Week One Onboarding: Kick Off Engagement and Training with a Bang!

Jul 10, 2021

We all know how important first impressions can be. Imagine you were just hired for a new position and you show up on Day One, ready for training. You’re excited to meet new people, learn about your new company’s core values, and connect with the vision of your new leaders and peers.


Now imagine that the first thing you do when you sit down is to . . . fill out tax paperwork. Womp womp!


Leaders of companies who invest in training know that a first impression is critical for engaging people in learning. Just as a really great speaker or teacher starts a lesson with something funny, interesting or engaging, great companies create an engaging “Week One” experience for their new employees. A great Week One experience gives trainees maps and formulas for great outcomes going forward.


I’ve found that great onboarding experiences include at least the following: 


  • Creatively introduce the vision of the company. This sets the new employee up for success. It lets them know who we are, where we’re going, and how we’re all going to get there. From day one, they’ll know the big picture of the company. This could include the history of the company or stories about how the core values are used to hire, fire, review, reward and recognize people in the company. As a bonus, lots of great companies make it a point to have new employees meet with the top leaders of the company to hear parts of the vision. Have the new employee learn the vision from many different people in the company, not just their manager.
  • Make sure you tie vision-sharing to the culture with the way you do the onboarding. Bottom line: make it memorable! If your culture is focused on achievement, the onboarding is done via checklist. If the culture is focused on being open and honest, there is plenty of space for conversation vs. telling. If the culture is a lot of fun, the onboarding experience includes creating a nickname, a catch phrase and a selfie with the head of the company.
  • Teach employees their role and responsibilities early. Use a tool like the Accountability Chart, and within minutes, the new employee will see their role in the big picture of the company and how they contribute to the vision. They’ll also know who to go to if they have questions or need direction. 
  • Present an overview of the processes they need to follow and where to find them. Every company is different. During onboarding, it’s critical that your new employees know where to find the core processes and that you go over the processes they’ll be involved in, inviting any initial questions they have.
  • Introduce and go over the basic tools of their role. This includes the software they’ll use or the machines they’ll be operating. If you’ve hired someone qualified for the job, they’ll likely bring with them a “that’s-how-I’ve-always-done-it” approach to their career. We owe it to them not to let them find out later that “that’s not how we do it here.” Be proactive in showing them how we do it here, even if it feels silly. It’s better to find a missing link in their training now than to let it fester and create issues later.
  • Include an overview of how they’ll be measured. Tell them what meetings they are expected to attend; how to add issues to the Issues List; expectations for participation such as being on time and completing to-dos within seven days; how to call a Rock or Measurable on- or off-track; and an introduction to the Issues Solving Track™.
  • Establish a pulse for their first 90 days. Somewhere in the first week, agree to the objectives (Rocks and Measurables) for an onboarding employee’s first 90 days. Ideally, this includes how often they’ll meet with their manager to reflect on what they are learning and get their questions answered.


Pro Tip: Take advantage of what we know about timing and order of events in having a human experience. There is a lot of power in the order of how we experience events. In his book, When, author Dan Pink states that we remember the beginning, the highlight, and the end of an experience and that in any experience, we usually have a lull or a slump in the middle. He advocates just acknowledging that pattern and doing the “boring” or less engaging stuff in the middle of the experience. I’m fully aware that there are compliance- and paperwork-related items that need to be communicated and filled out ASAP during onboarding a new employee. If you must do these in the first week (and reality states that this is most likely the case), please don’t let it be the very first thing they experience. Instead, put it in the middle somewhere. What if you start the onboarding with a bang by having someone waiting to welcome the new team member at the door on their first day, or leave a gift package on their desk? What if you saved the compliance and paperwork for Wednesday afternoon and ended the week with a phone call from the CEO Friday night, asking how their first week went? Being thoughtful about the order rather than just the agenda or checklist will help the Week One training stick. 


Use the opportunity of Week One Training to its full potential by capitalizing on the excitement of your new employees. Make the culture of your company obvious and be proud of it!

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