torso shot of a guy buttoning the jacket of his blue suit while standing in front of a long stairway
torso shot of a guy buttoning the jacket of his blue suit while standing in front of a long stairway

From Day One: Crafting an Exceptional Employee Onboarding Experience

Paul Kiernan

Done right, onboarding ensures new hires feel welcomed, informed, and motivated from their first day.

Mondays can be a nightmare; just ask your favorite lasagna-swilling cat. By the way, feeding your cat lasagna would cause the poor critter a lot of distress. For one thing, cats are obligate carnivores and lactose intolerant. They can eat cheese in very small amounts, but the acid in tomatoes would be bad for them, and other sauce ingredients, like garlic, are toxic to cats. So, before you think I’m saying feed your cat lasagna and get its opinion on Mondays, I’m not.

If you think Mondays are a drag, imagine starting a new job on a Monday. Pretty awful.

I’ve had some ugly first days in my life. My first day here at ThoughtLab was none too swell. No one knew I was hired. I arrived at 8:30, thinking people who work in offices start at 9, only to wait in the lobby for the first person to arrive at ten so I could get in. Little things like that can make a first day so much worse and can often color the new person’s view of working for the company.

There’s an old saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and when you’ve hired a new person, that goes both ways. The new hire gets one chance, and the company also gets one chance.

There’s also an old Polish saying: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” This may or may not relate to this blog, most likely not, but I love the saying just the same.

The point is that a new hire’s first day can set the tone for their entire tenure with the company. If they are an excellent new hire, making them feel seen, heard, valuable, and respected is vital on the first day. Now, if you just hired the guy to fire him to get back at your ex, then the first day can be endless hazing and forcing the new person to sit alone at lunch.

From basic things like where the new person’s desk is to passwords and general, this is where you’ll find paper, post-it notes, and the bones of past clients, to inside tips about who is sweet, who is cranky, who’s funny, who drinks too much coffee, etc., etc. are all important parts of the onboarding process.

Here at ThoughtLab, we welcomed a new employee today. Thinking back on my first day eight-plus years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about onboarding and how to do it well so that new employees actually stay and contribute instead of just sitting down and using the computer to look for a better job.

So, here are some onboarding tips and things to avoid that may help you retain your best employees longer.

In we dive, in we dive.


Employee onboarding is more than just a checklist—it’s a crucial process that sets the tone for an employee’s journey within a company. Done right, onboarding ensures new hires feel welcomed, informed, and motivated from their first day. In this comprehensive guide, we explore the key elements and strategies that contribute to crafting an exceptional employee onboarding experience.

A brown building with a sign over the door reading Hell Gods Expedition

Understanding the Importance of Onboarding

Effective onboarding is a strategic investment that pays off in multiple ways. It not only accelerates the time it takes for new employees to become productive but also enhances their job satisfaction and reduces turnover rates. Research consistently shows that employees who experience a well-structured onboarding process are more likely to stay with the company long-term and perform at higher levels.

Preparing for Day One: The Pre-Onboarding Phase

The journey towards a successful onboarding experience begins before the new hire even walks through the door. Here’s how to prepare effectively:

  • Clear Communication and Expectations: Before the first day, communicate with the new hire about what to expect. Provide details on the schedule, dress code, any paperwork to bring, and whom to ask for upon arrival.
  • Workspace Readiness: Ensure the new employee’s workspace is set up and ready. This includes providing necessary equipment, access to software systems, and any office supplies they might need.
  • Welcome Package: Consider creating a welcome package or swag bag that includes company merchandise, a welcome note from team members, and essential information about the company culture, values, and history.
  • Assign a Buddy or Mentor: Pair the new hire with a buddy or mentor who can guide them through their first days, answer questions, and help them navigate the company culture.

Day One: Making a Positive First Impression

The first day is critical for setting a positive tone and easing any nerves the new employee may have. Here’s how to make it memorable:

  1. Warm Welcome: Greet the new hire warmly and introduce them to key team members. Schedule a welcome meeting with the team to introduce the new employee and provide an overview of their role and responsibilities.
  2. Company Orientation: Conduct a thorough company orientation session that covers the company’s mission, values, history, organizational structure, and strategic goals. This helps the new hire understand how their role fits into the bigger picture.
  3. Technology and Tools: Provide comprehensive training on the technology and tools they use daily. This includes email systems, project management tools, communication platforms, and any specialized software.
  4. HR and Administrative Tasks: Dedicate time to complete necessary HR and administrative tasks, such as filling out paperwork, reviewing benefits packages, and setting up direct deposit.

The First Week: Building Connections and Training

Beyond the first day, the focus shifts to integrating the new hire into their role and the company culture:

  • Role-Specific Training: Provide detailed training specific to the new employee’s role. This may include shadowing experienced team members, attending training sessions, and hands-on practice with job tasks.
  • Feedback and Check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins with the new hire to provide feedback, answer questions, and address any concerns they may have. Encourage open communication and ensure they feel supported.
  • Team-Building Activities: Plan team-building activities or social events to help the new hire build relationships with colleagues and feel like part of the team. These can include team lunches, after-work drinks, or team outings.
  • Continuous Learning: Emphasize the importance of constant learning and professional development. Discuss company growth opportunities, such as workshops, online courses, or mentorship programs.
coffee mug with What Good Shall I Do This Day on it

Beyond the First Month: Long-term Integration and Feedback

Onboarding doesn’t end after the first week or month—it’s an ongoing process that continues throughout the new hire’s tenure:

  1. Regular Feedback and Evaluation: Conduct regular performance evaluations and solicit feedback from the new hire regarding their onboarding experience. Use this feedback to continually refine and improve the onboarding process.
  2. Integration into Company Culture: To further integrate the new hire into the company culture, encourage them to participate in company-wide initiatives, volunteer opportunities, and social events.
  3. Career Development Discussions: Schedule career development discussions to help the new hire set goals, identify areas for growth, and create a plan for advancing their career within the organization.
  4. Celebrate Milestones: Recognize and celebrate milestones such as work anniversaries or achievements to reinforce a sense of accomplishment and belonging.

Measuring Success: Metrics and Continuous Improvement

To gauge the effectiveness of your onboarding process, consider using metrics such as time to productivity, employee satisfaction surveys, retention rates of new hires, and feedback from managers and mentors. Use these insights to identify areas for improvement and continuously refine your onboarding program.

Summing Up

Crafting an exceptional employee onboarding experience requires careful planning, clear communication, and a commitment to ongoing support. By investing in a structured and welcoming onboarding process, organizations can foster a positive work environment, boost employee morale, and set the stage for long-term success. Remember, the journey towards a successful onboarding experience begins from day one—and every step along the way contributes to shaping a motivated, engaged, and productive workforce.