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Whitney Johnson

How to get your employee’s first day right (and why it’s so important)

3 experts say first day should not be treated casually

“The office image and work commitment created in the first month, first day and first hour is difficult to change.”  Jim Pratt, quoted in Hyper Sales Growth
Terrible stories like these

If you want an amusing half hour, grab a cuppa, and scan Reddit or Quora for the extraordinary stories, like these two, of terrible first days at work:

 “….the HR person who handled my hiring told me to come in on X date. I did, and absolutely nobody was expecting me. My boss had never filed my hiring paperwork, so I had to go sit by myself in the company cafeteria for four hours until she submitted it, because I couldn't be in the building where I was supposed to be working until I was an official employee.”

“…..when I was introduced to the team, everyone came off as extremely unwelcoming and uninterested.”  

Or, not so extraordinary after all?

An Allied study showed:
  • less than half of companies surveyed (48%), believed that their onboarding was somewhat successful
  • less than one third (28%), believed their onboarding was highly successful.*
Whitney Johnson (pictured above), author of Build an A Team, states that a new hire is a customer, a highly important, long-term customer.

Jack Daly, author of Hyper Sales Growth, says designing a great experience for the new hire makes you more competitive, because they will talk about “what a great, fun place this is.”

Organisation culture expert Patrick Lencioni, states in his book The Advantage, the most memorable time of an employee’s career, and the time with the biggest impact, are, in fact, his or her first days and weeks on a new job.

First day at work is key to retention

Research shows:
  • Effective onboarding reduces turnover and increases retention.  Employees are 60% more likely to remain with the organisation for more than three years when there is a structured onboarding program, according to one study.**
  • Ineffective onboarding leads to staff turnover. A study showed 15% of respondents left a job simply due to an ineffective or no onboarding process.***

Getting it right

There is a lot of terrific advice to draw upon. I'd recommend reading the UrbanBound document Three must-have onboarding elements for new and relocated employees (link in references)plus try these tips from three experts: 

From Build an A Team by Whitney Johnson, disruption expert who’s been named on the Thinkers50:   
  • Accept the first week on the job can be daunting for both of you.
  • Communicate your vision. This will power them through difficult days, when the struggle towards competence is steep.
  • Understand their vision, their “why”. Find out what they want to accomplish as a person.
  • Lay out your expectations, rules, and hopes for their contribution.
  • Set short-term goals: clearly define one or two projects for your new employee, with maximum budgets and precise deadlines. Constraints give them something to bump up against.
  • Provide a list of specific people to reach out to in the first week to weave them into the fabric of the organisation.
  •  Make two lists: “people to help” and “people to look to for guidance.”
  • Within the first six months, listen to the new hire’s “outsider” ideas. Get their perspective on your operation, as they are not yet “blind through familiarity”.
Patrick Lencioni blog

From The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, Organisational Culture expert and bestselling author (pictured above):
  • Orientation shouldn’t revolve around lengthy explanations of benefits and administration.
  • It should concentrate on sharing the company’s answers to Six Critical Questions: Why do we exist? How do we behave? What do we do? How will we succeed? What is most important right now? Who must do what?
  • This way, the new employee can immediately see how they will contribute to the greater good of the organisation. They become excited about how they can make a real difference.

From Hyper Sales Growth by Jack Daly, master sales trainer and multi-million dollar entrepreneur:   
  • Choose a day of the week where you can devote time to make the new hire feel special.
  • How about throwing a party, or creating a party-like atmosphere for the new hire? A big sign at the entrance saying Welcome, balloons tied to the back of their chair, a card signed by the business owners welcoming them aboard.  
  • Business cards are printed with their name and ready on their desk, and clothing or merchandise embossed with the company logo.
  • Sandwiches brought in for the whole team, who spend five minutes talking about how long they’ve been there, what they do, and what their family is like.
  • A home-delivered bottle of wine waiting for them when they get home, with a “celebrate the beginning of a great journey together” sentiment on the card.
  • Note: this costs under $100 in total. But, what a difference to the employee looking forward to the next day.

See Patrick Lencioni live when he visits Australia as keynote speaker for the first time in March, 2019. Building High Performance Teams is the theme of the National Growth Summit being presented by The Growth Faculty in Sydney on March 13, 2019, and Melbourne on March 15, 2019. The National Growth Summit also features Whitney Johnson (also mentioned in this article), and Kevin Lawrence (author of Your Oxygen Mask First).  Tickets on sale now. 

Members of The Growth Faculty receive the greatest ticket discount.
Not a member? Join The Growth Faculty today to access exclusive content, including an interview with Patrick Lencioni at The Growth Faculty On Demand Business Book Club.

References: *Allied. (2012). Allied workforce mobility survey: Onboarding and retention. Retrieved from
**Krasman, M. (2015). Three must-have onboarding elements for new and relocated employees. Employment Relations Today, 9-14. doi: 10.1002/ert
***Gillespie Associates. (2016). Why onboarding that new hire will increase your bottom line. Strategic Onboarding.