Are You Starting Off on the Wrong Foot?


You're on your way to a first date. You're so excited, this date is everything you've been looking for in a partner and you think this might have potential for long-term commitment. You arrive, dressed nicely, to meet your date and sit down. What happens next, however, leaves you disappointed and less than engaged. Your date hands you a stack of paperwork, asks you to fill it out and tells you he'll be back in a few hours.

Would you stick around for long for this date? Not a chance! But employers are letting this scenario play out for new hires all too often. Typically, a "first day" on the job looks like a lot of paperwork, not much interaction and a definite start off on the wrong foot. Instead of sending the message to new hires that they are being courted for long-term commitment, organizations welcome them in a cold, sterile and less than exciting way. First impressions are too important to keep doing them the wrong way!

I was leading a strengths-based workshop for a group of new hires recently and about halfway through, it hit me! What a fabulous way to say to your new hires, "you matter, your unique talents are needed here, and we're invested in you!" Instead of spending half a day setting up passwords, these new employees were spending half a day offsite getting personal development that would continue to matter past day one.

So what kind of message are you sending to your new employees? Is it a message you'd send on a first date? The cost of losing an employee is much higher than that of dinner and a movie. Here are a few ideas for starting off on the right foot with new hires:

  1. Let a new hire know that he/she is not just another employee ID number.Jobs2Careers, an Austin-based tech company, actually rolls out an orange carpet and greets new hires with their favorite beverage on day 1 at the job. Get creative!
  2. Use a tiered system for onboarding new hires. Tier 1 includes paperwork and other informational items that can be covered before an employee's first day on the job. Tier 2 (the first day) covers essential things an employee needs to know (where's the bathroom, what's lunch like for employees, how often are staff meetings held) but focuses primarily on the why of the employee's job and how it fits into the bigger picture. This tier should be inspirational. Tier 3 (approximately 45 days after starting) tackles what an employee needs to know to grow in his/her role and is educational.
  3. Communicate your company values from day one. Do you claim to value personal growth and development? Have new hires take an assessment like the Clifton StrengthsFinder to immediately have a common language with which to talk to other coworkers and managers. Do you claim to value health & wellness? Set walking meetings to share pertinent information with new employees.
  4. Be prepared. You expect your new employee to show up ready to work, so you should uphold your end of the deal too. The first day is not a time to be searching for leftover available office supplies, working through computer bugs or apologizing because you don't have a desk cleared off yet.
  5. Stop "info dumping." Think of your new hire like a sponge - he/she can only absorb so much before needing a chance to ring some of the information out. With very little context, and anxiety potentially high, a new hire's first day is not the time to dump information on them for hours. Instead, figure out what he/she needs to know right away (see #2) and find engaging ways to share the information. Have a plan for doing this before your new hire arrives so it feels structured and intentional.

Employees, particularly millennials, are jumping ship at record high rates today. A 2016 Gallup study found that millennials are the most willing to act on better opportunities: 36% report that they will look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months if the job market improves, compared with 21% of non-millennials who say the same. This isn't reason to panic, but it is reason to change your practices. Start acting like you're excited for a new hire to be with your company - from the first time he/she walks through your door!

Caitlin Kissee is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and the founder of Propel People Development LLC. Interested in exploring strengths-based coaching or team building for your employees? Contact us at