It’s been a while since I had a First Day of Work experience.

So, of course, as an employment lawyer, I had on my lawyer’s hat as I went through the process myself yesterday.

How much paperwork is done on the first day?

No doubt the first day is filled with excitement (and a bit of nervousness).  People are introducing themselves left and right.  (Was that Mary? Or Marilyn? Or Jane?)   And you’re just trying to remember where the coffee room is (Down the Hall, make a left, then a right — or is that the bathroom?).But there was one thing I had forgotten about The First Day of Work: the number of forms that need to be filled out.

The insurance forms.  The I-9 employment authorization forms.  The policy acknowledgment forms.

All required or (mostly) necessary under the law.

And yet, at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but think that many new employees without a law degree would be left with a blur if they were confronted with the standard first day of work paperwork.

What was that form I signed? What did I authorize my employer to deduct from my salary? And what a contingent beneficiary is anyways?

I’m fortunate.  My new lawfirm made the transition easy for me today and the paperwork was pretty straightforward.  But I wonder how many companies — particularly small to mid-size ones — still miss out on a chance to put the legalese of forms aside and start working on teaching the employees the OTHER things that are important about at company: The Culture. The Unwritten Rules. The People to Talk With.

After all, a happy employee means less risk down the road for a lawsuit by a disgruntled one.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of resources now designed for this process, known as “Onboarding”.  SHRM recently published a report on onboarding that is a good place to start.  The statistics are troubling for companies — half of all hourly employees leave after the first four months, and half of all senior outside hires struggle after 18 months.

Clearly, there is room for improvement, concludes the SHRM report.  Thus, the report suggests that any effective onboarding should include the four “C”s.

Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations. Clarification refers to ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations. Culture is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms— both formal and informal. Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

What do you think? Any other resources for employers on Onboarding? Do you have a good First Day of Work story? I’d love to hear any success stories.

  • How about starting a job at a firm where the culture is not to have any name plates on any offices. I’m typically horrible with remembering names. It took me 6 months to get everyone’s name down when I started at my current firm 7 years ago. And we only have 65 employees.

    • schwarda

      That is horrific. That is the only thing keeping me sane. I’ve gone around and keep peeking — even at my own name plate to make sure I’m going into the right office!

  • Allison Hagy Lantieri

    Hey there Dan, I was reminded of my first day at work about 12 years ago as Director of Marketing for Apple Health Care (now Apple Rehab) still one of my favorite companies ever. The VP of HR knew I could sing and act so he set up a little challenge for me. I had to a) stand on a desk and sing the National Anthem at the top of my lungs in front of the entire headquarters and b) try to get a file on another employee from his assistant (who was known for her ironclad defense of personnel files). I accomplished the first challenge with aplomb and the second never happened. I’ll never forget it. Forms? I think that happened on day 3. :)

    • schwarda

      Allison that is crazy! But memorable and I suppose that is the most important thing.

  • I have now been onboarded as an intern or employee in a lot of places at this point. I have also had to onboard people when running political campaigns. None of them have stood out as particularly impressive and as a consequence I doubt that the few times I have had to do it that I’ve been amazing at it myself.

    Anyways since I did not have a good one to share I thought you might enjoy this write-up about twitter’s onboarding process from Quora:

    Oh and congratulations!

  • Anthony Bowser

    Great post. I went through this experience a year ago last week (my only move in 7 years of practice). I found being presented with a new employee handbook a bit disorienting – I started marking it up like I was reviewing it for a client.