3 Foolproof Ways to Blow New Employees Away on their First Day

Another new year is upon us, friends! 365 blank calendar squares where we can make a difference, add value, build connections and drive results. The promise and possibility of that is motivating to me, despite years and years of abandoned new habits and rarely worn gym clothes, since I’m not much of a “resolution” kind of gal.

If your team is like my team, the new year also means gearing up for the first New Employee Orientation of the year. Will you be kicking off 2018 with the same-old-same-old orientation experience, or is this the year you make some changes?

If you are looking to ease into some changes to your organization’s onboarding program, something that will generate a positive reaction (without breaking the bank!), a simple place to look is the welcome experience your new employees receive on their first day. Here are 3 incredibly simple….like, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” simple…tactics to make your new employees’ first day memorable and make them excited to return for Day #2.

Foolproof Tactic #1: Roll out the red carpet…..literally.

When you make a hiring decision, it is crucial to remember that the decision is two-sided. Your new employee is also choosing YOU, including the hiring manager, the team he will be working alongside, the role/title, the organizational culture and the work itself – only having seen or experienced a tiny bit of it before his first day. Help put his mind at ease from the moment he steps foot in your lobby, and confirm that he made the right decision by accepting your offer.

The concept of “rolling out the red carpet” may be cliche, but it is long-associated with top tier events – movie premieres, high society galas and other glamorous gatherings. Giving your new employees the VIP treatment is a fun way to ease first-day jitters and bring a smile to his face.

And the best part? You can order one on Amazon today and have it rolled out before the new year! Check it out:



Foolproof Tactic #2: Involve your C-suite (a little or a lot)

Even the busiest executives should have some face time with your newest team members. Even a 15-minute meet-and-greet session sends a message to new employees that your leaders support onboarding, are committed to their immersion and success and are eager to get acquainted with them, which is an important factor in new employee engagement.

Granted, in our global culture, remote onboarding may prevent some, perhaps all, face-to-face encounters. Here are several ways to involve your senior leaders, both in person and from afar:

  • Kick off new employees’ first day with coffee and/or breakfast with your CEO while s/he shares his career story and provides a welcome and company overview.
  • Record a short video of your CEO or other key executive in advance welcoming new employees to the team and text it to them one hour before their official start time. Update the video annually or as specific initiatives/goals/success stories evolve.
  • Have your executive hand-deliver a name tag, uniform, or fun swag items with a handshake and a warm welcome.
  • With permission, include a stop in your executive wing on a building tour.
  • Invite the CEO to participate in a Google Hangout/Skype chat with new remote employees on their first day.
  • Leave a handwritten card on the new employee’s desk (or mail it to a remote employee’s home to arrive on his/her first day).


Foolproof Tactic #3: Make a game of it.

Interactive learning games can be an extraordinary way to engage new employees, build connections and create a memorable environment. Here are a few ideas, based on simple mainstream games, that might jump-start your creativity. Need more inspiration or want to develop something more customized? Check out the book Play to Learn by Sharon Boller and Karl Kapp…so good!

  • Was it your CEO, in the Employee Lounge, with the candlestick? Turn a ho-hum scavenger hunt into an interactive take on the game Clue! Distribute clues/company facts on cards throughout the day – new employees can use the clues to solve a mystery, identify company employees and learn helpful information.
  • Poker, anyone? As leaders and other employees participate in Orientation on the employees’ first day, they can distribute one playing card to each new employee. At the end of the day, the best “poker” hand wins a small prize!
  • Make your org chart come alive! Attach headshots of company leaders and other key employees on cardstock with clues about their name, characteristics and role. Asking yes-or-no questions, players identify which employee is on the card, à la Guess Who?.


Whatever your onboarding goals may be for 2018, hopefully these simple, foolproof tactics will serve as inspiration to help you achieve them and truly blow your new employees away! Need assistance developing a results-driven onboarding strategy for your organization? Let’s talk!

Cheers to your organization’s success and prosperity in the new year!


4 Tips for Increasing Authenticity in your Onboarding Program


For several years now, I have had the (insanely fun) opportunity to consult with organizations and speak at conferences about the need for strategic, impactful onboarding and improving the new employee experience. I’ve had conversations over countless cups of coffee with HR leaders, training facilitators, talent development professionals and other industry friends about how to develop or reshape their organization’s onboarding program. Inevitably, the question arises:

I just want our onboarding program to be like yours! Can you just share your materials so I can use them?

(“Yours”  = the day job)

It’s true, our team has implemented an award-winning, internationally-recognized, results-minded onboarding program that has been the cherry on top of our Organizational Development sundae. And, yeah….I suppose I COULD just hand over our agenda, slide decks, templates and resources for you to plug-and-play at your day job.

But you would be lacking something. Something important. Something that your new employees and stakeholders would surely feel.

Your program would lack authenticity. 

Sure – imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. And perhaps certain elements of one company’s program could be integrated seamlessly into yours. I don’t claim that any of our organization’s onboarding program is unique by itself, but rather the intention, support and consistent execution coupled with innovative methods and a laser-focus on driving results are what truly determines our program’s long-term sustainability and success.

But as a longtime Talent Development geek professional (maybe I had it right the first time?), I know perfectly well that we all beg-borrow-and yes, steal ideas from each other all. the. time. The concept of idea-sharing is the very backbone of this blog, and so many others! So, how can you leverage some awesome ideas from other programs while ensuring yours is authentic? Here are 4 tips:

>> Don’t force it.

Maybe you learned about a super-cool idea that a colleague has implemented, and want to include it in your own program. Before jumping in immediately based on the cool factor, consider these factors to ensure relevance for your audience:

  • What is your colleague’s industry?
  • What are the employee demographics, schedules, geography, age and skill level?
  • What size is their organization?
  • Is it realistic for your program?

Ensuring that activities, events or other onboarding elements are a good fit are necessary to prevent content from feeling forced or misaligned with the audience.

>> Showcase what’s special.

What is unique about your organization or culture? Help your new employees forge a connection to the company, the team and their new roles. Maybe it’s the end-of-quarter Mimosa Monday celebrations, the annual Habitat for Humanity build or a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Find ways to share what your organization is doing, and how new employees can jump in and get involved.

And while you’re at it….

>> Who are your storytellers?

Whether it is your CEO personally welcoming your new employees on their first day, engaged employees sharing their personal experiences or hearing success stories from loyal customers, identify your raving fans and make their stories come alive during new employees’ crucial first days and weeks on the job. Deepen their attachment to the organization through a balance of relationships and results.


>> Align to your values

Someone once told me, “The only mission statement that matters is, ‘Have fun and make money.'” While a shred of that may hold true for most organizations, there are typically core values that serve as a compass for how organizations do business and make decisions. Aligning the content of your onboarding program with those unique drivers will help new employees embrace those values in their daily performance – both in those early weeks and months on the job, but also throughout their tenure with your organization.


There you have it, friends….beg, borrow and steal all the ideas you want, but make sure they make sense for your organization and people, and then make those ideas your own. Like spotting a bad toupee or a knockoff handbag from a street vendor, new employees can tell when a message isn’t genuine. And if they don’t figure it out in their first days on the job, they’ll discover it soon enough, which could put their long-term engagement and potential success on shaky ground.

Now, it’s your turn:

How do you ensure your new employees receive an authentic experience during their early days, weeks and months on the job? Please add a comment to share your ideas!



Wanna work together in 2018?

Between the launch of my book, Talent GPS: A Manager’s Guide to the Employee Development Journey, speaking engagements and consulting projects, 2017 has certainly whizzed by in a blur….and things are quickly ramping up for 2018. If an onboarding overhaul is on your to-do list for the coming year, let’s talk.

Now booking onsite workshops, retreat facilitation, conference sessions and more – availability is limited, so reserve your spot now!




Top 10 Posts About Onboarding

Top 10 Posts About Onboarding

It’s summer vacation for phase(two)learning! For the next two weeks, please enjoy this recap of favorite phase(two)learning blog posts! Look for fresh, new content in July!

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you’ll know that onboarding is a topic that I could talk about all day. A solid onboarding program can have a tremendous impact on an organization – from understanding your customer to retaining talent to employee engagement. Whether you are an onboarding process owner, a facilitator of New Employee Orientation or a hiring manager, you play an important role in the new employee experience.

So, the question is: What are you bringing to your organization’s onboarding program?

For your reference, here is a curated list of the top 10 phase(two)learning posts about onboarding, according to the blog metrics. Enjoy, and share your favorites!

10. What Modern Family Reminded Me About Onboarding

9. A Few Words About Onboarding Jargon

8. What George Costanza Teaches Us About Onboarding

7. Pinterest for Onboarding: Part One

6. 5 Onboarding Rules for Hiring Managers

5. 3 Onboarding Lessons from Fortune Cookies

4. 3 Misconceptions About Onboarding

3. An Open Letter to Hiring Managers

2. 20 Questions New Employees Should Be Asking Managers

…and the #1 phase(two)learning post about onboarding is…

1. 3 Onboarding Lessons from SNL


Bonus! Here’s an oldie but goodie you may have missed:

Big-Box Onboarding


Know of someone who would benefit from these posts? Be kind and share this post!


Bring phase(two)learning to your organization!

Does your onboarding process need an update? Bring phase(two)learning onsite to conduct an Onboarding Audit or facilitate an interactive workshop! Send an email for more information!





A Few Words About Onboarding Jargon


I always get a kick out of articles that summarize the year’s most popular corporate jargon. Having worked in a corporate setting for many years, I have heard (and, admittedly, used) many of the terms at one point or another. Come on, you have too. Admit it!

Jargon isn’t limited to conference calls and status meetings, friends. Even the most prepared, knowledgeable, well-intentioned facilitators have used this lingo while delivering onboarding and training programs.  Here are a few to ponder:

Variations on “talent”:  Talent Management. Talent Acquisition. Talent Retention.  If I were to ask ten people what these terms mean, I’d probably get ten different answers.  Unless one is actually in the “talent” business (and I’m not referring to America’s Got Talent, friends), one does not necessarily care about understand the “talent” business.  If your organization has these roles, please make sure you explain to your new employees what they mean to your organization. Roles and functions and job descriptions and teams and objectives and priorities vary from company to company, from industry to industry.

Bootcamp:  When did everything become a “bootcamp”?  By definition, a true bootcamp should be an intense, über-structured program, as the military requires. I have seen light workshops, webinars and even team-building events, titled “bootcamp”.  Really?  A couple of years ago, at the day job, I was asked to develop a 2-day – you got it – bootcamp, for some employees who would then be delivering their own – yes – bootcamp to another group of employees. The smart aleck in me couldn’t resist, so I lovingly (and a little sarcastically) titled the session “Bootcamp Bootcamp”. Fortunately, my crew had a good laugh about it!

My point? Not everything is a bootcamp. Title your offerings accordingly.

Any internal terms or acronyms that new employees have no context to understand: In the first days on the job, your new employees are lucky to remember the first names of the people on his/her team, let alone understanding all of your internal systems, processes, projects or industry terminology. If you can’t eliminate all of these terms from your onboarding program, define them as clearly as possible. Even better? Create a glossary of terms as a quick, go-to resource for new employees to refer to in a pinch during their first weeks.

The term “onboarding” itself: Like “talent”, this is a made-up word that means little to those who are neither passionate nor involved in it. Many of our organizational stakeholders do not understand the difference between “orientation” and “onboarding”. HR systems refer to the automated paperwork process as “onboarding”, so it has morphed into this catch-all word that is used for pretty much anything related to the new employee experience.

If we can’t explain the process clearly, how can we expect our stakeholders to support, or get involved in, the process?

Communicate your program’s objective. Its purpose. The value it brings to your organization. Use clear language that anyone in your organization – entry-level to C-suite, new or tenured – will understand. If it’s been awhile since you’ve communicated the objectives of your onboarding program to your organization, maybe it’s time to have that conversation.

Your turn: What jargon is common around your organization? How do you clarify this jargon for your new employees?

Like it? Share it!

Improving Training Programs with Feedback


As learning professionals (or whatever hat we might be wearing at any given moment), it is our responsibility to assess a learning need and provide a solution. And, tipping my cap to my passionate learning cohorts around the world, I’d say we do a fine job.

But, you know what? We don’t always have the answers. Or the perspective. Or even the right questions to ask. So we need to engage others.

This might be a pow-wow with a SME or project manager, to learn more about a task, process or system. It might be meeting with a supervisor to better understand a team’s skill or knowledge gaps.

But what about the employees themselves? How often are we asking them what they want out of training? What they need? How we can help them become a stronger employee today…and maybe-just-maybe, help prepare them for future opportunities?

The same goes for orientation and onboarding programs…consider doing a brief survey to poll your workforce, and see what you can learn about your new employee experience. A few questions might include:

  • When you started with (company name), what was the most helpful part of your onboarding experience?
  • What was your biggest challenge when you started in your role?
  • What advice would you give a new employee starting with (company name)?
  • What tools and resources are the biggest help to you?
  • Who was your go-to person when you were getting started in your role?
  • How can we improve the new employee experience at (company name)?

These simple questions can give you perspective that can help you strengthen your process and program. You can use these questions as a foundation, and tweak or expand them based on the program – these examples focus on the new employee experience, but just imagine how a few strategic questions can help you evolve your other training initiatives, leadership development programs, employee transitions and more.

The important thing is to stay curious, friends. We should continuously seek out feedback and suggestions from our various stakeholders, from the executives to the end users, and from all cubicles in between.

Your turn: How do you engage your organization beyond the standard needs analysis or evaluation process? What information have you gained from employees that have impacted your learning programs?

Like it?  Share it!

First Impressions…


I’d like to chat with my recruiting and hiring manager friends for a moment…

You are setting the tone for your relationship with your newest team member from the earliest points of contact. The first impressions you give, even in this embryonic stage, will remain etched in the employee’s mind long after your initial meeting.

Here are 4 times, recruiting and hiring decision makers, when you can significantly impact an incumbent’s experience…long before his first day:

Before the Interview:

A talented individual sees your job posting…maybe on a career website, maybe on your organization’s website, maybe he was referred by a colleague. Is that job posting well-written? Does it clearly specify the role, the minimum hiring requirements, and the desired skills and qualifications?

You need to have a hook. What will draw in that talented prospect, and intrigue him to the point of applying? Maybe it’s the strategic opportunity. Maybe it’s your company’s outstanding culture. Maybe it’s a solid compensation package. Whatever it is, make sure it is clearly communicated.

As you are setting up an interview, put yourself in the shoes of the interviewee. A little courtesy goes a long way! Make sure he knows how to find your office, where to park, and what to expect when he arrives. At my day job, our recruiting team does a fantastic job orchestrating an interview agenda. The incumbent receives an agenda in advance, letting him know who he will be meeting with, what their roles are, and how long to expect to be there. They make organized arrangements for out-of-town candidates. The experience is a positive one.

During the Interview

Several years ago, I had a job interview for a small but well-known, well-respected organization. I was drawn in by the job posting and knew it would be a great fit for my background. There was a bit of “phone tag” during the phone interview and onsite interview scheduling process, but I dismissed it. Everyone’s busy, right?

But then I arrived for my interview.

In a curt tone, the receptionist informed me that it was a very busy day, and the hiring manager would be out “shortly”. I was ushered to a lobby chair.

Where I sat. And sat. And sat some more.

For 90 excruciatingly long minutes, I waited in that lobby. The receptionist never acknowledged me again or gave me an update about why it was taking so long or even made eye contact with me. My opinion of that well-known, well-respected organization tanked in that lobby.

When the hiring manager finally came out, I did not receive an apology. What I did receive, however, was an eye roll and a passive-aggressive, snarky complaint about people double-booking things on her calendar. Nice, huh? The interview was rushed, the questions were not thought-provoking, and the hiring manager spent more time looking at her phone than at me.

I was actually offered that position, and the hiring manager was surprised when I kindly declined the offer. Even though I didn’t join that organization, I appreciate what I learned:

A candidate is interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing the candidate.

I learned this as a candidate, but the lesson rings true from an organization’s perspective. Recruiting friends, hiring managers, decision makers…what kind of impression do you leave on the talented candidates that walk through your doors? If you were sitting in that interview, would you want to work for your organization? Please think about that. Culture, personality, warmth and authenticity make a big impact, and can be the deciding factor between a fantastic candidate coming to work for you, versus working for your competitor.

Following the Interview

How long is the interviewing and hiring process? People like to act. People like to plan. People like to move on, when they don’t get the job offer they were hoping for.

Follow up. Make a phone call. Keep the candidate in the loop, if it’s taking longer than expected. It happens, and people are remarkably forgiving when you are honest with them. But cutting off communication and hoping they get the hint is simply not professional. Not cool.

Even if your system generates an automated “thanks-but-no-thanks” message, at least that’s something. Take a look at that message, however. Does it SOUND automated? Take a moment and craft a warm, genuine response. Most applicant tracking systems will allow you to customize the communication.

After the Offer has been Accepted

This is where learning begins.  Within days, your incumbent has likely put in his resignation at his current job, and is naturally looking forward to his new opportunity with your team.  An employee will never be as engaged as he is during this stage!  He is excited to get started, he is looking for anything he can get his hands on that will teach him about your organization and the people he will be working with. Many times, an employee will be on a vague, self-directed scavenger hunt to gather as much information as he can to learn about you, your team and the company. Don’t neglect your incoming employee during this time; you can set the stage for a successful start by employing a few simple strategies. I wrote this little piece awhile back about preboarding new employees…check it out for some ideas!

Remember, friends…a smartly-executed interview is an important tool for attracting talented individuals.  Like I said, they are interviewing you as well!  They want to know, just as much as you do, that they will be a good fit for the role, team and culture. Use that precious interview time wisely!

Your turn: Do you have any memorable interview “first impressions”?  Good or bad?  Did the impression you got from the interview sway your decision to take a job? Tell me all about it!

Like it?  Share it!

Pinterest for Onboarding: Part Two


In my last post, I threw out this crazy little notion about incorporating Pinterest into employee onboarding programs.  I promised that there would be a Part 2…and here it is:

I’ve got 3 more board possibilities for you, so between last week’s post and this one, you’ll have 8…count ’em…8 ideas for boards you can easily create and utilize in your onboarding efforts.

Board #6: Leadership Profiles

Does your website have a page dedicated to your leadership team?  Your Board of Directors?  Other strategic leaders?  A board that links to an online bio (or even a video bio!) of these key individuals would be a great tool for educating an incoming employee on their career background and history with the organization.  Linking to videos or written works by these leaders also gives an insightful glimpse into their role and style.  For new employees who will be interacting with leaders at this level (or just working to build influence at this level), this is valuable material!

Board #7: Events & Conferences

Many companies host a user conference, symposium or other events throughout the year.  Posting videos, registration information, recorded webinars, photos, handouts and other resources from these events is a terrific way educate incumbents (not to mention prospects and customers!) on your products, services, and special events.  Additionally, if employees are featured presenters at other conferences throughout your industry, link to those resources as well!  This will both showcase the talent in your organization and provide excellent industry information to a new employee who is looking to educate him/herself.

Board #8: Campus-to-Corporate (Internship Resources)

If your organization has an internship program, having a visual board to link to specific resources that are relevant for these young professionals would be a value-add!  You can incorporate photos from your program, details about applying for an internship, and even link to helpful articles that would benefit young employees – topics like:

  • How to look professional for a job interview
  • Preparing for a job interview
  • Building professional relationships/networking tips
  • Resume building
  • Responsible social media use
  • Adjusting to your first post-college job

As I’ve researched this topic, I have found that Pinterest can be a wonderful playground for just about anything. So, why not learning?  Why not onboarding?  Why not leadership?  If it fits with your overall strategy and objectives….why not?

If you’re doing a little discovery, feel free to follow my own Learning & Development Playground board on Pinterest!

Your turn: Are you going to give Pinterest a try?  I’d love to hear your ideas and plans!

Like it? Share it!