employee will need to be trained in, and determine who will provide the training and when. You might not get to everything on the first day, but be sure to cover the top priorities so that the employee won’t be stymied if they need to handle something unfamiliar. If you have to spread training out over several days, create a schedule — and stick to it — so nothing is overlooked.

Incorporate Some Work Time

While most first days include a lot of orientation, familiarization, and introductions, there are bound to be times when other team members have to get work done, or there might be occasions when the newbie will finish something faster than expected. It’s a good idea to have a few small assignments prepared so that he or she can start wading into their actual work and feel like a part of the team. Ask your existing team members to prepare summaries of projects that are in process and share copies of notes, directives, already completed work, and other materials that will help a new person get up to speed quickly.

Employee's first day on the jobConduct a Postmortem

Schedule some time at the end of the day to have a wrap-up and first day postmortem with your new employee to get a sense of how the day went, and to outline the rest of the first week and what he or she should expect.

Encourage the new person to jot down questions or concerns throughout the day that you can address during this meeting. Go over any questions or issues the new employee might have and ask whether the employee needs anything for the next day or going forward that will ease their transition into your company. Reiterate that you are glad to have him or her on the team, setting the tone for a productive relationship going forward.

While most employees expect that the first day of work will be a whirlwind of introductions, paperwork, and getting settled, as an employer, you can make the first day a reflection of the employment experience and set the tone for the employee experience going forward.  When you do, you increase the likelihood of a seamless transition and a happy, more productive employee.

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