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.