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New Hire Onboarding: Preparing for the First Day

Congratulations, you’ve made a hire! The uncertainty of the hiring process is over — you’ve closed the deal!

In an ideal world, your work would be finished and your new employee would go on to increase your team’s productivity and double your revenue without you lifting a finger.

The truth is that onboarding a new employee is just as important as making a hire. Having a successful onboarding program is key to retaining your employees for the long term.

Some employers don’t succeed: up to 28% of new employees quit within the first 90 days on the job. Some employees will even quit after the first day!

You can improve your retention rate by having a structured onboarding process, setting clear expectations and goals, and continuing training after initial onboarding.

This post will cover structured onboarding, which culminates on a new hire’s first day. Here’s how to create a compliant, smooth, and positive first-day experience.

Before the First Day 

Know the Legal Requirements 

Before anything else, make sure you understand new hire compliance. Here’s the paperwork you need to know about:

Form I-9: This federal form is required for all U.S. employers and is used to verify new hire work authorization. The Form I-9 needs to be filled out by the employee on day one. Part of the Form I-9 requires you as the employer to examine appropriate identification and complete an employer section no later than day three of employment. You can learn more about this important step at I-9 Central

Form W-4: This is another federal form that an employee completes to inform the employer of the correct federal income tax to withhold from an employee’s pay. This is best-taken care of on day one with a hard deadline to complete before the first payroll.

State-Specific Forms: Many states have their own withholding forms to record the amount of state income tax to withhold from an employee’s pay. Be sure to check your state requirements and prepare any necessary forms. 

New Hire Reporting: You’ll need to let your state government know that you’ve made a new hire to stay compliant with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). Where to send this info, the time frame, and any additional reporting requirements vary by state. Use this guide from the federal OCSE website. A Multistate Employer Registry is available, which allows an employer to report all of its new hires in any state where it has employees.

Create a Pre-First Day Checklist 

Besides knowing the legal requirements, there are a few other items you’ll want to be prepared for before your new hire starts.

This will vary by company and position, so take time to think about what a new hire will need on day one and beyond to be set up for success. Create a checklist that you can use for every new hire.

Your employee onboarding checklist may look something like this:

  • Generate internal logins: Create login credentials to programs or software so they are ready to go when needed.
  • Order and set up equipment: Prepare a computer, uniform, or other items ahead of time so you’re not scrambling once they’ve started work.
  • Create a first-day schedule: Plan what the new hire will be doing on the first day, from paperwork to lunch to a meet and greet with the team. You may want to create a detailed schedule for the entire first week or beyond.
  • Communicate with the new hire: Reach out to your new hire ahead of their first day to reiterate your welcome and let them know what to bring, what time to arrive, and any other logistical details (dress code, parking, whether they should bring lunch).
  • Communicate with your team: Make sure your current team knows who’s starting and when. Encourage employees to greet the new hire.

On the First Day

Create another onboarding checklist for you (as the employer) to complete during the first day. This is something that onboarding software, like CareerPlug, can help with or you can create your own. Here are a few things you may want to add:

  • Complete required paperwork
  • Set employee up in payroll
  • Share benefits information
  • Give an office/facility tour
  • Introduce to team
  • Review company mission, values, and goals 
  • Cover expectations and logistics
  • Review training plan

Provide your new hire with a schedule so they know what to expect for the day. This will vary wildly based on your business and the position, but here is an example that we use for our own onboarding at CareerPlug.

First Day Schedule

  • 10 a.m. – Welcome new hire + office tour
  • 10:15 a.m. – New hire paperwork
  • 11 a.m. – Meet with manager
    • Review job description
    • Review training plan
  • Noon – Team lunch
  • 1 p.m. – Orientation materials
    • Review company policies
    • Login to internal systems and complete tutorials
    • Meet with and shadow other team members
  • 5 p.m. – End of day

Remember New Hire Experience

All the work so far will not only keep you organized but will help create an early positive experience with your company. You want new employees to feel validated that they’ve made the right decision — accepting a job offer is a major life event for individuals and families. Don’t give them any reason to second-guess their choice.

Look for ways to go the extra mile with new hire onboarding that will impact your first impression. Have their desk set up for them ahead of time with a note of welcome from the team. Give them some company swag. Schedule a lunch with a tenured employee so they can learn about company history.

Beyond the obvious steps to ramp in their role, think about how you can introduce new employees to your company culture.

At CareerPlug, our new hires go to lunch with our founder within their first few weeks to learn about how CareerPlug got started. We also have them watch an employee-made video on the first day that acts out funny bits of company history (like when an employee had to go dumpster diving for our only office key). It’s quirky, but it helps orient new hires to our culture (and gives them an easy conversation topic to talk with the team!).

Here are some other ideas:

  • Send a welcome package to the employee’s home before their first day with swag, a first-day schedule, and other onboarding information
  • Have a company all-hands meeting to introduce the new hire and let them share a little bit about themselves on the first day (or do this via email)
  • Designate a “welcome buddy” other than their direct manager so they have another point of contact for questions and feedback

Put yourself in their shoes: Ask yourself what would make you feel welcome and what has made you feel welcome at past jobs.

After the First Day

Future posts will cover creating training plans and identifying ways to reduce employee turnover. In the meantime, check out one of our popular resources to get you started: 30-60-90 Day Checklist.

Take Action:

  • Make sure you’re complying with federal and state requirements
  • Create a pre-first day and first-day checklist for yourself and the new hire
  • Identify one thing you can start doing to improve a new hire’s experience on the first day

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