train people on day one

I recently had a new employee comment that he was pleasantly surprised by how prepared we were for him on his first day — that we gave him the materials and training he needed to be able to jump right in. I knew exactly what he meant, because our preparation stems from having worked for too many companies that do the opposite — the many companies that tell new employees, “Oh, you’re here today? Sit over there and read these brochures for a few hours to familiarize yourself with our company while we figure out what to do with you.”

This is a ridiculous approach. Not only is a waste of the employee’s time (you’re paying this person now), but it sends a terrible message about the company culture. The message you want to send from day one is that you’re organized, efficient, running a tight ship, and care about using employees’ time effectively.

So in order to never be that company that leaves a new employee feeling unwelcomed and sitting around wondering when the work will begin, we have managers create training outlines for each new employee. The training outline lays out what will be covered, in what order, during the person’s first week. And the new employee gets a copy of the outline so that they know what to expect.

In addition to job-specific information, our training outlines usually include things like:

– an overview of the department the person is in (what the department does, how they do it, and who does what)
– any recent history of the department they should be aware of
– the specifics of each component of their job
– tips they should know about working with other departments
– how to handle particular personalities outside the office they may have to interact with and things to be sensitive to
– how to locate important files
– what kind of communication is expected and how often
– what they do and don’t have the authority to do on their own
– types of emails and phone calls they’re likely to receive and how to handle them
– common problems they’ll encounter and how to handle them
– what to do if deadlines can’t be met
– what to do if they need help
– expenditure authority and approval

… and much more.

It’s often good to spread this out over a couple of days, since most people can only retain so much their first day on a job, when everything is new.

Doing this has revolutionized our training of new employees (and I suspect the impression we make on them as well). I can’t recommend it highly enough.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Jackie Cameron*

    To help gain experience in an important area of my consultancy business I have been in a “job” for the past 6 months. There was no induction. As as result I was able to operate at about 50% of my capacity which is frustrating for me – and a waste of money for my employer! I have suggested that this should be changed and the benefits that might bring. Still waiting for a response!

  2. Anonymous*

    That would be wonderful if companies had their training set up with all the info you have listed. I agree that it demonstrates a lot about the company culture by how prepared they are for new workers.
    I remember a temp job I had a few years ago. I was provided some of this training and given a diagram/chart of the organizational structure that included pictures, names, and titles to help me identify everyone quickly. If only every place would do this!

  3. Productivity Guy*

    I completely believe in tossing new hires headfirst into the trenches so they can learn as they go, but I definitely agree that there needs to be adequate training up front. I’ve been a culprit of this to some degree – I didn’t even have a chair available for a person one time, or a desk. :o( From a training perspective, a few hours of hands on stuff and then sticking around nearby for when they have other questions seems to suffice, though it also depends on the type of job, too.

    I also tend to have a nasty habit of being on vacation when my new employees are brought on board…

  4. Anonymous*

    We recently decided to build a Quick Start Orientation online tool for new hires to get a jumpstart on their first day. By using this e-checklist tool, new hires can receive a customized return list of URLs with such pertinent info as bus schedules, parking, maps, payroll info that will be needed on the first day, etc. It doesn’t replace face-to-face interaction by any means, but it does provide a lot of self-administered info for the taking. It works especially well for those who were recruited internationally and are relocating to the city (the tool even covers off things such as finding a doctor or school for your family, auto insurance, etc.). Try it at

  5. Jessica*

    We just had someone come onboard at my old company about a week before I left, and my old boss did everything wrong. I’m so tempted to email him this post, and show him what he should have been doing!

  6. Dave Ferguson*

    One suggestion for managers putting together the training outlines you suggest:

    Don’t ask yourself, “What do I want the new person to know?” Instead, ask, “What do I want the new person to do?”

    The difference? With the second question, you’re emphasizing the results of the job — and you hired this person for those results.

    Not that you don’t provide company background or organization. Instead, you do that with a purpose, as in the excellent “tips they should know about working with other departments” and “how to handle particular personalities.”

    A handout or web page can summarize administrative stuff (org charts in general, phone and email directories, descriptions of products or services, benefit info, lists of holidays).

    And whatever you do, don’t stick the poor new hires in a room for eight hours while sixteen different departments come and drop PowerPoint on them.

  7. Jac Hutchinson*

    This is a really good post…I was recently hired by a very large transport company and my orientation involved a walk around 2 floors of employees to meet all the staff members and a 30 minute run through of when I’ll be paid, what my benefits would be if I choose to participate, and how to submit a claim form for benefits as well as a survey.

    I was sat in front of my computer (without being told what we are using for email or any policies and procedures) and left alone for a full week to do nothing (thank goodness I am a proactive person and took it upon myself to learn a lot about the company and the needs of the company).

    Being a trainer, I have to say how disappointed I was that I didn’t have a meeting with my immediate supervisor or get any type of REAL orientation. There was nothing planned for me and there has never been any formal orietation here in this company as far as i know. So the priority on my plate now is to create an orientation program for the employees.

    I have a lot of work ahead of me!

    (love your blog BTW – it’s great!)

  8. Anonymouse*

    I know this is a really old post but thought I’d share my views on this. I’ve recently started a new job a couple of weeks ago. For the first week, I was sent to an office several miles from where I was meant to be located. I met with the staff in that office (doing the same job as I will be doing), and basically observed for a week. It was only on the Friday (I started on the Monday) that I even got access to a company email account. Whilst the staff there were very friendly and showed me as much as they could about the role, there was no training plan or schedule at all, and much of what I learned has already been forgotten due to not being able to *do* much.

    The following week, I was sent to a different office, for ostensibly the same thing – observation of (the same) practices. I am quite a pro-active person, and took it upon myself to get involved with some of the tasks in the second week – mainly because much of the job is identical to the job I’ve just left.

    I’ve had no real orientation or induction, I’ve not even been to the office I’ll be working at (the interviews were held in a hired room). The only communication I’ve had with the staff I will be working with is a very brief IM conversation.

    Overall, it’s left me feeling a little redundant. I’m scheduled to attend a company-wide training event this week, but how much of that will be useful I’m unsure, as reading the agenda it seems to be training on enhancements to policies and procedures already in place of which I have little awareness.

    It all sounds a bit nightmarish, but I’m optimistic – the company has a good reputation in the industry and I have learned over the weekend that the company has taken on a lot of staff at a similar time and trying to co-ordinate several new starts in several locations, with different start dates can’t be easy. The company does seem like a great fit, and if nothing else I can console myself with the fact that I managed to get out of the toxic, oppressive work environment of my previous place. But still, it does make me feel useless, and has given me the impetus that if ever I am in a position to oversee hiring staff, a training schedule will be in place from day 1, or at the very least, the new hire is made aware of the timescales for training and orientation if it’s not possible immediately, with activities and tasks to be completed in the interim without the new hire feeling bored.

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