It can be hard to be a new employee. It doesn’t have to be hard for an organization to welcome one, though. Here’s how to welcome a new team member: Be prepared. Be proactive. Be genuine. Be generous. Be considerate. Be communicative.
The care and attention that an organization puts into talent acquisition should extend seamlessly into the employee onboarding journey. How an organization welcomes a new team member exposes the company culture and values more than a mere list of core values does. A strong onboarding process can improve employee retention by more than 80%.1 The onboarding journey creates a lasting impression that influences the entire employee experience (and whether the new team member stays for four weeks or four years).
But before we begin, this one’s really important. Seriously. Welcoming a new team member starts with getting their name right.
A poor first impression due to name confusion is so, so damaging to the welcoming process. We’re talking about confident mastery of pronunciation and spelling of the team member’s name, preferred nickname, and pronouns. Practice until you are certain, then help other team members do the same.
It’s mandatory for the whole team to be able to say, “This is Gloria. She goes by her initials, GG. She’s our newest benefits specialist.” (Mandatory!)
Now that we have names cleared up, we’ll walk you through the importance of values, how to welcome a new team member with advance preparation, what to do in the key first week, and setting the tone for the next week, month, and quarter.
By the way, all the ideas in this guide can apply to in-person team members, remote team members, or hybrid-schedule team members. Take the time to coordinate and organize the onboarding journey thoroughly, and you’ll be welcoming your new team member in no time.
Preparing to Welcome a New Team Member: Values Alignment
Your company values have already been under scrutiny during the interview and hiring process, but that doesn’t end just because a candidate has become an employee. Fostering a sense of belonging, even before a new team member’s first day, is critical. This can be accomplished by understanding and appealing to the new team member’s personality and values.
All of us hold goals, drivers, and interests that determine what kind of work we find fulfilling, how we fit into an organization, and what gets us out of bed in the morning. At Hogan, we measure these drivers using the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI), which consists of 10 scales that reflect how we express our inside characteristics.
Our values influence our occupational preferences and preferred work environment. Security, for example, is a scale that measures the extent to which someone values certainty, predictability, and risk-free environments and holds an interest in structure and order.
Someone with a high Security score would likely be most satisfied working in organizations that emphasize planning, careful decision-making, and risk analysis. Welcoming this new team member would involve a detailed schedule with thoroughly explained reasoning behind the onboarding plan.
Someone with a low Security score would likely be comfortable with or even energized by ambiguity and would likely be most satisfied in a work environment where risk taking, innovation, and initiative are rewarded. Welcoming this new team member with a rigid schedule could seem stifling to their sense of independence.
While it is a good strategy to customize the onboarding journey for everyone, these six practical guidelines will help you to welcome any new team member.
Before the First Day
Get ready in advance to welcome your new team member. Prepared is professional.
Beyond the necessary new-hire paperwork, prepare information about their work accounts, access, and logins so that they won’t have to spend their first eight hours troubleshooting how to check their email.
Prepare their equipment and workspace by removing their predecessor’s files and fingerprints. Ensure that remote equipment is delivered on time (meaning before the first day). Additional necessities like employee IDs, business cards, parking stickers, or building access badges should be prepared in advance if possible.
All this preparation will likely require coordination among HR, IT, and leadership, so give yourself plenty of time. Demonstrating that you have planned for this specific new team member will send a strong welcome message from the start.
Your new team member will have questions about the role, the team, and the organization. Answer some of these questions in advance and the rest during the team member’s first week. You might also consider taking any of the following actions:
- Send an email about what to expect for the first couple of days.
- Introduce the team member to the individuals who will be integral to onboarding.
- Select a buddy or coach to for the new team member to shadow.
Have something ready for the new person to work on, not just all paperwork and training. Use finesse to select a project that isn’t simply busy work but also isn’t time sensitive in case revision is needed.
The gist of being proactive is to give the new team member a picture of what their role will be like. Help them take the first steps in building relationships and doing productive, meaningful work.
The First Week
By the time a new team member’s first day rolls around, you probably are quite excited to have added them as a colleague. Let it show!
Welcoming a new team member during the first week is all about interpersonal connections. We spend about 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime, so finding people who we like working with makes the time more enjoyable. Being genuine and authentic speeds that process along.
On the morning of the very first day, make sure to welcome the new team member personally, whether in the office or virtually. Scheduling time for team members to get to know each other will help facilitate connections. If it’s a team virtual coffee, provide food delivery. If it’s a small group or 1:1, have a couple of easy icebreaker questions ready—and be certain to answer them yourself too.
Also on the first day, send an email to the team, department, or company introducing the new team member. Do take the time to personalize the welcome email (and remember our advice about names). This is a brief example: “We are so proud to welcome Rima to the direct sales team. In addition to her previous experience in B2B tech sales where she broke company records, Rima is also an avid rock climber. Join us in welcoming her to the sales floor!” Copy Rima on that email as well.
Make plenty of space during the first week for face-to-face meetings with the new team member, the team, and the team leader. That’s the heart of this objective: integrating a new team member into the team.
Prioritizing genuine relationships is an essential step in welcoming a new team member.
Being generous is the second stage of being proactive. It means making sure the new team member has access to all the digital or physical tools and equipment they need to do their work. Suppose your new team member needs a left-handed vertical ergonomic mouse, a lefty keyboard for single-handed typing, and a quality set of headphones for talk-to-text. Don’t stint on essentials.
Honestly, don’t stint on perks either. This seems pretty basic, but don’t call it a team lunch if the company isn’t catering. If everyone in the office received water bottles with logos a couple of years ago, send one to your new remote team member too.
Show them they’re welcome by being open-handed with resources. It’s the above-and-beyond touches that make a new team member feel valued and valuable.
Being considerate means putting yourself in the new team member’s position.
Here’s where knowledge of their personality is especially helpful. While many people don’t feel comfortable speaking extemporaneously to a crowd of strangers, putting someone on the spot with a “tell us about yourself” could be particularly excruciating to someone with a high score in Prudence, who is not intrinsically flexible, or someone with a low score in Sociability, who prefers listening before talking.
Try not to make assumptions. Instead, ask the new team member about their preferences (while setting expectations). You might say, “Srikar, in our weekly department meeting, our team will announce that you’ve joined us. Would you like to introduce yourself, or would you like me to?” This lets Srikar own being the center of attention to the extent he is comfortable.
Not putting someone on the spot is just an example of treating a new team member considerately. It’s also expressed in providing them with an employee directory, introducing them by email to key stakeholders, ensuring a clear training plan, explaining inside jokes, and tailoring communications and tasks to accord with their values and personality if possible. Do what you can to assuage their anxieties and anticipate their questions.
Let them know you’re there for them, and then be there for them.
The Next Week and Beyond
Onboarding isn’t over after the first five business days.
Make it an ongoing practice to talk about values, expectations, and resources to maintain the atmosphere of welcome that you built at the start.
- Values – Help the new team member understand where their values fit in relation to those of the team overall—ideally during a team development session. A team that compositely scores high in Aesthetics on the MVPI will likely value artistic self-expression and innovation but may consequently struggle with tasks perceived as old or repetitive. A team with low scores in Science will likely prefer working with people to working with technology and may struggle with research or data.
- Development – Start working on a development and growth plan with the new team member right away. When new employees can envision where they will be in their career trajectory next quarter, next year, and three years from now, it is easier for them to make plans to stay. The data are clear: “Employees who strongly agree they have a clear plan for their professional development are 3.5 times more likely to strongly agree that their onboarding process was exceptional.”2
- Resources – Periodically check in to make sure that the new team member has everything needed to fulfill their job responsibilities. Equip them with not only resources but also people by helping them learn where to take various questions that arise in the course of their work.
Welcoming a new team member means treating others as they want to be treated. This means being prepared, proactive, genuine, generous, considerate, and communicative. It especially means understanding how the values of the new team member add to the team—and tailoring your welcome to their personality.
- Laurano, M. (2015, August). The True Cost of a Bad Hire: Research Brief. Brandon Hall Group. https://b2b-assets.glassdoor.com/the-true-cost-of-a-bad-hire.pdf
- Gallup’s Perspective on Creating an Exceptional Onboarding Journey for New Employees. (2019). Gallup. http://acrip.co/contenidos-acrip/gallup/2020/octubre/gallup-perspective-creating-an-exceptional-onboarding-journey-for-new-employees.pdf