12 Tips to Help New Employees Feel Welcome

In the corporate human resources world, there's a new buzz word - "on-boarding." Oversimplified this refers to what happens in the employee's first few months on the job, that makes him/her feel welcome. On the whole, the non-profit world has not really given this too much attention; yet, at least. But when we take the time to look, it's obvious that on-boarding programs could make a big difference for non-profits, just like they have been doing in the traditional corporate world for 10 years now. The "big difference" refers to cost savings and improved program quality.

It seems pretty typical for employees in non-profits to go through a 6 month adjustment period, just like they do in the corporate world. Sometimes this adjustment is pretty smooth. Colleagues are warm and welcoming. Other times, the welcome is anything but warm. Newcomers have little or no contact with their supervisor; sometimes colleagues actually say things like, "you don't have what it takes to work here." So how is the newcomer supposed to respond to the family's question, "how was your first day at work?"

The first six months is critical. If you examine your turnover events you will see that if an employee can survive the first six months, there is a good chance they will be there for several years. And in the non-profit world where entry level turnover can be more than 50%, an employee who lasts 2-3 years can be a real asset.

Last December, HR Blogger Ron Thomas identified on-boarding procedures that organizations can do to help new employees feel welcome. These should be incorporated into a clear policy and procedure statement which articulates how the organization will help in the adjustment of a new employee. Helping new employees adjust is the organization's job and should not be contingent on the personality of the particular supervisor to whom the employee is assigned.

Here are some of Ron's suggestions:

1. Even before the employee starts, have a colleague-to-be send a welcome note or email.
2. If the employee is assigned desk and office space, make sure it is clean and ready including an initial stock of supplies.
3. Be there to welcome them on the first day (the most important of the employee's tenure) and introduce them to other key people they will interact with.
4. Debrief with them at the end of each day for at least the first two weeks.
5. Give them something from the organization to take home and share with the family; perhaps just a formal invitation to visit and get a guided tour of the organization.
6. Begin the process of setting long term goals and objectives.
8. Review the job description.
9. Conclude the first week with a lunch or coffee and donuts for the new employee and the assigned work group.
10. Have realistic expectations. In the first several weeks, perhaps the first several months, they may be able to actually contribute very little. A new job is one of life's major stressors and "first day jitters" may last quite a while. But nonetheless, make them feel welcome as a person so that later they are more inclined to really dig in.
11. Make initial assignments a combination of small and easy-to-accomplish to large and more complex; be ready to support their performance on the complex work and praise their accomplishment with the smaller tasks.
12. At least every 30 days make it a point to meet with the employee and assess their level of comfort with the organization. This assessment should include the extent of social comfort as well as comfort with the characteristics of the tasks assigned.

While many of the welcoming duties fall to the new employee's supervisor, the supervisor should not be left on their own in terms of how the welcoming experience is designed. Organizations must have a standardized way to help new employees feel welcome. Finally, recognize that the new on-boarding program will not be perfect on the initial roll-out. If 6 mos. turnover continues to be higher than you want, even with a new on-boarding program in place, collect supervisors in one room and make modifications. Their experience in implementing the on-boarding program will be invaluable when it comes to improving it.