Onboarding: First Impressions Count

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Let’s start with the assumption that your organization wants to attract and keep top talent.

Did you know that orientation and onboarding actually starts from the first contact you have with your potential new employees? They start learning about your organization when they first read the job advertisement, browse your organization’s website, and talk to whoever conducts the screening calls and sets up the interviews.

You’ve already made a positive or negative impression on the potential recruit. They’ve gathered critical information about your organization’s branding, organizational structure, products and services, position in the marketplace, and key executives.

First Impressions – Setting The Stage

Once they show up for their interview, they continue to gather first impressions.

They can tell a lot about your organization while sitting in the lobby waiting to be interviewed. I personally look and listen for what I call the ‘laugh factor’. How much laughter do I hear? Are existing employees carrying on lively and interesting conversations with each other? Or, do the employees have their heads down as they walk down the hall? Are they are walking fast and ignoring others around them? The ‘laugh factor’ is typically not present in organizations that are not customer-focused and employee-centric. Or, it may be missing because the organization is not performing well and there are severe cost-cutting and/or downsizing measures taking place. This certainly kills the ‘laugh factor’.

Of course, you shouldn’t pipe laughter into your lobby’s sound system or hire smiling actors to walk the hallways, but you can select an interview location that best represents your organization. Real estate agents know the importance of staging a home environment to increase sales, why not stage your recruitment environment to start the orientation and onboarding process off to a great start.

Here are some orientation and onboarding ‘staging’ ideas:

  • Hang pictures or other informative signage about your organization (i.e., vision, mission and values, pictures of satisfied customers, and/or employees’ social events and/or fundraising activities).
  • Set up a television monitor with video (automated looping) of your organization’s key branding messages for new recruits to watch while waiting for their interview.
  • Put promotional materials about your organization on display for potential new hires to leaf through while waiting for the interview. Offer copies to take home.
  • If possible, provide or at least show samples of your products to try out while waiting or to take home (e.g., if you make consumer products like chocolates, candy, beverages, etc. offer them to potential new recruits).

First Impressions – Pre-Hire Candidates Reactions

As soon as prospective employees leave their interview you can very safely assume they will quickly send out tweets, emails, text messages and/or make phone calls to family and friends to tell them about their interview experience. For sure, friends and family are waiting to hear about your new employees impressions of you, the job, and your organization. What would you like to hear these potential recruits say?  What can you do to influence these ‘public relations’ messages about your organization?

First Impressions – Pre-Hire Information Sharing

Yes, your organization’s recruiters and managers need to conduct effective interviews. They also have the opportunity to ensure potential employees learn key information (beyond what’s publicly available on your web site and press releases) that gives them new and exciting knowledge about your organization. For sure, the interview needs to be about information gathering but your recruiters and managers can also act as ambassadors for your organization, fairly representing its best features.

What potential new employees see and hear during the pre-recruitment phase is actually the foundation of their orientation and onboarding process once hired. Knowing this, how would you treat these recruits differently?  What would you say to them about your organization?

Be prepared to share at least some of the following information:

  • Upcoming, exciting employee events
  • Employee success stories that helped your customers, organization, and/or community
  • Key ways your organization contributes to the community
  • Top three reasons existing employees give about why your organization is a great place to work
  • Little known facts about your organization that are designed to impress
  • Personal benefits you’ve gained from working for your organization
  • Importance of employee development and continuous learning at your organization

First Impressions – Continued

Of course, your new employees will continue to gain first impressions once they start the job and begin the more formal part of their orientation and onboarding process. All of these ‘firsts’ need to be managed well so your new employees, after joining your organization, can say with confidence, “I made the right decision!’.

Photo Credit: Big Stock Images

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Valerie Dixon

Valerie Dixon

Valerie Dixon, President of Learnware Design Inc., is a leading expert in the field of Training and Development. Valerie has over 40 years of experience in all aspects of performance needs analysis, learning strategy development and learning design for all types of media, in both the private and public sectors.www.learnwaredesign.com

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